Mattel's Masters of the Universe: Castle Grayskull (1&2)
by Mr. Stinkhead
Click on the bold words and thumbnail pics for larger versions
Growing up, Castle Grayskull was considered the biggest grail you could get... well, the GI Joe FLAGG was a tad more unattainable, but what the hell are you going to do with that? So now, we have the opportunity to pick up the new Grayskull, however there is a small dilemma infront of us. Mattel is releasing a second version of the reimagined Grayskull. What are the differences? Which one is a better buy? We'll help you figure it out.
We're also giving away the first Grayskull (pictured right) from the new line (the one with the foot sensors) to someone on our spam-free e-mail list. If you sign-up you'll be eligible to win this, and every monthly drawing from now on.
So let's take a look. First thing is the box, they're different enough that the trained eye can easily pick up the right one, but let's get a closer look. The original (CG1) box has little scenes of the kids activating the foot sensor actions. There are also logos for the sensor chip on every box face. The updated (CG2) box has more of a dynamic box painting reminiscent of the 80's box art. Slap this art on Underoos for adults already. TwoBad, Evil Lyn, Roboto, Zodak, and Whiplash also make an appearance. I like how this one stokes the imagination of epic battles of good vs. evil a bit more. There is one photo up in the top corner of the kids playing with figures inside the set, to show parents the scale of the toy they're purchasing. There is also a bright yellow 20 New Sounds! label on each side of the box, so keep an eye out for that.
When you pull them out of the box, the pieces all initially look the same. They assemble in the same manor. The first difference you'll notice is that CG 1 comes with an extra instructions "flyer" with additional tips for activating the foot chip sensors. But otherwise the directions are identical. Another big change is that CG 1 requires 4 batteries, CG 2 requires only 3. They go in the same spot, and require a screw driver to remove the facing on the computer. The only cosmetic change on the computer is CG 2's blinking light in the center of the radar screen. There is now a small hole in it's decal, the other decals remain the same.
Ok it's all put together and juiced up, lets take a walk around. The front of Grayskull is the most imporant to me, not only is it the image we grew up with, it's all that you see when the castle is folded up. Speaking of which, I love how skinny this thing is when folded up, you can easily slide this behind a couch or in a closet when you're not using it. Back to the face. It's certainly inspired by the original green castle from the 80's. I like this one, but the nostalgia in me misses the deep eye sockets that stare into your soul, relentlessly when you're sleeping at a friends house.
CG 1 has the dragon crest on the "door mat" area and the golden footprint. CG 2 has a scaly-stony type pattern, and the shield crest on the door has been painted.
Both look the same when the door is open. On CG 1 you rub compatable figures' feet on the golden foot print. The Castle recognizes the character by name and then offers instructions. If you're a good guy, you're told to "move the secret stone" (the latch to the right of the door) and step aside. If you're a bad guy, you're told to move the secret stone and stand on the dragon crest. A few seconds later the door comes slamming open. Ofcourse if you're standing on the dragon crest, when the door is open you'd be smushed .
CG 2 isn't without defenses. Though there is no "key card" entry system, you can still teach those punk kids a lesson. There is a newly added lever for you to activate the hidded mouth, from the inside, to bite unwanted trespassers. This also activates a cool sound effect of biting and chomping. If you hold it open for a second, it will growl at you.
Also from this angle you can see that the secured Power Sword that comes with the Castle is a new color. Silver in CG 1, it is now gold. Both are in the same location on the inside. Also from that picture you can see that the lightbulb eyeballs are slightly more visible than in the first.
Ok, let's look at the inside. There are subtle differences throughout. The "hearth" area (pictured right) has a skull button in CG 2. Pressing this button will activate the sounds and lights. My favorite part of this one is that if you hold the button for 1.5 seconds, it will go in ambient mode where the torches flicker and there is a repeating fire sound effect. It's cozy!
