-Review and photos by Scott Rubin
Back at New York Toy Fair in February, which now seems like a lifetime ago, I checked out an upcoming toy line that really grabbed my attention. PlayMonster was not a company I was hugely familiar with; they’re best known for family-friendly board games, Spirograph, My Singing Monsters, and more. But in 2020 they were getting into a whole new world, or rather heading out of ours. Debuting this week in toy stores everywhere is their new Snap Ships line, and we’re checking out two of the initial releases today: The Forge Sabre XF-23 Interceptor and Komplex Scarab K.L.A.W. Interceptor!
So, what are Snap Ships? The line combines cool buildable spaceships with a rich story and lore, plus an innovative app with gameplay and Augmented Reality content. I’ll admit, I was initially hooked by the cool ship designs, something I’ll talk about more below, but there really is such a great immersive story and world of Snap Ships that make it great for older kids and adults alike.
Packaging for Snap Ships is standardized, just scaled up and down for different sized sets. Each kit (usually with one ship, sometimes two) comes in a thin, tall box made of cardboard, with a plastic top (don’t forget about this – more later). These packages feel like a throwback to the ’80s or ’90s, with great artwork of the ships in action over a space background and just a huge amount of in-universe information. The front panel features a hero shot of the ship, with wireframe renders of the different ways of building that kit. There are also identifiers for the ship’s faction, its name, and the identity of its pilot. Even the slim sides of the boxes have helpful info including an example of how the building system works and reminders to keep the box top and download the app. Finally, the back panel has an exploded view of the ship with all the parts, mentions of the UJU tech and launching projectiles, and a description and stats for the ship! That last part, especially is just so cool, and really makes Snap Ships feel like they belong in their own world.
Pop that top off and you’ll find a plastic tray molded to hold the set’s parts and keep things separated (mostly for show). Below it there are the paper components, instructions and a poster/checklist sheet. Ship parts are either held snugly in the tray or lumped together in a bag. In these sets, at least, there’s a separate slot for the cockpit and the core cubic parts of the toys, while at the top are two covered sections: one clear for the pilot and one covered by an opaque sticker which holds the UJU Technology piece.
Assembling Snap Ships is… a piece of cake. (Did you expect me to say it’s a snap?) The instructions are, thankfully, quite clear and readable, showing you where everything goes. There’s a nice bit of complexity that take these ships above what you might expect for a kid’s building toy, notably with the special connector pieces allowing the cubes to attach to each other at angles (good for offset engines and the like). There’s a little bit of give when parts are snapped but not much, and thankfully PlayMonster includes a “Separation Tool” to take things apart. I also appreciate that the instructions point out when you need to pay attention to the particular orientation of an important part.
There are interesting tech bits and all sorts of weapons, some including articulated parts for even more play value. The cockpits open and close so you can install the pilots, and each ship comes with projectile launchers for blasting enemies. And remember the top of the box? It serves as the base of a display with the included stand! Oh, and I should point out that the first page of any instruction book gives you background info about the setting, the ships that set can build, and its UJU tech piece. Lastly, each manual offers instructions for building multiple ships, and of course you can expand your options infinitely with other sets as ALL of the parts are interchangeable.
When it comes to space fighter battles, you can’t go wrong with these two sets. Both are classified as “interceptors,” giving you lots of inspiration for flying the toys around your house saying “pew pew” at each other. The heroic Forge Sabre has a familiar sci-fi delta shape with the cockpit at the very front, wings set far back on the craft, and fins pointing up and down at an angle, all presented in the Forge color scheme of silver, light blue, and a little pale green for accents. According to its specs it’s very fast with good maneuverability and weapons, but only decent armor. Its armament includes the MK16 Autocannon and XR70 Missile Pod, while it can mount an SDU14 Jump Engine. The Sabre kit comes with pilot Klik and the UJU tech UX-3R Hydra Lance with three firing projectiles.
Lastly, you can use the parts in the box for the following alternate builds: the elongated, forward-swept winged XB-04 Light Bomber and the blockier XR-01 Fast Recon with uniquely angled rear engine pods.
If you’re looking for something a little more… slashy, you’ll definitely want to check out the Komplex Scarab K.L.A.W. Interceptor! The K.L.A.W. ships are universally covered in blades and spikes, looking like flying knife blocks turned inside out.
The basic shape of the Scarab is a wide flying wing with huge blades at the wingtips, a forward-mounted cockpit sunken in between two beefy weapon protrusions, and an extended central engine section with maneuverable blade-like fins.
Sounds cool, right? It gets better when you check out the double-barreled cannons, gatling guns, and more with its black, maroon, silver, and gray color scheme. Scarab stats remind me of TIE Fighters with powerful weapons and great maneuverability, good overall speed, and little armor. Offensively it mounts CPL-2 Scarab Pulse Lasers, 6-Barrel Gatling Guns, and Scarab Swing Wings. Its pilot is the mysterious creature known only as the Truth, and its UJU tech is similar to that of the Sabre, a multiple projectile-firing UX-Link Bolo Launcher.
The set’s alternate builds are the even spinier (if that’s possible) Light Fighter and an Attack Striker with an X-shaped hull, forward-swinging blades, and a long engine column.
Snap Ships are super fun on their own as toys, but separately and on top of that is the Snap Ships app! We got a preview of this at Toy Fair and I have to admit, I thought the crazy functionality I saw there wouldn’t be in the final release… but it is. There is a lot to this, so let’s go through it. Story-wise, you play a Forge recruit learning about the ships of the universe.
There’s a hangar bay that comes stocked with a few ships, more as you unlock them by playing the game. Here you can see products you can purchase as well as models that require multiple kits to create, and the full instructions to build all of them. Then there’s the Battle Map which presents different ships as their own territories; in each of these you’ll learn about the vessels and what they can do, then see them in action in full Augmented Reality!
For those who haven’t played around with AR yet, it’s super fun and this app does a great job. You bring fully animated Snap Ships into your living room with you and proceed to investigate all of their weapons and equipment and test out those systems. It was super neat the first time I realized I could shoot missiles at a nearby wall and see them explode on contact! Once you’ve learned about a ship, you’ll get to fly it in a (simple) mission, shooting down enemies. There’s more, too, like unlockable avatars as you do more in the app, a checklist to update so the app will tell you which unique designs you can make, and links to videos. It’s aged for teens, but with the number of cool spaceships and what you can do with them, well, this 41-year-old is having a blast with it. I seriously love checking out ships from all angles and learning all the tech specs.
Snap Ships just released this month, and are available through the PlayMonster website, Amazon, and more. The first wave (here’s hoping for more) ranges from small craft and tanks ($12 MSRP) to the mid-range Interceptors you’ve seen here today ($18 each), all the way up to the gigantic Gladius Drop Ship ($45). I highly recommend you check out Snap Ships if you’re a fan of spaceships, as the designs are great and they’re really fun to build and re-build and customize. They’re a little on the chunky side, but for me that’s a totally fair trade off for the construction aspect and, let’s face it, the kids are going to love these. Well, my kids do, anyway; Snap Ships are rated 8+, but my 6-year-old is already having a blast building and playing with these! Definitely pick these up for a kid interested in spaceships, or for a kid you want to get into spaceships. I can easily see Snap Ships as a gateway product before introducing more advanced sci-fi and toys/models later on down the line.
For more information, download the Snap Ships app or head over to play around on the PlayMonster website!
Review and photos by Scott Rubin
Review samples courtesy of Play Monster