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Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil, 2015
Day #1,354: January 12, 2016
Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Play Box 5638 Haunted House
Hey, monsters!

Playmobil Play Box
Item No.:
No. 5638
Manufacturer: Playmobil
Includes: 2 figures, chemistry stuff, bones, candles, scorpion, raven, rats, casts, bottles, playset
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $19.99
Availability: ca. 2015
Other: Full Theme Would Be Nice

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Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil news is hard to come by - oddly, in the pre-digital age it was easier to stumble across sets at educational toy shops and hobby stores. I only found out about 5638 Haunted House by accident on the Kohl's web site when I was cruising for a Star Wars exclusive - and of course I immediately had to have it. Ghosts and children in costume are nothing new, and there's precedent for vampires in this toy range - but Frankenstein's Monster's non-union German equivalent? This is new! The whole playset idea was interesting, so I got it. Is it worth the $20? ...maybe only because of toy inflation.

Playmobil figures ("Klickies" to some) are 3-inches tall and, on the whole, are generally very similar. The legs are a single piece, the arms have articulated shoulders and wrists. The neck is unique in that the head is limited to a fairly human range of motion - you can't spin them all the way around like your action figures or LEGO men. There are tweaks to the bodies, like a jacket or torn pants, but when you get right down to it they're basically all the same size and as such, they tend to interact well with most of their accessories. This set, however, provides an exception as there's an "electric" gizmo that's a cross between a Borg recharge station and an electric chair. It's wonderful - but it has a clip that's very tight for a figure, and with his coat the Monster really doesn't fit. I've got a lot of Playmobil - a lot of Playmobil - and this may be the first time I've bought a figure that doesn't interact well with his intended accessory.

The figures are pretty great - Rockabilly Dracula has a dynamite head of hair, while the Monster's is nothing you haven't seen before, except rendered in orange. The flat-top head and elements of the Universal Studios monster are generally legally guarded closely, but the literary notion of the Monster and vampires are very much in the public domain - so seeing a twist on these things is rather interesting. It also kicks the door open for various gill men, wolf men, and other forms of the undead if they were so inclined. Our Vampire pal has sharp fangs, dark eyes, and a pointy cape that make him look pretty fun, while the Monster's clothes are tattered and his skin is green with stitches all over it. He really does look like a bundle of dead parts, and these figures are made of existing pieces elsewhere in the line. Score another one for efficiency. I should also point out that the vampire was sold in a little-seen blister pack with a lady vampire - search out pack #5239.

Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House

The selling point is the Haunted House - it's interesting to assemble, with some very clever stickers which peel off the sheet, are placed in the box, and peeled off again to leave a double-sided sticky pad to hold cardboard scenery in place. It's really quite clever, and I enjoyed putting it together. Tabs and shelves also hold them in place, in case they dry out over time. The set itself is basically an empty purple box, and you can set up the included furniture to make a lab or a Vampire castle of some sort. As it's a little bare, Playmobil stuffed the set with various bottles, funnels, torches, and creatures of the night to give you something to do - and it doesn't really feel like it's enough. A figure is usually around $3-$4 and includes a couple of accessories, so the little box - while neat - really needs to be the driving force of the purchase. Without an action feature or a sizable presence, the 5-inch wide box doesn't really impress when fully expanded. It is, however, portable and I do appreciate any toy where you can store the entire thing in itself so you don't have to lose any parts. This is one element I wish more toy companies learned from the Micro fads of the 1990s - storage is really important.

I'd be a bad toy reviewer if I neglected to mention the packaging. When assembled, the toy folds up and takes up less than 50% of the box - this is kind of a cruel tease. It's a neat toy, but while some manufacturers (LEGO) aim to reduce the amount of air in your boxes, Hasbro and Playmobil seem to think a bigger box is better. I've heard conflicting studies, but given the battle for shelf space and the fact that you, the consumer, are paying for the additional cardboard, it'd be nice to see it go the other way. Efficiency is good, and toys rattling around inside an empty box aren't always good for their long-term health.

Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted HouseIn recent years, I've curbed my Playmobil purchases down to mostly sale items and the odds and ends like this. If they ever tackle one of my favorite movies I'd go all-in immediately, but as it stands right now I'll keep being picky and choosy. The quality is just as good as it's always been, but perhaps discounted sets and really big sets with lots of creatures have spoiled me. A Vampire set with no wolf or bat seems like a missed opportunity, but as far as I know they still haven't made a bat. This feels like a great feeler for a future theme - we've had so many dragons and castles and knights, it seems like a good time to introduce antagonists for those villagers. I eagerly await Playmobil's next supernatural move with an open wallet. I'd be lying if I said this set impressed me, but I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't like playing with it and assembling it. Playmobil does a good job of putting together a decent user experience, and now I feel like I need some castle for Dragster Drac to hang out in some day soon. If you see this set on sale - $10 or less - it's a must-buy. Otherwise, I'd suggest it only as a gift for a friend with kids (do volunteer to assemble it, I promise you'll enjoy the stickers and inserts) or for the die-hard Playmobil junkie.

--Adam Pawlus

Additional Images

Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House
Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House
Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House
Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House
Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House
Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House
Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House
Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House
Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House Playmobil Play Box 5638 Haunted House

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