Review: Skeleflex Akafly and Spinosaurus
I first heard of Skeleflex from Shortpacked, where an attempt was made to win the toy collecting population over to these unusual building sets.
Only they're not exactly building sets, or at least not simply building sets. Along with Stickfas, Skeleflex occupies a strange middle ground between building sets and action figures. Actually, Skeleflex toys look like they get even weirder: there are huge sets with some sort of control panel... I'm not going to speculate further on those, since I don't have one.
Anyway, when I first heard of these, I wasn't really interested. It isn't that I didn't think they were a neat idea, I'm just not currently collecting dinosaur skeletons.
Then, a few weeks ago, my wife informed me they'd hit clearance. "Who cares?" I said. Like I said: not what I'm collecting.
So. A little less than a week ago, I found myself in a Toys R Us. I was actually there in the hopes they'd dug up some more Hellboy II figures - no luck, but, that's another story that has a happy ending as well (we'll get to that in a future review). My wife pointed out the Skeleflex sets which were, of course, still on clearance.
And, wouldn't you know it, I became interested.
Actually, what really caught my eye was the skeletal dragon... I mean... alien, Akafly. Which, with minor alteration, could easily become a dracolich. "What's a dracolich?" you ask. Well, it's an undead dragon, created by a cult of evil wizards bent on creating a race of undead dragons with the the power to rule the world.
Yeah, it kind of seemed cooler when I was twelve.
I bought two figures on the spot, an Akafly (is that supposed to be a pun; a.k.a. fly?), and a spinosaurus, which was in Jurassic Park III. Apparently, these are made by a company called Wild Planet. Never heard of them. Lets take a look.
Appearance: 4 out of 10
Four? FOUR? Am I out of my mind?!!!
Okay, let me explain: after an embarrassing amount of thought, I've decided to review these as though they were an action figures, rather than building sets. That means I have to deduct for all of the peg holes and hollow sections and everything else. But - I promise - I'll make it up when we hit Play and Display.
If I'd reviewed this as a building set, the appearance would obviously be higher, since I'd be grading against other building sets, and everything else would be lower. This approach, I think, will actually be a better representation of what makes these cool.
Okay, there's a lot to like in terms of appearance, starting with the head sculpts of both sets. Taken on its own, I particularly like the spinosaurus's skull. Unfortunately, it's way to big for its body. The Akafly is far better proportioned, though less detailed.
Akafly is supposed to be an alien of some sort. Okay, if they say so.... Well, actually he kind of reminds me the aliens in Pitch Black. Kind of. And there are a few faint echoes of the Aliens that terrorized Ripley in the head and tail I suppose. He's really more like a nazgul overall.
The biggest problem with Akafly, at least in terms of appearance, is the rubber piece that holds up the wings. While it functions well enough (see Play and Display), it's a bit of an eyesore.
Packaging and Extras: +1
There are no extra pieces other than some "flexible joints" you can incorporate. These are just rubber pegs that make your creation less interesting and more unstable. Maybe these tie in with the control panel you get with the big T-Rex, but here... they're useless. And certainly not worth any kind of bonus.
Oh, you also get a poster with instructions for putting these together. The reverse side has a really ugly picture that someone seems to think would make people want to own more of these.
Which brings us to the packaging.
As you can probably tell, the packaging consists of a resealable plastic case, shaped like a skull, that's bound to a piece of cardboard. Getting that cardboard off, by the way, takes a bit of work. The plastic pieces binding it together were designed to be tough. I used a utility blade, though wire cutters would probably have worked better.
The plastic case is surprisingly cool. It's a good size, and it's got some potential. Between the two, I prefer the "dinosaur" skull that came with the spinosaurus.
What can you use these for? Well, they'd actually make decent bookends if you put something heavy inside. Or slap some paint on them, and you've got a decent statue or Halloween decoration. The alien skull, with some work, could even be customized into a decent (if not exact) "Crystal Skull" from the most recent Indy adventure, if there's an interested fan of that movie... er... never mind.
The point is, these are pretty cool with a lot of customizing potential. They're so cool, in fact, I almost went with two bonus points... but I just can't bear to give packaging more than one. If they'd also given us some extra pieces, on the other hand, there would have been room for negotiation.
Play and Display: +3
I don't think I've ever given a bonus this high. Now, to be fair, this is a bit exaggerated. I dragged the appearance score to an absurd level by comparing this to the action figure market, and now we're seeing the flip side.
These aren't intrinsically more versatile than most other building sets. But they certainly leave your average action figure in the dust.
First of all, lets consider the sets as they're meant to be constructed. I'm not going to try counting the number of ball joints these things have - pretty much every connection point is an articulated joint.
There are, however, a few exceptions. The Akafly's wings are loosely attached to the body, then connected together by a soft rubber piece. This is a fairly ingenious creation, I should add. Bend it one way, and the wings stay up straight. Turn it around, and they drop down to the creature's side. Cool, right?
Well, kind of. Here's the catch: while it's innovative and it works well, it's not as useful as a more conventional joint. As it is, you're basically choosing between two poses for the wings. They're good choices - don't get me wrong - but, when the rest of the figure is a string of connected ball joints, you tend to notice any limitations.
The tail of the spinosaurus is also a bit disappointing. It looks fine, but it isn't made up of as many pieces as you'd expect, so it's barely articulated.
In addition to having a great deal of control over posing, the articulation also means you can get these to stand up. In fact, they're relatively easy to balance and - more importantly - the joints are stable enough to hold the pose.
Price Tag and Final Analysis: 8/10
The final score is an eight out of ten. My math may be... unorthodox, but I think the final number's about right. These guys are pretty cool. Are they worth the $15 plus they were originally going for? Well, maybe. To be honest, I'm having a hard time deciding on a value. These remind me of Stickfas, which tend to go for a lot more (until they get clearanced, that is). In comparison, I think Stickfas are more stylized, but they're also a little smaller. Fifteen bucks certainly isn't unreasonable.
But, fortunately, clearance has made the issue moot. Toys R Us is unloading these at seven dollars each right now, which is more than fair.
Also, while I wouldn't recommend these for young kids (small parts, some pointed pieces: you know the drill), I would have loved these when I was ten. I'm assuming that the fact these are being sold off for less than half their original price has more to do with the popularity of video game systems than anything wrong with these. If you've got little ones (again, not TOO little) who like more traditional toys, then you might want to take a look at these.
And, hey, if your kid doesn't want them, you can play with them yourself. That's a win-win in my book.
Got some time to kill? Well, we've got time-traps, sprays, and poisons over at The Middle Room designed to kill time DEAD. Heck, you might even find a movie review or something. No promises, though.