- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2018

Here’s a selection of top gift ideas for role-playing heroes in the family.

Force FX Z6 Riot Control Baton (Hasbro, for old people, $199.99, requires 3 AA batteries) – An impressive, full-scale replica of a First Order Riot Stormtrooper’s most-coveted melee weapon empowers owners to quell unruly citizens, such as the rebel Finn, in a galaxy far, far away.

This 34-inch-long (when fully extended) plastic, rubber and metal baton — colored white, black and silver — features a pair of spring-loaded, paddle-like prongs that flip out (not slide out like in the movie) and retract during play sessions.

Owners hit a button on the metal handle to engage the prongs as lights and movie sound effects occur. They include blue glowing lights near the metal hilt, banks of red lights on either side of the base, and swishing and crackling noises that react to movement. A vibrating motor further brings the piece to life.

Hands-on users may find getting the prongs to move into position a challenge, and the prongs are also a bit flimsy when compared to the rest of the piece.

However, the Baton delivers for role play and also doubles as a cool collectible with an included base (with “Star Wars” logo) allowing for easy mounting and display.

SEE ALSO: Zadzooks 2018 Gift Guide for pop culture collectors

Disney’s Playdate Maximus (Jakks Pacific, for ages 2 and older, $99.99, requires 2 AA batteries included) – Children can now ride a famous animal from Disney’s animated film “Tangled” with this stationary horse measuring 32 inches tall from front hoof to ear tip and almost 30 inches long from nose tip to tail.

Holding owners up to 70 pounds, the white-colored steed with purple bridle and purple-and-pink saddle features a long, rooted blond mane (almost hanging 18 inches down) with a couple of braids, a rooted blond tail and comes with a removable satchel, a brush and five hairclips.

It also offers a bit of motion and sounds.

Specifically, the plastic pal responds when owners slightly pull on its reins as the horse’s head drops, and it neighs or even makes munching noises when an included apple gets placed and held in its mouth.

Gift-givers are nearly required to throw in Disney Princess Playdate Rapunzel (Jakks Pacific, for ages 3 and older, $59.99) to complete an immersion into the animated movie.

She stands a whopping 32 inches tall with long, rooted blond hair cascading down to her feet, has 10 points of articulation and comes with a removable tiara and shoes while dressed in an ornate, purple gown looking ripped from the film.

And, of course, she can sit on Maximus when owners are not taking a spin.

Parents should take note that both figures have complex bands tethered to the hair and will require some extra work to free the strands.

Marvel Legends: Black Panther Helmet (Hasbro, for old people, $99.99, requires 3 AA batteries) – Adults and big-headed teens looking to impersonate the king of Wakanda’s alter ego during his debut in “Captain America: Civil War” movie can start with this full, over-the-noggin, hard plastic, 1:1 scale helmet sporting light effects.

Owners put on the black-and-silver-striped, expandable helmet (which also adjusts through interior pads and rubberized support for the nose and eyes) and can tap a button on the mask’s left side to drop down the see-through retractable glossy silver eye lens.

Tap the button on the right side to ignite a bank of Vibranium-inspired blue LED lights running up the sides of the helmet. Either hold the button down for 5 seconds to keep the lights on or tap once for a 15-second flickering effect. The light banks also flicker when dropping down the eye lens.

For the price, I would have also expected some sound effects and a voice changer that were installed in the past through Hasbro’s “Star Wars,” “Transformers” and other Marvel helmet collections.

However, this is still a sturdy creation perfectly emulating the Black Panther’s helmet and works great for costuming or display in an entertainment room.

Yoda Electronic Mask (Hasbro, for ages 4 and older, $34.99, requires 3 AAA batteries included) — Youngsters and oldsters inspired to become the famed Jedi Master from Dagobah can now wear this mask and magically espouse his wisdom.

Adjustable back straps and a chin holder first keep the weighty, green plastic mask in place. Wearers now open their mouth to cause Yoda’s ears to twitch as he laughs, grunts his approval or disapproval, or slightly moans from old-age pains.

Open the mouth in more of a talking motion (four times quickly) and hear about a half dozen iconic phrases from the “Star Wars” legend such as “You Seek Yoda,” “Judge me by my size do you?” or “Feel the Force.”

Suffice it to report, with not only a perfect sculpt of Yoda’s face as well as dialogue ripped from the films, this is a perfect gift for fans of a galaxy far, far, away.

Wizard Training Wand (Jakks Pacific, for ages 4 and older, $24.99, requires 3 AAA batteries included) — Harry Potter devotees can simulate wielding the power of a wizard’s greatest asset with this faux wooden rod loaded with sound effects and tech magic.

A series of buttons turns the wand on to offer multiple play modes and to complete spells with noisy finishes. Each wand uses a motion sensor for owners to draw 11 different patterns in the air to deliver kid-friendly conjurings such as wingardium leviosa (levitation), arresto momentum (slow the velocity of an object) and incendio (fire making).

Dueling will be inevitable after serious practice and free play sessions with the Voldemort, Dumbledore (my favorite), Hermione Granger and Harry Potter wand designs.

In fact, besides spell training for a single player, the wand features a robust two-player mode.

Challenges include Spell Practice (quickest to draw a spell correctly wins), Dumbledore’s Army (chose the more powerful training spell and a winner is determined each round via a “rock, paper and scissors” strategy) and Wizard Tag (aim the wand at an opponent and fire with the cast button, the wizard with the most hit points loses).

Obviously patience and practice is key here, but a pair of budding wizards will not be disappointed in a wand offering hours of entertainment.

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