In 2002, the Muppets line from Palisades was one of the biggest hits of the action figure year - the first series sold very well with the second series currently on store shelves and a third on the way for early 2003, including everyone's favourite characters from the popular show (which features creatures who are, according to Homer Simpson, "not quite a mop, and not quite a puppet, but man... ho ha-hah HA haw! So to answer your question, I don't know.") Of more significance to this review are the great playsets included in the line, beginning with Beaker and the Muppet Lab, then Animal and Electric Mayhem stage, and further the scheduled Swedish Chef and the Kitchen set for 2003. Today I'm looking at the Muppet Lab, one of my favourite toys of the year, and an excellent addition to the line.
The first thing I should note is that unless you get Dr. Honeydew as well, you're only getting half a playset - the lab just looks empty with Beaker on his own with no one to bestow gratuitous amounts of pain on him. The next thing I should note is that it's impossible to talk about the Muppet Lab playset without comparing it to the Simpsons playsets - they're about the same size, although the Muppet Labs is slightly bigger than a Simpsons playset with a whole lot more detail and play value. Lacking the sound-feature of the Simpsons sets but for roughly the same price, the Lab is wonderfully sculpted and painted, with excellent paint apps on all of the levers and knobs and lights and bits that fill the walls of the lab. The windows have clear, slightly opaque plastic so you can see through them, and the test tubes are all made of see-through plastic to look authentic. Two levers 'work' and can be used for all sorts of play, and combined with everything else, it all looks great. Even the tiles on the base look neat - none of the Simpson-esque stickers, this is all sculpted and painted to perfection.
Although only slightly bigger than a Simpsons playset, there's more room in the Muppet Labs for play, which is very great for all of the little gadgets and extras included. First off, there's Beaker, the figure included in the set, which is an excellent figure in itself - Beaker features a great sculpt, with his (pained) facial expression perfect and his uniform authentic - even his shoes and silly striped socks look great. He's also articulated out the wazoo, with ball jointed shoulders, jointed elbows, head, wrists, waist and ankles; he's perfect for all the pain you want to inflict on him. The set is worth it just to get Beaker, he's that kewl.
Secondly, the large reactor-type device at the back of the playset is perfect for your amusing exploits - detailed beautifully, it allows you to drop Beaker into the top and see his face through the viewing window as Dr Honeydew does whatever experiment he's working on this week. It takes up space but it's a great idea and adds a lot of value to the set.
Thirdly, the playset features two accessories; the first is a Gorilla Detector, a soft-plastic gorilla head-shaped device that supposedly lights up when there is a gorilla around.
It's small but briefly amusing - shining a light in the bottom causes the light to light up - which is nice, but not nearly as cool as the second accessory, the table.
This is my favourite accessory of the year - it's a wooden table that can tilt back to have Beaker strapped to it, with actual rubber belts and metal buckles to strap him in, and a helmet to attach to his head to electrocute him. I love it! Strapping Beaker in is a little tricky, but worthwhile, and it looks great - perfect for play. yo go re and others have noted that the pegs on the helmet aren't very stable, although I've not had any problems with them - the only issue I've had with the helmet is how tricky it can be to get onto his head, but with perseverance it goes on without fault.
Overall, this is a great playset and a wonderful toy for your money. As mentioned, you need Dr Honeydew if you're getting this, as it doesn't look right without him, and his robot-rabbit assistant is perfect for the set. This is a toy with many details and features, with few faults, that oozes with fun and play value - far superior to the Simpsons playsets and at the same price - a must-buy for 2002.
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