Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Boombox Battle! L.O.L. Surprise vs. American Girl

Is anyone in the mood to go back to the 1980s for a toy boombox battle?  I hope so!  During my research for Part One of the L.O.L. Surprise catch-up review series, I got irrationally intrigued by the L.O.L. Remix dolls that have packaging which combines to make a plastic boombox.  I'm a huge fan of the 80s and have really fond memories of boomboxes, so I'm always tempted by this type of vintage, nostalgia toy.  I was shocked, however, to discover that in order to assemble the three sets necessary to make the L.O.L. boombox, you have to shell out around $50 ($44.97, ~$51 with batteries).

Most of us would think hard about a $50 purchase, but it's so easy to spend that much (or more) on a few smaller items.  Blind bag toys are especially good at tempting people to buy more, because there's always a collection to complete or a highly-desirable but hard-to-find toy in the mix.  But if you know ahead of time that you're going to end up spending $50 on a specific assortment of blind bag toys, you have options.  Maybe there's something else for that price that you or your kids would rather have.  But what is comparable to a freakin' L.O.L. boombox? 

It just so happens that for the last few months I've been drooling over another boombox toy that costs $50: Courtney's Sleepover Accessory Set from American Girl.  This toy doesn't offer a perfect comparison because, unlike L.O.L. Surprise, there are no dolls included in the set.  But it offers an excellent way to put the Remix toys into some context.  It also pits the two biggest toy companies in the country (MGA Entertainment and Mattel) against each other.  What could be more fun?  

So let's check out these two popular $50 boombox-themed toys and see which one comes out on top!

L.O.L. Surprise Remix assortment ($44.97) and Courtney's Sleepover Accessories ($50).

I'll start by opening the three Remix sets that are necessary for making the L.O.L. Surprise boombox: two Hair Flip dolls and one Pet:

Two L.O.L. Surprise Remix Hair Flip dolls ($15.99) and one Remix Pets doll ($12.99).
I should say right off the bat that it's now possible to get the Remix toys at discounted prices from several online retailers.  However, the sets are selling for $12.99 and $15.99 at my local stores, so there are still plenty of people paying full price to assemble the boombox.

I'll open the Remix Pets box first.  Notice the little blue arrow at the top of the box.  It's sticking down in this photo, but it looks like it has a purpose:


I felt like I should pull on the arrow and the box would open, somehow.  Here's a closer look:


But it's just a clear sticker attached to the top of the box, and when I pulled it, it came off.  That's it.


This arrow was on all three of the Remix boxes.  I guess it must be there to help pull the boxes out of tightly-packed displays?  I can't think of another explanation.

Anyway, the box is very brightly decorated on all sides.  Here's a picture of the saxophone-playing jazz cat who I admired in my earlier review:


She's saying "I'm in disguise" because the premise of this line is that the pets are all dressed up as humans so that they can sneak into a concert.

There are nine advertised surprises, but I'm long past thinking that this will have any basis in reality:


It will be a surprise which pet I get, but that's about it.

This side of the box has the most important information for the review; I need one Remix Pets set and two Remix Hair Flips sets to make the boombox:


The picture, above, shows each Hair Flip speaker with a different colored top.  That was a surprise to me because (spoilers) both of my sets have the same color top.  I'd just assumed they were all the same.  After looking online, I know that the available colors are blue, pink, yellow, and gold.  The Pets come with all of the same color options.

The cardboard box opened to reveal the plastic boombox piece (it's yellow!) and a set of instructions:


The cassette deck on the front of the box looks pretty cool, but none of the buttons push down or do anything:


The box has holes in each side for the attachment of the two speakers and the handle:


The back of the box is all one color and has some non-functional molded details like a battery compartment and cable connection points:


When I opened the cassette deck, I could immediately see which pet I got!


Here's a better look:


That's pretty cute.  It's like the pet was waiting to greet me.

The plastic cassette tape pulls out of the holder.  It's transparent yellow and says "Crew Remix" on one side:


The other side says "Rock Out:"


There's some variability in what these tapes say on the "B.B." side.  I've seen a pink one that says "Luv Songs," a blue one that says "All Da Feels," and a gold one that says "Feel Good."  I'm pretty sure the color always corresponds to the same title.

The cassette has a strip of tape that can be pulled out:


The tape has two stickers with lyrics written on them:


The lyrics fit into numbered slots on the back of the collector's sheet:


The lyric stickers I got are numbered 11 and 12, so they'd fit in here:


I didn't want to use up the stickers, but you get the idea.

It irritates me that the two lyric lines I got don't even complete a whole section of the song.  I mean, I've already spent nearly $50 to get a boombox, how much do I have to spend to get all of the song lyrics?  

