Pros: Kids LOVE IT, withstands countless hours of play and abuse by hundreds of children weekly.
Cons: Can only use smaller cars: larger cars get stuck, causing the toy to buzz loudly.
It's been a common axiom that "They don't make things like they used to." This has even been a frequent saying of mine, and I'm just barely old enough to drink. So, it goes without saying that I am rarely impressed with the quality of new gadgets, especially when it comes to toys.
Now, I suppose now is the time that I should mention the fact that I work at a Geoffreys Toys R Us. The difference between a Geoffreys and a regular Toys R Us is that Geoffreys has Studio G, where kids come to Create, Build, and Discover. This means that we toss some toys in an area in the middle of the store to hassle parents into staying longer and shopping while their brats shriek with delight at the toy industrys latest cash cows. Er I mean, We encourage fun and learning for the whole family. Yeah thats what I meant.
Anyhow, during the holiday season, we showcased the Hot Wheels Serpent Cyclone track set. The set was out in Studio G for at least three consecutive weeks, where it was running for pretty much the entire duration of every work day. This meant that anyone in or around that area got the pleasure of listening to the symphony of buzzing and snapping noises that accompanies most battery-driven toys these days.
Like pretty much everything you buy these days, the set required a few big honkin batteries to get it going. If memory serves, I believe it ran on C batteries. What surprised me is how long the toy can run on each batch of batteries. Now, you must remember that we had it running every minute of every day we had it out (which is much more than most children would be playing with it) and yet we only had to change the batteries about once every two or three days, rather than every day.
I mentioned before that the toy has a buzzing noise that it makes when it runs, but, as I also mentioned, how many electronic toys dont? The noise wasnt really bad until after hundreds of kids had already been playing with it, and even then, it wasnt loud enough that you could hear it if you were far enough away from it (like the equivalent of being in another room).
Aside from the surprise of how long the batteries would last in this thing, I was also amazed at how much abuse the toy itself could withstand, and STILL be able to function. We had it out on display even during the after-Thanksgiving rush, meaning that it was in Studio G during the busiest time of the season. I dont think Id want to even try to calculate just how many children (both male and female) were playing with this set while we had it out, but it had to be at least around 300, because were not just the only Toys R Us in the area, but we were getting people from Michigan and Minnesota because they didnt have a Geoffreys there either. So, in essence, were talking about A LOT of kids and A LOT of play going on here.
It was during the last few days that we had the toy out that I was working in the Studio G area, and had to sit and play with the kids while they played with the set. After all the torment this thing got, it was still shooting those cars through the loop like nobodys business. You see, the set is like this:
There is a starting point where the car is loaded with a little piece in front of it keeping it from rolling onto the track until the trigger is pushed on the toy that lowers that piece. Then, the car is pushed through by little rubber rollers that go all through the set. These rollers shoot it into the three loops and keep it going, where it will then go through a last loop that sends it back to the beginning and the first loop. This means that the cars just keep going around and around in these loops without the child having to do anything but push the initial trigger at the start. The only thing that may stop the cars is the big cobra head that occasionally lunges down and knocks a car out of the loop (unless the car makes it past the snake in time.) A simple enough concept which, believe it or not, is very effective. We actually had a car zoom through 15 times once before the snake got it, which impressed the heck out of everyone watching (this was when we first opened it up to try it out, before any customers got to see it.)
When it comes to the enjoyment of the kids, that parts obvious. They simply adored it. I actually had one energetic little boy that stayed there and played with the track for over an hour, which didnt even annoy either myself or his mother, since we were feeding cars into it too! We found that, of the cars that are included with the set, the little silver car with the blue-tinted windows goes through the best, as did a few other cars that we just opened up for in-store play that werent part of the set. Because of these cars, though, we made some important discoveries: Some cars just will NOT go through the track. Cars with little decorative pieces that stick out, or cars that are taller or wider, will get stuck in the rudders, causing the toy to make a HORRIBLY LOUD buzzing/squealing noise (which I believe it did even just after we first opened it.) This is only a worry if you try to put cars that dont work into it. The best bet is just to stick to sleek, streamlined cars like the ones that come in the set, though even those can get stuck ONLY if they happen to fall out of the loop and coincidentally land right into a rudder (which was a rare occurrence, as far as I witnessed.)
All in all, I think the best recommendation for this toy can be found in the hundreds of kids that played with it all during the holiday season, especially the little boy that hung around for over an hour. Even the little girls were digging it: continually feeding cars into the track and yelling, Go! Get past the snake!. It was really a kick to see how much fun they were having, and admittedly, I had fun with it too. I would highly recommend this set to those with younger boys (4 and over), because they will just LOVE it. The smiles of those hundreds of kids dont lie!