Kickstarter Alert: Pinblocks

Kickstarter Reviews Toys
I built most of the Silver Falcon during my daughters’ roller derby practice. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

If you and your kids like building toys, here’s a Kickstarter worth checking out: Pinblocks. The project is on its last day already, so you’ll want to act quickly. (I meant to write more about this earlier, but the week got away from me.)

Pinblocks are small plastic building bits, with one significant difference from most building toys: there’s only one type of piece. It’s a small, two-pin piece, almost a square body when you look at it from the side, with just one large opening at the bottom. Rather than being just a flat rectangle from the top, the corners are cut off to make it a flattened octagonal shape. These features mean that you can easily make pieces that rotate–plus if you make very long shapes, they can bend and flex.

pinblocks wristgun
My oldest daughter made a wrist gun using a basic shape from the Silver Falcon set. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

I have to admit: I was skeptical at first. I grew up with LEGO (no surprise) though my kids have played with a variety of building bricks and haven’t expressed a huge preference for any particular brand. But we’re all used to having lots of different types of pieces, and I didn’t know what it would be like to have just one type of piece. Would my kids even want to play with them?

Even my toddler gets in on the fun–though it’s not recommended for the wee ones. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

As it turns out, my kids love them. Pinblock sent me a couple sets to try out–some of their little sample boxes, two ship-based sets, and one large set of assorted colors. The main difference between the ship-based sets and the assorted colors is simply that there are building instructions included in one.

On Presidents’ Day, when I had my regular Monday Pathfinder Adventure Card Game group over, we had several extra kids along with them. I sent them down to the basement (no floor vents) with a set of Pinblocks and told them to have fun, thinking maybe they’d play with them for a little bit and then get bored. All six kids ended up playing with the Pinblocks for a couple hours, building castles and cats and monsters. (Bad blogger confession: I didn’t get any photos, because I was busy fighting off pirate ships.)

To my surprise, my daughters even told me they liked Pinblocks better than LEGO, for a couple reasons. The lack of specialized pieces was actually a feature for them: you never have to search for the piece you want–you just pick the color you want and grab it. Also, the flat shape and rounded corners mean that they’re not nearly as painful if you happen to step on them (though we did discover that the longer pegs mean they’re easier to snap). The longer shape also means that they’re generally easier to pull apart.

It can be hard to get everything to fit tightly sometimes. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

However, sometimes it can be hard to get pieces to fit tightly. You can see from the photo above that there are gaps in this assembly–my daughter had trouble shoving them together, and the long pins mean that you’ll always be trying to push on things that are pokey. I did also find that sometimes pieces didn’t stay assembled until I got enough of them together, so the builds kept falling apart until the interlocking pieces came along.

And, of course, there aren’t any minifigs, which everyone loves. My kids did say that it’d be fun to have some people. They made their own tiny people out of two Pinblocks each, but they’re a far cry from other minifigs, of course.

The finished Silver Falcon. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The instructions can also be a little tricky to follow. Since every piece is the same, the instructions are quite long, usually adding only a few pieces at a time so you can figure out what piece was added. And since it’s a whole lot of small pieces, sometimes my eyes went crossed trying to figure out which row a piece went to. But I do have to admit that the final product looks pretty cool once finished, if a bit more bendy than a LEGO build.

Personally, Pinblocks aren’t going to replace LEGO for me, but they’re definitely a pretty fun alternative that allows for a different type of building, and I’m excited to see what else my kids come up with.

There are various size sets available for as little as $5. Because the manufacturing cost has decreased from the original estimates, the creators are including 50% more blocks in each set, so it’s a pretty good deal. For more information, visit the Pinblock Kickstarter page–but don’t delay! It ends on Wednesday morning.

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