As it turns out, I don't have to spend anything!  Thanks to the internet (and watching more unboxing videos than I ever thought I would), I assembled all of the lyrics on the collector's sheet for you:

1. We so flawless
2. Everybody keep watchin'
3. We so hypnotic
4. All around the world they know
5. We so extra
6. When they see us they jealous
7. We so surprising
8. Takin' on the world let's go
9. We so rockin'
10. Gettin' loud, music playin'
11. We so outrageous
12. Everywhere we go they know

The whole cassette opens up, so it's possible to re-roll the tape:



In theory it would be possible to pull items out of the box through the cassette dock, but the entire front of the box also comes off for much easier access:


My pet had already fallen out of its protective plastic shell (leading me to wonder why that shell is even necessary).

There are some tissue-wrapped items, a plastic handle for the boombox, some yellow connector pieces, and the collector's sheet that I showed you earlier:


The handle is collapsible, but straightens out easily:


The character I got is a funny-looking fellow called Electric Critter.  I have no idea what kind of animal he is:


Let's see what information we can gather about him:


The white face and red micro braids (maybe all of the hair?) are presumably part of the concert disguise, so I'll try to ignore those as much as possible.

This creature has short, rounded ears and a triangular color pattern around his nose and mouth:

That's pretty distinctive.
The crazy spiked hair gets in the way of seeing everything clearly, but the body is brown, with darker areas on the legs, and pale feet:


Tails can tell us a lot about an animal!  This guy's tail is medium-length, smooth (not fuzzy), and a bit curly:


It's almost like a pig tail.  That makes me think of things like warthogs.  But the face isn't right for that.  And people don't usually keep warthogs as pets.

The paw prints on the bottoms of the feet are a cute (and helpful) detail, and they look canine or feline:


Okay, I suspect that's all of the evidence there is to find.  So what is this critter?

The spiky hair made me immediately think about porcupines:

North american porcupine

That's a decent guess, I suppose, but a porcupine face doesn't have the distinct triangle of lighter color, and a porcupine's tail would be spiked and pretty thick. 

Maybe it's an echidna?  These are fascinating creatures with spiky quills and a lighter area on their face:

Wild shortbeak echidna

Echidnas are monotremes, a rare type of mammal that secretes milk through its skin and lays eggs.  Duck-billed platypuses are also monotremes.  Weird, right?  Anyway, the echidna's nose is too long to be our critter.

The huge eyes on Electric Critter also make me think of lemurs:

Brown Mouse Lemur (Microcebus rufus) (9632259876)

But since all L.O.L. characters have huge eyes, I don't think we can use that as a defining characteristic for the mysterious critter.  

Also, lemurs have fuzzy tails and really long toes that don't really resemble Electric Critter's feet:

Microcebus-rufus

An Australian brushtail possum has exactly the right kind of triangular coloring around its nose.  It also has the right kind of ears:

Brushtail Possum IMG 5017

But the tail (while not in the picture) is bushy, not hairless.  Still, the face makes this is a strong contender.  

The feet aren't quite right, though:

Brushtail Possum IMG 5005

Opossums in North America look quite different:

Opossum 1

This guy has a hairless tail that fits Electric Critter's description.  In fact, it's the only plausible animal I can think of besides a rat that has a scantily-haired tail.  But the face coloring is wrong.  And I don't think anyone keeps opossums for pets.  Nor lemurs, porcupines, and echidnas, for that matter.

The mustelid group seems like another strong possibility--things like ferrets, otters, badgers, and wolverines:

Mustelidae-01

Of these, the ferret has the best coloring match (and is also kept as a pet!):

Ferret Frettchen (135170117)

Ferret feet also look quite a bit like cat and dog feet, so that fits:

Black-footed Ferret (5244704610)

Ferret tails are fuzzy, though, so it's not perfect.  I still think this is my best guess.  What do all of you think?

Whatever he is, Electric Critter has five points of articulation (legs and neck):


Critter came with five items wrapped in tissue paper:


The most interesting of these items is a pet outfit designed to make Critter look like a person.  It has two little articulated arms!


The painted detail on this outfit is also really good.  Look at those zippers!

The outfit is hard to get on, but it's a neat idea:


Critter also comes with these asymmetrical glasses:


Again, these are hard to manage, but I eventually got them wrapped around Critter's head:


The earpieces don't slot into holes the way most L.O.L. glasses do:


Critter also comes with four silver-studded black platform shoes:


These are really hard to get on, especially the ones that are meant to fit underneath the outfit:

I didn't think these would ever go on.
I finally got all of the clothing on.  It was not easy.


Critter is a crash cymbal player, and comes with these (cracked!) cymbals:


The cymbals can only be held by sliding them up the arms of Critter's outfit:


Critter also comes with a stand and a drink:


There's a lot going on with this pet.  First of all, the hair is unruly and difficult to tame.  I can't really brush it or maneuver it out of Critter's face in any way.  So he's a little messy looking even without any accessories.  

