Hamleys' top toys for Christmas 2011
Like nervous turkeys, the tech, toy and entertainment industries have always got one eye on Christmas, and naturally so; it is, after all, the biggest time of year for sales. To be the must-have gadget, game or gizmo nestling in Santa's bulging sack at the end of any given year is to bring a mighty bounty upon its manufacturer or inventor.
So it should come as no surprise to you then that Pocket-lint receives plenty of invites to Christmas preview events, in order to see the goodies expected to fly off the shelves (literally, in some cases). What may come as more of a shock, however, is that these gatherings generally happen in July.
The hugely famous and fondly revered London toy megastore Hamleys likes to do things a bit different though. Yes, it invited the Lint to a preview shindig highlighting the forthcoming toys it believes will be big hits at Chrimbo time, and yes, it has come up with its own top ten toys list - both of which being par for the course - but it has also held its Christmas in July event in June.
So, sit back and let us guide you through the best toys Pocket-lint got a chance to play with at Hamleys' Christmas in July... in June...
Hamleys has created its own top ten toys list, but a few of the inclusions may not be entirely of interest to Lint readers, take The Saturdays Fashionistas, official Barbie dolls that have been created in conjunction with the five piece girl band. Or Fur Real Cookie, the latest robot dog that looks and moves so realistically you'd expect to find a genuine brown egg festering underneath. While they are both undoubtedly cool products, especially if you have a daughter or younger sister, neither call for mayhem, blood or guts.
Unlike this year's animated talking Elmo. He's set aside a life of cuddling and cuteness for a petuli oil-fueled life on the circuit. Yep, he has succumbed to the lure of rock and roll, and he's even got a little metalhead T-shirt to prove it.
At £100, Rock on Elmo is not cheap, but he is undisputedly cool. Not only can he wave his arms and jiggle about, but now comes with a microphone, tambourine and drums which he recognises when placed in his hands, or set close by. Each instrument triggers a new song that Elmo knows. Other instruments, such as a guitar, keyboard and another mic, will also be available separately.
Like adults have gone all strange over Angry Birds, kids have latched onto a different technology-based craze; Moshi Monsters. The social networking platform and games are now massive, and like the Birds, there are new plush toys on the horizon for children to own their own Monster. The Moshi Monsters Talking Plush laugh, talk (obviously) and giggle, and each of them come with an Adoption Certificate (like Cabbage Patch Kids, only nowhere near as hideous) plus a secret code for an in-game item.
They cost £20 each, and Hamleys will have an exclusive gold edition plush so you'll no doubt have to visit London later in the year or your children may never forgive you.
The LeapFrog LeapPad is a natural successor to the company's own handheld console, the Explorer, but supercharged. It is a cool and funky tablet device for tots, with plenty of features and functions including a camera, video recorder, microphone and motion-based gameplay. You can read our more in-depth hands-on with the new kids' tablet here.
Like LeapFrog, V-Tech has also released a new electronic device this year, although its more an update on an existing model, rather than something altogether new. The Kiddizoom Twist is a rehashed version of the hugely popular kids camera released last year. It's major new feature allows the operator to twist the lens of the camera to face front rather than rear, and therefore take self portraits.
The £64 device also records video and has a voice changing mode that will have younger kids in hysterics.
iball3 is a round plastic gadgety game that could be described as a Rubik's Cube with a brain. It has six small buttons on its exterior and gives the player mere seconds to light each of them the same colour by cycling through the choices. All six must be lit to win, and if you fail in time, the iball3 randomises for you to start all over again.
There's also an online leaderboard to register times on for those who become particularly good, and each ball comes with its own registration number to use on the site in order to log scores. iball3 costs £20.
We're not sure what to call the next product, or how much it costs, but the demonstration at Hamleys' event used the store's own Colour Stacker pens and a pair of chroma-depth 3D glasses with "3D Crazy" written on the side.
Essentially, the glasses make any picture suddenly jump out in three-dimensions (with each colour taking on a different plane, if you like) and even work with a photo of the art taken through, for example, an iPhone. It's all clever stuff, is a Hamleys exclusive and definitely worth watching out for.
As are Air Swimmers as they creep up on you. Filled with helium, they're basically balloons with a motor and remote control. Available in shark or clown fish flavours, each swimmer does cost a princely sum of £40, but are remarkably easy to manipulate.
Not only can you move them forwards or backwards, you can send them up or down. And as they move gracefully and slowly, there's little chance of losing them.
Because of the third movie, it's not surprising that Transformers are being given a big push again. And, when you get a load of Transformers Ultimate Optimus Prime, you'll fully understand why. Although it costs a mega £100, this version of the robot in disguise is mammoth. Instead of just transforming to the cab of a truck, he also morphs into the attached trailer. Awesome.
There's going to be a few very lucky Transformers fans out there this Christmas.
Likewise Lego nuts. Lego in all its guises has been phenomenally successful in 2011 and none more so than with its latest brand, Ninjago. The DS game has flown off the shelves, as have the spinner sets, but there's nothing in the range as jaw-droppingly stunning as the Lego Ninjago Fire Temple. Not only does it come with the temple, all of the Samukai and Kruncha minifigs, all four Spinjitzu weapons, and 14 other battle implements, it comes with a massive fire dragon.
Admittedly, it costs £116, but you do get a whole stack of the Ninjago universe for your bucks.
The £89 Dance Star Mickey does the moonwalk. 'Nuff said.
A Fijit Friend, however, doesn't. But she is a cross between a Furby and a dancing flower, recognising over 30 keywords and responding to over 150 phrases. Plus, she feels all spongy, and comes with alternate antenna.
We particularly like the lit smiley face and, although she weighs in at £70, the Fijit Friends could well be a sleeper craze. Watch this space.
The build-it-yourself Star Wars lightsaber sets have been incredibly popular, as has the TV show Doctor Who, so it makes sense that a company has had the the foresight to combine the two.
However, not only can you build your own Sonic Screwdriver with the Doctor Who Personalise your Sonic Screwdriver set, but you can even build the devices used by each and every one of the 11 official Doctors - a feature that will excite geeks of all ages (like us).
In fact, there are 80 possible combinations each with lights and multiple sound effects, so you can even come up with a unique Sonic Screwdriver for yourself. A bargain at £26.
Finally, after all the whizz bangs, beeps and flashing lights of modern toys, we're keen to support the old too here on Pocket-lint, and Hamleys will be stocking Risk Nostalgia Edition (alongside similar versions of Monopoly and Cluedo). Costing £40 and coming in a wooden box, the new old board game set uses the first - quite different - rules of Risk and the classic map from the 1959 original. It'll certainly look better housed on a living room shelf.
So that's it, a mighty selection of the toys that Hamleys is tipping for the top this Christmas. We'd advise queuing for the Transformers Ultimate Optimus Prime or Lego Ninjago Fire Temple now - you don't want to upset the little ones, do you?
Which toy would you most like to buy/be given for Christmas this year? Let us know in the comments below...