Dance Along Boohbah ($20, White Elephant) -- The Boohbahs -- from the PBS children's series Boobah -- are "five colorful atoms of energy" who seem overly enamored with repetition -- you thought Teletubbies were bad -- and obsessed with making children do goofy exercises. Endlessly. Now they've also become one of the weirdest items on toy store shelves. Dance Along Boohbah comes in one of five colors (care for purple "Zumbah" or orange "Zing Zing Zingbah?"). Squeeze its hand, then listen and watch in bemused horror as it runs through its disturbing yet mesmerizing demo mode routine. First off, in a deep space echo voice it declares, "Beeeeee-Baaaaaahhhhh." Then it seems to fart. Then it proceeds to "dance," rolling its head alarmingly and shaking its rotund, flatulent little body. It's pretty spendy for what it does (basically, six variations of the same thing every time you squeeze its foot), but deals can be had. And its bizarre factor cannot be undervalued.
20Q a.k.a. 20 Questions ($15, Uncle's Games)
This little orb has the potential to freak you out -- big-time. A hand-held, electronic variation of the classic guessing game, Radica's 20 Questions has an almost infuriating habit of being right most of the time -- no matter how offbeat your word choice is. Think of a word and let the colorful, spheroid machine brain guess away by asking you questions. You answer "yes," "no," "sometimes," or "unknown." Though its high success rate might have some believing in a paranormal 20Q connection, it really just operates quite simply through the process of elimination. Or does it? Surely toys are incapable of possessing ESP. Or are they???
Scene It? Jr. ($25, Target)
Are your kids as hopelessly obsessed with movies and television shows as you are? Well then they'll probably love this fast-paced, highly interactive, video-enhanced trivia board game that requires players to recall the most inane of entertainment-based minutiae. Yet the game also makes a valiant effort to engage players on deeper intellectual levels as well, working logic and memory skills into the fun. DVD video clips are provided as visual clues (not surprisingly, TV and DVD player are not included). And just because this is the "Jr." version doesn't mean it's not challenging for adults as well as for kids. Who's the biggest pop culture nerd on the block? Maybe it's you.
The Robosapien Robot ($80, Bon-Macy's) Robosapien (clever name, eh?) is the latest entry in the toy world's ever-evolving lineage of robotic playmates. Unlike laughably rudimentary antecedents such as Teddy Ruxpin and Rags the Wonder Pup, Robosapien is loaded with dozens of sophisticated features including multi-speed dynamic walking, running and turning; full-function arms with two types of grippers; and 67 pre-programmed functions including pick-up, throw, kick, sweep, disco dance, rap (!) and various kung fu moves. It's programmable (with supplied IR remote control), interactive, and it responds to its environment. It's also quite the rude boy, capable of making various hee-larious teenage boy sounds including farts and belches -- features that will surely see more use than just about any other. Requires approximately one zillion batteries.
CSI: Forensic Facial Reconstruction Kit ($20, Toys R Us)
For the overly inquisitive, aspiring crime-solver in the family, may we suggest the CSI Forensic Facial Reconstruction Kit by the folks at Planet Toys. This Toys R Us exclusive may seem macabre -- OK, it is -- but when you think about it, it's actually a pretty cool mix of science, art, puzzle solving and make-believe. Kids start with a featureless plastic skull, and with a bunch of plastic pegs, a couple pounds of modeling clay, sculpting tools and instructions, they are able to reconstruct the face of a dead man -- a skill highly valued in today's highly technical world of crime forensics. And on the playground.
Publication date: 12/09/04