Review: Kamigami Lady Bug

The instructions were driving me buggy...

There is a fine line between construction sets and models on the one hand, and toys which simply pass the expense of completing construction that might ordinarily be off-shored on the other.  Until recently I might have suggested that the difference had to do with the finished product:  Did the primary play value of the thing being built exist in the construction process (as it does with Legos, for instance) or in the finished product.  The latter being exemplified by those gigantic play sets like kitchen or slides that require tons of building time, but in reality have all their value in the use after the toy is built.  This year, however, I've seen enough robot construction sets to know that there can be play-value in both the building and post-construction play.

The ultimate difference perhaps is in the subjective experience of the builder: was it fun, or was it tedious?  Did it help develop motor skills, critical thinking, and the like? 

I've had a somewhat hard time applying these criteria to Kamigami, a robot kit from Mattel.  The construction method and even the materials used are different than any other robot set I've looked at.  You start with an injection molded core that houses motor and battery.  All of the other body pieces are shipped "flat" on sheets of plastic that you punch out, fold, and clip together using plastic rivets. 

The instructions are sometimes baffling.  The wordless pictograms are good as far as they go, but sometime they need more detail.  The legs, in particular, are challenging to figure out.  It took several tries, and getting the rivets out isn't easy.  Then, there is the worry/frustration ratio because the plastic sheets feel (but don't seem to be) fragile.  There is always a nagging suspicion that if you do it wrong something is going to rip. 

So, building wasn't as fun as it would have been with better instructions, but the sense of accomplishment is real.  I wouldn't think it would be a task for most kids under 11 or 12, however, and even then parental help might be required.

Once the robot is built, its multi-leg insect way of skittering about is quite entertaining.  With the free app you can control it from your smart phone as an RC vehicle, make it dance, and even control it through rudimentary visual programming.