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December 13, 2010

This is the sixth installment in a 20-part series entitled, "Harmful Christmas Gift of the Day." I worked as a Picker of items at an Amazon.com processing warehouse for a good chunk of the holiday season, and the only thing I got out of it was a list of disturbing, harmful items parents are buying for their children (or each other) this Holiday. This article and many more at my site http://www.YeahHeDid.com! Today's item: Kung Zhu Battle Hamsters.... Saving real life hamsters, but at what cost?

The toys I played with when I was a kid (well over 10 years ago) were never very technologically advanced... It was the nineties, though, and nothing really was. I haven't really paid great attention to the evolution of toys since those days, but I always assumed toys had gotten better... not necessarily in terms of creativity, but at least quality and technological capabilities. It just makes sense, right?

Apparently not. Enter the long-running fad known as Zhu Zhu Pets... We'll be specifically focusing on the "Kung Zhu" world, a realm of Zhu Zhu Pets specifically geared towards the young male population. We'll also be focusing specifically on the hamsters, since they seem to make up the majority of the populace in the Zhu Zhu world and since I have a very dark, dark past with the creatures that I've needed to face for years. Here are two of the suckers now:

First and foremost, It's always important to very quickly let you know that Kung Zhu Hamsters trace their origins back to Industrial China... Now, I don't want to start a rant on China, or the quality of items made in China, so I won't say much more than this: while Chinese products are generally safe (sometimes), it probably wouldn't hurt to put a pair of factory floor-quality gloves on your kid before he starts playing with them. Better safe.

To be quite blunt, Kung Zhu Hamsters are some of the most poorly put together toys of the last 30-40 years. Much more fragile than the lives of the real hamsters whose lives you heroically saved by buying your kids these instead, Kung Zhu Pets more than likely won't make it through Christmas dinner. We recommend supplementing a board game with Kung Zhu Pets so your kid will have something to do the rest of the day after his Hamster has long gone "out of service."

The idea behind the hamsters is this: you turn your Kung Zhu Hamster on, and it blindly moves around the room it's in and maybe sometimes hits the other Kung Zhu pet he's "fighting." If he runs into something, he's able to change direction (effectively running from any "fight" he gets in). It's technology that would have maybe been impressive in 1992.

There is a button on each of the hamsters' noses, too, a trigger for Kung Zhu Hamster "battle noises" when the Hamsters clash (if they clash... if the living room is big enough, these things may not meet until your child is halfway through college). I've heard the noises these hamsters make, and as competent as I think I am at describing things, you really have to hear the noises for yourself. Lucky for you, I recorded some of them (don't ask me how) just for you. Click to listen:


It's 2010. In a world of extraordinarily advanced audio capabilities, you'd think the folks at Zhu Zhu wouldn't take their audio bites from a selection of the unspeakably awful mid-90's PC games that were offered free with the purchase of a box of cereal. This is not how the people at Zhu Zhu think. Parents: imagine hearing these noises for hours upon hours upon hours upon hours while you're trying to sleep off Christmas breakfast. I doubt you even made it through the entire 11 or 12 second clip I posted.

So is there any redeeming trait these hamsters have? What about their back stories? Surely this is an area the people at Zhu Zhu Pets spent a great deal of time and creativity working on, because it's sure not anywhere else... right? Let's take a look. Meet the three hamsters from above:

Okay, we've got a big of a back story here! This looks promising! It's fairly repetitive, but it's something. Let's move down to Azer's likes and dislikes, past all of the broken English and all of the poor ways of saying things (we'll ignore the giant list of better and more sensible ways he could have said "not so happy day," and the complete lack of clarity in whose day they're trying to ruin). As you can see, Azer's likes and dislikes include Spoiled milk, baseball, katanas of fire, sgt. Serge, sunny days and ice cream... not a random list of items at all. Thank God the writer adds these in. They really piece together the whole story for us. A+ so far. Let's move on to Stonewall.

Well, the complete lack of a back story (compared to Azer) doesn't really add continuity to the world of Kung Zhu hamsters, but who needs that? And sentence structure? Why bother? Stonewall doesn't care about any of those things. As the 4th-5th grade level of writing indicates, "Pretty much if there's a fight, just point him in the right direction." That's what these toys are all about anyways, right?

The likes and dislikes section is where we find extraordinary confusion... mostly because I've never met anyone who vehemently liked and disliked something as generic and neutral as a ladder at the same time. I've actually never met anyone with any kind of opinion on a ladder. Stonewall seems to be torn between two. I don't know why the author decided to add such a meaningless contradiction into the story, but I guess it's not really my place to judge him. He and the others at Zhu Zhu clearly know more about storytelling than I do.

You can explore more of these wonderful stories for yourself at http://www.Zhuniverse.com, but I think you get the idea: the back stories were more than likely written by the creative director's 7-year old on take your daughter to work day. Such blatant lack of grammatical integrity is not only unprofessional... it's offensive.

So am I telling you not to buy these parents? Listen carefully: no. Quite the opposite, actually. Buy them for every child you know! Why? Well, when I was a kid, my mom let me have a real hamster as a pet. Actually, she let me have 12... in succession. All named Peaches. You see, 6 and 7 year olds do not have the life skills and experience to take care of a living thing. And parents often don't have the time to take care of their childrenand their children's pets, resulting in the death of many small, innocent critters.

Regrettably, I neglected and let die 12 wonderful, wonderful hamsters. And I'll never forgive myself for it. I can't go back in time, but I can fight for the lives of future hamsters. Kids should not be allowed to buy and "raise" them. Instead, they need to be given fake versions of animals, ones they can abuse and ruin without sacrificing a life. Parents: save real hamsters by buying these. You'll just have to forget about the incredibly large list of reasons Zhu Zhu Pets are a horrible waste of money. Go get 'em, parents.

Read this article and more at http://www.YeahHeDid.com!