Maybe it is my age, or fate, or a strange coincidence, but here in Beijing, I’ve met some ardent admirers of Lego bricks. Scratch that, these guys are borderline fanatics. As one friend explained it too me, “There is something satisfying about building things out of Lego.” Then he berated me for calling them Legos. Oh the shame.
Most of these Lego fans are men, though I know a slew of kids who love them too, but it is the guys who got me thinking about purchasing one of those large sets for myself. Still, I wasn’t ready to drop what seemed like a small fortune on a box of plastic bricks, so I opted for a knockoff set instead.
I purchased my set from the toy market and managed to get the aptly named Decoo Exploiter, containing 805 pieces, for around RMB150. The box specified ages 8-14, so I felt uniquely over-qualified. I didn’t keep track of the actual hours spent working on the thing, but I know it took in excess of 12 hours to construct over the course of a couple of weeks.
The directions and the finished product look remarkably like an actual Lego Technic set, but looks can be deceiving. The main complaint I have with the set has to do with the fit of the pieces, especially the shafts and rods, of which there are many. Unfortunately, the production standards of knockoff sets are not as stringent as Lego’s. Consequently, things do not always fit tightly. I found myself swapping parts in the vain hope that the loose pieces would somehow match up well later. They didn’t. The Exploiter looks good if you don’t touch it, but things start falling off quickly if you want to make the crane operate or use the rickety winch.
Naturally, I needed a side-by-side comparison. After shopping around for a comparable set, I opted for a Lego Technic container truck (42024) rated for ages 10-16. To save a couple hundred RMB, I purchased it on Taobao for around RMB460. Right away, I could see and feel the difference in the quality of the pieces. I spent over 16 hours building the thing and not once did I find two pieces that wouldn’t fit snuggly. When it was all done the thing felt like a solid unit. There is also the added bonus that my shiny new container truck can be stripped down and reconfigured into a road construction truck by accessing the directions online. That’s good news because somewhere I made a mistake in the transmission and I need to take mine apart anyway. Oops!
Bottom line. If you, or a child of yours, is going to invest hours building something, spend a bit more money and go for the quality of a Lego original. Whoever does the actual building will love you all the more for your thoughtfulness.
And please, stop calling them Legos.