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It’s once again the time of year where we at GeekDad scour our reviews and purchases for the best gifts any geek would love. I know that Halloween has not quite passed, but with only two months left to Christmas, and barely four weeks left to Hanukkah, it’s probably time to start some shopping.
The first guide this year is one of our favorite categories, Toys. Read on for our best picks for the holiday season.
Another year, another amazing Titan Class Transformer from Hasbro. Except this time around, we’re not talking city bots like Fortress Maximus or Trypticon, but returning to giant combiner teams like Devastator with Predaking! One of the most beloved combiner teams from G1, Predaking is made up of five animal-alt-mode bots Razorclaw (lion), Rampage (panther), Torox (bull), Tantrum (rhino), and Divebomb (eagle) being a Power of the Primes set, they also come with Prime Master Onyx Prime who fits into Predaking’s chest when combined. The individual bots are impressively articulated and fun. Their combined form is simply awesome. As tall as the 2015 Devastator set, this Titan Class toy towers over nearly every other Transformer. Their color scheme sets them apart as well, their orange, black, and yellow deco is unique amongst the entire product line. The original toy was an instant classic and Hasbro has done it again with this new imagining. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Epic Lair Playset
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Epic Lair Playset
Suggested By: Will James
Purchase: Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Epic Lair Playset
My son recently started watching the new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and is in love with it. As a kid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of my favorite shows, and I had a majority of the action figures. The one thing I never had for them (or any of my toys) were any of the big bases or lairs. This new Epic Lair Playset is exactly that—epic! It has seven floors and stands 43″ tall! And the entire line for the new series is also pretty epic. The Turtle Tank Vehicle is a nice supplement to the lair and is a nice update to the old garbage truck tank. And of course, you can’t enjoy the lair or vehicles without action figures! Amazon makes it easy to grab the four turtle brothers in the Basic Figure Set but do yourself a favor and at least grab the April Action Figure as well. I LOVE the new April design as she looks just like my daughter (and my daughter appreciates that too)!
GraviTrax, Image: Ravensburger
A next-generation marble run, GraviTrax is an easy-to-build system that clips together to form interesting and fun tracks that use gravity to send ball bearings on epic adventures. The starter system contains over 120 pieces and the set can be added to with multiple expansion packs including special items like loops and cannons along with extra track and towers.
This is one of those super-rare construction toys in that it is practically flawless. It just works, simple as that. It is very easy to learn and put together with no fiddly and frustrating connectors, and much of the fun comes from putting the track together, not just a few seconds of watching the balls roll along the tracks. If you want a toy that will have the whole family working together and having fun on Christmas morning, GraviTrax is what you’re looking for.
IQ Stars, Image: Smart Games
IQ Stars is a single-player puzzle game which contains 120 puzzles using just seven pieces. The whole thing comes contained in a pocket-sized travel case which makes it ideal for taking out and about. Each of the game pieces is a different shape and each one must be placed on the board in order to solve the puzzle. The challenges range from simple Junior level to challenging Wizard level, meaning there’s something for everyone.
Its portability, low price, and the number of puzzles contained in its small case make this an ideal stocking stuffer that will have everyone wanting to try it out this holiday season.
The LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster set is another of LEGO’s 3-in-1 kits that can be built three different ways. Here you can build it into your own pirate roller coaster, complete with track, car, pilings, and spooky details like skulls, skeletons, swords, and a parrot. And the roller coaster really works (with manual power)! This is a large set—over two feet wide for the biggest build—that includes neat features such as a spinning skull, a galleon pirate ship, a ticket booth, a cannon, a drinking skeleton, an angry octopus, and a camera that takes riders’ photos. The coaster itself looks like a multi-segmented shark body, and it comes with four minifigs and a skeleton figure.
LEGO 60th Anniversary Sets Including Mission to Mars and Bricks on a Roll
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Purchase: LEGO 60th Anniversary Sets Including Mission to Mars and Bricks on a Roll
This year was the 60th anniversary of the LEGO brick, and, to celebrate, LEGO put out some interesting brand new kits, including Mission to Mars and Bricks on a Roll, as well as re-releasing a few original kits, such as the House, Windmill, and Truck. The prices on these kits range from under $5 to under $50, so there is a set for every budget and every LEGO fan on your list.
If your favorite LEGO fan likes some movement to their creations, check out the LEGO Bricks and Gears set. This one features all kinds of elements to spin and turn and twirl that are integrated into the builds. Kids can build their own monkey in a tree, helicopter, flower, owl, merry-go-round, vehicle, or whatever their heart desires. LEGO encourages kids to use their imaginations and combine pieces in new ways. What kind of moving system will your child create with this set?
