Author: Marissa DiBartolo

On the Hunt with Jordan Hembrough

When you step inside Hollywood Heroes in Westwood, N.J., you can literally smell the nostalgia (for those of you who are unfamiliar, nostalgia smells similar to dust-covered cardboard and childhood memories—but like, in a good way). In the collectible toy shop, bright lights beam down on glass cases displaying superhero relics with more than 40 years under their utility belts, making these toys anything but child’s play. Owner of the shop and star of the Travel Channel series Toy Hunter, Jordan Hembrough is an expert in the art of toy collecting, with more than 25 years of professional experience dealing toys....

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Nintendo Announces Super Smash Bros., amiibo Release Dates

Nintendo announced release dates for its massive lineup of new games and products for the 2014 holiday season. Among the release dates are the highly anticipated Super Smash Bros. for both Wii U and Nintendo 3DS consoles, as well as the new amiibo interactive figures. Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS launches Oct. 3, with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U following during the holiday season. Consumers who register both Wii U and Nintendo 3DS versions of the games with Club Nintendo will receive the Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U: Premium Sound Selection, a soundtrack CD packed with music taken from and inspired by the games.  Additionally, Nintendo revealed that Shulk from the Xenoblade Chronicles franchise will be a playable character on both consoles. The first 12 amiibo interactive figures, Nintendo’s new foray into the toys-to-life play pattern, become available for pre-order today at a suggested retail price of $12.99 each. The first dozen characters available for pre-order at select retailers include Mario, Peach, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Kirby, Fox, Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer. More figures will launch in the future. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U will be the first game with full integration of amiibo functionality. Other games that will support amiibo include Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Mario Party 10, and Yoshi’s Woolly World, with more to come. More details on...

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BREAKING NEWS: Lego Combines Digital and Physical Play with Lego Fusion

Lego Systems Inc. has unveiled Lego Fusion, a play experience that combines traditional Lego brick play with app-based mobile games for kids ages 7 and up. The Fusion collection will include four: Lego Fusion Town Master, Lego Fusion Battle Towers, Lego Fusion Create & Race, and Lego Fusion Resort Designer, featuring Lego Friends characters and themes. Each Lego Fusion kit consists of a distinct set of Lego bricks, a corresponding free downloadable app, and a unique Fusion capture plate, which is a small brick-building plate featuring a printed design that enables a smartphone or tablet’s camera to identify the size, colors, and layout of the Lego bricks built onto the plate. The apps will prompt kids to build a 2-D façade of a building onto the capture plate any way they like. Then, kids can import the façade into the app and transform the creation into a full 3-D building on screen. Once a Lego brick creation has been imported into the game, a series of challenges and interactions will require kids to turn away from the screen and build another façade with their Lego bricks to progress in the game. Each game encourages this back-and-forth between physical and virtual worlds. All four Lego Fusion sets will be sold exclusively at Lego Stores and Toys “R” Us in the U.S. Town Master, Battle Towers, and Create & Race are...

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COMMENTARY: Role Play Toys Engage Kids in Superhero Action

It’s no secret that kids are extremely influenced by the characters they see in movies and on TV. Superheroes are particularly influential, with their mankind-saving tendencies and super-human abilities. The best thing about superheroes is that they appeal to kids and adults alike, since many of the iconic superheroes we know and love have been around for decades. Fisher-Price’s DC Super Friends line is geared toward kids as young as 3 years old, and Lego will introduce DC characters into its Duplo line for the first time this year. While play sets and building blocks are popular play patterns for kids and adding their favorite superheroes to the mix is a great way to get kids excited, the toys that make kids feel like they are becoming their favorite superhero are some of the most engaging toys on the market. Everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is now back on the block with new enemies. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opened in theaters Friday, May 2, and now kids can take home all of the web-slinging action, thanks to Hasbro’s intense line of role-play and action figure toys. With the wrist-mounted Motorized Spider Force Web Blaster, kids can fire foam discs featuring web embellishments up to 20 feet with rapid speed. Each Motorized Spider Force Web Blaster comes with 10 Nerf foam discs that can be stored in the storage compartment on...

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COMMENTARY: Back to Basics: Sketch, Doodle, Paint, and Play

After Toy Fair 2013, the words “and there’s an app!” were ringing in my ears for weeks. This year, however, appcessories seemed more like a taboo than anything else, with most companies shying away from toys with app-enhanced features or reliability. Honestly, it was less than disappointing. I think keeping screen time and toy time separate is perfectly acceptable, and apparently, what kids and toy buyers prefer. This year will truly mark a return to traditional play patterns. Rainbow Loom, a simple bracelet-making kit for kids, was huge in 2013, eventually snagging four Toy of the Year (TOTY) awards,...

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