While I have been a LEGO fan all my life, my introduction to building toys similar to LEGO is quite recent. I originally started paying attention to other brands about eight years ago when I was working on some customized minifigures. At that time LEGO didn’t have such an extensive selection of minifig accessories, so I looked for products from LEGO customizers and LEGO compatible brands. One such brand that caught my attention was Mega Bloks. And here I’m going to narrate to you my journey to the dark side of flirting with LEGO’s main competitor… 🙄
Although there are some really high quality LEGO compatible brands, they are usually difficult to find in the USA, and when imported from overseas prices are just as expensive as LEGO, if not more. On the other hand, Mega Bloks is readily available at most department stores and toy stores, and they are helpfully (or sneakily) placed right next to LEGO boxes. So I kept running into Mega Bloks sets on my LEGO shopping trips.
I was especially eyeing Mega Bloks’ castle and fantasy lines, like the Dragons, King Arthur, Chronicles of Narnia and Word of Warcraft sets. The artwork on the boxes always looked awesome with great castles, beautiful ships, and armored warriors. Mega Bloks boxes usually have at least one main character exposed via a clear window, and unfortunately the real figures compared to the box-art didn’t look nearly as impressive. In addition, I also read that Mega Bloks was inferior quality, they are a LEGO clone brand, and LEGO fans suppose to hate them. So I shied away from buying any of the sets.
Around this time I had a young friend named Julien who used to come over to our house to play with my LEGO collection from time to time. He was a really talented young builder who had good eyes for both design and color, and I was impressed by his creations. His family eventually moved away, and later when I talked with him on the phone he said he switched over to Mega Bloks because he liked their figures better. I was quite surprised that one of my young LEGO buddies would join the dark side of building toys. But I also knew he had good taste and appreciated good quality, so I started looking at Mega Bloks again with more interest.
My first Mega Bloks purchase was a couple of years ago when I got all four of the Halo Metallic Series ODST Drop Pods that were available at that time. I was at the LEGO isle (of course) at Wal-Mart, and I came across some opened packages (probably by curious kids) of the Mega Bloks Halo Drop Pods, so I had a chance to take a look at some of the figures outside the packaging. I thought that they looked quite good, so I bought all four of them from the collection. I wanted to examine them more, and maybe review them for our readers. I ended up really liking these figures. They are basically small, 2-inch tall action-figures, with excellent articulation, great details, and really good quality.
Shortly after I got the Call of Duty Desert Troopers set with five figures and a bunch of accessories. These figures were also excellent quality, but the tiny pieces really tested my patience. Basically every little accessory you see on the figures is a separate piece you need to attach. The weapons are also made up of tiny pieces that you assemble yourself. On the positive side, this makes the set extremely versatile and customizable, on the negative side dealing with so many small parts is tedious to say the least. Later I learned that the Call of Duty sets are unique in this regard, but at that point, even though I liked the figures, I stopped buying Mega Bloks for a while.
The next sets I got were from the Hot Wheels line. Three little vehicles with a driver for each. They looked good on the boxes, but what I found inside was just terrible. The parts had ugly colors and not at all what was displayed on the boxes, and the pieces had such bad clutch-power that they were constantly falling off. The figures were ugly too. My budding faith in the Mega Bloks brand was shaken, and I stopped even looking at them.
After some time however, I discovered that my favorite LEGO reviewer, JANGBRiCKS, was also doing reviews on Mega Bloks sets. I learned that Mega Bloks actually have what they call the Collectors line, with much higher quality than their standard sets. The Halo and Call of Duty sets I got from them previously were from the Collectors line, whereas the Hot Wheels cars were standard Mega Bloks sets. Ahhh! That made sense! I also found out that Mega Bloks has a separate dedicated website for their Collectors line, and the first products they carried for collectors was from Halo back in 2009. Then they later added Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Terminator, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And this year Destiny and Star Trek was also added. The website looks tasteful and very well organized, so I spent some time studying what they had, and I also watched pretty much all of JANGBRiCKS reviews on the Collectors sets (below are some samples).
