review: C3 Construction Shopkins Kinstructions Checkout Lane (37330)

37330-box

Last holiday season, I asked one of my coworkers what he was getting his children for Christmas. He listed off the usual “evergreen” toy properties (Lego, Barbie, etc). Then he asked me, “Do you know what Shopkins are?” I told him that I didn’t. “They’re the dumbest thing ever,” he said rolling his eyes. He then proceeded to explain to me what Shopkins were, and I was inclined to agree with him.  A short time later, I was out shopping for gifts for my own family, and I happened to see these C3 Construction “Kinstructions” (a horrible neologism) in the store.

For the uninitiated, Shopkins are a series of anthropomorphic toy collectibles modeled after supermarket items and household goods. The playsets all revolve around fixtures found inside a market. These Kinstructions sets are different from the regular Shopkins toys in that the normal playsets are not built up with interlocking bricks.

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Speaking of bricks, you receive a bag of them along with a folded instruction sheet and a sticker sheet. We will not be applying the stickers so that the set can be donated (and to spare readers from my clumsiness).

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As stated on the packaging, the brick elements will work with major brands. However, they are not completely identical to most clone brands. For example, this 1×2 brick with a hole through the center is hollow on one side.

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The central build is this checkout counter or POS (that’s “Point of Sale”). I’m not sure why the designer(s) chose to build up the sides of the counter with holed 1×2 bricks as they serve no function. If it was an aesthetic choice, then it was a poor choice. The sign and register both sit atop of a 4×10 plate that’s warped, causing the counter to appear as though it’s sagging in the middle. The final thing to note is how much the build relies upon stickers to add detail to the build. Not a single element is printed. If you handed somebody this build without applying the stickers and asked them what it was, I think they would be hard pressed to tell you.

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To be fair, though, the main draw of this set for Shopkins collectors obviously will be the two Shopkins: Penny Pencil and Kelly Calculator. The figurines have been slightly scaled up for use with building blocks and have a “footprint” of one stud. In addition, they are made of a soft, almost rubbery plastic. Most interestingly, the figurines are not cast as a single piece. Both Penny and Kelly are composed of three parts: the feet, the “body,” and the top (you can sort of see where the top meets the body on Kelly). It’s not pictured here, but the set also includes two spare feet (presumably for use with standard Shopkins figurines).

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“What an odd looking pen– Ahhh, it’s winking at me!”

Since these C3 Shopkins are made to be compatible with most building block brands, it is technically possible for a Lego minifigure or minidoll to hold a Shopkin in its hand as seen in the above photograph. It should also give you a better idea of how large the C3 Shopkins are in relation to other building block systems’ minifigures.

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Conclusion

How do I summarize my impressions on Shopkins….

… I don’t get it?

I fully acknowledge that the intended audience for Shopkins is not jaded adults, but the whole concept has this faint whiff of desperation to it that I can’t dismiss. It’s as though the creator forgot that he had a presentation to give at the toy company, hastily drew some cartoon faces on a bunch of dollhouse accessories, and somehow managed to get incredibly lucky. Kids are going to like what they’re going to like, however; and I’m not going to begrudge them their enjoyment of something that seems absolutely confounding to myself. I’m sure there were plenty of things that I collected as a youth that mystified my indulgent parents.

With all of that said, I can’t really recommend this as a set for building block collectors. I touched on this in the body of the review, but the quality of the parts is mediocre at best. They’re made of a cheap feeling plastic, somewhere in the bottom half of the building blocks brand hierarchy alongside Block Tech, My Blox and other discount brands. The clutch power of the elements is strong enough that builders shouldn’t worry about the checkout counter falling apart, but it’s pretty clear that the large sticker that’s intended to go across the front of the counter is both decorative and structural.

The suggested retail price of this set is around USD$6, which would normally make it an easy pass. However, I have noticed this set and other C3 Construction Shopkins Kinstructions sets being heavily discounted (upwards of 50%) at US retailers at the time of this writing.  If you can obtain one at such a discount, then I suppose you could buy one to satisfy your curiosity as I did. It didn’t really explain anything to me about the appeal of Shopkins, and I’m willing to live the rest of my life never knowing the answer.

ADDENDUM

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As I was preparing to dismantle this set, I realized that I had forgotten to attach a yellow 1×2 tile to the register as shown in the instructions. For the sake of completeness, I have attached the tile as seen in the above photograph. It clearly has made a world of difference.

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