After Pocket-lint's visit to the Toy Fair in London, the team sat down and mulled over the toys that they saw, and the one thing they all agreed on was that 2011 is going to be a cracking year for kids' gadgets, gizmos and playthings. In fact, so much so that it is near impossible to narrow down a list of the products to watch over the coming year to a mere 20 top toys.
But narrow it down we have. Therefore, this is Pocket-lint's tips on what will be the 20 hottest toys for 2011, for young and old, all the way up to Christmas. Some we've written about exhaustively over the last couple of weeks, some we haven't.
So, in no particular order...
Doctor Who Character Building
Like Lego's minifigures range, Character Options' newly crafted Character Building figures are aimed at those who like to collect. And there's currently no better draw for young and old collectors than Doctor Who. Certainly, the range of Lego-compatible characters and playsets was one of the most talked about attractions at Toy Fair 2011.
Electronic Test Tube Aliens
Specifically designed for young boys who like to torture rather than nurture, the return of the Electronic Test Tube Aliens is a welcome one. Grown from a small alien into the large ones on display, their unique selling point is that they can communicate with the company's dedicated website, so that owners can interrogate them to find out their evil, world domination plans.
Lego City Space Centre
At £49.99, the Lego City Space Centre may seem like a hefty pay-out for some placky bricks, but you do get a massive rocket, launch tower and control room for your money. Plus, as the entire Space collection was designed with the co-operation of none-other than NASA, you can bet it's as accurate as can be.
Yep, Lion-O and the rest of his feline friends are coming back to both TV and toy shops around the world. Details on the new figure range are super hush hush at the moment, with Bandai keeping its cards very much to its chest (almost literally). However, no 2011 round-up would be complete without the return of the Thunder-thunder-thundercats, so here's our spy shot from the Toy Fair. Sneaky.
Easily one of the coolest toys we've seen in years, the Hexbug Nano range of micro robotic creepy crawlies is both exciting and freaky in equal measure. While there's no remote control aspect to the Nano range (just an on/off switch), the tiny bugs whizz about in seemingly random patterns and can best be described as electronic cockroaches. Enough to scare your mum with. The addition of racing tracks and playsets put this firmly in the "one-to-watch" category. The big Christmas hit? Could be.
Sort of a more sinister version of Hungry Hippos crossed with Buckaroo, players have to roll the dice and move their fish before the ever-circling munching shark snaps them up. It's not a game for the faint hearted as tension mounts while the shark gets closer, but we can see it being incredibly popular with both kids and well-inebriated adults alike.
Scalextric Team GB Track Cycling Set
As part of Hornby's London 2012 Olympics license, the manufacturer has created a cycling velodrome version of its popular racing game, Scalextric. Instead of cars, players must zoom around an oval track using less ergonomically streamlined bicycles and riders. It adds up to a whole new experience in the track racing franchise, with a new skill set required.
Possibly inspired by the massive success of Angry Birds, and the subsequent plush toys that have flooded the market, Flair has put together its own range of avian characters, with an app game to support the launch. The major difference between the KooKoo Birds and their angrier peers is that each of the larger plush members also contains an egg which pops out when you squeeze it, accompanied by electronically generated sounds. And each egg contains a smaller version of the bird, so you're getting two for the price of one.
Flair's KooKoo Birds will be available from August.
Aimed at those who have outgrown Nerf foam dart blasters, Character Options' Xploderz range owe more to paintball. There are three guns in the range, from the XBlaster 75 up to the insanely massive, Arnie-esque XRanger 1075, with each of which capable of firing proprietary water-infused hydro-rounds between 50-feet and 85-feet. The rounds fit into an ammo cartridge containing 75, and after exploding on impact (and leaving a small, non-permanent mark to show the hit) they dry out to leave just small bits of crystal to vacuum straight up.
Prices range from £14.99 for the blaster, up to £49.99 for the biggest gun, while ammo refill cartridges of 500 rounds come in at £9.99. All of the range is available to buy now.
3D Magic MagnaColor
MagnaColor is an art product that uses hundreds of small coloured discs and a magnetic board to create patterns and pictures. The unique property of this particular product though, is that, when wearing a supplied pair of clear-lensed 3D glasses, the images and colours seem to leap off the background at varying levels of depth. Disc application is also interesting, as the small metal objects are each housed inside a specific pen, and once a drawing is finished with, the board can be scraped up into a top-ranging gulley. The discs then separate into their colour groups in a rear filtering system, which puts them back in the right applicators for use.
