COMMAND YOUR SHELF
Yes, people collect toys. That has been true since the dawn of nerdom. Some collectors — myself included — even create scenes in which to display these toys. For this special breed of collector, Extreme-Sets has a sweet new line of pop-up backdrops. Shall we take a look at another one?
I previously took a look at the Abandoned House pop-up diorama, which currently serves to spruce up my Resident Evil 7” action figure collection (among others). Today, I’ll give you a full rundown of the Command Station diorama made with 3.75” collectibles in mind.
Packaging: 4 OUT OF 5
The packaging remains unchanged from the previous releases. As I said before, when it comes to the box an item can be packaged in, I’m a fan of both possible extremes. As someone who grew up with Playmates’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toyline in the 90s, I love those bright boxes with garish colors and flashy artwork used to coax the money from someone’s wallet. On the other end of the spectrum, a basic brown box with minimalist printings can be just as effective. Extreme-Sets opted for the latter with its products, placing the cardboard panels in a simple box with a slipcover. One side of the box bears the Extreme-Sets logo in bold black ink, while the other features the name of the purchased set, an illustration of the set’s theme, and a cutout which gives a preview of the panels inside. It conveys the idea that Extreme-Sets has great confidence in its product, and also allows you to dispose of the box without thinking twice.
Construction: 5 OUT OF 5
The Command Station pop-up set consists of six 16” tall back panels, three platforms, three railings, and two computer stations for decoration.The platforms and computers are essentially unfolded boxes with some minor assembly required. Fold them up, slide the tabs in place, and voila! Easy peasy. The thick cardboard will require you to flex each piece at the fold lines a bit to ensure a cleaner look, and some collectors may choose to add tape at the seams for less visible gaps. Personal preference applies here.
The back panels are even easier to assemble. Each one features two large tabs on the left side, and two slots on the right. You need only to insert the tabs of one panel into another’s slots to begin building your diorama. The trick is, this can seem difficult at first as the slots are made to accommodate the tabs with a very snug fit. The initial assembly will be slow, but the tradeoff is a connection that will not pull apart on its own. As the Command Station is my second pop-up diorama, this process was much easier and nearly effortless with experience — or perhaps I was just being overly cautious with the Abandoned House. So long as you don’t apply pressure in the wrong place, you run no risk of damaging the panels during assembly.
With the backdrop panels connected, the left and right panels can be angled to form one large, partial room. What’s more, even when a panel is bent at a 90 degree angle at the joint, the tabs refused to disconnect unless I intentionally pulled them apart. That’s some solid construction.
There are no instructions included in the box, though a brief note directs you to the official Extreme-Sets YouTube channel to watch a tutorial. This is largely optional, as the design is fairly straightforward and the exact arrangement of the various pieces is entirely up to you. As I only had so much space to work with, I erected the diorama in the default, advertised arrangement (using three of the back panels) for many of the photos. Later, I built a second scene using the other three back panels, though all six can be combined to form one incredibly massive display.
It should be noted that the tabs are completely optional, and the panels can also look pretty good when simply propped up end-to-end, overlapping just enough to hide the tabs. Again, there is a lot of flexibility in the assembly process.
Appearance: 5 OUT OF 5
The strong, bold colors and matte finish really lend this set a striking appearance. The neon greens of the computer screens really pop thanks to the blue hues of the surrounding scenery. Small details like the edges of metal panels lining the walls and various technological instruments tow the line between cartoon-like graphics and light realism, ensuring the Command Station is suitable for a wide variety of collectibles from G.I. Joe to Sonic the Hedgehog. I especially like the entryway visible on one of the platform pieces, which gives the impression of a corridor leading to parts unknown.
One of my nitpicks with the Abandoned House pop-up diorama involved the visible lines which reached vertically across every piece, due to the corrugated middle layer of the cardboard. This is much less of an issue with the Command Station, especially in person, though that may have something to do with the brighter colors here.
Should you choose to build a complex display, the joints of the back panels don’t stick out like a sore thumb as you might expect. This is due to clever design work, where each panel can blend almost seamlessly into the next. The overlapping edges will be visible at certain angles, but it hardly detracts from the stellar appearance, and your collectibles will likely conceal the problem altogether.
My main complaint with this set stems from the fact that the various other pieces don’t quite sit flush with one another. The ends of the platforms are angled to allow them to connect and look nearly seamless, though it doesn’t quite work. The railings placed atop each platform also don’t quite look right when placed end-to-end. Perhaps making them linkable via small tabs would have solved this issue, but as-is, it isn’t too glaring unless you look closely.
What turned out to be my favorite feature is one I have never seen advertized, and may be incidental. All six back panels feature a fold in the middle that, as far as I can tell, is there only so they could fit inside the packaging. However, this allows you to fold them in such a way that a single panel can be used as a display with both a wall and a floor, perfect for anyone with lots of shelves but minimal space for dioramas. Because there are numerous pieces depicting barren walls with minimal details, this allows numerous scales other than 3.75” figures to fit in with the background in certain instances. As such, I used the folded option for my 6” D-Arts Mega Man X figures and couldn’t be happier with the results.
For those of you yearning to have a batcave display without buying the garishly colored plastic play sets released in the past, the three rocky background panels make for a nice stand-in. Just take a look at the photo below, where I placed Injustice: Gods Among Us, Batman: Arkham City, and Batman: Arkham Knight figures in this exact setup.
Value: 5 OUT OF 5
There still aren’t a lot of products on the market comparable to Extreme-Sets’ pop-up dioramas. ACI Toys recently unveiled a set of sculpted 1:12 scale dioramas which combine to create one alley, but it will sell for around $162.99. There are also various play sets intended for kids, but they are often overpriced and come in odd color schemes. The Command Station sells for $49.99 plus shipping direct from Extreme-Sets, and is highly customizable.
There are also so many pieces included that you may find yourself dividing it amongst various collections and displays. The artwork and versatility of this set makes it suitable for anything from affordable Funko POP! vinyls, to more high-end collectibles like Sentinel’s Mega Man 4 Inch Nel product line.
Simply put, collectors get a lot of bang for their buck with this sucker.
THE VERDICT: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
I was impressed by the Abandoned House pop-up because of its Resident Evil-like design and durability, but the Command Station manages to outdo it in terms of display options and value. If you ever wanted to make your action figure collections look more dynamic and photo-friendly, consider taking a look at this particular item.
*This product was supplied free of charge for an honest review.