Bakugan Balls were all the rage at my almost 7-year old's summer camp this year, so even though he rarely ever sees the cartoon that the toy is based upon, Bakugan Balls were the #1 item on my son's "7th Birthday Wish List". We had to scour the stores to find them (what with them being so popular they were sold out practically everywhere), but the "Bakugan Laucher", or the toy that shoots the Bakugan Balls, was readily available so we got him one of those as well. Looking back now, maybe we should have been suspicious that the launchers were so readily available...
Recommend this product?
First things first, the "Bakugan" toys are based upon a Japanese anime cartoon called "Bakugan Battle Brawlers" that airs here in the U.S. on Cartoon Network. It is similar to Pokemon in that it is all essentially a ploy to sell a card game. "Bakugan" themselves are warrior figures that are carried around in little balls, and these warriors battle each other based upon the points on the cards. What makes Bakugan a bit cooler is that the Bakugan balls pop open to reveal the warrior character when they roll over the cards (the cards contain metal, and the balls each contain a magnet that releases the character when it comes in contact with the card or any other metal surface). In other words, the ball becomes the character, which is pretty nifty.
The Bakugan Launcher can be used to shoot the balls so that they roll over the card and pop open. The cartoon characters use similar shooters during their battles. The launcher itself consists of two pieces, let's call them the "shooter" and the "wrist strap". The wrist strap is a fairly simple cloth strip with a plastic buckle that works in a belt-esque fashion. Also on the strap is a place for storing 1 or 2 Bakugan cards, as well as the mechanism for attaching the "shooter" to the strap.
The shooter is a triangular plastic piece that has storage areas for 2 Bakugan balls. There is a place in the middle where you load the ball that you want to launch. There are two "arms" that can be used to guide/angle the ball as you launch it. The arms can be moved back out of the way and are released via a red button at the back of the shooter (when the red button is pushed the guide arms will snap forward to the front of the toy). To launch the ball you pull back on a grey lever/slider toward the back of the toy, then release the lever to launch the ball. There are a series of lines that denote how far back you are pulling the lever, so you can do a low-powered launch or a higher powered launch depending upon how far back you pull the lever.
The manufacturer recommends this toy for children ages 6 - 12. There are no batteries required and no assembly required (other than attaching the "shooter" to the "wrist strap").
Our Thoughts & Experiences:
As a mom of two kids who love building toys/puzzles/transformers, I will admit that the Bakugan balls themselves are pretty cool, and my two boys (ages 7 and 3) are obsessed with their Bakugan toys. That being said, I find the "Launcher" toy to be a bit of a dud.
We had a hard time figuring out how to "shoot" the balls at first. There were no instructions included with the toy. There were some images on the packaging in lieu of instructions, but to be honest the photos were misleading. They gave the impression that you use the "slider" to determine how hard the ball would be launched, but then imply that you press the red button to actually fire the ball. When we couldn't get ours to work that way we assumed that it was broken! Then I got online in search of reviews (or instructions) and found that MANY others had the same impression (that the red button should fire the ball) and had exchanged theirs only to find that their newly exchanged toy didn't work either. Ultimately, we ended up watching some videos on YouTube where people had uploaded instructions on how to use the launcher and found that ours was functioning properly. The red button only releases the guider arms, and the only way to launch the ball is to pull back on the lever/slider and release it.
In my opinion, the toy would have been much cooler if you pulled back on the lever and then the lever locked into place, then there was some sort of button/trigger to actually launch the ball. As it works now, the toy is nothing but a plastic, colorful slingshot. My 7 year old quickly lost interest in the Bakugan Launcher after using it to shoot the balls only once, and was more than happy to let my 3 year old claim it as his own. My 3 year old just likes to wear it and "play" shoot with it (he holds up his arm and makes shooting noises). Neither of my kids enjoys actually "shooting" Bakugan balls from the launcher, since the firing mechanism is so lame (and if you let your wrist tilt forward too far the ball will just roll out). The "guide arms" aren't all that great for changing the direction of the launched balls either, so overall the toy has been a dud.
+) Looks very similar to the launcher the main character uses in the cartoon series
+) Storage areas for 2 Bakugan balls
-) Launch mechanism is lame (you pull back on a lever and let it go to launch the ball - there's no "trigger")
-) No instructions/misleading pictures on packaging
-) Ball awaiting launch will roll out if you tilt the launcher forward
On the plus side, my 3 year old likes it, so I guess it wasn't a total waste of money, but as a Bakugan Ball launcher I'm not a fan. I don't think it would have been hard to have a trigger-type firing mechanism, rather than the spring-loaded manual method they've gone for. Perhaps I wouldn't feel so off-put by it if the pictures on the packaging weren't so misleading as to make me think that there was supposed a trigger somewhere.
While I rather like and would recommend the Bakugan Balls themselves, I am recommending that you give the Bakugan Launcher a miss, or at least that you go into the purchase with lowered expectations.
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Amount Paid (US$): 13.00