What IS a Sing-A-Ma-Jig?

Maybe you’ve already heard about what’s sure to be the next big thing in kids’ collectible toys, but if not, here’s a look at something called.. The SING-A-MA-JIGS!

First launched at this year’s New York Toy Fair, these little plush creatures come in a variety of colours and looks that make them irresistible. Alone, a Sing-a-ma-jig is an adorable toy that opens its mouth with every belly-squeeze and breaks into a series of notes with a tweak of the left paw.

But put them together and that’s when the magic happens! From random notes sung individually, the Sing-a-ma-jigs begin to harmonize and perform together, a range of different tones and voices performing as a strange little group in something reminiscent of Animal Crossing’s Animalese. And they’re from Mattel, so you can be pretty sure that these things are going to go big, much in the way of everything the company gets behind.

So if you want to get your hands on one ore more of these adorable, harmonizing little guys, then look no further than our Sing-a-ma-jig section over at Cmdstore! We’ve got the first wave of Sing-a-ma-jigs ready and waiting to be pre-ordered

Mario Bros. Wii: Back to Basics

I know that I grew up on Mario games: while I missed out on most of the NES stuff since I was just slightly too young for it, one of my first major forays into the video game world was with Super Mario World, which revolutionized the world of side-scrollers forever. The levels were complex and a heck of a lot of fun, the design far brighter and more interesting than anything that had come before it. Even the fact that it had secret worlds, bonus levels and alternate level endings (remember those keys?) really set it apart from the competition and then it was on for a crop of new side-scrollers like the Mario sequels or the Donkey Kong Country franchise. Really fun stuff.

And while Mario has strayed from the original formula in games like Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars by Squaresoft, the Mario sports series, the Wii-based Mario Galaxies 1 & 2 and a ton more titles, it’s always fun to get back to basics and enjoy some revamped nostalgia.

Which is exactly what the new Super Mario Bros. Wii has brought the world! Here’s a review from The Sydney Morning Herald

Returning to his side-scrolling roots, Nintendo’s red-capped mascot has finally given Wii owners a taste of the nostalgic gameplay for which he is renowned.

Rather than a Mario-by-the-numbers remake, this fresh instalment brings with it some Wii-specific touches.

While the on-screen charm and chaos will be familiar to Mario fans, the chance to play co-operatively is a first for this decades old gaming franchise and it’s both a blessing and a curse, depending on your choice of gaming companions.

While it’s possible to play the game alone as Mario, up to three friends can jump into the action at any point, which can be both exhilarating and, at times, frustrating. One minute you’ll be working together to reach hidden areas and items, then a moment later you’ll be screaming at each other over stolen power-ups, being pushed off ledges or left behind.

The game is designed to be played with the Wii Remote held horizontally and operated like a traditional controller, plus the Wii’s Nunchuk controller is also supported for those who prefer analog controls. The motion-sensing feature of the Wii Remote is put to good use, activating certain actions when it’s shaken or tilted, though, thankfully, this option is not over-used.

Veterans of this series can expect some gruelling, though rewarding, challenges in the later levels, while inexperienced players can, for the first time, take advantage of the new Super Guide feature, in which the game offers to complete difficult sections automatically. As a penalty, however, all-important star coins, which are needed to unlock later levels, are not collected during this time.

While this latest instalment doesn’t feel as innovative as earlier releases and an online component to play friends afar would have embellished the game further, New Super Mario Bros. Wii remains a solid addition to this much-loved series.

If you want to pick up the game, you can snag it over on Amazon.com right here–it’s currently the NUMBER ONE video game on the site! Snag it: New Super Mario Bros for the Nintendo Wii

Or if you’ve already got it or just want to relive the Mario of yore, check out our massive collection of Super Mario figures, cards, plush toys, vehicles and accessories. We’ve got a ton of stuff from a ton of games and if you’re a Mario lover, you’ll be sure to find something to your tastes! Click the pic below to have a look!

