Were the various patent rulings of the early aughts stating that Lego couldn’t trademark the shape of its bricks a blessing, or a curse? On the one hand, competition in the marketplace theoretically makes for a better product. On the other, Lego was always doing just fine thank you, and none of its imitators has ever quite managed to be as reliable in construction, though they can all stab your bare feet with equal vigor.
Hasbro’s version of Lego, Kre-O, quite obviously stems from a desire to get brick-building product out there (they tried before with Built to Rule, an ill-fated line featuring G.I. Joe figures with Lego-like forearms) without having to sublicense and share profits. I had one of the first sets they did, Transformers Sentinel Prime, and while it fit together just fine, I didn’t really want a Transformer that had to be taken apart brick by brick to change to alt-mode.
The newer Kre-Os, Mega Bloks and what-have-you feel less like construction toys and more like standard action figure playsets that dodge licensing issues for action figures by having some parts be constructable, sorta like the way Hot Toys used to sell its Predator figures in pieces and dub them “model kits.” But when it comes to Star Trek Into Darkness, there are no action figures, just these, probably because Playmates poisoned the well and disastrously botched the toys for the first film with multiple scales and incomplete playsets requiring the purchase of every figure.
Julia loves Star Trek, so I figured we’d try to build this together. And yeah, while it has some huge, pre-formed pieces in a manner that Lego rarely does, this thing has its share of bricks.
While I don’t have any Lego on hand, we do own some of the girlier Mega Bloks sets, allowing for some unique interactions, and proof that the two systems are compatible…
Fun fact: say “Hello Kitty” aloud, and a real one might show up. Especially if you get a needy feline like ours that screams in emotional agony if it finds itself in a room with no humans.
Hasbro’s Kre-on minifigs have action-figure engineering in mind, and thus are more articulated, but that can pose an issue – one of Kirk’s ball-jointed legs is loose, and also it’s harder to line up the legs as easily to stick figures to a surface. On the other hand, Mega Bloks Barbie and Hello Kitty can’t sit down at all. That’s okay for Kitty, but Barbie came with a buildable couch that she can’t do anything other than stand on.
Did I mention the Enterprise needs batteries? Three triple-As, which I found after much searching, because the recorder I use for interviews takes them. Getting a tiny Phillips-head screwdriver was trickier, by which I mean wall-punchingly annoying.
One unique thing about the instructions is that Kre-O will often prompt you to build struts and things that are meant to be removed later, but steady your base pieces as you build. They aren’t really necessary, but it’s an interesting idea. Another thing they do that I don’t like is design stickers to spread across more than one brick. Granted, you’re not likely to use these bricks for anything but the main kit, but still – why not just make the brick to fit the label?
Okay, so we were kinda going good there for a while, despite aforementioned feline’s propensity for trying to eat anything plastic, which includes Kre-O blocks and the bags they come in.
And then it comes time to build the dome top on the Enterprise. And the pieces do not stay together.
Closer look at the instructions. Oh. Connector pieces will help. Yes they will. But not for long. Try to push the roof on, and bits fall off the bottom. Sometimes this happens with Lego, but usually you can make it fit by pressing hard enough. These simply DO NOT FIT.
So I tried running them under hot water for more flexibility. Nada. I try pushing it on very delicately, adding pressure all the way around the saucer. Bits fall off, and bits fly off. At this point Julia is bored that I’m doing all the building myself, but neither of us wants to put the nacelles together.
Having now spent over two hours total on this thing and realizing it will never fit together 100%, I’m not super-proud to say I gave up, but I’m probably saner for it. And I may try to build the nacelles later.
The Klingon and Shuttle sets I got, though, may find another home. Anyone up for a Kre-O giveaway?