Amazon's top toy tips for Christmas
The tension reaches boiling point. Faces swell and bloom red, and eyes dart one way to another, rarely taking in the surroundings, yet fully aware of the similarly single-minded throng that's forming. Elbows start to twitch, poke and flail as the crowd jostles for position. The air is thick with perspiration and anxiety...
...It's Christmas time again. And the queue outside the toy store is rammed with eager parents, willing to sacrifice a shoe, tooth or clump of hair in order to get their kids the latest thing; the hottest toy; the one piece of moulded plastic that will grant the family some blessed relief for the holidays (no matter their religious persuasion).
Failure is not an option.
Which is why it's always a wonder that they don't just order the latest toys via the Internet. Certainly, Amazon, with its wishlists and pre-orders, is geared up for delivering the right present at the right time. There's no need to punch a middle-aged divorcee for the blue Power Ranger any more. No matter how much fun that sounds.
And to help, Pocket-lint spent a morning playing with the latest toys - the ones that Amazon believes will be high on most kids' (and some adults') gift lists - just so you can be fully prepared before the rest of the cattle stampede.
Shipping in August for around £28, the Star Wars Lightsaber Room Light is remote controlled, with several different colours of light (including purple - Mace Windu, in geek speak), wall-mountable, and you have to build it yourself.
Its soft lighten modes mean the lamp is excellent as a night light, and young Star Wars fans will love its form factor. Obviously, older ones will too.
Mattel's Loopz is an electronic game that is, essentially, a modernised version of Simon. However, there's many more modes than just the simple "repeat after me" type of gameplay.
You can even play it just as an instrument, and, as it works by the player crossing beams in each of its slots with just their hands, the whole experience is something akin to a Jean Michel Jarre concert.
It's not cheap, costing around £35 on launch, but it's a game the whole family can play.
Another, more cerebral family electronic game comes in the guise of Mind Flex.
It's very similar to the Star Wars Force Trainer, knocking about last year, although it adds a whole gaming element to the concept.
Basically, you have to control a ball with your mind, or, in actuality, a fan under the ball. The more you concentrate (with the sensors strapped to your head and earlobes), the faster the fan spins, sending the ball higher. The gaming side of things comes with an obstacle course which you must navigate, and definitely gives Mind Flex much more replay value.
At £80, it's also cheaper than the Force Trainer.
The world of kids' electronics and gadgetry is certainly getting some tasty hardware this year.
First up is the VTech Kidizoom Video Camera - essentially, a kiddie Flip. It records up to half-an-hour of 640 x 480 video, and comes in a chunky, easy to handle form (blue and pink versions are available).
The 1.8in TFT LCD full colour screen makes it very easy for the young'uns to see what they're shooting, and they can even edit the footage in the camera itself. It even allows them to add animations (hats, glasses, etc) to moving footage, with live facetracking. And there are three built-in games.
It costs £60, which is far less than we expected, and comes with 256MB of internal memory. There's an SD card slot for expansion.
Leapfrog has launched its Leapster Explorer Gaming Handheld on Amazon (and other stores), and we fully expect it to be very popular for 4 to 9-year-olds on the long build up to the holiday season.
It's a handheld console for kids that costs £59.99 and has a touchscreen display, which uses an easy-to-grip stylus. Games either slot in the back, or can be downloaded straight to the device's 300MB storage capacity via the USB connection and Leapfrog's own website. And, they all have a learn-while-you-play slant.
There are licensed titles such as Dora the Explorer and Toy Story 3, and, as of October, there'll be a click-on camera accessory that will enable the handheld to shoot video.
Huzzah for Leapfrog, it'll certainly keep the kids' mitts off your iPhone.
Finally, in this category, there's even an ebook reader for children. VTech, again, has created the Storio Animated E-Book Reader, which comes with Toy Story 3.
Similar to an adult Kindle, the main difference is that, while the Storio has a smaller screen, it is full colour and allows for animation. It also reads the stories out, and each cartridge can feature supplementary games for 3 to 7-year-olds.
There's also a sturdy see-through plastic cover, which can be closed once the story is under way, with only the forward and reverse buttons available. That'll keep smaller children from pressing everything in sight.
Back to older, if not adult, age ranges, and the Zibits Mini Radio Control Robot and Accessories is actually a longer sentence than each robot is tall.
The miniature droids are even smaller than the remote that controls them, and while they don't really do much (spin round and go forward), they are certainly cute and cheap enough, £9.99 each, to be desirable for kids and office workers alike.
There's also a healthy variety of different-looking Zibits, helping to elevate them into the collectable category, should that be your persuasion.
We've saved the best until last... If you're a dad, that is.
Lego has added a massive Cargo Train set to its Lego City range, which comes with tonnes of track and a varied collection of rolling stock. But the best news, for the David Beckhams out there, it all comes in tiny Lego pieces; you have to build the whole thing yourself.
Obviously, this may not be the best present for a little'un on Christmas Day - they won't be able to play with it until it's built, and it's bad enough having to apply stickers on other presents (why don't they ever do that before boxing them up?). But it could keep an older kid quiet for hours, if not days - a good thing, surely?
At £129.99, it's not cheap, but the amount of stuff crammed into the box, and the healthy, meaty size of the train and cars after its built, represent decent value for money.
Finally, the merchandising assault of Toy Story on the Christmas market will continue, long after the third movie has finished in cinemas, and this next relevant tie-in is, quite simply, a match made in Heaven.
Get this: Toy Story Scalextric. How good is that?
Admittedly, it's only Micro Scalextric (1:64 scale), but is ideal for those who just don't have the space for a full 70's style track.
It certainly works the same; race two cars around a track, trying desperately not to fling them off the corners, and the table, into the cat. However, this time, the cars are modelled on the RC buggy in the movies, and have Woody and Buzz stuck to the top. Result!
It comes in at around £50 and is actually available on Amazon now, if you want to get it and hide it in the cupboard.
Wouldn't have worked on us though. We're devils for peeking...