Recent visitors to the blog may have noticed a few more modern toys creeping into what is usually a vintage toy showcase. The main reason for this is to highlight what I feel is possibly the best designed space toy ever made. This is a bold statement, considering it goes up against the likes of Major Matt Mason, Spacex and a host of earlier classic and well loved toys. But what sets Starcom apart from the rest is the amount of thought which has been lavished on the line, not just in terms of vehicle designs, but in the actual play mechanics and features of the toy.
Generally, contemporary space toys such as the Star Wars line and other action figure based toys went for the film tie in route. This meant that the toy was based on a 'real life' vehicle and either had to be made to resemble the real ship as closely as possible or to accommodate the standard 3.5 inch action figure which was sweeping the toy world. This meant that a lot of the Star Wars toys had to be distorted in shape to fit the figure access, the X Wing for example became fatter and shorter to allow for a figure to sit inside it. Had the proportions been maintained , the actual toy would have become unwieldy and too big for a childs hands.
Starcom overcame this problem in two ways, one by dispensing with the direct tie-in angle and two, by using a much smaller action figure. Although the entire line of toys had a very limited run of two years in the US and then as a re-release in Europe, it is easily one of the best space toys available.
By being free of a direct tie-in to an external source, the toy designers at Coleco (famous for ColecoVision video games and Cabbage Patch Dolls) were able to create designs which were both practical and exciting. I can't do real justice to the entire line here, but there is an excellent resource detailing all the info about Starcom here.
Meanwhile, i'd like to look at one or two of the unusual elements in the range. Part of the genius of the line was its realism. The US Space Force was intended as a peacekeeping unit, combating the Shadow force of enemy ships. One of the larger Starcom ships has a large cargo bay in the rear which is designed to accept a standard size cargo container. This cargo became a pivotal element in the toy line and certain enemy ships had the facility to carry the same containers. Two other unique features added to this element in that all the astronauts have powerful magnets in their boots and all the toys have discrete metal panels on them, allowing the figures to securely attach to them. The second and most important feature was the 'power deploy' mechanism. This was a cleverly concealed clockwork motor which activated an action feature on each toy. Pushing a button allowed wings to unfurl, cargo bays to open and vehicles to open up. Closing the activated element wound the clockwork motor back up again without the need for keys or more importantly, batteries.
A prime example of the cargo pod/power deploy feature is the Tornado Transcopter Gunship. This small vehicle was able to fold up to standard cargo pod size and slip into the back of the larger Starmax Bomber. A touch of a button, and the tail and cockpit extended outwards and a few quick manual changes converted the box-like vehicle into a small heavily armed gunship. The Battlecrane is another cool example of the magna-lock feature, again a small cargo pod sized vehicle which opens out into a hovering cargo handling vehicle, with a magnet underneath enabling it to pick up the other containers and move them around the space port.
|Deployed Battlecrane and Tornado Transcopter|
|Battlecrane Cargo Handling|
|Troop Carrier Pod and MedBay|
|Field Maintenance Pod and Laser Rat|
Keep watch, theres more to follow on Starcom soon!