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June 29, 2010

Kung Zhu Pets Review

My wife was recently given the chance to review a box-full of Kung Zhu pets and accessories. Since I was the one tasked with setting it all up and running the little electronic battle-hamsters through their paces, she asked me to write a few words.


The hamsters, on their own, are very much like their more peaceful counterparts: aside from their Special Forces or Ninja Clan branding and the occasional battle scar (one little guy, Thorn, has a bite missing from his ear!), they chirrup, squeak, and scoot all around on flat surfaces and through both Zhu Zhu and Kung Zhu tracks. Their sound effects are a bit different but really, for the most part, they fit right in... it's the accessories that really bring out the differences (more on those in a bit).

Just like the original Zhu Zhu hamsters, you do NOT want to let them run (well... roll) about on the carpet. The instructions warn against doing so for a reason: the wheels will suck in carpet fibers (or hair!) and slow or eventually stop, leaving you performing robot hamster surgery with tweezers and cuticle scissors while concerned children look on.

Wow, that's a lot of accessories. And they all revolve around one thing: crazy robot hamster battles!

The various track sets - Training Ground Alpha, Ninja Snake Pit, Special Forces HQ, Ninja Training Ground and so on - fit together into one huge track, much like the original Zhu Zhu sets do. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say huge, either... you'll want to have plenty of space if you intend to grab them all.

Unfortunately, the track sets do have some of the same troubles the Zhu Zhu ones did. They're easy to put together, but just as easy to take apart... often accidentally during normal use, leaving little gaps for the hamsters to get hung up on. It helps to have an adult or an older kid assemble everything nice and tight before letting the really young ones at it.

The crowning glory of the track sets is, of course, the Giant Battle Arena, where Kung Zhu Battle Hamsters clash in an effort to knock one another over.


There are also armor set and tanks available for the these mechanized mini-monsters. The armor and accompanying "Tablets of Zhu" modify the hamster both cosmetically and behaviorally, placing them into Battle Mode (more on that below).

The tanks are like the cars of the original Zhu Zhu hamsters but more, well... dangerous-looking. While they retain some of the flaws of the cars (hamsters frequently "ditch" their tanks after a few moments), their additional effects and bits (spinning guns, spring-loaded missile launchers, etc.) allow them to better stand on their own as toys; kids were playing with them even without the hamsters.

Lastly, their are the "attack/trap pieces," giant hammers and spring-loaded missile launchers that go off on contact. Their effect on hamster fights is really more cosmetic than anything else, but they CAN add a little spice when attached to the sides of the Giant Battle Arena.

Battle Mode is what really sets the Kung Zhu Battle Hamsters apart from their more docile brethren. When a Kung Zhu hamster rolls over certain portions of track (e.g. a training ground or arena entrance) or a Tablet of Zhu, their sound effects and behavior changes to reflect that they're ready for combat. They remain in this "fight mode" until they fall asleep (from being left alone to long) or get knocked over (whether by another battle hamster, a curious dog, whatever).

Each armor set - there's one for each Kung Zhu hamster, but you can mix and match with no ill effect - comes with its own Tablet of Zhu. This tablet is what determines the hamster's new sound effects and behavior. For instance, the Dark Jonin's tablet will cause the hamster to emit a sinister little hamster assassin chuckle and "attack" with swishing blade and martial arts sounds, while the Thunder Strike's tablet results in military barking, whistles, and mechanized combat sounds.

Again, certain track pieces will also put the hamsters into Battle Mode, so if you just have, say, two Kung Zhu hamsters and the Giant Battle Arena, you're ready to go.

So, what does Battle Mode do, exactly?

Well, when a Kung Zhu first enters Battle Mode, it plays a special sound effect and pauses, giving its owner time to equip battle armor, modify its position, and so on. When that's all done, a single press to the back sends it off fighting.

A hamster in Battle Mode doesn't retreat when it bumps something with it nose sensor; rather, it "attacks" with armor/track-specific sound effects, spinning around, reversing and charging again, and so on. Basically, it's trying to knock other Kung Zhu hamsters over.

When a hamster in Battle Mode is knocked over, it emits a special (and again, armor/track specific) "defeat sound" and reverts to its original, mild-mannered behavior.

It's worth noting here that the armor sets GREATLY enhance Battle Mode. Without them, hamsters are easily knocked over or even fall over by themselves when zipping along the curved Giant Battle Arena walls. The armor sets stabilize the hamsters so that they can't fall on their own... only by having at least one of its attached weapons knocked off will an armored Kung Zhu hamster be wobbly enough to knock over.

Outside an enclosed space like the Giant Battle Arena, or without their armor, the Kung Zhu pets' Battle Mode isn't all that impressive. But armed and armored and dropped into a suitable space, their zipping, spinning, noisy little robot hamster duels really are a quirky, entertaining sight.

A final note: All armor sets are NOT created equal. Looks aside, some of them are simply inherently more stable than others. In other words, certain sets of armor will consistently beat other sets. We encouraged the kids to swap armor between fights so that no one ever had a long losing streak, but still got to stick with hamster they liked the most.

They're cool little toys, especially since they still work with all the existing Zhu Zhu stuff.

If you're looking to start small, I'd suggest picking up a Kung Zhu hamster and a set of armor (or a pair of each)... that's all you really need for Wacky Armored Battle Hamster Combat Action.

The Giant Battle Arena would probably be the next best thing to pick up. You could just stick them in a box, too, but the curved arena walls actually do make for more entertaining games.

Beyond that, it's just more fun fluff!

To buy your own Kung Zhu Pets, please go to Toys R Us or Amazon.com.

*I received a free product (or products) for review purposes from MomSelect on behalf of Kung Zhu Pets. I did not receive any form of compensation from the company. All opinions are my own and not influenced in anyway. My reviews are not always positive, but they are my personal and honest opinions. Other people's views and experiences with the product or products might be different from mine.


mmbear said...

Amazing! I never knew about these because I have no children to shop for that little. I think my daughter would have loved them if they had been around while she was young.


Life, Crafts and Whatever said...

I'm so jealous! My daughter would love these (she's a tomboy). We have 4 of the regular zhu zhu pets, but I'll have to check these out, thanks!

Suzy Parr said...

My niece loves her Zhu Zhu pets! She wanted a real hamster and my sister bought her one of these instead and she is so glad because she said she didnt really want to take care of a real one anyway!

Jesse said...

These look like a ton of fun, I have heard of them, but not much details so I appreciate all your details! I will check them out for my son!

Tanya White said...

I like these because my girls have the zhu zhu pets I feel like those are marketed towards girls, now my boys can have there very own and feel boyish about them.

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