I like Lego. I like Lego a lot. I also like Transformers. Someone at Hasbro clearly felt the same way and decided the time was right for another stab at construction kit style Transformers. Weíd had these towards the tail end of Armada in the early part of the last decade in the form of the Built To Rule kits which like Mega Blocks were unfortunately rubbish. Having witnessed how Lego have made a mint out of their various licences (Star Wars, Harry Potter to name but two) and unwilling to loose money on another licensing agreement as they have with Chevrolet for the movie lines, Hasbro have decided to make their own Lego kits, with assistance of a small firm called Oxford.
Generally, Iím not impressed with not-Lego. The aforementioned Mega Blocks are made with inferior plastics that donít quite click together as they should. Character Optionsí Character Building (oh ho!) Doctor Who range is a better stab at construction kits that actually fit together, just a shame they are rather hamstrung by some malformed not-minifigures, with their elongated torsos and tiny legs. Other folks like Chad Valley also churn out not-Lego which is also characterised by feeling as cheap as a Chinese knock off. In short, you canít beat the real thing. It comes as something as a surprise to me then, that Hasbroís Kre-O bricks are of a very high standard Ė easily the equal of Legoís own bricks.
I went for a Prowl kit whilst these were on offer at just a fraction under half price, as curious though I was, the thought of spending £25 on one of these things felt like something of an extravagance for what could have been a poor quality product following on from those lamentable BTR sets. The box is bloody massive. I hate toy packaging these days. You compare any toy to the nonsense it comes packed in and you canít help but think what a massive waste of resources it all is when you get some piddly effort out of a container three times the size. Inside are a couple of bags of bricks, the instructions and a label sheet. There are a ton of pieces. Not quite full rrp value for money number of bricks, but enough at this price to be fairly impressed. The first thing I did was scour through the bags to fit the Kre-O not-minifigures. The SWAT guy is pretty good and comes with a selection of hats and guns, although his arms look a bit too skinny. Likewise, the Prowl not-minifigure is good and very sweet. He comes with a couple of doors that you can attach to him, which whilst cute, are a bit unwieldy. Thereís also a scaled down version of his rifle, which ĎGeewuní fans will be pleased to note is exactly like the original cartoon version, being a rather blank, generic looking gun. Both figures have some nicely ball jointed legs too, which put the Minicons to shame as they are very sturdy.
I started with the car (er, as itís first in the instructions). It takes a while to build as its made up of loads of Ďflatí pieces with few actual bricks making up the body work. It all fits together very well and the end result is pretty decent. Itís a bit blocky and ugly looking though and has two major failings: the doors open, but not in useful fashion as there are two long beams that run across the top of them , blocking any attempt to get a not-minifigure in. The other is that you canít actually fit either of the included not-minifigures into the car which is silly. You can slap some stickers on to give it a bit more detail if you like, but I didnít bother. The robot mode is also an exercise in ugliness, unfortunately. Whilst the mechanisms used for the joints are good (which Lego fans will recognise from Bionicle and Exo Force sets), the robot is very badly proportioned. His shoulders are slung very low down and the arms are very long and like the legs, a bit plain being just straight slabs of bricks. Thereís really little attempt to make this look like it once turned into a car too. Maybe thatís an unrealistic expectation of the set, I donít know. Thereís always the option to reconfigure it slightly (thereís loads of spare parts left over whichever mode you build) but the official mode just looks awkward and plain. The robot head is good, being a specially moulded part.
Overall, this is a decent, if unspectacular set and nothing that anyone prone to mucking about with Lego couldnít build themselves (if not better). The exceptionally high retail price for these things coupled with the general pointlessness of them (Come on, they are a bit arenít they? They donít transform and theyíre pretending to be Lego) make them a questionable purchase. Itís an odd mix trying to put two toys with different play patterns together and Iím not really sure what the point of it is, apart from to wring some more money out of the Transformers band and encourage further purchases of characters you probably already have five of already from the action figure line. Only the charming Transformers mini Kre-O figures are something to get excited about and Hasbro should, if theyíve any sense, sell these separately as blind packed figures. A more successful approach would have been to properly tap into Lego play patterns by having small vehicles and playsets for the small Kre-O figures to ride in and interact with rather than attempt to replicate what the action figure line is already doing.