Out of this world.
If you hit the TOYS tab at the top of this page, you'll see that we prefer our play things to be buildable. That is why we're inappropriately excited to try out a new construction system as we review the GeoSmart Mars Explorer.
Whereas 'other' construction toys use pieces and parts that physically interlock, the GeoSmart system uses magnets. Each piece, which comes as squares, diamonds, and triangles, uses contained magnets to cling to each other - surprisingly very firmly. The GeoSmart Mars Explorer set contains around 50 parts like that, as well as the wheels and tracks, battery pack, two motors, an LED light, and the wireless remote control.
To build the Mars Explorer model itself takes just a minute or two. As you can see from the picture these are incredibly simple constructions, and the large and chunky parts are easy for little hands to manipulate. The included instructions are exceptionally easy to follow, and each version of the model (there are three other vehicles that are suggested) take only five or six steps to build.
Once built the GeoSmart Mars Explorer uses the wireless remote control to power the two motors; each driving one of the tracks. It's a tank-like driving operation, so both switches up for forwards, both down for backwards, left up to turn right, etc. It takes only a few seconds to perfect, and even our youngest reviewer (he's four) mastered it almost immediately.
It's pretty speedy, too. Also, one concern we had when we first assembled the GeoSmart Mars Explorer was that the vibrations and knocks from driving it around would displace the magnetic parts. It turns out, however, that those worries were unfounded. The only way to dismantle it is to physically grab it and pull off the pieces, so beware curious toddlers who will destroy your wonderful creations. Trust us, it happens.
The other builds are also fun to assemble and drive, and they all use a very similar set-up. They all involve the wires that connect the motors to the battery/IR receiver box being visible, but we think that looks pretty cool. If you want something that looks different, we're sure you could conceal them somehow.
But, just like other construction toy sets, once you're bored with the intended model(s) you can get creative and build something else. The good thing with the GeoSmart Mars Explorer set is there are enough parts to do just that, without having to integrate the motorised functions. Also, the wheels can work without the tracks, so it is very possible to build push-along vehicles and cars.
The magnetic pieces themselves are a fiddler's dream, and we've all sat for a while watching TV, idly fingering the parts and snapping them together into interesting shapes. Cubes and pyramids almost naturally assemble themselves, while other interesting geometric shapes are easy make.
The box says 5+ but honestly this is great from three to 103. There is a lot going on here, from the actual motorised model, to countless other creations these shapes can be used to make, so we heartily recommend it.