Ever the ones to tackle a new brick building challenge in the form of our regular LEGO and MEGA Bloks reviews, recently we decided to get outside of our comfort zone. Although we'd heard about the Japanese Nanoblock brand, we had never delved into constructing one of the tiny sets... until now. Brace yourself; the results are mixed, as we review the Nanoblock Sagrada Familia.
Nanoblock have something of an underdog cult following around the world, especially in Asia. The system has just 11 types of bricks, and the bricks themselves are really small. How small?
Yep, small enough for a LEGO minifigure to play with. Because of that the completed models are relatively small, and although the Sagrada Familia set contains 550 parts, the finished model can happily sit in the palm of your hand. Compare the parts to the other systems we review...
...and you might further get our point. That's (L to R) LEGO, MEGA Bloks, and finally a Nanoblok. If you thought building a LEGO set was fiddly, you ain't lived, son. You ain't lived.
Anyway, the set itself. It took us about two and a half hours to complete and - get this - we really didn't enjoy that time. We know, we're not really ones to write negative reviews, because if we don't like something, we tend to ignore it and not waste our (and our) time. The thing with this is that it was extrememly time and labour intensive, but the finished product isn't really one to either marvel at or be proud of. For starters, this is the real Sagrada Familia in Barcelona:
We don't think Nanblock have done an incredible job of capturing it all that much, both in design and colour. As we hadn't seen all that many pictures of the real thing, we honestly assumed that this section...
...was a modern office block, and not the vaulted arches of another part of the cathedral. This bit does highlight that although Nano use only eleven parts, those parts can come in any colour - including transparent. Note also the yellow transparent base plate; something that initially led us to believe the cathedral was built on sand.
This is the rear of the model, and although designed to face the other way, the designers have put a bit of effort in here too. However, some of the sections here are merely attached by a single stud to the base plate, and are not integrated into the structure itself. This means that the slightest knock to the model will displace a few parts - parts that are fiddly as hell to get back in.
One good thing about the Nanoblock system is that the bricks can be place at any angle and at any point on top of other bricks. This is because, unlike LEGO and MEGA, there is no internal clip in each brick, so studs can 'slide' about along each other. In the above shot of the spires you can see how simply giving the single-studded bricks a 45 degree twist can add a lot of texture.
The instruction sheet recommends using needle-nose pilers to help you build the set, and we can certainly see why. In some places it is physically impossible to get your fingers (and brick) into a certain area without disrupting the parts around it. Also, the same is said when dismantling a set, as once those small plate pieces are on there, they're not coming off with just your finger nail. By God, they're not.
Speaking of instructions, these are them. Whereas with a LEGO set of 550 parts you would get a many-paged booklet taking you through each step carefully, here Nanoblock decided simply to sum up the whole process in huge, multi-parts steps. Look at it! That's all the 550 connections on one sheet! Tricky doesn't really sum it up.
So our first Nanoblock outing wasn't a massively enjoyable one... but that doesn't mean we're giving up. Although the company produces many 500ish part sets like this one (as well as much smaller ones, too), they also have a deluxe range of models with 5000+ parts as well. We're hoping that a meatier set, one with a larger and better detailed finished product, might win us over in the end. We'll see.