review: Grafix Block Tech Fast & Furious Extreme Chase (132 Pieces)

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Summer Movie season is off to a roaring start with the eighth(!) installment of The Fast and the Furious film series (otherwise known as “Superheroes with Cars”) reportedly doing quite well globally in theaters, so I thought we would take a look at one of the final sets Block Tech put out before losing the license to the F&F property. While I’m sure that the terms of the license were limited from the beginning, I would like to think somebody at Universal Studios realized that they had mistakenly handed Block Tech a merchandising license to one of their most lucrative properties then quickly terminated the partnership when they saw what Block Tech was churning out. Anyway, here’s the face of the packaging. Study it carefully: we’ll be coming back to it later in this review.

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Out of the box, you receive an instruction booklet, a sticker sheet, and three bags of parts. Will you look at the number of 1×1 elements in the bag on the far left! I have a bad feeling about this…

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The first build in the instructions is this ramp, which I suppose can be used by either the motorcycle or the patrol car in the set. It’s not an awful idea, per se. Like so many Block Tech designs before it, the ramp really suffers from the overuse of 1×1 tile and plate elements. The barrel piece is nice, I guess.

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The second build is a souped-up motorcycle. The motorcycle chassis is identical to one that was found in the Girls in the City set that I reviewed some time back. The black exhaust pipes on the rear of the bike are actually made from a minifigure air tank accessory. The connection is very loose and the tanks have a tendency to fall off. Strangely, the air tanks will also not work with Block Tech figures.

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This police car is the final build of the set, and it’s just a mess. This is mainly due to the fact that Block Tech has yet again decided to use an overabundance of 1×1 plates to build up the car. This results in the builder spending an excessive amount of time “finessing” the elements to line up and to close some of the more glaring gaps between parts in the build. Stickers in sets from most other building block brands are ornamental, but the stickers included in Block Tech sets almost feel as though they are structural to the build.

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Here we have a photo comparing the old style Block Tech minifigure (from this set) with one of the figures included in this set. While the differences in height and shape are obvious, the simplified printing on the torso of the newer figure is a major letdown in comparison to the details of the leather jacket print on the older torso.

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The other figure included in this set is a police officer, I think? I only hesitate due to the pilot’s wings on the figure’s chest and the gold bars on his shoulders. It may be difficult to tell, but the cop/pilot’s uniform is molded in a very dark shade of purple. It’s so dark that I had difficulty discerning it from the black of the other figure in clear daylight. The hat is terribly miscast and lopsided.

Conclusion

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“A picture is worth a thousand words,” as the saying goes, and this photograph succinctly summarizes all the problems with set. One, the builds in this set are mainly comprised of 1×1 plate and tile elements. Not only does this make building incredibly tedious, it forces the builder to make constant adjustments in order ensure that everything is aligned. The patrol car alone utilizes thirty 1×1 blue plates. That’s almost a quarter of the set’s overall piece count!

Two, the patrol car is too small. Let’s go back to the top and look at the box again. It clearly shows the police officer behind the wheel. Even if you remove the roof of the car, there’s no way for the figure to fit inside. I thought at first that Block Tech might use the modified 2×2 element seen in this set to simulate having a driver behind the wheel, but Block Tech was too cheap to even do that. Instead, they opted for deceptive packaging.

Finally, the minifigures included in the set are a step backwards in some respects. The printing on the torsos is not as detailed as seen on other Block Tech figures from the past. The feet are too large to allow them to properly sit on the motorcycle. The hair and head accessories are terrible.

On paper, this set looks like a good deal. You receive two figures, two vehicles and a piece of scenery with a play gimmick. On top of that, it’s based on a well-loved film property. With a retail price of USD$5, it should be a no-brainer. However, Block Tech continues to demonstrate an uncanny ability to shoot itself in the foot by making poor design choices and borderline fradulent business practices in order to save a few cents. These sets should serve as a warning to other studios considering any partnership with Block Tech, Grafix, or its parent company RMS International Ltd: Take your properties elsewhere.

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