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REVIEW: M.A.R.S. ROBOTS
By Thomas Wheeler

I tend to be pretty specific with my toy collection these days. My focus is on five lines. G.I.Joe -- at least the traditional style stuff; Transformers -- mostly the Alternators; Gundam -- if Bandai would ship some already; Masters of the Universe -- whatever goes on there; and Microman -- when I can get it imported. Yeah, I know. Quite the troubled crew I managed to focus on, right?

I pay some attention to a few other lines. Star Wars -- which I don't really expect to be interesting again until Episode III; Street Fighter; HALO; and select Marvel Legends.

But I'm not really looking to expand beyond that. It takes a lot for a toy line to impress me. I was and am impressed with the traditional-style 3-3/4" G.I.Joe. I was and am impressed with Gundam, and when that came along in 2000, it had been a long time since I'd been impressed with anything in the toy world. Certainly anything new.

But between financial and physical space considerations, I don't really go beyond those stated boundaries. But every so often something fairly interesting, and fairly inexpensive, comes along, and I'll cut it a break. Such was the case with a group of robots I encountered at Wal-Mart in early August.

Back around 1970, I was given this metal toy robot for Christmas one year. It was a rather cheaply made thing. Painted (printed, really) tin with plastic parts, it walked, and every so often these transparent plastic guns would light up, its head would turn around, and it made a sound like it was firing laser beams. Actually the sound was more along the lines of a piece of metal being run down a blackboard. The robot had an unfortunate (and accidental) mishap with a flight of stairs and that was the end of that. I wasn't nearly as upset as I normally tended to be when I lost a toy, and given the noise this thing made, I think my parents were distinctly relieved.

The robots I encountered at Wal-Mart reminded me vaguely of this contraption I owned in the early 70's -- just done better.

The series is called M.A.R.S., which in this case doesn't stand for Destro's armaments company from G.I.Joe. It stands for Motorized Attack Robo Squad. Okay, it's a bit of a stretch, but we've all heard worse.

The storyline on the back of the box reads, "In the year 2050, the people of earth sent an lite force of robot commandos to the planet Mars to make it safe for the growing number of humans. 200 years later, these evil cyborgs won't go away. In order to make the planet safe for human life, the people of Earth built a new set of robots to battle the evil commandos. Each with a distinct mission and the power to save humanity, the M.A.R.S. robots are ready to batte whatever machine comes their way."

200 years, huh? That's a heck of a warranty. And I would only hope that we'd have people on Mars by 2050. If not sooner.

Anyway, the toys are basically walking robots with light-up eyes. They're molded plastic, and have fully-articulated arms, and each comes with three weapons, one of which can be held in its hand (generally the second arm ends in a built-in weapon), the other two can be attached to clips on the back. The legs are not independently articulated since they had to have been designed for walking.

The robots are about 7" in height. Each is individually sculpted, although there are a few common parts between some of them. They each bear distinctive color schemes, which even reflect their stated assignments on the back of the box.

The blue robot, known as Polar Captain, is assigned to the Ice Cap Station. The gold robot, known as Gold E, is assigned to the Desert Command. The red robot, known as Red Revo, is assigned to the Equator Outpost, and the black robot, known as XSS, is assigned to the Darkside Command. Each robot has a silver letter stamped on its shoulder, either an M, A, R, or S, representing their squad name.

The robots can walk across any smooth surface -- tile floors, countertops, tables. One would assume they can manage sidewalks, too. They can manage VERY low pile rugs. I have a fairly smooth rug in my kitchen, and found that they can walk across it, if somewhat slowly. Any carpeting with the slightest level of shag and they won't be able to handle it.

Still, they're well made enough. Batteries are easily changed (they take 2 'AAA' batteries, included), and they seem very sturdy for fairly basic-level toys.

They're made by a company called "Happy Kid Toy Group", that I've never heard of. But the company does have a Web Site (www.happykidtoy.com), and if you click on "Robots and Space Ships", you'll find that the M.A.R.S. robots, which actually aren't even listed, are merely part of an overall "Cybotronix" line of surprisingly decent-looking walking, moving robots and several spaceship playsets. There's nothing here that's going to pose a threat to leading robot lines such as Transformers or (if it ever comes back) Gundam, but they all look decently made.

Nor can one argue the price. The M.A.R.S. Robots are a meager $4.88. That's not bad for a 7" robot with built in lights and walking capability, that looks like it has a much better chance at a decent lifespan than that hunk of tin I was given thirty years ago. Even the packaging is decently done. These are not the usual ultra-generic garbage that can frequently be found stinking up the shelves in pharmacies and grocery stores. There are some really nice robots.

They're not especially COLLECTIBLE, I'm certain of that. But they WOULD make perfectly fine gifts for children, and they look pretty cool in their own right. If you want something a little different, and certainly reasonably priced, for your toy collection, however extensive it may bem you could do a lot worse than these four M.A.R.S. robots. And they have a good fun factor, too. I definitely recommend them!