I can honestly say that I never considered Walgreens as a toy hunting venue, but it may be high time to reevaluate my stance on this issue. After a brunch at a nearby diner this past Sunday afternoon, I managed to convince the woman that I 'needed' to pick something up from Walgreens. I'm sure she thought I meant pharmaceuticals. (But she really ought to know better by now.) To my great luck, our tiny Walgreens somehow managed to have a full set of these guys in stock, with a 2-for-1 deal that equated me getting 9 of these guys for about $15 after tax (the other 3 are duplicates). The cashier gave me a funny look- as if there is something wrong with a grown man buying cheap-o robot toys by the armload. As if. /sassytone
As you might expect, these are not Japanese trading figures, but the latest offering of Hap-P-Kid Toy Co., a Hong Kong and China based toy company, under its M.A.R.S. banner. M.A.R.S. is better known for low-end, battery-operated M.A.R.S. Robots, but recently Hap-P-Kid Toy has been experimenting with a supporting line of action figures: M.A.R.S. Heroes. These are currently sold only at Walgreens and discount retailers (e.g., Dollar General). They are not available online, anywhere, including eBay (scalpers, where are you now?).
Unfortunately, I learned too late that this is actually Series 2 of M.A.R.S. Heroes. Series 1 (which has been reviewed here and here) consisted of nine 6" figures: 3 aliens, 3 robots and 3 humans. All 9 figures were sold individually and in a boxed set. The back of the package of Series 2 hints at future support vehicles to be released for the 6" series. One can only hope that they also re-release the figures at that time.
Series 2 instead consists of 6 unique 3" figures, focusing solely on robots. The 6 figures are packed in varying 3-pack assortments. Packaging for the line is actually quite nice, as the figures are placed in various action poses on a blister card. One might almost imagine that they are static figures for the price, but this is thankfully not the case. There are also 4 display bases included with each pack, although their utility is questionable as they lack the usual foot pegs to improve stability.
Ok! Now on to the toys. There are 6 unique robots in Series 2, as follows:
DARKBEAT. Probably the lead character as it is the only one with a name that is not stupid.
COMA. Perhaps not the best name for an action figure.
BLASTER. Better hope Hasbro doesn't hear about that one.
MARTIAN. Yes, we get it. There is a Mars theme.
FROSTY. Just in time for the holidays... no, no I can't do this.
TANKER. I can forgive the slightly dopey name, as this figure is pure gold.
So, well, the names are not exactly the most imaginative. Or even logical. It's probably best to forget that there are official names.
But truth be told, these are just such cool toys that I don't really care that they were named by people with a rudimentary grasp of English. The engineering is so simple, yet effective. One of the features common and central to the M.A.R.S. Heroes line is modular construction; although featuring somewhat less articulation than the 6" line, Series 2 utilizes ball joints in the shoulders, hips, knees and feet (but not the neck) which can be easily popped apart and reassembled. Not unlike past cult builder favorites, such as Xevoz. Compatibility with the 6" figures would have been even better, but no real complaints. The Series 2 toys also come with heaps of accessory guns, roughly 1 hand weapon per robot, and 2 back weapons that can be pegged into the left and right sides of the rear torso. These can all be exchanged among the robots.
The designs may look familiar to mech aficionados, as they are well, liberally cribbed from a niche mech simulator, Arm-red C-re. The resemblance is not exact, but I'd be lying if I said that I couldn't pick out parts from the game. But this dovetails perfectly with M.A.R.S.' use of modular design. AC gave us a few action figures and sets of trading figures, but never really capitalized on the building aspect that was central to the video game. Don't get me wrong- the figures could be disassembled and recombined in theory- but it was such a painstaking, sweat-beading experience that I doubt anyone was really pulling them apart on a daily basis. M.A.R.S. simplifies the design, but also makes them really easy to build and disassemble. If they would, say, release these figures in swapped colors, they'd be kings in my book.
Materials and paint quality is really excellent for a discount brand. The plastic is a soft, heavy PVC with a pleasantly toxic smell. It is a little like the softer plastic used in vintage Japanese candy toys (e.g., Joint Robo). Out of my 9 figures, only one had a fused joint that had to be popped in the freezer to unstick. But do be careful of applying too much force to the joints when popping them together or apart. Paint applications are on par with most other mass retail toys.
My favorite out of the 6 are definitely Darkbeat, Coma and Tanker. Tanker is simply DELICIOUS and chunky with his boxy legs and gun arms. The red and light blue guys- Blaster and Martian- are a little nondescript about the torso and head. Frosty is... they can't all be winners, can they? Let's just say that the kids can keep the magic hat off this guy. In fact, burn the hat. Just to be perfectly clear, "FROSTY" IS A STUPID NAME FOR A ROBOT.
Bottom line is that these are very cheap in the modern toy market and a great value for your money. Each figure comes out to roughly $1.50. So skip that McD's combo, go hungry and get some generic, slightly bootleggy robot fun in your day.