Like many parents, I'm always tempted by bargain toys so love Sainsbury's annual half price toy sale (although this year's 'up to half price' offering was pretty poor.) I have picked up many excellent bargains during that sale in recent years but amongst the gems have been some really unimpressive purchases. One of my most disappointing purchases has to be this 'Tightrope Terror' playset produced by GX Racers. I paid just £9.99 for this set, with an RRP of around £20, so felt that at that price it would be a great 'filler' present for Christmas for my boys. I was wrong.
The premise of this set sounds really promising, as the (rather dated) packaging shows a small car whizzing along a narrow piece of string, which is up to three metres long. I was sure that my kids would love this, even if their enjoyment was only short lived. Like many of these kinds of car sets, the kit comes in a number of pieces and requires a bit of assembly although, fortunately, it contains nowhere near as many pieces as a typical Hot Wheels set, for instance. There is only one small die cast metal car provided, similar in proportions to a Hot Wheels vehicle, but with a central wheel section which is designed to fit on to the string and helps to propel the car along once a small rip cord has been pulled.
The main parts are the side towers which need to be slotted into the plastic bases. Frustratingly, once attached these bases can't be removed which does mean that the towers no longer fit neatly back into the box they came in. This is something that I find really frustrating as a parent, trying to keep everything neatly contained and tidy between uses. The remainder of the set up is fairly straightforward, with a couple of luminous plastic rods needing to be connected into place, although the positioning of the string along which a small car (supposedly) travels is a major complication.
The quality of the set overall is fairly cheap and unimpressive, making the full RRP seem pretty unrealistic. The instructions even advise that the bases need to be weighted down using heavy books! This does have something of a retro appeal, bringing back memories of a 1980's childhood spent using books as impromptu ramps for toy cars but, in all honesty, kids (and parents) nowadays expect something a little, well, better designed!
Having connected everything together and made good use of the Argos catalogue to keep the towers steady, my boys were very excited about seeing the car whizzing along. This excitement very quickly turned to disappointment, then frustration and ultimately boredom. Eventually, we did manage to get the car to travel across the string but only once my husband had taken charge of the process and after several failed attempts and lots of tears. Even then, the distances achieved were nowhere near the maximum string length of three metres.
The 'trick' to making this set work is to start with the towers very close together and, very gradually, begin to move them very slowly apart to lengthen the string track and, in turn, extend the distance across which the car travels. The other key principles are that the towers need to be absolutely level and the string itself needs to be completely taut. If there is any unevenness or slack in the string, the car will almost instantly topple straight off. The car also needs to be released instantly on to the string - the slightest of hesitation and the car will, again, simply fall straight off, making for some disappointed and frustrated children.
The set does work but it is so difficult to do and, even when positioned correctly, so inconsistent in the results achieved, there is no way that this can be done by a child anywhere near the minimum recommended age of five years. This requires the speed and steadiness of an adult realistically - not to mention the patience of a Saint! Needless to say, this set hasn't seen a great deal of action since its original purchase. There have been a few halfheated attempts to get this to work - my boys do like the idea of this set and seem to forget how inconsistent it is - but very quickly become frustrated by the lack of results.
Despite its high RRP, this set is frequently featured on Amazon's toy deals and can be purchased for as little as £5 on occasion. (The set is currently available for £7.50, as of November 2012.) Even at this low price, I can't recommend the set as it really isn't designed well enough for the children it is intended for. I'm having a pre-Christmas decluttering session and this set is off to the bin where it belongs!
I found this toy in a box this evening, and was wondering if it was still made and if so if there were a review category for it. I found the toy at Amazon, now for £12.27 which is much better then the £22 I paid for it last year. Still I would not recommend this toy, even at .27 pence.
The idea is that you stretch a tightrope between two plastic towers and the car races across it. I suppose this must be theoretically possible, unless trick photography was used for the commercials. the set includes two towers, the tight rope string, a rip cord to make the car go, a gyroscope racer, and a couple of bits of track. In order to work the string must be completely tight, which is impossible to do using just the towers as if you tighten at all, they fall down. My husband spent about 3 hours trying to get this to work last Christmas. He spent a few hours more on boxing day, trying things like anchoring the towers to furniture, a crate filled with heavy books etc... After several hours of trying he gave up. I tried a few times over the next few days and this got tossed to the back of the toy box where it has spent the past 11 months. I find the toy too horrible to inflict on anyone else, so rather than giving to the thrift shop, or selling on ebay, this will make it's way into the bin tonight. I hate to bring it out in front of the child because he has seen it a few times and asked us to try again. If there was any chance at making it work I might.
The only advantage to this toy at all as it has made my son not want any other toy by the same manufacturer. When he saw other GX racers we said they were the same company that made this and he said he did not want them.
I tend to find alternative uses for most toys, but I can find none for this. I would mind using the tower to beat over the head of whoever designed and marketed these, but barring that, the whole lot is useless. The car did get tossed in the Hotwheels box and might have had some use on it's own - if it had not fallen apart. We had bought two extra cars ( at a cost of another £12 or so) and I believe one of these is still in the with the Hotwheels somewhere.
This gets one star because I can not give it nought. I am sorry if this review does not seem balanced, but I can honestly not find anything good about this, and I've noticed the other reviews, both here and on Amazon all give this 1 star as well. My main reason for writing this review is to advise anyone thinking of buying this for Christmas to buy anything else instead. The toy is pure rubbish!
The GX Racers Tightrope Terror Playset is one to be avoided at all costs! It retails at around £19.99 from Toys R Us, Amazon, Argos and Woolworths, and honestly isn't even worth that. In fact I wouldn't want to have this back in my house if they paid me to take it because it caused so much upset on Christmas Day.
The concept of this toy is that you have two stands with a tightrope running between the two. You then have a little car with a grooved wheel underneath which is supposed to run along the tightrope. There's a short ramp that can go off the end of one of the stands, and a friction strip of plastic that is slotted in a hole in the car, and pulled out quickly to send the car whizzing along.
I don't even know where to start with how bad this toy really is. Firstly, I thought I must have opened a toy from 1972 when I read a sign on the stand that read "use books to balance". I instantly knew something was up just from reading that! What kind of modern toy can only be used if you stack a load of books on it to keep it upright?!
And even if you were to put ten hardback novels on each stand, it still wouldn't actually balance. That's because the stands are made of thin, cheap plastic. It's not possible to get the tightrope to go taught no matter how well you balance the stands because of this. They just sway as soon as the weight of the car hits the tightrope! What do you think happens to the car when that rope goes slack? Yes, it falls right off. The car can only get about three centimetres along the tightrope before falling off. I tried and tried and tried but it was clearly a lost cause - the stands were not designed to allow the rope to be tight enough no matter what I tried.
To make matters worse, the car wasn't even any good. It literally fell apart in my hand whenever I tried to use the friction strip in the car (the base kept falling out). The car was made out of the same kind of cheap plasticky stuff that the stands were made out. Hot Wheels can be pretty flimsy a lot of the time, but at least their toys don't fall apart, and their cars are properly constructed out of good quality metal and plastic parts.
I wouldn't recommend this at all, in fact I'd highly recommend going nowhere near it. It was a huge disappointment in our house, and as it has no other uses than the one single play use it was designed for, it was taken back to the shop for a refund. This was the first GX Racers product we'd bought, and I'll never buy another GX Racers product again after this.