The big change here is that the golden foot print has been removed and a little latch button has been added. In CG 1, a bad guy chip would drop the person in the dungeon (accompanied by a cool fall, scream and bang sound effect). A good guy chip would open the "Hall of Secrets" (after moving the SECRET STONE), revealing the magic sword. The sword does come out, but it's tough. In CG 2, both of these features are manually activated.
Speaking of dungeons, there is a cool new addition to CG 2. There is a little door on the wall. If you press the door handle, the little "eyes" light up and a depressed moaning sound eminates from the depths. I love when my toys sound like they're in agony.
One more note on the computer, if you keep pressing CG 2's red button, you'll hear a host of cool computer noises. Even one of the CG Mainframe logging on the net. Probably looking for pics of Anna Kournikova. If you press and hold the button for 1.5 seconds, it will activate the door alarm (with a cool car alarm squeak). If you open the Hall of Secrets or the front door while armed, the alarm will go off until you press the red button. This too, is pretty sweet.
Up top, the gun turret is exactly the same, however on CG 2 you get a sound effect button. Any toy that makes laser gun sound effects, but also shoots spring-loaded missiles is pretty sweet. Another addition to CG 2 is that there is an additional plug hole and peg up top so you can move the flag staff and place the gun on the other spire. You can also push down the hinged wall between the two to dump debris on the enemy. (I won't repeat that Moss Man joke from earlier) .
The next thing is the armory. In the original, 80's Grayskull, you got a yellow rack with places to stick various clubs, guns, swords and spears. I like how that aspect was reimagined with the wall mounted weapons. The weapon assortment is exactly the same between CG 1 and CG 2, you get some cool guns, a few axes, daggers and an Asian/Klingon looking knife. These weapons are all nicely sculpted, unlike the original 80s CG's that felt like an after-thought of loose weapons thrown in with the kit. These all fit snugly on the wall.
Why you should get a Castle Grayskull. I love all the platforms and windows for displaying figures. Mattel was certainly addressing both the child and the collector when designing this one. There are plenty of places to stick a figure for display, but it's also fun to play with and it folds up pretty slim for storage. The story goes that CG 1 came out and the biggest complaint was that the foot chip technology was less than reliable, and the kids were getting frustrated. I have to agree, it was kind of hard to get the Castle to act consistantly. So they retooled the inner workings, leaving the mold and paint job relatively untouched. The sound effects are great, and when you want to dump someone in the dungeon, you move a lever, when you want to open the main gate, you move THE SECRET STONE. I do miss the booming voice that announced each action in CG 1 but the chomping feature in CG 2 makes up for it. Here's an added bonus. Go to Sam's Club right now and you can pick up CG 1 for $30 and you get four figures. Crappin' you negative on that one. Or, keep looking for the new CG 2 to hit stores, with the technology removed, it's supposed to have a $53 price point, slightly lower than before.
Which one is right for you? I personally like the sounds of CG 2, so I'm hanging onto that one. However, with CG 1s hitting clearance and Sam's, it's a hard deal to pass up. The foot technology is cool, it's just a little less engaging to me than laser sound effects. That said, we are giving away the CG 1 (opened for the purpose of photography, so it's not mint in factory sealed box). Sign up for our spam-free e-mail list, and we'll randomly draw a name from the list. If you had signed up for our first give away (Skeletor and Trapjaw), then you're still eligible. No need to do anything now.
I have to say the whole Castle Grayskull experience got me excited. I love em both. I'm trying to make room in the apt to display it covered with figures. My mouth is also watering for Snake Mountain... when oh when?
I had promised a look at WhipLash. Well he's sweet! I really like the sculpt, and the ball-jointed shoulders allow for some great poses. He has a good presence with his girth, and if you press the button on his side, his tail will lash back and forth violently. I love his fingers, and he has a cool looking sword thing.
Check out the rest of our MOTU coverage including Evil Lyn, Moss Man, and the Slime Pit
Special thanks to He-Man.org and all their fans.
All figure likenesses, names and properties are copyright Mattel. All photographs are copyrighted 2003 by MillionairePlayboy.com.