review: BanBao Steam Engine (8042) and Steam Car (8045)

8042-8045-coverAutumn is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, so I thought we would look at a couple of sets from BanBao’s “Farm” series. Set 8042 is referred to as a “steam engine” on the BanBao website, but I think they mean “train” (it even says “train” right there on the side). I don’t know what a “steam car” is, but I think set 8045 is supposed to be a tractor of some sort. What do you say we harvest ourselves some disappointment?

8042-contentsOpening the box for set 8042, we find two bags of parts, a sheet of stickers, an instruction sheet for the ToBee, and a folded instruction sheet for the train.

8042-steam-3shot

Here is that train. Hmm.Where do we begin? I think I would have gone with a color scheme other than green/white. Note the usage of the gray spray nozzles as air horns(?). What are the transparent pieces supposed to represent? Windows?

8042-completeThis  photograph illustrates the largest problem with the set. At what scale is the train built? Is it a “chibi”-style  mini-engine, or is it actually modeled after a piece of farm equipment and built to ToBee scale? What do trains have to do with farms, anyway? Judging from its disheveled appearance, I would guess that included ToBee figure is supposed to be a rail-riding hobo. He sadly won’t be hitching a ride on this particular steam engine any time soon. There’s no place for him to hop aboard!

8045-contentsTurning our attention to the second set, we see that the contents are almost identical to those found in the first set.

8045-tractor-3shotThis is the “steam car.” I have to say, it doesn’t look half-bad for a tractor. It should be noted that the front wheels are on a swivel and are capable of turning.

8045-completeIt’s a shame that the ToBee isn’t quite to scale with the tractor. Either the tractor needs to be larger, or the figure needs to be smaller. They just don’t look right together.

lego-vs-banbao
Top: Lego
Bottom: BanBao

One final note about the parts in both sets. I’ve noticed in the past that the quality of BanBao bricks seems to be slightly “off,” but it wasn’t until building these two sets that I was able to put my finger on exactly what it is. As can be seen in the above photo, the BanBao plate is slightly taller than a standard Lego plate. Even the studs on the BanBao plate are taller, making BanBao parts incompatible with Lego parts.

Conclusion

The suggested retail price for each set is about USD$5, which is frankly outrageous since Lego manages to regularly produce comparable sets which retail for a dollar less than that. Of the two sets, I would say that the tractor comes closer to being worth that price. Unfortunately, the incompatibility with Lego and other major brands make these sets (and BanBao in general) of little value to builders.

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