As miserable a year as 2020 was, for Star Wars fans there have been a lot of treats. The Mandalorian on Disney + is how many of us got through the early days of the pandemic and now, amazingly, Season 2 has already started, less than a year later, and in spite of the virus.
The Mandalorian brought us this year's hottest toy, the largely-already-sold-out Baby Yoda, or as the packaging says, "Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition with Over 25 Sound and Motion Combinations ($59.99)". Amazon says it will be back in stock on November 24, so set your calendars! They will fly off the shelves faster than the Millenium Falcon doing the Kessel Run.
2020 also brought us one of the best Star Wars video games since Luke took out his first Death Star: Star Wars Squadrons ($39.99 & up depending on platform). It is available on PC, Xbox and PlayStation. Squadrons puts you in the cockpit of the best star fighters in the galaxy. As an added bonus, it also works with optional virtual reality headsets, making it even more immersive. (Be careful there, though. Too much immersion has left more than one faux-fighter nauseous.)
Speaking of accessories that work with Squadrons, the game works best with a joystick. Unfortunately, with the near simultaneous introduction of Flight Simulator 2020 and Squadrons, they are in short supply, and price gouging has made them even less affordable than toilet paper in April. A great choice is the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas One, available for Xbox One, PC and Playstation, $79. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, they were generally out of stock on-line. BHPhotovideo.com promises more on the way, while on Amazon I saw it being hawked for nearly double. The link above goes to BestBuy. This stick and throttle combination has a trick. The whole joystick twists, giving it and additional axis of control, normally handled by pedals on an airplane. Relatively compact, and sporting a number of customizable buttons, this is a great starting stick. Be aware, however, that the simulation bug can lead to expensive desires. Thrustmaster's most-excellent high end joystick and throttle, the HOTAS Warthog, also in short supply this season, costs over five-hundred dollars, and if you want pedals, well they are extra! The high-priced spread won't necessarily help you play better, but the immersive controls, modeled on the A10, a tank busting jet, have dozens of switches, and are made of materials that help build the illusion that you are in a real craft.
Beyond Toyland, the Star Wars licensing engine has pushed the franchise where no wookie has gone before: The kitchen.
Now, don't get me wrong. I still think most licensed products are more expensive and not as good as their unadorned cousins. This holds true for Star Wars merchandise, too. For instance, the most common complaint on Amazon about the various Star Wars waffle makers is that they don't get hot enough, and take too long, to make breakfast. On the other hand, there is undeniable joy in serving up a Death Star pancake for breakfast. So, if you go into the purchase, understanding that it is a novelty, you will have the right attitude. Also, watch out for the Darth Vader oven mitts that some say will leave you burnt!
However, there are some products that don't seem to jack up the price inordinately for the license, and deliver excellent results. I speak of the Star Wars Instapot line, available exclusively at Williams-Sonoma. My favorite is the R2D2 six-quart model, It really does look like it was made from a discarded droid. It seems to have the same innards as the standard model, just with more cowbell.