The earliest memories I have of Playmobil, back from the early ’80s, is playing with their superb “Space” series. I had several of the ships, and I loved their primary colored astronauts with a variety of tools. I remember the main purpose of the series was exploration. Unlike my Star Wars toys, there weren’t a lot of pistols or weapons, but tools for collecting samples, and those huge walkie talkies.
I dabbled in collecting some of their space sets in the mid ’90s that had aliens and missiles and were very imaginative, but I preferred the historical sets.
Now my love of all things space and exploration are at an all time high and I’m ecstatic about these new Playmobil Mission to Mars sets. While still flexing their engineers imaginative spirit, there’s a bit more basis in reality, and the focus is back on exploration. This time they have their sights on the red planet, and I couldn’t be happier.
Mars Buggy 9491
Loosely inspired by NASA’s lunar rover (LRV), this compact buggy is perfect for jaunting around the surface of an alien planet. Flexible plastic shocks give the front axel some bounce and it’s really fun to drive around. I love the ultra ridged tires, and the storage compartment has room for several crystals and his gun.
A new feature to the Playmobil astronauts is a heads-up display (like Iron Man sees) printed right on the helmet. This astronaut has rubber hoses connecting the helmet to his life support system on his chest. I also really like the detail printed on the figure. This is a fun set that you (or your kid) could pop in a pocket and explore all kinds of worlds.
Mobile Lab 9489
This is the set I was most excited to review. This mobile lab allows our astronaut to bop around the surface and dig up minerals and perform experiments. The roof comes off easily to access the light-up work station, and place the astronaut behind the wheel. The work station not only lights up, but has several sounds, like the whirl of the drill, or engine humming. I also like the side hatch that opens up, and this astronaut’s helmet visor lifts up.
In the back there is an articulated arm. I love how you can attach one of three tools to the end, and they all store in their own hole. There’s a drill for digging deep into the planet surface. Swap that out for the opening and closing claw, for grabbing the crystals (included!) and if need be, swap out the claw for the missile launcher. There’s even a compartment to store the crystal samples.
I enjoyed the references to the Apollo 11 lunar lander (LEM), from the opening hatch and side handles, down to the standing work station. I do wish that the legs holding the wheels were somewhat hinged. It looks like they were originally planned that way early on, but became solid pieces by the time they hit production. The rubber tires look great, and its also fun to drive it around.
This one reminds me of my beloved ’80s Playmobil space rover with the raised tail end.
9488 Rocket Launch Pad
Playmobil isn’t messing around with this huge (28″ tall!) gantry with removable rocket. There is a mission control inspired platform, complete with buttons, monitors and phone handsets, that can slide up and down the gantry. I love the maintenance “buckets” that can rotate out so the workers can service different parts of the rocket.
The main rocket not only resembles a Falcon Heavy rocket, but you can pop off the nose cone and put on a capsule that seats two astronauts. The hatch opens easily to sit the astronaut inside (this set comes with one astronaut and two technicians).
On top of all of this, there’s light and sound. Press the buttons on the back to simulate the rocket launch. There’s a countdown and then the rockets fire, lighting up the base of the gantry. After all that, you’d be hard-pressed not to pop off the rocket and fly it around the room, I don’t care how old you are.
Apollo 50 and Playmobil
As you know, at the end of the month we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. To commemorate this achievement, the Smithsonian has placed highly detailed life-sized replicas of Neil Armstrong’s space suit at 15 major league baseball parks. I took one of the playmo astronauts to Nationals Park in Washington DC to see it for myself. Check out the Apollo at the Park website to see if there’s one near you!
WHAT?! They now sell the Playmobil astronauts two pack at the Air & Space Museum in DC! March into their gift shop and pick up one of the two packs (they also had several of the above space playsets) now come right out to the lunar lander (LEM) and there’s a scale model in front of the actual lander. This model is just about Playmobil-scaled, and you can touch it. Your Playmobil astronaut will CLIP ONTO THE HANDLEBARS outside of the hatch so you too can get a photo like this. This is amazing! I’m over the moon (so so sorry).
Check out the space exploration section of the Playmobil website to see all the exciting products in their space line. There’s also a free app and downloadables!
-Review and photos by Andy “Mr. Stinkhead” Jones
-Review Samples Courtesy of Playmobil
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