The first thing I noticed was how few pieces came in the box — 20, which is pretty low for a Lego model. This is because the various body parts come in one piece — upper and lower arms and legs, hands and feet, torso, head and two wings make for 16 of the 20 elements — the other four are snap-on decorative pieces. There aren’t even any Technic pins!
I was immediately reminded of Lego’s Bionicle line, which also feature relatively simplified models made up of fewer but more specialized parts. I’ll admit that I’m prejudiced against this sort of model — in many ways, my instincts tell me this is dumbed-down Lego, not in the same league as the magnificent thousand-piece models the company is known for. But here are 3 reasons why Lego’s Ben 10 products actually rock:
1) Playability. I loved building the Republic Gunship but you put it in a room with a 5-year-old and it will be in twenty pieces in no time. Lego’s Ben 10 products feature Bionicle’s tough ball & socket connectors for limbs, and these pack far more holding power than Lego’s System bricks (studs & tubes) but without the challenges of their far-stronger Technic pins and holes. The end result: great playability for little kids.
2) Ease of building. As the parent of young kids who, frankly, are too young for regular Lego but too old for Duplo, these models are cool enough to interest kids without being too hard to build. Building a 20-piece model is a challenge for a 4 or 5-year-old; building a thousand-piece model is an impossibility.
3) Creativity. At first blush these models don’t seem to offer as much creativity as System models. However, here are two reasons why this is not the case. First, Lego provides downloadable instructions on how to combine multiple kits into larger, cooler, non-canonical models. Second, there’s simply the fact that they’re not action figures, they’re models made up of multiple pieces. Inevitably, kids will mix pieces from different kits to create their own masterpieces. Furthermore, while these models don’t need Technic pins to fit together, they do have Technic holes in them so you could add Ben 10 elements to other creations.
If you have younger kids who just want to play and have fun, but don’t have the patience for building a big Lego model, you can do a lot worse than Lego’s Ben 10 Big Chill.