But then the addition of the outfit, the shoes, the glasses, the cymbals, and the drink...well, it'd be overwhelming for any small ferret-possum-lemur:


There seems to be a push to make each new L.O.L. release more complicated and elaborate.  I'm not sure that's the right move.  The simpler dolls, without crazy hair, strange outfits, and tons of glitter, are really wonderful little playthings.  Dolls like my Arcade Heroes Ian, without his fragile hero costume, feel like treasures.  But this pet is too much.

The stand, at least, makes it easier for Critter to compose himself.  The stand fits into holes on the inside of the box and also on the top, like this:


Ok, let's move along and take a look at the first of the two Remix Hair Flip dolls:


The box is very similar to the Pets box in that it has the same style and color of decorations.


It boasts 15 surprises:

Pffft.
The cardboard opens to reveal another plastic box.  This one is yellow, just like my cassette player!

I love it when things match!
The front of the box has a removable black speaker:


And the sides of the box have molded decorations and holes for connecting the cassette player:


The speaker can attach to the cassette player from either side, which is nice.


The back of the box has some more molded decorations:


The miniature record player on the top of this box is the most interesting thing to me:


The yellow lid of the record player opens to reveal a molded turntable and a grey plastic record arm that can move back and forth:


The record player section of the box can be lifted off, and underneath there's a power switch and a battery compartment that requires three AAA batteries (not included):


A 6-pack of Energizer AAA batteries costs just over $6.  That brings the price of this boombox up to $51. I borrowed some rechargeable batteries from a kitchen scale for this review, so I didn't actually have to pay anything extra.

With the record player removed from the top of the box, all of the items inside are accessible:


There were tons of things in yellow paper bags, the doll herself (in a plastic shell), and a few paper items:


Here are the eight yellow bags and two of the paper items:


I quickly opened the bags...


And this is what I found inside:


There's a sippy cup, an outfit, a stand, boots, barrettes, a comb, a guitar strap, and a guitar.  Did they really need to wrap the stand and the guitar strap in their own paper bags?

I was more immediately interested in these two paper items.  One is a lyric sheet, and the other is a cardboard record case...


...with a yellow plastic record inside!


I love miniature things, and I love pretend record player toys, so I was pretty excited about this.  My understanding is that each character comes with a unique record and album cover, so once you see the record you know which doll you got.  I got Twisted Sis.

The lyrics fit into the yellow section on the back of the collector's sheet:


Toys with pink, blue, and gold record lids have lyrics that fit into the other sections.

Once again, for those who get irrationally curious about this kind of thing but don't want to spend $100 on L.O.L. dolls, I've assembled the full set of lyrics:

Volume 3 (pink):
Me and my B.B.s heels on our feet feet 
Look so fresh from head to toe
Fit on stylish, nails all polished
Girl, you lookin' like a supermodel
Stop, drop, flex that fierceness
Turn it up, everybody hear this
Yeah we got it so made
With out hair so slayed
Yeah we doin' our thing

Volume 6 (yellow)
One, my outfit rock
Two, my lipstick pop
Three, my hair on lock
Everybody know I'm on the floor
Work like this, do it just like that
Hands in the air, show 'em what you have
Side-to-side, swerve just like hey
When I'm with my crew I slay

Volume 10 (blue)
I look good but I'm feeling' bad
Got my cute shades and a studded jacket
Lavender jeans and long lashes
When I'm with my crew we flashy
Move like this dance it just like that
Step, step, swing from front to back
Side to side do it just like that
When I'm with my crew we classic

Volume 12 (gold)
One, let's amp it up
Two, sig it out
Three, break it down
Everybody jump out on the floor
Rock like this let me hear you now
Bring the chaos let's get loud
Break the rules go against the crowd
Me and my crew bringing down the house

The Pet lyrics I posted earlier are part of this song too, but even if you know everything on the two collector's sheets, it doesn't give you the entire song.  If you're really curious, you can hear the whole song on YouTube by searching "L.O.L. Crew Remix."  A lot of the song seems derivative of Lady Gaga's Born This Way.

I'm not a linguist, but these phrases seem more contemporary than authentic to the 80s (when boomboxes were cool). We were totally awesome in the 80s, for sure, but I don't think we "slayed."

But enough about that.  Here's Twisted Sis in her skivvies:


She has color change underwear that only appears when she's cold.  You can see in the next picture that some of her underwear has disappeared.  That's because I'd been holding her with my warm fingers!

Sorry, Sis!
Her hair is bright blue with lots of tight curls.  It's styled into a mohawk with flocked, leopard print edges.  She has elaborate red eyeshadow with black stars, and some black star dangle earrings to match.

Here she is on the collector's sheet:


One of the features of this line is that they have "surprise hair." In Twisted Sis' case, this means that she has some red hair curled up and hidden in between her blue curls:


The hair is knotted into little buns that are held with black rubber bands.

