I like Lego. Lego is awesome. I also like that Lego, the company, has made a moral decision not to create military-based playsets. This decision has left the market open for Lego’s opposition to fill the void, which has lead to such things as Mega Bloks’ Halo playsets, Kre-o’s Transformers and Star Trek licenses, and Brickarms, a company dedicated to making authentic Lego-sized weapons for your minifigs.
A company I’ve never heard of, Best-Lock, has now produced a small series of military sets based on the Terminator franchise (possibly as a result of the franchise’s ownership being in a state of phenomenal flux as we speak). They’re not the greatest quality, but you can’t get any other Lego clone products with the Terminator name on the box, so let’s give them a chance.
Before I tear them apart, I’m going to be kind and point out that they were very cheap. I paid no more than three dollars for each set. Admittedly, this was from The Reject Shop, where all good products go to die, but I can’t imagine the retail price for them was significantly higher. Even at double the price, they’re dirt cheap for the quantity of Lego-compatible pieces they contain.
The box is unassuming. I picked up two models, the Hunter Killer, and the Hunter Killer aerial. The company’s logo is quite disappointing. The choice of Arial Rounded as a font is questionable at best. The design of the package, in general, is chaotic and uncoordinated. It’s also not particularly colourful, which while appropriate for the franchise, is questionable for a toy package design.
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The box for the Hunter Killer (the non-aerial variant) features a couple of artificial red laser beams.
Inside the boxes, the pieces are packaged in plastic bags with some stickers on a sheet. The instructions are loose inside the box.
All of the pieces in the set are cast in the same colour, a kind of gun-metal grey.
The instructions are easy to follow, but are far from the quality standard of Lego instructions.
The pieces are interesting. They’re similar to Lego. Most of the pieces serve the same function as a comparable Lego piece. Many of them have slightly differing engineering, such as the round plate pieces, which have additional reinforcements on the underside. The small 90-degree fold pieces with two studs on each side seem unique to Best-Lock.
If nothing else, Lego’s competitors often stand a chance of producing a random significant piece that serves a purpose no official Lego piece was created for. The odds of this are decreasing daily, as Lego makes more and more unique pieces, particularly for its licensed sets (Lord of the Rings, The Lone Ranger, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc, and -- of course -- Star Wars).
Here are some of the unique pieces you won’t find in Lego -- the gun turret comes in three parts, a tripod, the gun itself, and a small ammunition belt that clips on in a similar style to a minifig’s gripping hand. The round piece with the flared bottom connects to a piece with an upright, making a large, spinning turntable piece.
The Terminator figure is quite detailed. It’s also quite fragile. The arms are articulated at the shoulders and forearms, the legs only at the hip. The head rotates. The hands don’t grip anything particularly well, and placing the awkwardly shaped minigun into its pincers is more of a balancing act than a satisfying job.
Here’s a size and quality comparison of the Terminator figure alongside a genuine Lego Creator set. While the creator set was never intended to be the correct scale for a minifig, you can still get a reasonable idea of the size of the scrawny Terminator in comparison to Lego pieces.
This is the completed model of the Hunter Killer aerial, with the terminator swinging his minigun alongside. The pieces have a mottled sheen to them, as evident on the sloped pieces that make up the HK’s front end.
You can see here that some of the pieces connect together quite poorly. Some of them simply don’t like each other, while some of them have obvious flashing problems from the way they’ve been moulded. You can see numerous moulding problems in this photo.
This is the other Hunter Killer. The non-aerial one. If nothing else, the track system is very cool. It looks good, and within reason, it works as you push the thing along the table. The dog-leg in the tracks at the bottom, where it tucks up between the main wheels, is a bit of a design flaw. The piece holding the track up is simply a small cylinder with a cap on it, and it has a tendency to fly off when the track moves, or simply fall off periodically from the tension of the rubber track. The little cones that make up the turrets on either side of the machine don’t seem to click in particularly well, and fall off often, also.
The kits come with stickers to add panel detail and markings to the vehicles, but I haven’t added them as I’ll probably be taking the units apart again when I run out of shelf space. I’m quite confident that the stickers are actually intended to be structural, and will stop a lot of the connection problems with the main components of the vehicle bodies. I’m fairly sure Lego’s official sets do not employ load-bearing stickers as part of their design.
Final verdict for the Terminator Best-Lock construction kits: They were very cheap, the quality is no better than “okay”, and they’re a piece of licensed Terminator merchandise. I don’t feel that I’ve wasted my money.