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Bright Minds Marble Run with Elevator

Submitted by on January 19, 2010 – 10:11 pmOne Comment

Bright Minds Marble Run“I suppose if we’d built anything that resembled a working marble run, this set would be pretty impressive.”

Buy online at Bright Minds

£39.99

***

Initial thoughts: When this marble run arrived, Flea actually started jumping up and down in excitement. She was so keen to get started, she even offered to skip pudding so we could get going on building the marble run. For a four-year-old, that’s a big endorsement.

Opening up the large box, I admit that I gulped. The contents consist of a load of plastic tubes and tunnels, plastic bits and bobs, and an intimidating number of pieces I couldn’t easily identify.

We liked: For the first time ever, I can’t think of a single thing I liked about a toy. Oh, I suppose if we’d actually built anything resembling a functional marble run it would look pretty impressive. The picture on the box looked fantastic. But I was a complete marble run FAIL. Also, me putting together this story definitely expanded my daughter’s vocabulary.

We weren’t keen: It was hard. Really, really hard. It says it’s suitable for age 4+ but there’s absolutely no way Flea would have been able to build anything with this – In the end I passed it on to Flea’s cousin and he and his Dad spent a happy afternoon building fully-functioning, brilliant marble runs. Sometimes, I hate my brother.

In my defence, the instruction manual consists of three illustrations of marble runs to build. I started trying to build A, couldn’t follow the instructions, and gave up. Then I started building B, couldn’t read the instructions, and gave up. Eventually, I started building C, couldn’t read the instructions and told Flea I couldn’t do it. Her little bottom lip wobbled, so I gave it another go.

After two and a half hours, and lots of trial and error, I’d built 90% of run C (I had a false start when I got 75% of the way through and it toppled over, falling apart, meaning I had to start again). I was feeling the warm glow of achievement. The end was in sight. I called back from the game she’d started playing after she got bored watching me, and told her we were almost done. I was imagining posting a picture of our amazing marble run on this review. Oh, foolish hubris!

Only the motorised ‘lift’ left to go. After a few attempts and the now traditional search for the World’s Smallest Screwdriver to insert the batteries, guess what? It didn’t bloody work. I could either get it to pick up the marbles at the bottom of the lift OR drop them into the chute at the top. Not both. Argh!

I spent another hour scrutinising the instructions but the problem was that it was impossible to see exactly which pieces went in which position – I tried every configuration I could think of but eventually I had to admit defeat. Four hours after opening the box, we put everything away again – and I couldn’t face looking at it again.

Overall: The marble run might be great, but the instructions that come with this toy are truly AWFUL. There’s little detail on precisely how key parts fit together – for example, the yellow pole that holds the elevator is made of eight pieces but in the instructions there’s no indication of which pieces, or in which order. Also, the angle of the illustrations makes it impossible to even see which pieces are used in some instances. This means there’s a lot of trial and error and if, like me, you’re not blessed with a good abstract spatial awareness, you’re screwed, basically.

Having watched my older and smarter brother make this work, I’ve picked up some tips on this. Don’t bother trying to follow the instructions. Always, always build the tower with the motor in it FIRST and fit everything else around that. Then maybe, just maybe you’ll get something as truly cool as this kit is possible of creating.

[Sally, Who’s the Mummy]

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