I wasn't sure if the rubber bands were supposed to be removed or not, but of course I removed them anyway:


It was actually quite difficult to coax the tightly-wound hair into a looser style.  The red hair looks cool like this, but I suspect it was meant to be left alone:


As an aside, the entire time I was working on Sis' hair, her head kept falling off.  This connection is not very secure:


I struggled to get Sis' clothing on, too.  Her shorts, in particular, are very stiff and hard to pull into place:


Her vinyl outfit looks like underwear.  It's composed of a camisole-like top, red shorty shorts, and high boots with red laces:


I would have thought that Twisted Sis would have a red or black guitar to match her outfit and accessories, but her guitar is actually hot pink.  Here it is with the vinyl strap attached:


The guitar fits over Sis' shoulder and looks reasonably convincing--although she'd never be able to touch the frets or the strings to make any music:

But I look cool!
Sis' remaining small accessories are the stand, two guitar pick barrettes, and a small comb:


Twisted Sis has fun hair, nice makeup, detailed underwear and clothing, and a fun theme.  On the downside, her outfit is a bit risqué for kids, and her head falls off too easily.

This review is supposed to be mostly about the boombox, but I'll quickly show you the other Hair Flip doll that I got:

At least it wasn't a repeat!
She's called Bangle B.B. and she comes with her own record album and the same set of lyrics that we saw with Twisted Sis:


This doll has a much more elaborate hairstyle than Twisted Sis, but she also has more factory defects.  You can see that she has some blue paint on her upper lip and some missing paint in the yellow lightning bolt over her left eye:


I like her lightning bolt earrings, though!

This doll also has some hair sticking out of the seam underneath her head:


The things that look like defects in Bangle's underwear are just areas where my fingers caused the color change feature to disappear:


I wonder how excited kids get by these color change features?  I find them a bit confusing.  Shouldn't the underwear be invisible when she's in cold water, not when she's warm and dry?

Bangle's outfit includes a neon dress with a ruffled, asymmetrical hem and some pink sandals that make it hard for her to balance on her own:


The dress looks ok from the back since the split in the vinyl isn't too wide:


Bangle's bright teal hair is arranged into four large ringlet curls:


The surprise element of this hair is that there's a bit of neon yellow and pink sticking out from inside the back ringlet...


And another little twist inside the ringlet on the top of Bangle's head:


I have to say, I enjoy the surprise hair element of these dolls.  You can't tell what the surprise is going to be by looking at the collector's sheets or the promotional photos, so it's a real surprise.

Bangle is a keytar player and comes with her own little pink keyboard:

It has quite a few smudges of black paint.
The underside of this instrument has two collapsing legs:


And these fold out to support the keyboard on the ground:


But Bangle can't really reach the keys:


The keytar comes with a flexible vinyl strap that allows it to be looped over Bangle's shoulder, but this looks super uncomfortable:

Maybe she can play a song with her chin?
Bangle's sippy cup is pink with black zig-zags and some yellow accents--to match the surprise colors in her hair.


Here are the extra little hair accessories that I didn't use:


Ok, we've seen plenty of L.O.L dolls at this point, so let's finally get a look at the boombox!

The handle of the cassette player section acts as a connector for the three pieces.  The Remix Pets set also comes with two little yellow connectors that snap in as attachment anchors at the bottom of the cassette player.   

The connection points are easiest to see when the front of the cassette player is removed, like this:


I snapped the two speakers on, put the front of the cassette player back in place, and...voila!


And here are all of the dolls posing on top of their section (although Bangle refused to stand up straight!):


The boombox looks good.  It's not quite life-sized, but it's pretty close.  The side connections are fairly secure, although the joints wobble and the front of the cassette player is always falling off:


What are my feelings so far?  Well, I like that the cassette deck opens and that the cassette tape can be removed.  I wish some of the buttons on the tape deck could be pressed down--even if they didn't do anything.  

This would be a nice decoration for a child's room, particularly if they like music, and it would be a decent way to store some L.O.L. dolls and accessories.  

I appreciate that I got three sets that all match.  That was dumb luck.  I might not have been as happy with the aesthetics of this boombox if the colors didn't match--or worse yet, if two adjacent pieces matched and then the third one was different.

Overall, though, the boombox feels cheap.  It bends a bit when I lift it, and couldn't be carried around too long without falling apart.  Also, it doesn't really do very much.  It reminds me of the themed containers that some novelty candies come in--things that typically cost under $10, like this $4 Rubik's Cube candy tin:


Or this $7 Pac-Man arcade tin:

Wacka wacka.
But there's one last feature that we haven't checked out yet, and it could easily be the most awesome!  

The mini record players and records work together to play a tune, and I was dying to know how that would sound!


The record works because there's a little nubbin on the bottom side...


