You Call These Toys?

Playthings that leave little to the imagination and nothing in the pocketbook

As the Christmas-shopping season begins, one question stands out in the minds of the country's toy manufacturers: Just how many $150 playthings can American parents afford at a time of shivering stock prices and economic uncertainty? It had better be plenty, because the industry is pinning its hopes on a new generation of fast-talking and fast-shooting computer-driven toys with price tags that run from $60 to $225. Store shelves and shop windows are crowded with jabbering dolls, video villains, electronic spaceships and even a child- size camcorder. But there are signs that parents -- and grandparents -- may balk at shelling...