The model shown at the Toy Fair was only a prototype, so it is currently unclear when the 3D Magic MagnaColor will hit the market.
Paper Jamz Pro Guitar
The original series of Paper Jamz toy guitars were criticised for being, perhaps, to simple, with few features. Therefore, WowWee has developed a mode-heavy alternative, which is aimed at those who have more than a passing interest in playing the guitar, or learning to. It can also be loaded with a player's own MP3s to strum along to, and the Pro Guitar is joined in 2011 by a Paper Jamz Pro Microphone and a Justin Bieber Keyboard Guitar (basically, a keytar), to boot.
LeapFrog Leapster Explorer Camera & Video Recorder
The Leapster Explorer Camera & Video Recorder is actually a tiny device that clips onto the bottom of the existing handheld games and learning console for kids. It then transforms the device into a fully functioning camera and camcorder, with a whole bundle of exciting games and utilities for the kids to play around with - including a variation on Space Invaders that can be altered by adding photos of family members or friends.
Built by Boss Nova Robotics and distributed in the UK by Meccano, not only can you battle Mechatars together using the supplied remote controls, but they can be hooked up to a PC in order to download new features and abilities. The more missions and goals you complete, the stronger your Mechatar becomes. It's like Robot Wars on a kitchen table.
Cheatwell Games' App-Player board game combines conventional quiz-style play with the iPhone (currently, an Android version will surface if this one's a success). The box contains the score board and a Bluetooth speaker (for the Premium edition, wired for the normal), and you get four of the company's best-selling games in app form for your phone or iPod touch. The apps then handle the question and answer duties for full interactivity.
Remember the flashing light memory game Simon from the 1980s? So does Hasbro, which has updated the concept to use the same sort of brick interface it trialled with Boggle last year. On its most basic level, each cube of Simon Flash lights up in sequence, and you have to press them in order. Naturally, as the game progresses, the sequences get longer. This time around, though, the separate blocks can also be used to play other games, such as Mastermind, where you have to place them in a predetermined order.
AppToyz AR Gun
Using a cunning blend of application and accessory, Main Sauce's AppToyz AR gun houses an iPhone and overlays a game onto live video captured by the device's camera. This means that aliens can pop up in your own living room, augmented reality style, ready to be dispatched with the press of the trigger. Also, as it relies on the electronics of the iPhone to work, the gun itself is reasonably priced at £20.
Cars 2 Mighty Micros
Character Options has the rights, in the UK at least, to create remote controlled vehicles based on the forthcoming Pixar animated movie sequel Cars 2. And these are by far the cutest. The Cars 2 Mighty Micros are tiny, yet fully remote controlled. They have four-way control and are also rechargeable, so you needn't worry about trying to fit in fiddly batteries. There's five in the range, including the new additions to the franchise, the Italian racing car and James Bond-esque British Aston Martin-alike, and they're expected to hit the shelves at the same time as the film in July.
Zibits Mini R/C Robots
We've actually featured Zibits before on Pocket-lint, back when we first saw them at the Amazon Christmas in July event last year. However, this year, the miniature remote controlled robots have seen their world expand, with 18 new Zibit designs and the additions of playsets, weapons and vehicles for them to sit in, making them a far more interesting prospect. Certainly, the Battle Fortress Playset is a sight to behold. It's definitely a marked improvement to the kitchen floor.
Playmobil Top Agents Spying Camera Set
Playmobil's Top Agents playsets are cool enough, with the awesome Secret Agent Headquarters and its motion detection alarm system being high on many kids' wishlist, but it's the addition of the Spying Camera Set that has Pocket-lint all excited. Pop the camera into the company's compatible remote controlled car, and the monitor onto the controller itself, and you can whizz about to your hearts content, watching the action from afar on the screen. Serious snooping ahead, we suspect.
Casdon Self-Service Checkout
Last but certainly not least is Casdon's electronic Self-Service Checkout. Back in our day, we'd have been lucky to get a manually operated plastic cash register and a few plastic tubes with beans written on them. Now, with this amazing construction, kids can scan their items and then pay by placky cash or fake credit credit card. It will even print out a receipt. Now, if only it also offered cash back, then it'd give your children a vital precursor to being a student.
Do you know of any more top toys coming this year? If so, let us know in the comments below...