As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I am a big fan of Lego in general, but not so keen on the endless diversification of the brand, which in my opinion, seems to dilute what the Lego brand is all about, colourful bricks that can be used to build whatever the imagination can create. In recent years, the Lego brand created the Bionicle range, which, for the uninitiated, is a range of toys that come in their own plastic box, in pieces, ready to be assembled. The Bionicle characters have their own mythology and backstory, and a rather large fanbase of boys in their "tweens". The Bionicle characters are robotic alien looking creatures, and come in a variety of types, both good and evil. The Piraka range of Bionicle characters were part of a storyline in 2006, which featured in the free Lego magazine that we recieved through the post. My son really liked the look of these characters, with their menacing faces and glowing eyes, so we bought a couple of characters from the range for him to play with. The characters have weird names, like Vezak, Hakaan, and, Thok. Unfortunately, I think that the latter was a really ill advised name for a kid's toy, as my son had trouble prounouncing the "th" sound, and the result was not pretty!
The toys come in pieces, with instructions on how to construct them. They are pretty easy to assemble, but younger kids may need a bit of parental help. What struk me was the fact that these toys, although being Lego, have absolutely no Lego compatible components, and are only compatible with other toys from the Bionicle range. The plastic seems to be inferior to the usual Lego standard, and the pre-moulded pieces resemble cheaper toys on the market. This toy certainly does not seem to be a high quality toy.
When assembled, the Piraka is a fully jointed poseable, free standing toy. I shall now explain some of the features of this toy:
Head: The Piraka has a menacing face, with clenched teeth and slit eyes. There is a button on the top of the head that you press to make the eyes glow red. This looks particularly effective in a dark room and reminds me of the Terminator robot! The neck has a ball joint which attaches the head to the main body and allows it to swivel with full range of motion.
Exo sketeton: At the base of the skull, there is a rubbery exo skeleton that extends along the back and across the arms. There are large spikes down the back of the figure, and the skeleton attatches to the base of the back by means of a plastic connector. The skeleton does tend to detatch from the arms and body too easily, although it cannot detatch from the head, as it is one piece.
Ball shooter: The left arm has a catapult style ball shooter that shoots small bright green balls quite a decent distance across the room. My son loves this feature of the toy and plagues us with it, although, thankfully, most of the balls have been lost and there is only one left! The other arm has a rather menacing looking scythe on the end of it. i wouldn't want to come face to face with this fellow in real life! The arms are jointed at the elbows and wrists with ball hoints for a good range of motion.
Legs: The legs are jointed at the hips, knees and ankes. The toy has very large feet, which means that you can stand him up on a surface without him falling over.
The toy has stayed in one piece remarkably well, and has not gone the way of similar toys that now lie in millions of bits at the bottom of the Lego box. in my opinion, there is no way that this can be described as conventional Lego, but Lego have definitely tapped into a popular market with these toys. The toys do allow a certain amount of creativity, as toys within the range can be combined to form new Bionicle characters. The size of the toy is quite good, as it is as tall as most other action figures, so can be used in imaginitive play with other toys.
Bionicle Piraka will certainly appeal to boys from 7 to 12, and they have a lot of scope in terms of imaginitive and creative play. The only downside for me is the fact that it is not compatible with conventional Lego, and the quality of the plastic seems very poor. My son really loves this toy though, and still plays with it regularly after owning it for the last 4 years, so in my opinion, its longevity has proved that it was worth buying.
Lego Bionicles aren't Lego - well, not in my opinion anyway. They don't use the same sort of pieces, and they can't be connected into any other Lego that you can buy, so it sort of feels a bit of a swizz to count them in as Lego, but I'm guessing if you use a brand name that people know you sell more, so that's probably the reasoning behind these being classed as Lego.
I'm a big fan of Lego for kids of all ages, it keeps them amused, it encourages the imagination, and lets face it, it's not something you ever grow out of really is it - who can't remember their dad stealing all the best bits to build his super duper flying car or spaceship etc. My nephews also both love Lego, but they seem to like this Lego Bionicles stuff too, so I got persuaded (against my better judgement) to buy them one of these when we were out. It was the final one in a set of three that they needed, and I loved the look on their little faces when we'd got it because they were all excited about going home and building it, and then taking it apart and building 'the big one' - I'd better just explain (they had to explain it to me), that with Bionicles although they're sold individually, they link together so that if you have the correct set of three you can make another larger creation from the components of all three sets.
If you go to the Lego Bionicles website, you can see the information about each Bionicle and learn what their powers are supposed to be (each one has its own tool and mask which gives it its power apparently). From my point of view this just means a lot of garbled words thrown at me by two small boys who are trying in their own way to explain who this particular Bionicle is, why he's important and what he can do. - Piraka is what the one we got was called, although (and here I have to admit to being a little confused), it's apparently not the same Piraka as another one they have already.
Anyway - the Piraka Bionicle cost us about £7 and I'll be honest, I wasn't too impressed by what we got for that money when I saw how few pieces there seem to be in each pack, but then unfortunately that seems to be the way with most Lego these days, it's no longer a pocket money toy, it's all big and expensive.
The plastic seems quite tough and both nephews (6 and 10) are well able to put these together for themselves without assistance as the instructions seem quite clear and easy to follow. I'd try to describe this creature to you, but to be honest, it seemed to consist of lots of sharp looking bits, a bendy middle bit, and a head with a mask that's very important if you talk to the kids lol. Oh, it's head does light up, but it didn't look like the battery was replaceable which seems rather a shame.
Once the model is built, it is then played with and here the imagination comes in, in the usual Lego way with battles commencing and different scenarios taking place only limited by the imagination of the kids playing - in this case not very limited at all, my nephews - particularly the younger one - do seem to be pretty creative kids.
I think perhaps given the choice I'd buy them what I think of as 'proper' Lego by preference, but that is probably because it's closer to what I grew up with as a kid and so it's something I love. I think they do too, but this stuff has its place as well, and although the Bionicles pieces don't interlock with regular Lego, they do with each other, so there is the ability to create your own still as it were, but it is a very different toy to ordinary Lego and won't be useable with it which is worth remembering if you're looking at buying one or more for your child.
If your kids aren't into Bionicles, this will all be an entirely foreign world to you. They're a fair bit like Lego Tecnic, only they're characters, not machines. Basically, this is a figure you assemble (if your child is 7+ they can maybe do it themselves), and then hopefully plays with.
When we first started getting Bionicles, I would assemble them patiently, my son would play with them for five minutes, and then they would be ignored. Now he is obsessed. He builds his own custom bionicles, and he (and his little brother, and his friends) are all completely obsessed with them. They are doing independant creative play. Yes, it is all about violence, on a level, but so is everything else they're into. It's a construction toy with added mayhem, basically.
This particular model is pretty cute. It's got a light-up head, which is cute (once the battery in it goes, that's it, though). There's a bendy sort of exoskeleton thing (which my boys call a 'slug' - not sure if this is the official term). Assembling these is a bit of a pain - my four-year-old can't put together the ball joints, although he can do the rest. I'm pretty sure he's a bad guy. I know my boys love him.
He has a ball shooter, yes, you will lose the marbles, and then step on them in the dark (yes, they hurt). The ball shooter is pretty powerful, though, nicely done. He's got another weapon, and claws for feet. Of course.