- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2017

Here’s a selection of top gift ideas for toy builders in the family.

Ghostbusters Firehouse (Playmobil, 228 pieces, for ages 6 and older $69.99) — A fantastic toy-building homage to the original “Ghostbusters” film and cast arrives with this cartoony recreation of one of the most memorable locations.

Expect about 45 minutes of construction time before unveiling a 17.5-inch-tall, two-story structure with stairs; a facade of two outer walls with a two-story, cut-out area; a roll-up garage door; and even a working fireman’s poll.

Besides the structure, owners get five nicely detailed, 3-inch-tall mini-figures of Ray Stantz (in work overalls), Egon Spengler (wearing a lab coat), Janine Melnitz (dressed for the office), Louis Tully (wearing nerd clothes and a test helmet) and the creepy purplish Library Ghost.

Even better, an avalanche of accessories guarantees to deliver long play sessions with the figures.

They include: a ghost-containment unit; office furniture; lamp; phone; mounted video camera; computer monitor and keyboard; edition of the newspaper “PM Today”; green silicon slime splatters; test tubes and microscope; tables and chairs, and even a pizza and pizza box.

The set also includes a detailed Proton Pack for Ray. It features a soft rubber tube connecting the Neutrino Wand and multicolored proton stream pieces to attach to the wand to simulate a proton pack’s discharge.

Thanks to easy-to-understand building instructions and painless assembly, this is not only a dream set for the young Ghostbuster in the family but quite the cool collectible for the older fan.

Gift givers might also want to toss in the slick Ecto-1 vehicle (79 pieces, $44.99) and the Venkman and Terror Dogs set (20 pieces, $12) just to see how big of a smile it delivers.

Thor vs. Hulk Arena Clash (Lego, 492 pieces, for ages 7 and older, $59.99) — A brick-building homage to a key scene from the blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok” gives youngsters a chance to appreciate a battle royal between two legendary superheroes.

A builder first assembles a 15-inch-wide and 7-inch-tall, three-sided, blue-and-red gladiatorial arena featuring a secret weapons rack (with weapons), a sliding gate, two collapsing pillars, a smashable wall and an opening prison cell.

He can then appreciate the collection of four mini-figures averaging 1.75 inches tall.

Let’s start with a helmeted Thor wielding multiple swords and attached to a translucent springboard to jump into opponents.

Next, Loki with headdress; the pompous, grey-haired Grandmaster who can sit on a throne at the top of the arena; and a purple-and-black-suited Sakaarian Guard.

However, the prize in this set is a 2-inch-tall Hulk figure wearing a silver helmet with red crest, a blue armor shoulder plate, body tattoos, and wielding a war hammer and giant ax.

As far as any construction pains, Lego has the building process down to a fine science. A crystal clear instruction manual combined with bags of blocks separated to build pieces of the playset and just a few stickers make it fewer than two hours of effort to start having role-playing fun.

The package also includes a 12-page, full-color mini comic book about the clash for inspiration.

Rick and Morty Spaceship and Garage (McFarlane Toys, 293 pieces, for ages 14 and older, $32.99) — Fans of the creator Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s Cartoon Network animated show showcasing the adventures a brilliant but eccentric alcoholic scientist and his 14-year-old grandson will sort of love a new line of building-block construction sets sure to elicit a smile and grimace.

Let me explain.

Through an almost three-hour process, owners assemble 293 pieces and apply 22 stickers pulled from over a dozen bags to build a garage laboratory area full of scientific goodies and the pair’s retro flying vehicle.

Some will find the instruction manual confusing — it needs color correction to discern using the right parts — and the set may require some glue to keep the fragile pieces together, especially the spaceship with open cockpit.

Once completed, the diorama has a hand-drawn vibe looking like it was plucked from the show. It includes a colorful lab area and accessories ranging from a bulletin board, sink, portal gun, all-purpose Plumbis device, beakers, desk lamp, baby Cronenberg creature, a Foamies beer can and a death ray.

The two articulated mini-figures of a rubbery Rick Sanchez (3 inches tall) and Morty Smith (2 inches tall) are spot on to their onscreen counterparts, but, here we go again, my Rick had a foot that refused to stay attached.

So older fans of the mature show will love the concept and will love the gift but will need to roll up their sleeves and work much harder than when dealing with a Lego set to ultimately enjoy the fruits of their labor.

My advice is buy the smaller sets such as Evil Rick and Morty ($14.99, 98 pieces), Smith Garage Rack with a Mr. Meeseeks ($14.99, 108 pieces), or You Can Run But You Can’t Hide with Scary Terry ($11.87, 42 pieces) to offer builders less aggravation and more time to appreciate their cartoon heroes.


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