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Click hereMattel's UB Funkeys
by Mr. Stinkhead

We got to see the line up of these guys at Toy Fair. Inspired by the shared canvas theme that is so popular in the Designer Toys genre (such as Qees, or Dunnys... a common figure decorated by multiple artists), these figures pack much more than just a hip, collectable design. Each figure has connectors in their feet that plug into a USB enabled base, that connects to your PC. Plug in the base, pick your figure and start playing games in their own world.

Click hereI plugged in a little devil (called a Deuce in the Funkeystown world) and just started exploring. It's pretty easy to move around, however I was pretty limited in where I could go... but that's the point of the experience, the more you play, the more areas of their world you can explore. Well that's partly true. There are certain areas where my little devil guy is permitted to go, and others where he will never be able to go. Those areas are off limits except for other types of funkeys. (The Double Deuce bar, only for Deuces like me, had a cool 50's hipster theme. The fish characters have their own hang outs, and the robots, another) So if you collect other genres of Funkeys, you can access more of their world.

The software
Well the tiny downside was that as soon as I plugged in (following the directions included) the Software would not properly start. I was only given a "Quit Game" option. The upside however, is that I was easily able to find and download the patch and it worked immediately. It stinks that there was a technical glitch, but kudos to Mattel for getting a working patch up there and available right away. This "bug" is only part of the first wave of hardware, and most hardware you find now shouldn't need it.

Click hereI enjoyed the look and feel of their world. The little guy I plugged in appeared and I was able to control him and move around. The games I found to play were fun, and I liked how it saves the games in your personal "Game Room", so you can go straight to playing those games again, not have to poke around and find them within the world. After getting frustrated with Nintendo's micro-game Wario Ware, I would like one of the games, but never see it again, this was a welcome feature.

At first I thought I would be connected online and be playing games against other Funkeys owners (kind of like a kinder-gentler World of Warcraft), but that's not the case. You wonder around and find games and earn gold points...use the gold points to purchase accessories for your "Crib," your personalized home base within the Funkeystown world. You can share your crib with your friends. When they log on to their Funkeys game, they can check out your crib, so there is incentive to deck it out nicely. (So far I'm most impressed with the black Cadillac Couch, but I need to save up a bit more for that). Oh, don't walk around with a large amount of coins... I got "attacked" by one of the bad guys and he took a bunch of my coins... so spend em as you get em.

Click hereThe Hardware
After years of collecting and interacting with the World of Springfield Simpsons figures, and being frustrated with getting their feet to plug into the bases correctly, Mattel really nabbed an improved connectivity port here. There are magnets on the feet of each figure that grab and lock the connectors in place to the large Funkey Port. These $20 bases have a USB cable that plugs right into your PC, and they come with two UB Funkeys figures to get you started. Additional Funkey figures are $5. They all share a common base figure (it's familiar while still being original), and now there are almost 50 figures you can collect. I'm really liking the urban vinyl feel to these figures. I know these are directed to the Age 8 and up set, but these funkeys would look at home on your vinyl shelf. The figures' base is hard plastic, their heads have that hollow rotocast feel. Aside from the connectors on their feet, you'd never know these were available at Target and not a Kid Robot exclusive.

Click hereI noticed there are some designs (like the Haz-mat mask or panda face) that are repeated with different colors, acknowledging the Urban Vinyl trend of offering different colorways. Interesting. It turns out that these variations actually unlock different parts of the game, so keep an eye out for the rare ones. One of my favorite aspects of the vinyl community is the customization. I wish Mattel would offer blank Funkeys figures you could paint yourself (and then offer a simple "build-a-face" feature inside the Funkeys game so that the rendered digital figure walking around would kinda match). Or maybe give the USB connected base more of a tooth to its surface (which shares the Funkeys physical shape, just bigger), making that more condusive to customization.

I'm impressed and pleasantly surprised with the execution of this concept. At first I thought they were bringing a mainstream mentality to the Urban vinyl collectibility trend, but the computer game aspect is pulled off nicely, and using the collectible figures to unlock certain portions is a good delivery. I had kinda wished to interact with other Funkeys fans online (in realtime, like with WoW), but then again, this is for the 8&up set, and I don't want to run into Dateline NBC's Chris Hansen.

The UB Funkeys are available in stores now. The technical specifications are below. And if you Googled in to this article and are looking for help with installation, I can point you to this page on the official UB Funkeys web site, and hope that helps.

Minimum System Requirements

  • Windows® Vista/XP/2000/ME/98
  • 800 MHz processor (1.3 GHz recommended)
  • 256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
  • 1 GB free hard disk space
  • USB port (USB cable included)
  • 32 MB video card (64 MB recommended)
  • 8x CD or DVD drive
  • Sound card, keyboard, mouse
  • Adobe Flash 9 (included)
  • Internet connection (broadband recommended)

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Article ©2007 All characters are property their original owners.

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