Thursday, 25 May 2017

Kiddicraft Webster - Webster's Sports!*

Welcome sports fan to Webster’s Sports!
I know I used sports twice in once sentence, shut up.
Webster’s Spots is one of two playsets for the small but awesome Webster line from Kiddicraft, the other was the bigger but actually less awesome Webster’s Playhouse, which looked a bit like the Nerfuls’ playset but with angles, I respect that you may have no idea what I just meant.  Here it is and here are its two exclusive pack-in spiders:

Aren’t they cute? They don’t have names so we’ll call them Daley and Bayley, Daley appears to be of African descent. There is something quite stereotypical yet also weirdly fitting about including a ‘Black’ spider in a set themed around sports, you can either choose to see it as a toy company admitting that, by and large, the best athletes in the word are Black and going for inclusion or as clueless stereotyping, I choose to believe it’s a stealth tribute to British Olympic decathlete SEX GOD Daley Thompson, hence the naming convention, it makes sense, these were made in Britain and released around 1990, the very end of Thompson’s career after he’d spent about 8 years setting all kindsa records and now I really want to draw a big moustache on that spider.      

The whole playset is delightfully last century in the best ways, back when the aesthetic choices for toys, dog products and futuristic technology were roughly the same, it’s hard to explain but the whole look and design of Webster’s Sports is just so out of date yet at the same time completely charming, I’m not saying I want design to go back to this style (I really don’t) but it’s lovely in its ugliness. Fitting for spiders, really. 

Anyway, it allows for cartoon spiders to partake in 5 sports, and because I am this obsessed with Webster toys I bothered to make gifs of them using shoddy mobile phone footage, you are the luckiest people on earth right now.

Sprint Race
The Websters are in fact pull-back toys but only three of the five sports make use of this feature, this is the first and it’s clever in construction but ultimately slightly underwhelming in execution, I mean I like firing cartoon spiders from a hug dog dish but it could be more epic I think. The only wheels on a Webster that are used for the pullback action feature are a pair you can’t see (does having 10 wheels mean they’re not spiders anymore?). The ‘starting pads’ for this sport hold those two wheels still so you can pull the spiders back to the starting block then have enough time to get ‘round and fire them off, that’s pretty clever and requires absolutely no extra tooling or mechanisms, good one designers.  But I rarely get Bayley to maintain her top speed, I don’t’ know if it’s the jolt that comes from pressing the button, the material the ramp is made of, Bayley’s old age or just me being crap at pull-back cars but I only get a good speed once every 10 races or so these days.

High Jump
High Jump was my favourite as a kid – in Webster’s Sports, my jumping height is around an inch off the ground and always has been - I have some athletic ability but it all involves lifting and throwing things, anything remotely energetic and I crash and burn like the fucking Hindenburg. I am sadly nowhere near as good at Webster’s High Jump either, which is a point: I still think all of these should have been called Webster’s [Insert Name of Sport Here] or WebSprint, WebJump etc to fit in with the naming conventions of the spiders, hmm maybe these should be WebBayley and WebDaley in that case. Anyway walking back from that tangent, I think the problem is that I turn into a collector the second my fingers get near the big ‘smash to launch a spider’ button, that’s the issue with this sport, it makes sense until you realise that it’s for spiders with very fragile antennae, those I see many a deelybopperless spider in my time on eBay and at bootsales, it makes me sad. So it took me nearly a minute to build up the courage to really wallop this and get WebDayley over the bar, it was satisfying, as a child I had no concerns at all and used to fire spiders up in the air with abandon, it was simpler times, mostly because it didn’t cost you 15 quid to replace a Webster if you scalped him.

Long Jump
The least impressive of the sports I think, but how cool is it that they made little sand pits for both of these? They’re so dinky and cute and really help my immersion deal with the fact that all of this is taking place on a large TV dinner trey. This one’s the pretty simple too, you pull back the spider then let it speed up the ramp and see how far it goes, it should have a bar to give you something to work towards but the seller (this is a new set; I bought it the other day) had lost that, it doesn’t really matter. The ramp’s not made of the nicest material though and it seems to slow a spider down, in the end I was just pushing it up fast to get a gif, I didn’t play this very much as a four year old.

This one’s just fantastic, though you could argue that it could have been put on any playset and really doesn’t take advantage of the toys it’s supposed to tie into but it has this delightfully chunky ‘ker-chunk’ feel to it and it allows you make a cartoon spider shoot a giant plastic Frisbee out at breakneck speed. The spider is completely irrelevant to proceedings really, it just sits there and looks cute while you manually twist the platform around so the discus flies out, I’m sure they could have somehow worked the pull-back feature in it, maybe you could have revved them up and the force of the wheels turning made the platform turn or something? Still that sounds complicated, expensive and way less tactile fun to me.

Track Circuit
As is often the way, the simplest sport on the playset is the most effective (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that about things). The Track Circuit is achieved simply by hooking the wheels of your spider over a small lip on the outside of the playset, pulling them back and then letting them whizz round, Scaletrix for the small and spider-loving. It’s not without its flaws – you can only get one lap thanks to the gap in the lip required for the Sprint Race and so if your spider goes make it ‘round the whole playset (and it often does) it will just zip off in an unplanned direction, poor WebBayley headbutted a block of wood, a roll of loft insulation and a Disney carrier bag while getting this gif, she has suffered for her sport (usually though, as this was generally not played in an adult’s loft, it just meant the spider fell off the table, Websters make a light ‘clink’ nose when they hit lino, just fyi, quite apart from the splat spiders of their size usually make).

And that’s what you do with a Webster’s Sport, it’s a clever little playset which does a lot with very little and aside from the deelybopper dangers inherent in making your spiders fly into the air over and over, it’s a lot of harmless fun. Would it entertain today’s four years olds? Nah probably not, did it entertain four years olds in 1990? Well it entertained me. Speaking of which: does it entertain me now? Fuck yes, it’s surpassingly absorbing.  

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