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Knex are a blast and coasters are fun, but you should know a few things before buying
on August 19, 2013
My kids love building toys, and we have committed our family to three main series: Lego, Duplo, and K'Nex. We have huge boxes of assorted parts and also sets that we have purchased, and all of my kids enjoy putting together the sets. We especially like the K'Nex educational sets for building gears, levers, and other cool lessons. With that, I decided that the K'Nex Star Shooter coaster, featuring over 400 K'Nex parts, would be a blast to build. I was a little surprised by what we got, but happy with the result.
First, most of the K'Nex included are not the standard K'Nex, but are instead mini-K'Nex. This means that if you lose or break a piece, you likely don't have a ready replacement sitting in your box of assorted K'Nex. The only standard size K'Nex are the pieces of the motor and the opposing gear. The whole roller coaster structure is made of mini parts which don't lock quite as strongly as their large counterparts. While the overall effect is cool after it is built, we were surprised that most of the parts were miniature. The structure itself, once built, is about 20"x20" on the ground and about 41" tall. There is a K'Nex motor that allows you to thread a standard-size K'Nex rod through and it will turn it forwards or backwards. There's no real reason to run the coaster backwards, but the motor is generic. That's a nice feature because my kids have other plans for the motor when they are done with this toy.
While the box says "ages 7 and up", pair of kids above the age of 7 needed some help in assembling the track itself. The structure and the motor mount went together fine, but the track is a little tricky if you haven't built a K'Nex coaster before. Once they saw how it went together, it made sense, but it's not clear at first. So if you are going to hand this to a child, be sure you are nearby to help.
The whole set likely took about 2-3 hours to assemble, and once assembled, it was fun to watch the coaster go round and round. You can't put any people in the specially designed coaster car. Once complete, there's not much more to do other than watch it. I suspect my kids will take it apart soon and use the pieces for something else (most Lego sets eventually get disassembled and added to their main box). That being said, since it is mini-K'Nex, I'm not sure what they will do with the pieces when they get tired of the coaster.
Overall, it was fun to build and the kids laughed watching it actually work. For the price I think it is a worthwhile toy, but just recognize the pieces are not very reusable, and the coaster itself may require parental assistance to build.
Please see the video attached to my review to see it in action.
Update: I originally rated this 4 stars, but I am knocking it down to 3. As my kids played with the coaster, the track kept getting knocked off because the mini-K'Nex don't hold very tightly. The track shape is formed by bending straight plastic track pieces into twisty shapes with only the force of the K'Nex holding it in place, so if you knock off a piece of track you need to remember exact where, how, and at what angle it was connected. Needless to say, my kids kept knocking off track, getting the chain stuck, etc. It was frustrating for them to constantly be fixing it. So it was a fun toy to build and a blast to watch, but got frustrating to play with as the tracks kept falling off. Also, kids do have active imaginations, and it would have been a better toy if they found a way to allow you to put a person inside to ride the coaster.