MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (2002)
Playsets for action figures are by and large a thing of the past. They were really big in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and even kept up steam for a good part of the ’90s, but a general trending towards less interest in action figures coupled with rising costs of plastics has made them less than practical. Sure, you still see the occasional set here and there, but they lack the charm of the older sets. Occasionally, an attempt is made at recapturing that charm for a more collector-oriented market. A few years back, Mattel used their online store Matty Collector to get enough backers to fund a high(ish)-end version of Castle Grayskull, an important part of the He-Man mythos. This not a review of that. Nope, this is a review of its direct predecessor. Well, most of it anyway. Let’s get to the review!
THE PLAYSET ITSELF
Castle Grayskull was released as a deluxe playset during the first year of the 2002 Masters of the Universe line. The Castle is designed to fit with the basic 6-inch figures Mattel offered. It’s actually about half-scale. In its defense, even the much larger, much more expensive Castle Grayskull was only three-quarter-scale, and that one wasn’t even vying for valuable retail shelf space. As it is, it’s definitely undersized, but it’s large enough that it suits the purpose it was built for pretty well. The Castle is just about 20 inches tall and 17 inches wide. When the Castle is all folded up, it’s only about 4 inches deep. The exterior of the Castle is pretty impressively detailed, and features a very nice selection of textures, which keep it exciting. Well, for a non-mobile playset anyway. The overall look, though undersized, is a very nice translation of the Castle’s 200x design. As you can probably note from the pictures, the parapets are made up of several different pieces, which clip into place. They were prone to fall off, which is why my set is missing a couple of them. The Castle can unfold, which reveals the interior and increases the depth of the set to 11 inches. The interior of the Castle isn’t quite as nice as the exterior, since it has to fit inside when folded. Still, there are several very nice details, including a spot for weapon storage and even a neat little computer thingy in the corner. I also love the small, easy to overlook details, like the skull and rat on the floor in the prison cell area. For some reason, in the 2000s, toy companies thought that the best way to sell a playset was to work in some weird battery-operated, figure prompted gimmick. Remember the ThunderLynx bit from the Tower of Omens? Well, Castle Grayskull’s got something like that. Each of the figures in the 200x Masters line (well, at least the earlier ones) had a little…thingy imbedded in their foot, which was expressly designed to work with this set. There are several spots on the set where there’s a golden footprint. When a figure’s foot was moved back and forth on this spot, it would release a lever on a door, revealing differing parts of the set or activating traps. Most of them are a little weird and gimmicky, but I do quite like the one on the upper level, which swings open a door revealing a special chrome version of the power sword placed on a nice little pedestal. It’s still really gimmicky, but, c’mon! Chrome! In addition to the aforementioned chrome sword, the Castle included a flag (missing from mine), a big cannon sort of thing, a set of shackles, bars for a cell (also missing), a giant key (because why not?), as well as a large arsenal of weapons, of which I only have the trident. Still, that was a pretty awesome selection of extras, especially given the kind of extras we see nowadays.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
By the time of the 200x Masters line, I had aged out of playsets. Yeah, I know, it shocks me too. Aging out of toys. I was just about aged back into collecting playsets when Mattel’s collector version was released, but it was just far too hefty a price for a moderate Masters fan such as myself. Of course, this more economical set had also gone up quite a bit in price. As you might have guessed (or just have already known, for those of you who paid attention to my Teela review), the Castle was part of the big Goodwill find from several weeks back. I ended up spotting this particular set first, and upon discovering it was only $4.50, I felt like I couldn’t say no. Sure, it’s not complete, but it was also super cheap, and it’s actually a really fun set. It’s too bad I never got one when they were new!
Side Note: This set was far too large for my usual photo set-up, so this is the first item to be shot in the Auxiliary Photo Studio (aka the dining room). As it turns out, the Auxiliary Photo Studio takes two people to operate, so special thanks goes out to Super Awesome Girlfriend, who aided with most of the photos you see here!