The August 2009 Webkinz! And a taste of what’s next…

The new August 2009 Webkinz have arrived! Silversoft Cat (above), Lionfish, Iguana and Mocha Pup are the most recent plush pals to join the collection and they’re all as soft and adorable as you’d expect from what has been one of the most successful toy trends since Beanie Babies.

But of course, that begs the question: what’s next? Well, the folks at Smith & Tinker hope the answer is something called Nanovor. Paidcontent.org has the story…

Seattle-based gaming company Smith & Tinker is hoping that it can turn a combination of an online battle game and related electronic toys into a franchise that’s just as lucrative as Webkinz (which is bringing in a reported $750 million per year, per SAI).

The Seattle-based company recently launched Nanovor, a free online game that lets kids battle fantasy creatures—also called Nanovors—but the WSJ reports that it will start selling the toys, which retail for about $50, in stores this October. And the revenue stream doesn’t stop there; kids will also be able to build up their creature army with add-on packs they can buy with virtual currency called Nanocash.

Smith & Tinker’s comprehensive business model has helped it raise $29 million in funding since its launch in 2007. Its most recent cash infusion (amount undisclosed) came in July; investors included original backer Alsop Louie Partners, as well as DCM, Foundry Group, Leo Capital Holdings and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital. The company will promote Nanovor with TV ads and a web series.

The hybrid online/offline game strategy has worked well for Ganz (parent company of Webkinz), but also for Nintendo, which by most accounts, has raked in well over $15 billion for its Pokemon franchise since 1996. Meanwhile, Disney (NYSE: DIS) paid $350 million for a slice of the business when it bought out Club Penguin in 2007.

That’s not to say that Smith & Tinker’s Nanovor franchise is guaranteed to be a success. Ganz faced fallout when it tried to up the Webkinz revenue stream by running ads in its virtual world, and Disney’s Club Penguin deal hasn’t proven to be as lucrative as the media company forecasted. Smith & Tinker will also have to overcome the challenge of getting parents to shell out $50 for (another) electronic toy in the midst of a recession.

Legend of Zelda News + Plush Toys!

The Legend of Zelda, along with Metroid and Star Fox, make up the three most memorable non-Mario franchises Nintendo has to offer. And soon, they’ll be adding a new game to follow Phantom Hourglass. Originally mentioned here in this post (which features a look at the trailer), Spirit Tracks is still chugging along towards its release this winter. Of course, it is with jealous agony that I can also report that the game was available to be played at E3 2009, which was probably a torturous kind of pleasure for fans who were able to try it out.

Having become even more enamoured of my DS thanks to GTA: Chinatown Wars, The World Ends With You and Hotel Dusk, I can’t wait for the sequel to what remains one of my favourite entries in the Zelda timeline.

Now, Spirit Tracks is being brought to us in the same cel-shaded style as Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass (in fact, it takes place 100 years post-PH) and features the adorable cartoonish Link that we’ve come to embrace. It should be known, however, that before he came along, the only way to get your Link in Chibi form was by picking up one of the Legend of Zelda Link Plush Toys.

Webkinz Jr. has launched!

The Webkinz phenomenon can be attributed in equal parts to the cuteness of the plush pals it offers and the fact that it was the first non-electronic toy to really link itself successfully to an online community, though other companies have tried along the years. And now, the Webkinz World has gotten even bigger!

Though fun for children of all ages, the Webkinz World could be a little complicated for the very young. Which is why Ganz has now launched Webkinz Jr., a simplified version of the website that parents and children can navigate together or that provides a safe, entertaining place online for 3-6 year olds. It’s already live, so if you’re a Webkinz fan, be sure to check it out!

And for those already in love with the Webkinz or looking to get started on a collection, we’ve got a ton of ’em available for purchase and pre-order in the online store. Just yesterday I covered the Easter Webkinz, but here are a few more you can snag! Click the pics to take a look at the whole line.