Fisher-Price Imaginext DC Super Friends Surround Sound Batcave Playset Fisher-Price, 2020
Day #2,257: December 17, 2020
Batman The Biggest Kid Playset of 2020?
Imaginext DC Super Friends Playset
Item No.: No. GMP48 Manufacturer:Fisher-Price Includes:5 figures, 1 cowl, 4 rockets, 2 batarangs, 2 batcuffs, 1 sword, 1 rocket launcher, 1 grappling hook Action Feature:n/a Retail:$149.99 Availability: August 2020 Other: Possibly the biggest Imaginext Batman set of all time
As I was finishing completing assembly of the DC Super Friends Surround Sound Batcave Playset - which only took maybe 15 minutes - my wife came by and I said "this is the kind of thing you're supposed to stop me from buying." I saw it at Toy Fair many months ago and dismissed it for my personal collecting needs as too expensive and too big. And then my friend Phil - you know Phil, Phil's great - messages me to say "Target marked it down to $50.99" about a month ago. We went out and I got one. Weirdly one side of the box was untaped, but it was very quick to assemble and confirm all parts were in here.
Once assembled it's close to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. You can fold it up, but it doesn't really fold up too well - it just takes up slightly less space. It's too big for most bookcases or shelves, but it does stand as an impressive monument to cost-cutting, simplification, and giving people more of what they want - while including copious amount of hooks for upsells. I didn't get any of the smaller Batcaves, and this thing is so huge I can't imagine wanting to ever get another one unless it was from some other boutique manufacturer. I wish I ran some sort of dork dad blog so I could convince everyone to buy it for their kids (with Imaginext toys), because the dumb thing will make you want to add a Batmobile, a Batcycle, and dozens of figures to your collection.
There's no sticker sheet and, amazingly, no paint except on the figures and buttons on the Bat-Computer. Everything is molded in color to keep costs down, and feels a lot like the Tim Mee Battle Mountain [FOTD #645] with less completely hollow elements. You have to connect some wiring harnesses together, screw in a panel, and tab a bunch of stuff together but it's an incredibly smooth process. There are tons of moving parts - some of which work better than others. The turning bridge is simple and works great. The jail mechanism has a switch to open the doors, but it seems you have to close them manually.
The trap door wrks when you just shove the figure through the floor, dropping them into the cell below. It works well. The chair at the Bat-Computer swivels. There's an elevator you can push up and down, but the figures sometimes fall off - the grip of the figure's foot hole against the foot peg isn't perfect. The same is true from the yellow hall of costumes, you can put your many surplus Batmen figures on there and swivel them around - but sometimes they eject off mid-spin. It's good, but not perfect. There's also a rotating blue arm near the bottom where the Bat-Cycle (not included) should go, but I have no idea what it's supposed to do. A helipad up top is just a handy flat surface.
It also has a rocket launcher you can reposition, with storage for all four bat-shaped red projectiles. It's really quite brilliant - anything red or yellow indicates moving parts or an action feature, while everything else is a normal playset color.
Five exclusive figures are boasted on the box, and indeed that's what you get. I don't love them. Batman has a removable cowl, but the eyes seem off - he comes in 1989 movie colors. The Joker has his jacket removed, so you can see his vest - but again, the face looks weird. Robin looks fine, but bulky. Catwoman also looks fine. Mr. Freeze looks like he could be repurposed for future "Adventure People" tributes, which I assume is bound to be happening if we ever see another wave of blind bagged figures. Sculpting is good as always, and all of the figures could probably be improved on just a bit with new face deco, as they have the same consistent good Imaginext builds. Except for Mr. Freeze's neck, each figure has articulated heads, wrists, shoulders, and a uni-leg hip.
My guess is this set will be the yardstick against which all future 21st century boy-driven action playsets will be measured. When I look at most toy playsets I had as a kid, you had a few action features - maybe an elevator of some sort, an escape slide, a room to sit in, or perhaps a jail cell or a big gun. In the early 1980s, the Ewok Village was the high mark of an all-plastic no-cardboard Star Wars environment and it had about five play features - and that was impressive. The Death Star Space Station about the same. This thing has six action features, not including the Bat-Computer's electronic lights and sounds. Admittedly it's not a big increase over four decades, but other than a few grail-level monstrosities there aren't all that many other big deal playsets out there to gawk over other than the U.S.S. Flagg or Snake Mountain. These environments looked cool (and were huge) but they don't always do a whole heck of a lot. I loved my Turret & Probot Playset as much as the next kid... but its entire play function was listed in the name.
I wouldn't have paid $150 for this, but at $50 it's easily the most impressive "big toy" I've ever bought. It has more play features than the HasLab Sail Barge, it stands taller than the Matty Collector Castle Grayskull, but it's also one of 10 (or so) Batcaves over the last few years. I doubt anyone will collect them all, and I do see them wind up at Goodwill over time - but that's because they were well-loved playthings that kids, down the road, may want to revisit as adults. I can't imagine anyone is stashing these things away to keep mint-in-the-box due to their obscene size and price, but I assume anyone with the gumption and spare room will probably be rewarded handsomely over time as the next generation ages into malaise and wants to be a kid again. Along with the Supernova Battle Rover, this may well be the one that got away for a generation.
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