What Eternia is today for collectors, Castle Grayskull, Snake Mountain and the Fright Zone were in my childhood: the target of all desire. Once I had He-Man, Skeletor, Trap Jaw and other vintage figures in my collection, I started to realize there were playsets for them out there. This post is about the Castle Grayskull, Snake Mountain and Fright Zone playsets (the Eternia playset is excluded as it came too late in my MotU childhood years, so I never got it contact with and consequently cannot really say anything about it).
This was the first playset I became aware of and I am pretty sure this was the first to be produced in the vintage line. To me as a kid, Castle Grayskull was pure awesomeness. I love the skull design and the dark-mysterious coloring. But most of all I loved the play functions. I am talking about the draw bridge (which could be opened with He-Man’s sword), the elevator (you needed the rope to elevate it) and – greatest of all – the trap door which worked in combination with the throne (if the throne was turned, the trap door would open and the evil intruder would fall into oblivion ;-)).
The castle was very sturdy, the plastic of quite a good quality. Besides some broken clip, it lasted through the years and still is in a good shape as of today. My kids today love the same features as I do – they love playing with the draw bridge and the trap door!
Personally, I never owned a Snake Mountain playset (until I bought one in 2014). I always saw it in magazines as a kid and was totally awed by the cool design (the colors, the grotesque faces!) and its features (bridge, microphone, handcuffs…).
I first came into contact with Snake Mountain when I visited a friend. He had just gotten it for Christmas and I was looking forward to playing with it for the first time. Don’t get me wrong now: I liked this playset and still do so today. But I considered it rather limited in comparison to Castle Grayskull back in the day.
What do I mean by “limited”? What Grayskull has to offer in terms of gameplay options, Snake Mountain exactly lacks that. There are features – like the mic, the handcuffs – that offer the potential. But the thing is that my friend and me, we would not really find a way to built in these features in our gameplay. To me/us, there was no real continuity in the playsets features that we could use while playing.
We only came across one variant back in the day: the heroic warrior would enter Snake Mountain from the right side. He would then be warned by the evil voice (microphone/voice distorter), was then held up by one of Skeletor’s hunchmen on the bridge, fought his way onward up to the gates of Snake Mountain only to fall into the trap-door. End of game.
Castle Grayskull offered our imagination more “entrance points” to vary our gameplay. One time you would enter CG via the draw bridge. The next time it was Skeletor who would enter and was held up by He-Man. Or He-Man would sit on the throne only to be ambushed by Skeletor – who would then fall into the trap-door. Once we were done with that side, we would switch over to the elevator and had fun with that item. We would not find that many possibilities with Snake Mountain.
Hordak’s lair was always cool to me as a kid. I liked the creepy setup and the horror movie design (just take a look at that twisted tree design). I never was able to buy the Zone as a kid (again, lack of funds). But again a friend of mine owned one. We had quite fun playing with it. Like Castle Grayskull, this playset opened up various entry points to start a playtime story – either it was Skeletor’s troops attacking Hordak’s pack or it was He-Man and his friends on a rescue mission (freeing the one heroic warrior that would fit into the Zone’s small but cool dungeon). The hand puppet dragon always seemed a little silly to us – even as kids.
My personal #1 when it comes to playset is Castle Grayskull. Just because it was there first and because it offered so many possibilities to play with – and I have the fondest of memories of this playset. #2 would be Fright Zone because it is cool and a little bit scary. #3 would be Snake Mountain – cool in layout and design, of limited playability to me.
But don’t get me wrong – all playsets are unique and awesome in their own was. Make sure to check out my YouTube playset tour video. Also, let me know what your thoughts on the playset are. Did I forget something? Please let me and other reads know by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!