Build and blast.
Regular visitors to the site will know that we're big fans of both LEGO and Nerf. So imagine our excitement when, back in January at the London Toy Fair, we discovered there was a product that combined the building fun of LEGO with the crazy foam dart blasting action of Nerf. After an agonising wait we've finally got out hands on the K'NEX K-Force Flash Fire Blaster. Yay!
For those who aren't familiar with the system, K'NEX is an American brand of building toy which uses rods and multi-angle clips to allow kids to build pretty impressive (and large) structures. You might have seen their Ferris wheel or roller coaster sets before, but the K-Force line of blasters is something very different.
A Nerf blaster (the motorised fly-wheel versions, anyway) is essentially just a battery pack linked to something that chucks dart, right? So all the extra stuff like the body and the stock and sights have all been added to make it look different. So imagine if you could decide how your blaster looked; what shape it was, how many darts it could fire, what colour it was... that is what the K-Force range is all about.
We were sent the K'NEX K-Force Flash Fire Blaster to try, although the line also includes air-powered blasters that work under a similar principle. Essentially the kit contains the chunky fly-wheel section (into which you install three AA batteries), a hand grip, a clip, ten foam darts, and more than 280 normal K'NEX parts. If you follow the instructions you will build the Flash Fire Blaster, a two-handed weapon that, even for an adult, is pretty big and weighty. But, and the box and instructions offer plenty of inspiration here, kids can go off-grid and build whatever the hell they want, building around the motorised section and adding the grip and other parts wherever they choose. Which is pretty awesome.
This was our first ever K'NEX set, but we found the system to be a breeze to master. There aren't many different kinds of parts, and each has a different colour, meaning putting this thing together, even for wee ones, won't take much more than an hour – less if they decide to make a smaller blaster. The pieces themselves are very tough and hard-wearing, and we're quite sure they could survive hundreds of building sessions.
So, the blaster itself... K'NEX brag that once assembled it can shoot the darts (which are the same size and shape as a Nerf dart, although with a slightly different rubber point) up to 75 feet, which is basically a way of saying 'the furthest we ever got was 75 feet, so good luck, yo!' In our indoors test we managed to get an average of about 65 feet, which is still pretty excellent and definitely puts the blaster up there to rival something by Nerf. It isn't automatic, which means you have to pull the trigger for every dart you shoot, but that means the fly-wheels get a chance to recover after every dart, which in turn makes each shot just as powerful as the last. Oh, and there is a switch on top which activates the fly-wheels, and an auto-off function when you pull out the clip. This means the motors are only churning away when you're ready to fire, saving the batteries.
Speaking of the trigger; you have to build it! The included grip is just that; a lump of ergonomically designed plastic for you to hold onto. The trigger mechanism uses an elastic piece to draw it back after every shot, and lots of smaller joints and clips. Still, it was pretty easy to assemble, and the whole construction could be preserved and used in another blaster build. We also really like the included ten-dart clip. It slides in easy to the receiving port on the motor section, and also features a textured grip for you to hold while blasting. K'NEX were also kind enough to send us an extra one, the Ten Dart Clip Blister Pack, which features a transparent red magazine and more darts – definitely worth the purchase if you want to shoot for longer!
We're really excited about this new range from K'NEX, and also quite surprised that one of the other building toy companies hasn't thought of this before. Getting just one of these sets (be it this one, or one of the air-powered blasters) is enough to keep the kids entertained for ages, as they create different blasters, and also anything else they want with the K'NEX parts. We're looking forward to reviewing more from these guys in the future.