Best-Lock Construction Toys, Inc.
Suite 300, Rivergate Plaza
444 Brickell Avenue
Miami, Florida 33131
This construction set comes in a cardboard box that measures 9" (22.9 cm) wide x 11" (27.9 cm) high x 2" (5.1 cm) deep (roughly the size of a box of breakfast cereal). I was pleasantly surprised by the dimensions of the container when I got to handle it in person, having incorrectly assumed that the item would be smaller from the photo I had seen of it in Family Dollar's Christmas toy catalog. The front of the package has a nice, large picture of the completed starcraft jetting through space and the back of the box gives you an illustrated breakdown of all the bricks included in the set, which I think is a nice touch--there's definitely no question about what you're buying. The package is simply taped shut at both ends. When you open it up, you'll find an interior cardboard tray that holds four plastic baggies--these contain all of the bricks and pieces, the two pilots, and the decals--and a folded set of paper instructions. Strangely, one of the four bags contains a mere five bricks--why these couldn't have been placed in one of the other three bags in a mystery to me. I'd say that the box was probably a bit larger than it really needed to be, but, as all the different sets presumably come in the same size container, maybe some of the other models have more, or larger, pieces and require that additional space.
Although it's not exactly the same, design-wise, the starcraft reminds me of the Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper ships from the original televison show. The black cannons, under each wing, and the gray dual-barreled blaster sitting on top of the nose definitely clue us in to the fact that this is a fighter, not some defenseless science vessel. While it looks pretty snazzy as-is, the ship's overall appearance probably could have benefitted from some more black, gray, and blue bricks to offset the predominate white (I ended up using the four extra flat blue blocks for that very purpose). The completed model clocks in at a respectable size, with a 7" (17.8 cm) wingspan and measuring 7-5/8" (19.4 cm) in length and 3-5/8" (9.2 cm) in height. The starcraft has seven points of articulation: The four wheels spin freely and the cockpit and wings rotate up and down. The right wing on mine is pretty loose and won't stay up on its own--at least the wheel strut keeps it from dragging on the ground. I haven't tried it yet, but it's possible that swapping some of the hinge bricks from the other wing might correct this.
The construction process had a few hiccups, but was fairly enjoyable. The illustrated instruction sheet is well designed and easy to follow; I was never stumped or confused as to what I needed to be doing. In particular, I liked that you had to build up the ship's body entirely from basic bricks, rather than using a large prefabricated chassis piece. The blocks' lower quality, in relation to something like LEGO, becomes apparent as you build with them. A small number of the bricks didn't want to fit together at all without the application of a ridiculous amount of force and I also noticed some minor gapping, both indicators that there's likely something slightly off with some of the bricks dimensions (maybe the plastic-injection molds that they came from are showing their age?) Some of the pieces also had small amounts of plastic flash (unwanted artifacts from the molding process) on them, which affected their ability to interlock in a few cases, but that was easily remedied with my trusty Swiss Army Knife. Most disappointing of all, my set was missing one small brick (I was able to successfully hide the resulting gap by allocating it to a spot behind one of the thrusters). That kind of thing happens when you have something with dozens of individual pieces, but it's still annoying--I plan to write the company and request a replacement brick (UPDATE: Which I received on 2/19/13). On the upside, there were ten extra unused blocks, which is always a plus in my book, and arguably a more-than-fair tradeoff for the missing one.
The set also included a sticker sheet, but I decided not to use them. Judging by the box photo, most of the decals, with the exception of the ones that go on the tail-fin, are intended to cover multiple bricks, which everyone knows is a big no-no, because that throws a serious monkey wrench in the works when you wish to disassemble your model for storage or to build something else--you either have to remove the stickers, possibly ruining them, or leave those bricks together forever. If you're going to build your ship once, and then never take it apart, fine, but otherwise, that's bad decal design.
The two pilot figures that come with this set are identical and are very similar to LEGO's mini figures in design and construction. The most noticeable difference that immediately struck me was that the heads have raised, sculpted noses and recessed eyes, facial features that LEGO figures lack. They're both articulated at the hips, shoulders, wrists, and neck. The figures have pockets/straps painted on their chest blocks and eyes and lips on their heads. The faces on both figures aren't quite centered on the sculpted features, but the paint applications on the torsos were flawless. It would have been nice if, instead of extra bricks, the set had included some handheld accessories for them--laser pistols or walkie-talkies perhaps--but, alas, they don't have anything but their helmets with pivoting visors.
The starcraft can only sit one pilot in the cockpit at a time, and not very well at that, due to the very tight design of the space (I had the best luck with lying the pilot down, rather than putting him in a sitting position), so, Number Two is probably just intended as an extra in the event that an inconsiderate space monster eats Number One. Of course, if you elect to design and build your own original contraptions with this set, I'm sure you could come up with some kind of two-seated affair, or even smaller separate vehicles.
$5 plus sales tax (I received mine as a gift, so it didn't cost me anything). That's a great price for a 160+ piece construction set, especially when compared to what LEGO charges for similar sized models. The company's "Build a Lot...Pay a Little!" slogan is certainly apt.
- Exceptional value. LEGOs are great, but they're definitely on the expensive side; these Best-Lock sets are a cheaper alternative worth considering. You could probably buy two or three of these for the price of one LEGO model of comparable size/complexity.
- Bricks are fully compatible with other company's building blocks (presumably LEGO and Mega Bloks).
- Instructions are well designed and easy to follow. I was never at a loss as to what I needed to do next.
- Attractive ship design with useful articulation.
- Fun set to build and play with. Like almost any modular building toy, your enjoyment is limited only by your imagination and creativity.
- "Bonus" extra pieces are always nice.
- The quality of this set, while decent, isn't quite up to LEGO or Mega Blok standards, but then, you get what you pay for.
- My set was missing one small piece; hopefully you'll have better luck. I'm going to shoot the company an e-mail and see if they'll send me a replacement part; it they do, I'll update this review and make a note of it. (UPDATE: It took a little over a month before I received a reply, but Best-Lock responded to my request and sent me the missing brick, all the way from the United Kingdom at that, so they get a thumbs up from me on customer service!)
- There was some plastic flashing left over on some of the pieces which adversely affected their ability to interlock and had to be removed.
- While most of them were trouble-free, a few of the pieces were difficult to fit together. The cockpit canopy also doesn't close very well when there's a pilot figure inside of the spacecraft.
- Several of the included decals are intended to cover multiple bricks, which is a pet peeve of mine, as well as many other building block enthusiasts.
Where to Buy:
The only place I've seen these advertised/sold locally is at Family Dollar, but it's possible other chains might carry them if you look around. They always seem to get these in for the Christmas season (I remember they had them last year too), so that's probably the best time to find them. In addition to this spacecraft, I seem to recall that the Family Dollar toy advertisement depicted fire truck and military tank sets.
The manufacturer recommends this building set for ages 6 and up and the package explicitly states that it is not intended for children under 3 years of age. With a toy like this there are obviously a lot of small pieces that could be a potential choking hazard. Depending on their age/aptitude, I imagine some children may need assistance with assembling the starcraft.