gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Playmobil Sustainable Wiltopia Animal Figures

Claiming to be made from more than 80% sustainable materials, Playmobil’s Wiltopia line aims to be environmentally friendly and educational. At its core is a range of individual animals, paired with basic accessories and a “knowledge card” that gives some basic information about each animal, plus a scannable QR code.

The animals are joined by larger sets – such as a rescue quad bike – but I was sent a selection of three animals – the Giraffe, The Alpine Ibex and the Moose – which is what this review will cover.

Need to find somewhere for some good photos! These collectible Wiltopia animals are made from recycled fridges.

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) August 27, 2022

The packaging design, if a little bulky, is definitely clever. Each animal comes packaged in cardboard packaging which is a far cry from plastic blisters or the awful opaque plastic packaging of Playmobil’s City Life Zoo animals. The animal and packaging are interleaved in a way that leaves a head or leg protruding so you can see (and feel) exactly what you’re getting. This is a boon for visually impaired customers, who could conceivably pick an animal by tactile feel alone.

Inside are the info/QR code card and accessories. It’s easy for a child to open, but if your toddler is as chaos as mine you’ll want to open it yourself and quietly hide the accessories which can include some very, very small parts and require some assembly. The Moose included a little cluster of mushrooms, with each cap an individual part and the Ibex a little Leontopodium nivale plant (you might know it as Edelweiss Edeeelweiss) with tiny flowers. The Giraffe had slightly less fiddly accessories, but one of them (A tiny plastic pile of Giraffe poo, I’m not kidding, please don’t laugh) has already gone missing. I’m now faced with the very real possibility of finding a tiny plastic Giraffe poo somewhere unexpected.

Finally got around to taking some photos of some @PlaymobilUK Wiltopia animals.

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) September 19, 2022

The figures themselves are moderately detailed, accurate and come in various degrees of poseable. The moose – for example – can only bow its head. If what I’ve heard about Mooses? Mice? Meece? Moooose? is true then this is pretty true to life. Ha! The painting is pretty simplistic, opting for a slightly cartoonish finish as is the Playmobil way. They look absolutely on a par with the animals from older sets so the change of materials has had – ahem – no material impact.

The downside? If environmental creds don’t tickle your fancy then you can get – for example – a Playmobil City Zoo Giraffe plus Calf for roughly 8 versus the 10 that the new Wiltopia Giraffe costs alone. It seems Playmobil recognise this, since each Wiltopia animal comes with the educational value-add of the aforementioned info card and QR code.

What- pray tell- does this QR code unlock? Well Playmobil have created a Wiltopia Web App. Yes, a web app! You know, like apps were supposed to be before Apple created the App Store and it all went down hill? Scanning a QR code, or navigating to an animal via the app, lets you listen to an audio description of the animal while viewing a life-sized augmented reality version of it. This can be rather hilarious if – for example – you’re sat in bed writing a review and open the app to see an Ibex towering over you.

Oh god oh help what do these eat!?!? Make it go away!

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) September 27, 2022

The augmented reality versions of the animals can be easily scaled down to table-top size for a guided, close-up exploration with your kids or you can switch into a basic 3D model view and pan around with your finger. It’s easy to get up close and personal and the whole thing works beautifully on my iPhone. I’ve also got it on good authority that it works on a Google Pixel. The less said about this experience with my own Android phone (POCO X4 Pro) the better, but given it doesn’t have the benefit of LIDAR, three enormous camera lenses, and way too much die space dedicated to AI acceleration… this is rather expected. Suffice to say you’ll want a recent-ish iPhone or a decent-enough Android phone for the best experience.

Okay it’s tiny now and watching me write…

— Phil Howard (@Gadgetoid) September 27, 2022

You can pick from a whole list of languages for the audio descriptions and judging from the English version they are clear and slow, dropping some complex terminology here and there but mostly keeping simple enough to engage a child. The Giraffe description was roughly 3 minutes long. Pithy and informative.

Overall I’m quite impressed with what Playmobil have created here. A fusion of environmental creds with cutting-edge technology really makes these feel like a toy for the 2020s and the tactile, cardboard packaging is more exciting and more accessible. The pricing isn’t super keen when you can get a whole zoo set for 30, but if you’re willing to vote for sustainability (and awesome app accompaniment) with your wallet, they’re a great choice.

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022, Toys.