That nubbin depresses a small button on the turntable:


The arm of the record player helps to push the record down into position so that the button is activated.

First I tried the Twisted Sis record on the right hand side of the boombox.  


Wait, what?  That's it??  I recharged three AAA batteries for that?  I can't even understand what she's saying.  I listened to that clip about ten times in a row and I still had no idea what the lyrics were.  This was my best guess in the moment:

Wag my ears
(don't you do like that!)
Sleep in the eaves
(show 'em what you have!)

Okay, okay.  I mean, I transcribed all of the freakin' lyrics for this song so I can figure it out.  The last line is clear enough, which allows me to confirm that it's this section of the song:

Work like this
(do it just like that)
Hands in the air
(show 'em what you have)

No way she's saying "hands in the air."  I can't hear that even after I know those are the words.  Whatever.

Next, I tried the Bangle B.B. record on the same record player.  I didn't really expect it to play anything different but I figured I should try:


Sure enough, it's just the Wag My Ears song again.

I also tried the Bangle B.B. record on the other record player:


This sounds similar, but the lyrics are different--and clearer.  I can easily hear "when I'm with my crew I slay."  That means it must be this section:

Side-to-side
(swerve just like hey)
When I'm with my crew I slay

Given that I got two yellow record players, and duplicate lyric sheets, I'm feeling pretty lucky that I didn't get identical sound bites.  Maybe all of the different dolls come with their own sections of the song?  That would be nice, and there are enough lyrics to make it feasible, but I can't verify that this is the case.

I think that the little records and their album covers are pretty great.  They're a bit larger than 1:6 scale, so they're just a tiny bit too big for Barbie dolls like Lena:


They're passable on the larger-headed dolls like Rainbow High's Jett Dawson, though:


I love miniatures, so it's tempting to collect all of the individual albums in this series and put them into a little bookshelf display, but there's no way I'd pay for the whole L.O.L. collection just to get the complete set of cute little records.

The sound feature on this boombox is hugely disappointing.  I would think, for $50, that I'd get the whole song--or at least an entire volume.  Instead it's just two (partially unintelligible) clips.  It would also have been great if each record triggered a different sound clip from the players.  This is possible to do, with little chips and such, but instead each record player can play only one song--regardless of which record you put on it.  That's lame.

In the end, the center cassette player part of this boombox is the best part of the packaging.  It's sturdy, has a handle, and could be carried around and used as a storage box or as a pretend portable cassette player (without speakers--but who cares) for imaginative play.  Unfortunately, the the Remix Pets aren't as cute as the dolls, and their accessories are hard to use.  The Remix Hair Flip dolls are quite cute, especially Twisted Sis, but if you collect several dolls from this line you're stuck with lots of bulky, plastic, mini record players that have very little use.

This boombox looks cool, comes with some cute dolls, and has decent play value, but it's pretty flimsy and doesn't do very much.  Furthermore, does any kid need more than one of these??

L.O.L. Surprise Remix boombox set.
If you read through the first part of this review and loved the dolls but hated the boombox, then this next section won't be a great comparison for you.  But if you read through the earlier bits and loved the boombox but yawned at the dolls, well, then...here's another option for you to consider:

Courtney's Sleepover Accessories from American Girl, $50.
Can I just say that as a kid of the 80s, I love all of Courtney's accessories.  I'm not sure the doll is my favorite (I'd probably rather have Corinne or Nanea), but every single one of Courtney's accessories and outfits is excellent and something I'd buy.  I also bought Courtney's Pac-Man lunch set and her mini Molly doll (I couldn't help myself!) but I'm not sure what to do with those.  Maybe that'll be a review for Patreon.

Courtney's Sleepover set comes in a standard American Girl box that is minimally decorated.  The back of the box lists all of the included items (1 boombox, 1 set of cassette tapes, 1 set of cassette tape cases, 2 soda cans, 1 bowl of chips, 1 cootie catcher, 1 friendship book, and 1 pen):


Everything is packed neatly inside the cardboard box.  Other than the fact that all of the items are individually wrapped in plastic, there's very little excess packaging:


Here's everything that was in the box:

American Girl Courtney's Sleepover Accessory set, $50.
I'll look at all of the extra items first and save the boombox for last.

Here are the doodle (friendship?) book, pen, and cootie catcher:


I assumed that the doodle book would be blank, but it's actually filled with colorful pictures!  I won't give away what all of them are (it's a great little surprise), but here are two examples:

"Gorilla Run" is certainly not referencing any famous games from the 80s...
I love the guinea pig drawings...and the angry aliens!


Courtney's guinea pig, Parsley, is for sale as one of her accessories.  I also had a guinea pig back in the 80s.  He even looked like this!  His name was Ruffles, though.  He bit me...hard.  I still have the scar, but never mind. I loved him.

I folded up the cootie catcher to give it a whirl:


I guess I should use a hair clip today!


