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It's amazing how different things capture the imagination of children. I'm a big fan of 'creative play' toy sets, where kids can re-enact scenarios and/or invent their own, exploring nature, mechanics and a simple sense of having fun. I bought this set for my five year-old nephew for Christmas and, all in, it's been a reasonable success.
These 'Mega Rig' sets have a recommended retail price of £59.99 but that's way over the odds. I picked this up in Woolworths (rest in peace) for half that and I would say that this is a reasonably good price for what you get. It was an instant Christmas hit, given only that it comes in a rather large box that, when wrapped in Christmas paper, looked particularly grand and impressive. It's always the 'biggest' gifts that excite the little ones the most in my experience (until the paper comes off that is.)
All in, this set comprises quite a bit of kit. Not surprisingly, there's a really big boat that has to be assembled from a variety of smaller parts. You get a selection of little gadgets and accessories (things like a shark cage for the divers and a few little divers to put in it) and a large rubbery shark that has a hole in its belly such that it can swallow the aforementioned divers and enable children to easily extract them too. It's not particularly difficult to put together, although I found that (as stupid as it might sound) you can get some of the bits round the wrong way on the ship and it's too fiddly for a five year-old to manage on their own.
The build quality is reasonably good. Most of the assembling parts are clicked or pushed into place and, once complete, it's relatively robust. It's all very eye-catching, very colourful and surprisingly large and definitely encourages the "wow!" factor in little boys. It's an excellent creative play set, partly because it's very versatile. It can be used, for example, on dry land (or living room floor) and in the bath because any of the nautical components are also on wheels to enable it to pulled/pushed around on dry land. It's quite interactive too, with little harpoon guns and watchtowers that, with the right kind of imagination, can encourage all sorts of scenes, although I think I expected it to 'do' more than it does. Nephew has generally combined it with other things, so it's not unusual to find Ben 10 at the helm or a selection of Power Rangers battling against the shark, but I think that's kind of cute really.
The most popular and enduring item included within the set is the plastic shark, which seems to accompany nephew everywhere. In the bath it's great because it's entirely waterproof and (as previously mentioned) encourages some quite creative play. It has been suggested that the capability to allow the shark to eat the divers is a little grisly but my nephew has quite a respect for nature and animals and is also very well informed. He told me, for example, that if the diver had really been swallowed, it would have taken some time for him to be digested and that it would have been extremely unlikely to happen anyway as sharks rarely attack humans. I was quite proud of how clued up he seemed to be but the naturalists who all suggest these toys encourage an unhealthy fear of sharks are over-reacting, in my opinion.
It certainly doesn't appeal to any of my nephew's female friends and stays firmly as a boys' toy. It's also reasonably difficult to store and move about when assembled, given only that it's quite sizeable. There's a reluctance on the part of both child and parent to keep getting this out and, realistically, it's the small bits like the shark or the lifeboat that get used the most (which kind of defeats the object). The idea is, of course, that you can assemble smaller boats and crafts using the parts of the main ship. Whilst this is a fairly sensible idea, nephew seems reluctant to keep assembling and disassembling this and there isn't a strong appeal in this side of the kit. It's also important to beware some of the smaller parts that would present a choking hazard for small children.
All in, this was a fairly successful gift idea, albeit in short doses. As with any toy, it's definitely worth shopping around for this one though as there is considerable variance in the prices being charged both online and in the stores. That aside, it's also worth bearing in mind that the you might be able to save even more money if you can just get your hands on a little waterproof shark that eats people....
Your mission is to rescue your diver from the terrifying jaws of an enormous shark. With the brilliant Mega Rig building system, you can connect and combine your pieces to build 30 cool vehicles for land or water exploration. Every boat floats, but also has wheels for the ultimate adventure! The awesome Mega Rig Shark Ship comes with huge waterproof boat, chomping shark, diver and captain, firing harpoon, and more!