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by yo go re

Every so often, a toyline can take you by surprise. And yes, that even applies to omniscient toy-kings like the crew here at OAFE. No one was expecting the Spanish Inquisition the buildable fun of Stikfas, and Xevoz hadn't even been hinted at when I stumbled upon the first set at a Toys Я Us far from home. The newest unexpected odyssey? Wild Planet's Skeleflex line. I'd never even heard of the company, let alone their toys, when I turned around from the Lego display (again, at a TЯU) and saw these.

Skeleflex is a creative ball-and-socket building system that puts kids in control. Its interchangeable bone-shaped pieces can be combined to make aliens, dino- saurs and other fan- tastical creatures that move in a lifelike manner.

Hooray for press-release speak! That's an honest (if professionally straightforward) assessment of the line, but it's not very exciting, is it? It presents the facts, but it doesn't sell the concept. Of course, if you try a Skeleflex toy, you'll find that it sells itself.

The line is built, right now, around dinosaurs and aliens - two things with an undeniable appeal to Wild Planet's young male target audience. But with this line, they're likely to land themselves a hearty periphery demographic of toy collectors. As long as the collectors learn about it. Anyway, I chose the triceratops, because... well, why not? Trikes are cool.

The Skeleflex treceratops is built from 29 bony pieces, with two more bonus bits we'll talk about later. The pieces snap together easily, all with nice snug ball-and-socket connections. When you've got nearly 30 balljoints in your toy, it means two things: 1) superb poseability and B) a really good chance of turning into a ragdoll. Fortunately, while the first one holds true, so far the second doesn't. The joints all come together well, and are just a bit stiff to move. Not even his giant, bony head is making the neck droop. No matter how you pose him, he'll maintain the position until you want him moved.

Of course, while this set is nominally a triceratops, there's nothing saying you have to build that. All the joints on all the sets are the same size, meaning you can mix and match to your heart's content, building any crazy monster you have the pieces for. Buy more sets, and you can really make some weird beasts. Because of that, it's hard to state a specific size for the assembled set, but it's approximately 10" long and 4" tall, which makes it pretty sizeable.

The set isn't painted, instead just presenting the bones' molded color. The "spine" sections are actually lighter than the rest of the bones, which are tan and speckled. I don't know if that's intentional, or if I got a bad set, but it certainly doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the toy. In addition to all the regular bone bits, the set includes four black "flexible" joints which can fit anywhere in the body - they're rubbery, so they do indeed flex as promised, adding a bit more movement wherever you put them.

Skeleflex are sold in molded plastic packages designed to look like bones: the small sets go in simple femurs, while the larger offerings are in skulls. There are technological details added on, and the cases hinge open, so you can store your pieces inside when you're not playing. They're not quite as inventive or fun as the old Bionicle canisters, but it's still nice work.

The Skeleflex triceratops is a fun toy, which will definitely appeal both to the target demographic - boys age 8-12 - and to us out here in the collector community. Skeleflex aren't a replacement for Xevoz, but the line shows promise, and is really worth checking out. They're well-made, and just darn fun. Pick a dinosaur or alien you like, and give them a shot. For the price, you won't be disappointed.


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