Here are the snacks that come with this set:


The soda, or "fruit punch" cans are detailed, but the straws are not removable.  Probably a good thing since they'd be easily lost:


The corn chips can be removed from the bowl:

The bowl is really pretty!
And they even have molded detail on the bottom:

They look soggy, though.
The chip bowl seems a bit small, and the implied texture of the chips is weird, but the flecked detail in the chips is nice and I really like the bowl.

Now for the best part!  Here are the cassettes and their cases:


There are four mix tapes, numbered 2-4.  Mix #1 comes with Courtney's Walkman accessory set (and yes, I want that, too!).


All of the cassette cases open and look very realistic:


Here's a close-up of one of them:


The mix tapes are all different colors.  Notice that each of them has a different set of holes along the bottom edge:


Remember those holes because they're important for understanding how the boombox works.

Here's a close-up of a cassette inside its case:


The cassettes are so cute I can't even stand it.  They're tiny, but they still have so much detail!

Now, finally, here's the boombox itself:


It's much smaller than the L.O.L. Surprise boombox:

L.O.L. Surprise Remix boombox (back) and American Girl Courtney's boombox (front).
 It has so much more detail, though:


There's a sturdy handle that flips up:


And even a little radio antenna that folds out:


The antenna looks like it has a telescoping feature, but it can't actually be elongated.

The back of the boombox is fairly plain, with a battery compartment that requires three AAA batteries (not included):


So we can add another $3 to the price of this toy.


Let me show you a few of the features in more detail.  First, there's a switch that controls the power, and whether or not the boombox is playing a cassette or the radio:


There are three pastel buttons that play or stop the tape (pink and purple) and eject the tape (yellow):


There's also a radio tuner that moves.

Different positions on the radio dial produce complete songs (the same songs that are on the cassettes), while other positions sound like the garbled noise you get between stations.  It's incredibly realistic:


On the far side is a volume control knob that actually changes the volume of the music:


The equalizer on the front of the boombox moves, but the knobs don't affect the music in any way:


Also, the tape deck on the left side of the boombox is only for decoration.

The tape deck on the right side is fully functional!


Notice the four slender buttons at the top of the tape deck.  Those are depressed in certain combinations depending on where the holes on each cassette tape are positioned.  This allows each cassette tape to trigger a unique song--and to play a different song when it's inserted the opposite way!

The tapes fit into the cassette deck perfectly, and the whole mechanism even makes the right sounds!  It's very fun to play with.


Now, let's use Courtney's mix #2 to hear what this boombox can do.


This song is on side A is called Overtime (Boom Boom) by Heather:


This song gets stuck in my head and reminds me of Paula Abdul.

On side B of the same tape, there's an instrumental tune called Arcade Magic by the Escape Artists.  This one has a funky vibe that takes me back:


By the way, some of the songs are clipped because there's a size limit on my uploads--sorry.

A few of the other songs stood out to me because they remind me of specific 80s bands.  For example, this one, Jump Up by the Fast Fix, reminds me of Janet Jackson's Nasty Boys:


And this one, Dance the Night Away by G Hero, reminds me of Duran Duran:


The songs are all between about 30 and 45 seconds long, and they feel complete.  The styles are varied, but all of the songs feel like music from the 80s.  It's brilliant.  I had so much fun listening to all of the music, and now I really want Courtney's mix tape #1!

I don't think you need an American Girl doll to appreciate this toy.  It's just a solid, well-designed, fun thing to play with.  It's also a very convincing miniature of an actual boombox.  I guess if your child isn't using it with an 18-inch doll, though, perhaps you'd be better off just getting them a real boombox with some cassette tapes!  Then they can record themselves, too, which is always a lot of fun.  Regular boomboxes start at around $40.

The smaller accessories in this set are overshadowed by the boombox and cassettes, but they're not without merit.  I especially like the doodle book because it adds some dimension to Courtney's character and rounds out the slumber party theme.

I'm a Girly repaint, Sage, with American Girl Courtney's Sleepover Accessory set.
Bottom line?  I've given many of my thoughts already, but I have to officially declare a winner--it's a battle, after all!

I should preface this by saying that I'm not a great judge for this battle because I've grown weary of the L.O.L. Surprise dolls over the last few weeks.  The packaging, which is supposed to be so fun, feels like a burden at this point.  I don't want to spend ten minutes de-boxing a doll and then have to deal with all of the waste.  I want to play!  I find all of the de-boxing videos strange, too. There are so many of them!  I had no idea.  And it looks like most of the folks in the videos have gotten the entire case of each type of L.O.L. doll for free.  How can they possibly be objective?  MGA is just farming out their advertising to YouTube influencers.  Call me naive, but I hadn't thought much about this before now.  Also, the number of "opened but unplayed with" L.O.L. toys on eBay is discouraging.  Those are either people desperately trying to recoup their losses from repeats, or the result of kids wanting to de-box the toys but then quickly losing interest.

