I would like to acknowledge that K’Nex does fall slightly outside of the scope of this website, originally devoted to examining “plastic building block systems.” For the uninitiated, K’Nex is a toy construction system that’s reminiscent of Tinkertoy (and Lego Technic, to a lesser degree). The K’Nex system consists of a library of multicolored rods and cog-like connectors. Unlike Tinkertoy, K’Nex parts are manufactured from plastic rather than wood.
I never got into K’Nex while growing up. In my mind, it was a toy for more mechanically-inclined children. It just seemed as though the building system was tailor-made to construct vehicles, simple machines, and architectural structures. Even then, the “wireframe” appearance of K’Nex constructions required a greater capability for abstraction than needed with standard Lego and other building block systems.
For years, K’Nex builders have been making replica firearms from the parts (a Google image search for “knex gun” yields a formidable arsenal). As if to respond to this phenomenon, K’Nex recently released a line of construction sets under the banner of “K-Force Build and Blast.” Each set contains parts for the builder to assemble a working Nerf-like foam dart blaster. In addition to a bag of standard K’Nex pieces, the K-10X set comes with a pistol grip, a plastic housing which contains the firing mechanism (referred to on the packaging as the “Blaster Chamber”), and a folded instruction sheet. The box in the center contains five foam darts.
Here’s a closer look at the pieces which I believe are unique to the K-Force line. Feel free to leave a comment if that is incorrect. As I mentioned before, I’m not really familiar with K’Nex. It’s interesting to note that while the basic K’Nex parts are manufactured in the United States, the manufacture of the chamber, grip, ring, and foam darts has been farmed out to China.
For all intents and purposes, the K-Force foam dart is compatible with other dart blasters. Likewise, K-Force blasters are capable of firing other brands’ darts. There’s one visible difference to the K-Force dart, though: the K-Force dart features a rubber tip with a textured waffle (or honeycomb?) pattern. If there’s any sort of advantage to the texturing, it isn’t immediately apparent.
There’s one word that mainly comes to mind when I look upon the the completed K-10X blaster: unsteady. Don’t get me wrong: the construction is sturdy enough (although the frame will deform when given a twist). It would probably survive a drop from a stationary child’s hands to a concrete sidewalk. That “wireframe” aesthetic that I mentioned before makes me question exactly how the blaster would handle actual rigorous play. The loss of even one piece would seem to have a major effect on the blaster’s structural integrity.
The other thing that strikes one about the K-10X is its patchwork color scheme. I understand the reasoning behind color-coding the parts. Color-coding considerably speeds up the construction process. However, I still can’t help but feel that the blaster would have greatly benefited if most of the parts had been molded in a single color. It wouldn’t strengthen the blaster from a structural standpoint, but it would have given the K-10X a more unified appearance at the very least.
I’m not going to test the range claims on the packaging. My main purpose of reviewing the K-Force Build and Blast K-10X was to become acquainted with a building system that I had neglected as a child. Having now built with K’Nex, I can confidently state that I still prefer Lego and its rivals. Still, it’s sort of fun to have a “DIY” dart blaster to fire around the house.
K-Force Build and Blast sets are currently a Toys “R” Us store exclusive in the United States. The K-Force Build and Blast K-10X retails for around USD$13. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about it is that it’s a novelty that no other toy construction system would ever attempt.