Image: Turing Tumble
Turing Tumble looks at first like a pachinko machine, but it’s actually a programmable computer. Set up the various pieces to drop the blue and red marbles through the machine to solve the progressively difficult puzzles in the included booklet, and learn how machine code works in the process. Read the initial Kickstarter review and the look at the finished product.
Pick up a Nintendo Switch bundle with your favorite game!
With the arrival of Pokémon and Smash Bros. imminent, I suspect this holiday season will belong to the Nintendo Switch. The standard system is now more readily available at retail, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with copping a vanilla Switch, but if your interests skew heavily toward a particular hot new (or upcoming) game release, there’s a good chance you can find a bundle tailored to your specific needs. GameStop has an exclusive Diablo III Eternal Collection Edition ($359.99) with a special system case, dock, and back cover, as well as a full download of the game itself, while the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Edition ($359.99) includes a custom dock and Smash-themed Joy-Cons along with an SSBU download code. If those grey Joy-Cons don’t do it for you, the Fortnite – Double Helix Bundle ($299.99) includes the neon (red and blue) Joy-Cons and 1,000 V-bucks, a unique Character Outfit, and even more in-game content. For my family, though, nothing beats the Pikachu & Eevee Edition ($399.99), which combines an exclusive dock design, custom brown and yellow Joy-Cons, a special Pikachu and Eevee Switch back panel, a Poke Ball Plus controller, and your choice of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! or Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! Whatever you choose, your family is sure to fall in love with Nintendo’s unique console/portable hybrid.
Now you’re playing with PowerA.
Enhanced Wireless and GameCube Style Switch Controllers
Suggested By: Z.
Purchase: Enhanced Wireless and GameCube Style Switch Controllers
If you’ve already secured your Switch system and pre-ordered Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from your retailer of choice, you’ve covered all the necessary bases. Almost. While the standard Joy-Con interface or Nintendo’s own first-party Pro Controller will certainly suffice, if you’re looking for a little something extra, PowerA has a brand new slate of controllers specifically tailored for use in your favorite fighting title. Available this week is the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller. Retailing at $49.99, this Bluetooth controller runs off two AA batteries and, while it lacks NFC and HD rumble support, performs amazingly with on-the-fly button mapping (via two additional buttons on the controller’s underside) and full motion control. While I haven’t yet had a chance to try it out in Smash, I did use it extensively during this month’s Splatoon 2 Splatfest, and it served me well.
For you Melee purists, though, pay particular attention to the PowerA GameCube Style Wireless and Wired controllers dropping this November. The Wireless option costs a comparable $49.99 and does an astounding job aping that original GameCube aesthetic—right down to the overall weight and octagonally-gated control sticks. Its only additions—a proper L trigger and top-facing plus/minus/home/screen cap buttons—are welcomed and equally well executed, and it too boasts motion-enabled controlling for games like Splatoon 2. The Wired controller trades the motion and AA-battery-powered wireless capabilities for a 10-foot USB cable and a weight so light you’ll likely forget you’re even holding it! While I’ve noticed no real performance differences between the two (and, honestly, prefer the Wireless version myself), more competitive Smash Bros. aficionados will no doubt lean toward the simple, affordable Wired iteration. [Review materials provided by: PowerA]
The LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox is the ultimate robot kit for kids. With 847 pieces, the kit includes motors, sensors, programmable bricks, and a free app which lets you code your robot(s) to do whatever you’d like. When paired with the LEGO Stormbringer, your kids can have an animated dragon for their epic Ninjago battles. The true value, though, is in the experience your kids will gain in coding procedures, engineering both static and animated builds, and exploring a new world in LEGO design.
The LEGO Stormbringer is the epic dragon from NINJAGO Masters of Spinjitzu and is ready for action. This behemoth is built from a relatively small set, but packs a punch. Stormbringer is fully articulated, has projectile breath weapons, and even has a whiplash tail controlled by a small gear. Along for the ride are Zane, Jay, Daddy No Legs, and Muzzle, for creating tabletop battles for the Dragon Chestplate and the Dragonbone Blade (included). The best part of this kit, aside from its surprisingly low cost for a kit this size, is the fact that it’s also compatible with LEGO Boost, meaning you can have an animated Stormbringer programmed on your own devices with the LEGO BOOST app.