It’s not quite the same as attending a virtual toy event (toys are definitely better when you get to see them in person!), but Khai and I still made it a point to check out this year’s Sweet Suite, where various toy companies put out their upcoming toy lines for perusal. As with last year, Sweet Suite 2021 was a grand effort by the Toy Insider team, with virtual booths stocked with press kits, chat rooms, and Zoom meetings. Here are our picks for the best toys featured this year.
HERS (AKA KHAI’S PICKS from Sweet Suite 2021)
Star Wars Galactic Snackin’ Grogu (Hasbro) – Is it blasphemy to admit that the earliest Grogu toys that came out were a little… underwhelming? Don’t get me wrong, they were cute, but there was just something missing. This one feels a little truer to the character. The face sculpt has better emotion, and having an activity extends the play options. Also, how can you not love a Grogu whose main function is stuffing his face?
LEGO® Marvel Infinity Gauntlet (LEGO) – This thing is really cool. While I normally prefer building things out of base blocks, I love how sleek the LEGO Gauntlet is. It’s posable and life-sized, because why bother with anything else? I do wish it could somehow be worn, but that’s probably too much to ask of blocks.
Transformers Bumblebee Cyberverse Adventures Dinobots Unite Roll N’Change Optimus Prime (Hasbro) – Like a lot of ’80s kids I had a bunch of Transformers. They were cool, but we all remember how they were sometimes too stiff or too loose or a combination of both. These look very smooth, with a rolling transformation that just… happens… when you roll them forward. Jury’s out on how long they’d stay smooth under the stress of play, though.
Star Wars Tamagotchi (Bandai) – We only got a teaser of this, but uhhh, this would be a lot of fun to hang on my purse as a fidget game. It says R2-D2 but the graphics are Yoda, so maybe there’s going to be options? (There’s going to be a Pac-Man collab as well, where Pac-Man helps protect your Tamagotchi. I love the video! But my excitement about that is eclipsed by Star Wars.)
Coding Critters™ MagiCoders (Learning Resources) – This one caught my eye because it teaches the sort of logic needed to code later in life, but it doesn’t have a screen. How it works is that kids can either directly control their critter or use the keys to “train” the critter to do more complicated activities. It’s being marketed to the 4+ crowd. I like that it teaches tech skills while encouraging object interaction (nothing wrong with screens! There just needs to be variety.) I’m less thrilled that the critter choices are “dragon” and “unicorn” with color schemes that make me worry they’re going to be seen as gendered options- but then, the company (at least so far) hasn’t shown that in the marketing.
MINE (AKA JAMIE’S PICKS from Sweet Suite 2021)
Recipes for Disaster (Exploding Kittens) – I love Exploding Kittens and am always excited to pick up another ridiculous tabletop game to bring to game night! This silly card game is a remix combining some of the best cards from the original game as well as the expansion packs. It’s sure to delight and gross out in equal measure. (There is a cone of shame. Tell me that’s not the most hilarious thing ever.)
Cozys Panda (GUND – Spin Master) – I mentioned the Cozys line in my Spin Master 2021 preview because I love stuffed animals and these are adorable. Without being there in person, it’s difficult to tell how soft and squishy they are, but they look super soft and perfect to cuddle up with. I want all of them. But I collect pandas so I’m very excited about this one in particular.
Large City Zoo (Playmobil) – Let me tell you all about the zoo I used to make in my driveway when I was a kid. My parents had bought me animal toys and I used our garden hose in the gravel to make a river, then put branches all along it for trees. 6-year-old me would have exploded with glee for a toy like Playmobil’s Large City Zoo. While this zoo doesn’t come with that many animals (just giraffes and penguins), it’s still the perfect starter for any budding zoologist… or adult who suffers from endless nostalgia syndrome.
Skyward Sword for Switch (Nintendo) – As someone who plays her old Gamecube games on her Wii, I am all for Nintendo bringing its older games to its newer systems. A lot of Nintendo’s offerings have already been released but this one is new, and since it’s Legend of Zelda, I had to add it. Skyward Sword is considered one of the more popular Zelda games, and it’s great that this will be introduced to a new generation of fans.
OURS (AKA JOINT PICKS)
Jurassic Park Chess Set (The Noble Collection)
JAMIE: I was never a big fan of chess and thus never really learned how to play it, but my sister was in the chess club and enjoys nerdy gifts, and also, I feel like if I had dinosaurs to play with instead of tiny pieces that all look vaguely the same (except the Knight), I would have been a lot more eager to learn how to play chess. Perhaps with the popularity of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix I’ll try to pick it up. The Noble Collection actually has quite a few fandom chess sets that I’ve found myself eyeing at conventions repeatedly over the years, but honestly, dinosaurs will always take precedence.
