Have we attained “Peak Brick” yet? The thought occurred to me as I passed by the coin-operated capsule machines at my local supermarket and noticed these toys priced at a paltry USD$.50. With interest in the hobby skyrocketing, we live at a time when new brands (foreign and domestic) enter the global building block market each year to meet the seemingly inexhaustible demand for new product. Sets from other regions that once would have been considered rare or exotic are virtually at one’s fingertips as long as one has Internet access. There’s practically a theme or product line that caters to nearly every demographic of the toy buying public. Now that a building block fan can get a quick construction fix from a vending machine for only two quarters, is the hobby doomed to enter into a state of decline? Out of curiosity both journalistic and morbid, I broke a twenty to purchase two plastic capsules and learn the answer.
Buying toys from a capsule machine is like playing a slot machine in some ways. You insert your money, you actuate the mechanism (turning the dial in the case of the capsule machine), and you receive a random result. The main difference between the two machines is that you are normally guaranteed to receive something from a capsule machine provided there is no mechanical failure. However, what toy you do get for your money is still dependent on the capricious whims of chance (or the owner who keeps the capsule machine stocked, at the very least).
Here is what is referred to as the Brick Ops “Night Vision Soldier” by SSM. While the neon green color is often associated with the image intensification form of night vision, this form of night vision does not turn objects transparent. The figure is even more limited in articulation than Lego minifigures. There is no articulation in the waist/hips, meaning the figure must perpetually stand at attention. There is limited detail to the figure mold, but it is difficult to read anything due to the transparent plastic used. Note that SSM’s promotional material shows the figure equipped with accessories. I suspect that they are sold separately. The promotional material also claims that Brick Ops are “compatible with major brands.” However, the transparent plastic instantly developed stress marks when I attempted to place a Lego minifigure accessory in the Brick Ops figure’s hand. Alternately, the Brick Ops head did not fit snugly on a Lego minifigure torso.
The second capsule contains a bag of parts and a folded instruction sheet.
It’s the Armored King (I guess)! While the instruction sheet shows three models that can be built from the supplied parts, the instructions only demonstrate how to build the bipedal mech.
At least somebody thinks I’m worth having (sob).
The upper portion of this microscale mech is on a turntable, allowing it to rotate 360 degrees. The construction is straightforward, if unremarkable.
How much does price factor into one’s enjoyment of a toy? A few months back, I reviewed a grouping of sets that were priced at USD$1. I found most of them not worth the money. Now we have these building toys being sold at half the price, and I find myself wanting to give these sets a pass at most. Yes, the construction of the mech is simple due to the small inventory of parts; but the parts hold together well, and it looks decent for a microscale vehicle. I could see it being used in brick-based tabletop gaming scenarios. On the other hand, the minifigure is a letdown in many respects. I must admit that it does succeed as a novelty, though. Its transparency offers intriguing possibilities for use in sci-fi settings as, say, a holographic projection, a Tron-like digital being, or even a radioactive villain in a superhero story. You get your money’s worth with Brick Ops, for better or for worse. I’m not convinced that we’ve hit Peak Brick just yet, but I know I’ll be checking my pockets for change the next time I’m at the supermarket.