review: Mega Bloks Idea Builders Offshore Racer (3742)

ib-3742-coverOf all the competing building block brands, perhaps Mega Bloks is in a position of posing an actual threat to the Lego Group’s market supremacy. Over the years, they have managed to build a strong brand identity and establish high visibility through strategic licensing of intellectual properties (ex. Marvel, Pirates of the Caribbean, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), competitive price points, and exploration of themes that Lego avoids (i.e., Military). While most of their product these days seems to be based on licensed IPs, they do release sets under their own original themes every now and then. This Offshore Racer is one of them.

setsIn addition to the Offshore Racer, there are three other sets: Race Car, Stunt Plane, and Battleship. These Idea Builders bagged sets appear to be designed to compete with Lego’s Creator polybag sets. They were found at Target stores as late as last December, but their availability seems to be extremely limited now.

step-11Here we see that the instructions call for a 1×2 wedge to be used in Step 11. Unfortunately, my set did not include this part. I wish I could say this is uncommon, but I have purchased a number of new Mega Bloks sets over the years that have been missing pieces right out of the box . To their credit, Mega Bloks customer service has always been accommodating in mailing replacement parts; but the fact that they can’t ship a 38-piece set complete is highly disappointing. Why Mega Bloks should continue to experience these QA issues when even the shadier Chinese knockoff brands somehow manage to make sure their sets have all their parts is baffling.

3742You can see that the 1×2 wedge’s absence does not structurally affect the build, loosely modeled after a “Super Cat” catamaran powerboat. Frankly, the watercraft sets are the weakest sets of the four. In comparison with the Stunt Plane (which I consider the standout of the sets), the Offshore Racer suffers from looking overly simplistic. If you told me it was a powerboat, I would believe it. On the other hand, I would also believe it was some sort of spaceship if you told me that. It needs more detail that the scale simply does not allow.

Conclusion

While a heavy reliance on licensed IPs has made Mega Bloks a contender, it’s themes like Idea Builders that really show whether or not the brand will stand the test of time. At USD$3, it’s hard to pass up such a fast and simple build. However, I would recommend seeking out the non-seafaring vehicles before purchasing this set. Finally, Mega Bloks needs to tighten their sloppy QA if they ever want to shake the perception of being a Lego knockoff. Hopefully, their recent acquisition by Mattel will help to correct whatever problems they’re having in that area.

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