KHAI: When I was a kid I was very, very into chess for a while. I wasn’t the chess prodigy you see on TV mostly because my family was poor and couldn’t travel to events, but I played in my school club and was one of the better players. As I grew up and realized that staying in chess competitively meant dropping other things I enjoyed doing (D&D. I’m talking about D&D) to focus, I moved away from it. I still enjoy playing when I can, and I enjoy novelty sets because it adds an extra element to the game. Plus… dinosaurs, right? I do wish these were maybe “carnivores vs herbivores” or something instead of two sets of the same pieces, but then again it makes it easier to remember which dino is which piece.
Care Bears (Basic Fun)
JAMIE: Lights & Sounds Birthday Bear – I collect Care Bears and have since I was a child. Birthday Bear is my favorite, so I make it a point to grab all the merchandise. I actually already have a version of this Birthday Bear that I bought because it smells like cupcakes. (By the way, I bought this in, like, March, and it STILL smells like cupcakes!) I know it seems a little, how shall we say, obsessive to get almost exactly the same thing. But this one lights up and sings, and as someone who has spent the past two birthdays in quarantine, something like this would make me very happy.
KHAI: Care Bears Togetherness Bear – Like Jamie I’ve been a Care Bears fan since I was a kid. My father used to call us his Care Bears, even. I’m into this new Togetherness Bear for two reasons. First, I like the messaging and the design. It’s friendly and approachable. Second (and more practically) with a bunch of siblings and cousins around, sometimes a dispute would arise over whose Bear a specific one was. These are made of a rainbow plush so each is slightly different. It’s easier to say, “My Togetherness Bear is the one with the yellow ear so I guess this one is yours” instead of “No, my Share Bear has this hole in the leg and your Share Bear was missing the tag, remember?” (Do I rate toys by how easy it would be to solve childhood disputes? Well, I don’t not consider it.)
Bendy Figs (The Noble Collection- Noble Toys)
JAMIE: As someone who used to film herself playing with her toys (perhaps I should try to track down my magnum opus, which involved Star Wars Micro Machines playsets), I was drawn to the Bendy Figs for all the play potential they provide. My favorites were probably the ones for the new Space Jam. Lola looks a little deranged but the Bugs looks amazing. I also really like the Birds of Prey Harley Quinn, which looks a little odd paired with classic Joker, but what the hell, screw canon. What’s it ever done for us?
KHAI: There were a bunch of awesome Bendy Figs at the Sweet Suite. My personal favorites are the Star Trek figs (Spirk shippers are going to have a blast with the Spock and Kirk figs). Kirk doesn’t look much like Shatner, but Bones, Spock, and Uhura look fantastic. There are some other awesome groupings, too, like DC and Lord of the Rings.
(Dis)honorable Mention: Harry Potter Merchandise at Sweet Suite 2021 – As we at The Geekiary struggle to reconcile our love of Harry Potter with our growing alienation from the person who created it, we also struggle to figure out how to deal with all of the new Harry Potter products that keep being released.
Case in point, a few years ago, Jamie would have gone crazy over Spin Master’s new line of toys, which include a really cool-looking Hogwarts playset, an interactive Hedwig, and a Cho Chang doll. (Try finding Cho Chang merchandise anywhere. I dare you.) There were quite a few HP toys featured at Sweet Suite 2021 that are going to test her commitment to not spending any more money on officially licensed merchandise.
Khai loves the interactive Hedwig an irrational amount, and would also be amused by the Harry Potter Bendy Figs from the Noble Collection with their disturbing faces. It looks like the characters were aged up then shrunk down weirdly, but in a fun way.
Instead of talking about toy quality, we have to balance the inclusive and supportive community we remember from the early Potter days with the bizarre and hurtful messaging JK Rowling has been spreading.
On the one hand, many of the cast and crew of the movies are lovely people, and we all have fond memories of the books and movies and fandom communities. On the other, the author behind the series has fallen in with the real-world equivalent of Death Eaters and is slowly stripping away much of what people love about the series through Tweets and interview comments.
With all that hanging in the air, whether to buy HP toys that will profit her through licensing fees is a personal choice. We won’t make it for you. It is something we still debate among ourselves, with at least one member of The Geekiary already having disposed of her HP merchandise, and another seriously wrestling with the decision of whether or not to ever again wear the multitude of t-shirts (and house scarves) she owns. (No seriously, I spent a lot of money on my Ravenclaw hoodie and I usually wear that as a coat until it starts getting really cold.)
And those are our picks from Sweet Suite 2021! There were a lot of great toys on virtual display, and we can’t realistically spotlight everything because there was just so much to explore.
Let’s just say that toy companies have really stepped up their game, and it’s a great time to be a kid, have a kid, or be a kid at heart.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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