review: Grafix Block Tech Ice Cream Softy Van (112 Pieces)

Front and back of the packaging. There aren't two serving windows on the actual model; they just flipped the image for the packaging.
Front and back of the packaging. There aren’t two serving windows on the actual model; they just flipped the image for the packaging.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! There is perhaps no other vehicle more representative of summertime than the classic ice cream truck. Surely, not even Block Tech could spoil that. Right?

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Out of the box, you get two bags of parts, an instruction sheet and a cardboard tray.

van-4-shotHere’s the “softy van.” With a width of only four studs, it’s a decent design that’s marred by Block Tech’s usual practice of overloading builds with plates where bricks would otherwise do. It would have been nice if Block Tech had included some panels to fit the window frames on the right side of the van. I’m not sure what the transparent red 1×1 plate in the side of the van is supposed to be. Is it supposed to act as some sort of eye-catcher?

It should be noted that this set is also sold in the UK under the “Wilko Blox” brand. From what I’ve been able to gather, there are few significant differences between the two versions. The Wilko Blox set came with rubber tires instead of the plastic wheels included in the Block Tech set. Also, the Wilko Blox  set included stickers. Without stickers or printed pieces, the van could be any sort of food truck. The only indication you get that it’s an ice cream truck is the two round 1×1 plates in the driver-side window. It sort-of looks like the top of an ice cream cone, I guess. Other than that, there are no ice cream pieces included with the set. Not much of an ice cream truck without ice cream.

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In addition to the van, the set includes two minifigures. Shockingly, Block Tech went proprietary with a minifigure of their own design rather than knock off Lego’s design like so many other building block manufacturers. Here we can see the parts which make up one of the minifigs. The ball-jointed elbows are interesting, but limited range of motion ultimately render them pointless.

bt-minifig-2The print on the torsos is done well enough. The legs have that highly unappealing “open back” design. You may notice that the hairpieces are barely seated on the heads. The hairpieces are molded from hard plastic and seem to be designed for use with a completely different head. They don’t go easily over the ears on the figures’ heads, and they develop white stress marks when pressure is applied.

bt-minifig-3
If you look closely, you can see a stress mark on the Block Tech hairpiece.

The Block Tech minifigure stands a little more than one plate taller than the standard Lego minifigure. The Block Tech figure’s shoulders are also a bit broader than her Lego counterpart. The blocky torso doesn’t taper so much as jut outwards at the waist. Also note how much larger the Block Tech figure’s feet are in comparison to the Lego figure’s feet.

icsv-completeIf you want to make one of the minifigures the vendor, she’ll have to be seated inside the van. The remaining figure can then play the customer. Too bad the vendor has nothing to sell. The one thing you can’t have either one represent is the driver. The figures’ shoulders are too broad to be seated at the steering wheel. It’s an unbelievably obvious flaw that should have been caught in the preliminary design stages of this set, yet it somehow made it all the way to store shelves uncorrected. Nobody thought to try and seat the figure behind the wheel during testing? Really?

Conclusion

The MSRP for this set is USD$5. For that money, you receive an ice cream van without ice cream. You get two figures that can’t drive that ice cream van. Of course, you can theoretically modify the van to accommodate a minifigure or build something else entirely with the parts (provided there are enough useful parts). However, a minifigure should be able to sit behind the steering wheel by design – without modification. Add to that the fact that UK builders received actual tires instead of cheap plastic wheels and a sheet of stickers for even less than the US MSRP, and one can’t help but feel majorly disappointed.

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