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Building Kit

Toy Review

By Mark Patraw

Manufacturer Information:
11120 NE 33rd Place, Suite 101
Bellevue, WA 98004

Telephone: 425-827-7120
Fax: 425-828-9659

Company Web Site
Company e-mail

The Package:
This kit comes inside an approximately 6-inches-wide x 6-inches-tall x 1-and-a-1/2-inch-deep cardboard box. The graphics are relatively basic, but attractively designed--they do a good job of giving you an honest impression of what you're getting. Inside the box, you'll find a small, transparent bag that contains the 38 plastic snap-together parts, a black-and-white Bone Map, and a full-color informational/instruction booklet. There's also a small cardboard divider, probably to keep the parts bag from shifting around during handling/transit. All you need to do is cut/tear open said bag, unfold the instructions/map, and you're ready to roll. Keeping a kit of this nature mint-in-box is rather pointless, in my opinion, but if that floats your boat, the box is small, sturdy, and should store easily. I'd advise you to hang onto the box regardless, simply because it's a great place to keep the pieces when you're not using them.

The Dinosaur Models:
The sculpts are very nice--I'm not a paleontologist, so it's not like I'd know the difference, but they look anatomically correct to me. Granted, many of the parts have to get re-used across multiple models, so concessions were obviously made (i.e., it's highly unlikely that a Triceratops, Apatosaurus, and Stegosaurus all had identical leg bone structure, like these figures do). The plastic used is rigid and holds detail well--you'll find a lot of smaller, subtle work on the bones if you scrutinize them closely. The pegs pop in-and-out of their respective holes relatively easily and a finished skeleton is a sturdy construct. I should note that there is a bit of plastic flash on some of the pieces, left over from the molding process, that you may have to remove (I recommend nail clippers) in order to get a good peg/hole interface. The legs/arms also have their respective numbers, as well as 'L' or 'R', for left or right, sculpted onto them to help facilitate the construction process.

Utilizing the 38 pieces (5 skulls, 6 pairs of limbs, 2 bodies, 16 neck/tail vertebrae segments, and 3 rows of plates) you can build five different dinosaur specimens: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Velociraptor, and Apatosaurus. I was pleased that it's possible to have two models constructed at once, rather than one, as I only expected to be able to build a single skeleton at a time. There are limitations, of course: Due to part quantities, you can only have one herbivore and one carnivore, not two of either (i.e., you can't build a Stegosaurus and a Triceratops at the same time, but you can have a Velociraptor and a Triceratops). Although it's a minor quibble, the Apatosaurus uses most of the vertebrae segments for its long tail and neck, so you'll have to either shorten its tail by one segment, or the T-Rex/Raptor's, in order to create both. There isn't a lot that you can do in the way of creative rearrangement--you can alter the length/shape of the neck/tail, and swap out limbs/heads, but that's about it. If, like myself, you had dreams of cobbling together a many-limbed-and-headed bone-golem abomination, with an insatiable need to devour elven maidens (that's a normal, healthy fantasy, right?), well, you're out of luck.

The bones don't have any paint operations, they're just the color of the off-white plastic they were molded from. While that's a reasonable approach to take for skeletons, it's difficult to appreciate a lot of the finer details in the sculpts because of that uniformity. I think a simple brown, black, or gray paint wash would dramatically improve their appearance--fortunately, that's easy to do if you feel so inclined. Alternatively, becker&mayer! could have cast them in black or brown plastic and dry-brushed white/tan paint on the surfaces to achieve a similar effect. While I'm not counting it against them, I also think it would have been cool if the skeletons had glowed in the dark.

The pegs are triangular and rectangular in shape, rather than cylindrical, so there really isn't anything you can do in the way of articulation. You can alter the positions of some of the parts, depending on how you insert the peg into its respective hole, but the models only really look "right", and stand correctly, in one orientation. These figures are meant to sit on a desk/shelf, and that's about it. Speaking of which, all five models stand well on their own--although, for the two carnivores, that is achieved by virtue of their tails acting as the third "leg" in a tripod fashion. I don't know whether or not they'll wilt over time, as skeletons are wont to do, but the plastic is pretty sturdy, so I'm optimistic about their prospects.

You get two paper items to help you out in your pseudo-paleontological pursuits, both of which are quite useful:

1. Instructional/educational booklet. This is a full-color, 8 page document that shows you how to build each of the five models and also provides background information about each dinosaur. Not that it's rocket science or anything, but they do neglect to tell you that the two halves of the Triceratops skull need to be joined together. Also, the two halves of the pelvis on a body pieces are removable (one wasn't attached in my bag), so, if you've got some "extra" pieces, and your bodies look incomplete, that's probably why. Due to the way this booklet was folded up in the box, it doesn't want to stay flat and rolls up on you--annoying to say the least when you're trying to build a model. I recommend weighing it down with something to avoid frustration.

2. Bone Map. This is a black and white sheet of paper that has numbered pictures of all the pieces on this. Properly laying out all of your dinosaur bones on top of this, prior to beginning construction, helps quite a bit, particularly for the limbs and neck/tail vertebrae segments which I found could be easily confused.

I didn't pay for mine (me mum bought it), so I don't know what this kit retails for. Based on the size/complexity, I'd guess-timate something in the $10-15 price range.

Final Analysis:

- Getting five different Dinosaur species from one kit is good engineering and value.
- Solidly constructed and well sculpted pieces. The models go together, and come apart, easily.
- The pictorial instructions are clear and easy to follow.
- The ability to build two dinosaurs at a time, rather than just one, is much appreciated, even if you are limited as to which two you can do.

- Limited creative freedom for designing your own unique dinosaurs with the parts. You can alter the neck/tail length and arrangement, and swap out heads/limbs, but that's about it.
- The monochrome approach makes it difficult to appreciate the finer details in the sculpts. A simple paint wash would have improved the skeletons' appearance.

Where to Buy:
You can find dinosaur bone model kits, from various manufacturers, all over the place. In addition to retail stores and online, try mail order catalogs. Besides plastic, I've seen wooden and cardboard varieties too.

For Parents:
The manufacturer recommends this kit for children ages 5 and up, and further cautions that a choking hazard exists for kids under 3 years of age (I'd watch out for the Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus skulls in particular, as they're the smallest pieces). Some children may need help assembling/disassembling the dinosaur models (even I got a little confused with some of the vertebrae pieces). This is a fun and educational toy that any dinosaur lover should enjoy--it would probably also work well as a home-schooling project/lesson. For added fun/realism, my suggestion is to bury the bones in a small container of dirt/sand/mud, so that your child will get the full dinosaur dig experience--they'll have to painstakingly uncover and identify all the bones before they can piece together their prehistoric beasties.

Parts breakdown.
Instruction booklet page sample & Bone Map.
Stegosaurus model.
Tyrannosaurus Rex model.
Apatosaurus model.
Triceratops model.
Velociraptor model.
Scale comparison photo with Marvel Legends 1st Appearance Grey Hulk, Batman The Dark Knight 4-inch Joker, and TMNT Mini Mutants Stealth-suit Donatello.

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