With Jurassic World due for release at theaters this month, I thought it would be fun to look at a few dino-related building block sets in anticipation of the film. Both reviewed sets were found at Dollar General stores.
The first thing that should be noted about these building block sets from Ankyo is that they’re clearly modeled after Zoids. For the uninitiated, Zoids were motorized toys that you assembled like a model kit. They resembled robotic animals (including dinosaurs) piloted by miniature humanoids, and they were powered either by batteries or by wind-up gearbox. The one major failing of the line was that the toys were not really modular. Parts were made specifically to work with individual sets and customization options were extremely limited. By making their sets from building blocks, Ankyo attempts to correct that problem. Unfortunately, there are larger problems with these sets that Ankyo fails to address.
One of the most intriguing aspects about dinosaurs is that nobody really knows what they looked like. We can make educated guesses from the fossil record, but nobody can say with certainty that dinosaurs looked a certain way. That mystery of the unknowable fires the imagination in ways that few other things can. Dinosaurs probably didn’t have laser cannons, though.
You can see the center post in the brick on the left is misshapen due to shoddy manufacturing practices. The malformed post causes the brick to lose its clutch, severely limiting its usefulness. Quality of the other parts hovers just below average.
Here’s the completed model. There should be another joint in the stegosaurus’ tail, but the correct parts were not packaged in the bag. The set was also missing one transparent red 1×1 round plate. There were no spare parts.
Getting back to what we were discussing earlier, nobody knows what the dinosaurs really looked like. We can only make educated guesses to their appearance based on the fossil record. For example, this is how most people imagine that the stegosaurus appeared in its heyday (and paleontologists generally agree) :
Three models are shown on the back, but would anybody really want to build the non-dinosaur models (especially that “Predatory Bomber”)? Like the first set, the box contains the previously mentioned wind-up gearbox, a bag of parts and an instruction sheet. Let’s have a look at that instruction sheet…
Here’s our T-Rex letting loose a mighty roar! Actually, the truth is that head is too heavy, and the feet are too small to support the model unless the head is pointed upwards. The whole thing just tips forward if the head is anywhere near parallel to the ground. That’s partly due to the disproportionately long hind legs. I sort of understand why they thought to give the legs giant gaps (it is supposed to be a robotic dinosaur, after all), but it literally doesn’t work. While we’re talking about things not working, let’s turn our attention to the T-Rex’s head. In addition to being too heavy for the model to support, the head looks too goofy. It looks like T-Rex has a giant red nose, and the eyes are placed too close to the front of the head.
I will admit the set does slightly better than the previous set in capturing the spirit of the dinosaur that it’s based upon. Of course, it’s not as though tyrannosaurus rex was a particularly complex animal in the first place. At least the set came with all its parts.
Retail price for these sets is USD$5 each. The wind-up gimmick is interesting, but it’s overly simplistic in function and implemented in exactly the same way. All winding up the gearbox does is make the models’ heads waggle from side to side. I found a brief video illustrating the action in a different set:
Note to Ankyo: If you’re going to include a motorized function in your kits, then at least make the models walk or find different ways to incorporate it in the sets. The models themselves are unappealing, the instructions were appallingly baffling, and there were numerous QA problems with the Stegosaurus set. The plastic quality – while still better than Best-Lock – barely reaches the level of mediocre, so the sets aren’t even worthwhile for parts fodder. These sets should be an easy pass for builders.