All of that said, I still think that the basic L.O.L. dolls are good toys for play.  They're the right size, they can be taken into the bath, and I've seen kids--boys and girls--out in the real world engrossed in wonderful little games with these dolls.  That warms my heart and makes it impossible to dislike the brand.  I also really like the ethnic diversity in all of the L.O.L. toys.  I bring all of this up because the one thing that the L.O.L. boombox set has that the American Girl set doesn't have is dolls.  And the dolls I got are fairly cute.  I especially like Twisted Sis with her curly blue hairstyle.  Her underwear might not thrill some parents, but it seems ok for a rocker character.  If only her head would stay on.  The other doll, Bangle B.B., has a lot of factory flaws that detract from her appeal.  She even has little bits of hair sticking out of her neck!  Also, her keytar accessory does not fit her very well.  The pet, Electric Critter, is just ridiculous.  I'm not sure what kind of animal he's supposed to be, but the "human disguise" is not very cute.  The idea of the outfit with moving arms is clever (and well-painted), but the whole thing is hard to use, overly-busy, and frustrating.  I'm finding that--to me--the simpler L.O.L dolls are the best.

The accessories that accompany the American Girl boombox are good, but probably don't have the same play value as a trio of L.O.L. dolls.  The bowl of chips is a little small and strange, but I like the detail in the chips and the bowl is pretty.  The juice cans look great, but of course they can't be held by most 18-inch dolls.  The pen is so small that I'm sure I'll lose it.  The cootie catcher is a fun little thing for kids to make, and it will teach them how to construct other catchers from regular squares of paper.  I love the doodle book best, though.  It has brightly colored pictures that are fun to look at and add depth to Courtney's personality.  Those pictures were a nice surprise.

But if we forget about all of those auxiliary items and focus only on the two boomboxes, it's a knockout punch; Courtney's boombox blows the L.O.L. gimmick completely and totally out of the water.  While the L.O.L. boombox feels wobbly and has a big piece that frequently falls off, the American Girl boombox is compact and solid.  I was excited to see that the L.O.L boombox has a cassette deck that opens, with a removable cassette inside...until I saw that Courtney's boombox has all of this plus four working cassettes.  In addition, the mechanism on Courtney's 'box sounds and feels like the real thing.  The L.O.L. record players are an interesting addition, and the mini albums are adorable, but the sound clips that accompany each record player are extremely short and hard to decipher.  Furthermore, the records have nothing to do with the sound clip that gets played--that is determined only by the record player.  So, in order to hear a variety of "songs," you'd have to amass a stack of large, plastic boxes.  Each of Courtney's cassettes plays two complete mini tunes--one on each side of the cassette.  There's also an additional radio soundtrack that changes with the tuning dial and sounds very realistic.  There are even volume and eject buttons that add to the fun.  I feel silly for buying the L.O.L. Remix sets, but I'm so glad I got a chance to play with Courtney's boombox.  It's a fantastic toy, and a fun way to share 80s technology with today's kids.

The L.O.L. Surprise boombox offers short term gratification.  It's fun to collect things that add up to create something bigger.  But the American Girl boombox is a well-designed toy that's built to last.  Ten years from now, most of the L.O.L. boombox containers will be in the trash, and Courtney's boombox will either be on eBay reselling for three times its original value or, more likely, it will be in the hands of a child, cranking out its collection of catchy tunes and offering a time capsule back into the funky, fabulous world of 1986.  Mattel, you win big this time.

L.O.L. Surprise doll, Twisted Sis, with American Girl Courtney's boombox.

15 comments:

  1. I love the Courtney's boombox!

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  2. The YouTube unboxings are ridiculous! I used to watch them in the beginning but the longer the "surprise" trend lingers, the more frustrating they are instead of fun. Even the more honest, not sponsored youtubers are so annoying (or I just developed a negative reflex). "Oh, another double!" "That's ok, I'll turn them into earrings" (which they never do) "Come ooooon [ultra rare item]!... nooooo!" "Batteries not included..." (pauses to buy batteries EVERY time). Um, excuse me, ma'am, wby are you so surprised at a safety measure that has been in place for ages? Also, have you not heard of rechargeable batteries? Honestly, Emily, you are the first toy reviewer that I've seen with reasonable solutions to the battery problem. Besides, I would have been really pissed to have to go get fresh/charged batteries for two lines of unintelligible garbage! The AG one is SO much better, and the songs sound authentic. I wonder if you could find out the hole combination of cassette #1 and tape the corresponding pegs in place to listen to the songs?

    Anyway, thanks for the review! I don't have memories of 80's music (besides looking for a blank cassette and finding dad's radio recording of Modern Talking), but our (plug in) radio-cassette player was a big part of my childhood. I don't know how much sense it would make to buy a real boombox now for a kid, given that any phone has radio and voice recorder, but the AG pastel miniature looks like a fun toy for a child or a nostalgic adult, and it doesn't even matter that no dolls are included in the set.

