First, here are a few of my guiding principles:I. I judge a toy on what it was intended to be- A more statuesque figure doesn't get knocked for not having the same level of articulation as a Marvel Legends or G.I. Joe Classified Series figure. A stylized retro styled figure doesn't get compared to the sculpting and paintwork of something from NECA.
II. Most often, I'll try to compare similar figures. A plastic army man is judged according to other solid plastic mini figures, not according to a 1/18th scale Star Wars figure. Anyone creating toys in a specific scale, however, may be compared to other toys from the same scale. It might not hurt your score, but if you release a 1/6th scale figure, you'd better believe it will be compared to the best (and worst) of what's around.
III. I don't judge a toy anachronistically, but try to consider how I would have perceived it at the time of its release. A vintage Masters of the Universe figure isn't going to get knocked because the articulation isn't up to par with a Masterverse figure.
IV. You should never have to fix your toys right out of the package. Ever. Breakage aggravates me.
V. I do factor in price, and lately I've been factoring it in more heavily. Unless the toy is only available from one specific source, price can be pretty fluid, but I try to find the average retail price. Still, the toy companies are setting those MSRPs and with most of the major players selling the figures direct these days, those MSRPs have some weight. Maybe you found the figure on clearance, wanted it so bad you paid a scalper's price for it, traded something older you had with someone else to get it, or received it as a gift; that might my change your opinion of the value of the figure, and it would mine, too. I try to base my review on the MSRP/ retail/ "non-scalper" price. I present the original retail price on older items just for fun.
VI. I love accessories and accessories can often make or break a figure. It's the cool stuff that comes with a toy that often makes it for me. Weapons, gear, all that kinds of stuff just gets me going.
Now, here's my criteria for assigning a particular rating to a particular figure:
Crap: Rarely do I intend to award a crap rating. Let's be honest: fans love to overreact and complain that action figures are crap all the time because they don't like the property or the character, or a detail was off, etc. I've been reviewing action figures for over a decade and I've given fewer than 20 Crap ratings during that time. In my book, there are only a few ways to get a "Crap" rating: Severe quality control issues (broken limbs, disintegrating plastic, etc.) something crazy overpriced for what it is, or a figure that's a sold as a straight repack, perhaps with a new build-a-figure piece or something.
Eh: This is a figure that may have some quality control issues, some very questionable design choices, may simply not meet it's perceived goal, no cool accessories, or it's just very, very bland. This is the kind of figure I would only recommend picking up if you are a diehard completest or if you found it on clearance for dirt cheap.
Good: This is a pretty decent action figure, and where a fair amount of figures will land. If there are QC flaws, they are pretty minor. Otherwise, this figure does what it is supposed to, although it doesn't really bring anything new or overly exciting to the table. If you're a completest or love the character, it's probably worth picking up for you. Sometimes very solid figure that are just overpriced end up here, too.
Great: This is a figure that meets it's goal and offers at least some unique feature--perhaps an exceptional sculpt, extraordinary paint apps, or fantastic accessories. This is the kind of figure you might recommend to someone who only wants to collect the best figures in a given line. Since I tend to buy what I like and don't just review everything, you'll usually see more positive ratings than negatives and a lot of great ratings.
Epic: This is the kind of figure you wish all action figures to be. Great sculpting, fun to mess around with, excellent paint, lots cool accessories, and often fairly priced. It fires on all cylinders and may bring some unique and new ideas to the table with great success or simply just does what it set out to do quite well.
ThEpic Review scale allows a 1/2 point to be given, so you may see Crap and a 1/2, Eh and a 1/2, Good and a 1/2, and Great and a 1/2. The 1/2 is sometimes used to give a figure a personal swing or just to allow for the effects of things like accessory quality, pricing, and other variances.
Why do I give so many positive reviews?
I've seen this question asked of other reviewers and I've had a few folks ask me the question as well from time to time. I'd say I give out mostly Great to Great 1/2 ratings. Isn't that a bit odd? Not really. For someone reviewing other forms of media like a book, film, or video game, you really don't know what you're going to get when you set down. There are elements of plot, acting, glitches, writing style, and execution that can make something you were interested in fall flat. With an action figure, however, rarely do I not know what I'm getting going in. For example, I tend to buy toys that I'm pretty sure I will like. When reviewing movies I might go and watch some movies that I'm unsure of. I don't purchase many toys that I'm unsure of. I tend to put my collecting budget into toylines I'm already a fan of or that I can see the positive qualities in. I can typically see the sculpt, the articulation style, and the included accessories before I make my purchase.