I've had a decades long love for Lego. From the moment I snapped those first two blocks together, I was hooked. It didn't matter if it was a set small enough to fit in my stocking, or so big it took up most of the tree, I loved every little piece. Give me a couple of Lego sets and put on a Christmas movie, and you wouldn't hear from me for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, even the cheapest Lego sets are pretty spendy. I think I paid $4 or $5 for one of those small bag sets from Target, and the cheapest boxed set I could find still cost around $10. That's where the knockoffs come in.
Lego has inspired numerous knockoffs since they've been around. Other than the Tyco and Mega Bloks lines, the one thing they all have in common is that they suck. There's really no way to sugar coat it. Most of the time, if you come across a set in the dollar store claiming to work with other brands, it won't. The few sets I messed with used poor quality plastic, and they didn't do the one things they're supposed to do, and that's stick together. Some companies will cheat you on the parts count, and they'll ship the minifigures disassembled. In other cases, elements that would have been considered a single piece in a Lego set, will need to be put together. I can't really blame the bootleggers though. It's hard to complain when you're getting a 250 piece set for $10, even if there is some fudging of the numbers.
Thankfully, there's one company out there that seems to be doing things half way right. I present to you, the next item out of Stunt Zombie's stocking: The Block Tech Race Car Circuit Racer
Dollar General had a bunch of these sets, but I picked this one because it actually looked like a race car. The other available sets included Farm Tractor, Battalion Truck, and Off Roadster. Basically all of them were a different variation of "truck". I guess this one isn't much different, but it's got a spoiler. It must be a race car, right? According to the box, there are 32 block pieces contained within, and there is just one model to make. I wonder if the parts count includes the pieces that make up the figure..hmmm.. Speaking of the box, it's a respectable attempt at copying Lego's style. That "Race Car" font looks suspiciously familiar, as do some of the other fonts used on the front. They took a page out of Lego's book, and added some smoke and motion blur to make it look like the car is racing around the track. It looks so much better than the sterile shots of dull models you see on all the other bootlegs. At least this one has a better chance of tricking someone into thinking it's a legitimate Lego set.
Since there's no figure included in the set, then I guess we can assume he wasn't included in the parts count. Nothing but a bag of pieces and a sheet of instructions. How can I race a car without a driver? I was just about to get angry when I saw this on the box:
Well crap. I guess I'll have to provide my own driver then. Uh-oh, it looks like Block Tech claims these work with other leading brands too. That may be true, but I'm more concerned that they work with themselves.
Guess what? They did. Don't pay any attention to that light about to fall off the back of the car, that was my fault. I have to say, I'm very impressed. Sure, it's a simple set, but the pieces actually feel pretty sturdy, and they connect very well. There are some minor issues here and there, like the connection holding the spoiler assembly. It doesn't grip as tightly as the Lego version of that part would, so it wiggles a bit. Block Tech did cheat a little bit on their part count and shipped the steering wheel in two pieces. The wheels are all one piece and made out of plastic, so they slide more than they roll over hard surfaces. I am happy to report the wheels can be taken off the axles without breaking the tabs that hold them on, so you might be able to replace them with rubber Lego wheels.
What about Block Tech's claim that there is just one model inside the box? To that I say, "Challenge Accepted".
Boom! Five minutes later and I have model number two: Race Segway. It's perfect for those Stunt Zombies on the go. I felt like I was cheating with this one though. If I really wanted to prove Block Tech wrong, I would need to use every piece.
Ka-Boom! Model number three, and it used all 32 pieces. I think I'll call him Dude-bot. He's obviously evil, just look at those cruel red eyes, and that sinister grin. He's well armed too, with a yellow laser gun in his right pincer, and a flailing blade in the left. If either one of those weapons fails him, he also has a high speed saw sticking out of his chest. He's a formidable foe indeed, but sometimes even Dude-bot needs to retreat. That's not a problem because..
....Dude-bot can transport into a supersonic death machine. When he's in this mode, there's nothing he can't escape. "But Chris", I can hear you say, "all you did was lay him on his wheels and flip his head down". This is true, but I also contend this is more than it takes to transform some older Go-Bots and Transformers toys. So...yeah.
In the end, this set only cost me $1, which comes out to $.03125 per piece. You can't even buy candy that cheap anymore.