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  3. Completely off topic but!

    I love that picture of Jett. For some reason I just find her really captivating in that particular shot.

    Also, I had no idea you guys called those paper fortune tellers cootie catchers! That's so adorable.

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  4. Too bad the L.O.L. sets were so disappointing. On the one hand, MGA did way too much (especially with the pet, even before all the accessories it looked crazy) and on the other, they didn't do enough (the boombox and music features could've been so much better!) I did really enjoy your animal lesson though... Perhaps MGA should consider a stripped-down animal-themed line that encourages kids to learn more about the animal figurines they got without getting rid of the cutesy style -- wait, I think I just invented Littlest Pet Shop.

    Courtney's accessories easily win for me, but I may be a little bit biased because she is a fellow guinea pig lover. I don't collect American Girl (and the brand is not available here), but man would I jump on that guinea pig set! Hahaha. In all seriousness though, your conclusion that in ten years time most L.O.L. boombox containers will have been trashed while Courtney's boombox will still be providing kids (and collectors!) lots of fun and play value hits the nail on the head.

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    Replies
    1. Have you tried eBay? I got my Parsley set there.

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    2. I don't use eBay because I find it very confusing and the shipping costs are usually just as high as the price of the item (if not higher) :c

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  5. When you mentioned Courtney's lunchbox and Molly doll I was reminded of one of your old posts. You mentioned that Keira Sofia had an old-style record player and used that to listen to Beatles records, implying that your modern doll had some old-fashioned hobbies and accessories. Why not do the same for Corinne if you get her, or Sage if you keep her? Pretend that she got super-lucky when browsing through the attic and found her mom's old Pleasant Company doll, or something like that? Just a thought.

    For the record I do own Courtney and she's a sweet doll. Her hair is a hassle since it's curly, but she's got semi-unique eyes and a nice mix-and-match wardrobe. She wouldn't be my first pick for a new doll since her hair is curly, but I do love mine. Pity that the L.O.L. boombox is so flimsy and gimmicky, because it certainly looks the part!

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  6. I love EVERYTHING about Courtney, being from the same era. However, I don't have room for much of a doll collection and an 18" doll is not really something I want. My two mini Maru Friend dolls (Ash and Joy) are about as big as I want to get! I am hoping desperately that they make a mini Courtney. I would love her entire collection but its too expensive and would take up way too much room.

    I am over LOL dolls. I can't imagine I am more tired of them than you are considering you immersed yourself in them for the recent reviews. But your writing style will draw me in no matter what you review!

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  7. Another zoological educational review! My favorite!
    About the LOL line—it seems like the longer a design is around, the more bizarre or extreme they become. These dolls’ accessories almost seem desperate, like MGA is running out of ideas. No secret how I feel about over-packaging—seriously using tiny plastic Bags when obviously tissue paper works just as well? At least that is biodegradable. (Yep, I’m a grinch)
    Now on the other hand, that AG boom box is awesome! Took me right back to when I was carting my kids to 4-H meetings with Paula Abdul blaring over the radio. Good times!.......as she slides on over to the AG site....

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  8. I have Courtney and several of her accessory sets, including the boombox. I love her character and the pieces are an excellent addition to my AG dollhouse <3

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  9. I'm very happy you reviewed this because I've been dying to know what that Courtney boombox is like. Her collection is incredibly tempting to me - the TV set also almost got me, and I would *need* to get the last tape to complete the collection if I got this boombox. Buuuuuuut that's... a lot of money. I actually have Julie's record player (which plays samples of three real songs from the 70s, keyed to individual record in a similar but simpler function to these cassettes), Kit's radio (which plays different sound bites depending on where the radio dial is, similar to this, and can be used as a portable speaker), and Melody's radio (which is a functioning little radio and which I treasure). But... eek, $50 plus shipping for this, another $35 for the walkman set, a whopping $100 for the TV... I'd love to have them but holy cow that's a lot of money. Her clothes are also great but... welp. (You should definitely 100% review the Pacman lunch and the little Molly doll though!)

    IDK, maybe inflation is outpacing what I think is a "reasonable" price for a toy. >_< *keeps fingers crossed that the boombox and walkman will go on sale simultaneously someday*

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  10. Courtney's boombox is impressive. I almost bought it a couple of weeks ago, but didn't. It is so nice to see your review.

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  11. The second boom box is absolutely adorable ❤️

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  12. I have all of Courtney's collection save the hamster and the doll (but I do have her meet outfit). My sister and I were 90's/00's babies, but we had a lot of hand me downs so it's all very nostalgic. Its the only AG collection I've (mostly) completed, though my Josefina and Kaya collections are close!

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