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Figures & Speech: Gears of War Erector Set Centaur

I never liked Erector sets – or the European equivalent, Meccano – when I was a kid. I would probably like the Gears of War games if I played them, but I never have. If this makes me supremely unqualified to review a Gears of War Erector set, so be it. I’m doin’ this shiz anyway.

Erector/Meccano always struck me as unnecessarily un-fun. I didn’t have a technical mind as a kid, so I didn’t want to try and bolt things together or play with miniature tools. More for me was Lego, with which I could create spaceships that didn’t have to be realistic, and fit together without endless twisting and screwing. Yes, the whole tool/erector theme can easily lead to dirty jokes, which is why I’m going to make the one, and only one, in this review right now: I find it possible, after putting this thing together, that it’s called Erector because it seriously wears out my wrists. Moving on…

Unlike classic Erector sets, this one doesn’t have a lot of versatility – there’s exactly one shape you can build from it. Really, it’s more like a G.I. Joe vehicle that has to be built with metal screws rather than snap-together latches. So why not just make action figures? Presumably because NECA has that license, and calling these construction toys makes them fall under a different contract. Just to emphasize this point, the otherwise nicely sculpted minifigs have Lego-ish hands, which, sadly, don’t really hold onto anything. Articulation is decent, though the Locust bad guys curiously have elbows that bend right to left rather than up to down. And yes, I know enough to know these guys are called Locusts, yet have no clue why, as they don’t look a damn thing like their namesake bugs. The set also comes with good guys Marcus Fenix and Augustus Cole, and since Fenix is the hero, he comes with pretty much every set in this series, all of which are good-guy vehicles. The baddies in this line are the most overmatched in any toy line of recent memory – no firepower to them except handguns.

The image to the left shows the detail at enlarged size – for scale, here’s Marcus Fenix next to a standard Star Wars R2-D2 figure (apologies for my terrible macro-focus). Apologies also that I don’t have any Mega Bloks Halo figures to compare with, but he could probably fight Spartans decently:

Okay, so it’s time to get started on this thing.

Li’l baggies for everything. Tough plastic, too. I had to stretch it quite a bit before busting these guys out. Now, the instructions. I get why parents used to dig Erector toys – they’re practice for working with tools around the house later in life. Though when I see this:

…I’m thinking it’s practice for the days to come in which the young ones will move out of the house and buy Ikea. Then, instead of punching a hole through the wall when they haul that stuff home and see how many fiddly things they have to do before using it, maybe, just possibly, the now well-adjusted adult will say, “Oh, just like my Erector set! No problemo!” I will give Erector this – the instructions feature CG illustrations, which are way better than hand drawings. But then you get to a part like this here:

Okay. See those two thin, spindly parts? They are, apparently, TOTALLY DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER. Though they look exactly the same. Except, wait! Tiny numbers stamped on the pieces! That I cannot read in regular light! I may be getting elderly or something, but whipping out the cell phone to shine on the pieces saved me from square peg/round hole syndrome, or in this case, I should say – slightly rounded peg/microscopically differently rounded hole.

And yes, I had to undo/redo some screwings at least twice. Here’s what I had done after half an hour:

Does the toy need that many metal screws? No, it does not. Except to keep it in the (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) construction category. At $34.99, a vehicle with four figures and this much metal is a decent deal. Here’s a bit of knowledge, though, that I wish everyone from Ikea to Erector would take note of, because my bargain-store metal shelves always do – give us a couple more nuts and screws than we need. Because they’re tiny and easy to lose, and misplacing two of them really held things up. Then there are the stickers – thankfully plastic-based rather than paper-based (remember when G.I. Joe vehicles went to paper ones for a while? That sucked). No guide to tell you how to put them on, but most are easily guessable…to adult me. Maybe not so much to a kid.

Took me sixty minutes or so, but I finally ended up with this. Guess I’m still not really an Erector kinda (big) kid.

See my cell phone for scale comparison. My main problem with the finished vehicle is that Marcus cannot fit in the cockpit sitting down, and yet it’s too loose for him to stand. So he mainly just falls out, and those hands, as mentioned before, don’t grip too well. Other than that, it’s a cool little vehicle that reminds me of my G.I. Joe days. But dads, if you’re the sort of father who has to put everything together for the kid, ask yourself – are you up for spending an hour on this? (In fairness, maybe I shouldn’t expect most dads to be as lousy as me with tools. But then again, these tools are designed for small hands, not dad-hands.)

Other sets in the series include the COG Armadillo tank, COG King Raven helicopter, and Locusts versus Delta Squad Battle Set (which also includes the Armadillo). prices range from $24.99 to $59.99, and they’re currently available exclusively at Toys R Us.

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2 comments

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