I was back fully flirting with LEGO’s competitor. However even within the Collectors line I didn’t have an interest in the sets. Most of them depict modern military scenes and vehicles, which I don’t care about. Plus I much prefer LEGO’s refined building system and consistent color-palette for actual building. At the same time, I was definitely interested in the high quality and highly detailed figures, as I always liked small action figures. (Mega Bloks calls them Micro Action Figures.)
The next thing I bought were all four Ninja Turtles from the Mega Blocks TMNT Collectors line. I have reviewed these separately here: Mega Bloks Treasures for LEGO TMNT Fans. I’m not going to repeat what I wrote previously, but in summary, I was very impressed and very happy with the figures, and I also really liked the accessories and beautifully printed tiles (all fully LEGO compatible). I’m looking forward to the black-and-white early comic book version of the characters coming out later this year.
Then, I got all six of the Halo Heroes Series 1 figures that were recently released. As I mentioned previously, the Halo franchise is the oldest in the Mega Bloks Collectors line, so there are a huge amount of sets and characters. I already had the four I got previously, but Mega Bloks refined the articulation of the shoulders since then, and I wanted to get some of the newer figures as well. Halo Heroes Series 1 (and later this year Series 2 will be released as well) make a nice collection and are good examples of the entire line. While very nicely detailed, the Halo figures are not so heavily accessorized as in Call of Duty. You don’t have to worry about loosing small pieces, or having to manually assemble tiny accessories. While the armor pieces can be exchanged, the only external accessories are one-piece weapons. Much more favorable for play.
Around the same time I also picked up the Mega Bloks Call of Duty Icarus Troopers set with five astronauts. I know I said I don’t like the Call of Duty sets as much because – while the figures are excellent – there are too many tiny accessories. But I really liked these astronauts, and in this case only the weapons are made up of small parts. I didn’t really care about arming my astronauts, and only needed them for peaceful space exploration.
Two more figures that I got are from the Mega Bloks Assassin’s Creed line. Even if you are not into the video-game this is an excellent collection of Red Coats, Blue Coat, pirates and other history/fantasy figures. The only two that I picked up are these two gorgeous looking knights in beautifully detailed medieval armor! These are my most favorite Mega Bloks figures. The designers really outdid themselves! I really hope that Mega Bloks will bring back more medieval/fantasy sets under their Collectors line.
Now that I know the difference between the Collectors line and regular Mega Bloks sets, I have been consistently happy with my purchases. Having said that, there are some standard Mega Bloks sets that I think are worth checking out. Particularly the Smurfs and Minions. The sets are inferior quality, but the figures are very cute. You can get them in small packets with a few accessories, so you don’t have to bother with buying entire sets. And you can incorporate both the figures and accessories into your LEGO creations.
So far I only bought boyish Mega Bloks sets. So do they have anything nice for girls? I do remember seeing some Mega Bloks Barbie sets, but the figures looked dreadful. However the recently released Monster High characters are pretty cute – if you are into teenage girls in ghoulish outfits.
The collection that really caught my attention in the girly department is the new Mega Bloks American Girl sets. They are not within the Collectors line, but it is clear that Mega Bloks put serious effort into making these sets as nice as possible. I don’t have any of the full sets, however I did get all eight of the Series 1 Collectible Figures Assortment. The figures are fully articulated tiny versions of the classic American Girl dolls. They can be completely taken apart and all parts can be exchanged, so you can basically mix and match all their clothing. The hair pieces can be exchanged as well. The skirts and hats are made of a rubbery element that is quite nice. The figures are high quality and look cute – maybe not as sweet looking as the LEGO Friends mini-dolls, but definitely cuter that the old LEGO Belville dolls. In size they are somewhere in between LEGO Friends and LEGO Belville. LEGO Friends mini-dolls are less than 2 inches high, whereas the American Girl dolls are 2.5 inches, so their hair and clothing pieces are not compatible. However their handheld accessories can be used by LEGO minifigures (and vice versa).
Mega Bloks is sort of a mix between traditional toy soldiers and miniature dolls displayed on terrain pieces, and construction toys like LEGO. This means that their figures are more realistic, but because pretty much every Mega Bloks product-line has its own style and scale of characters, their parts can’t be switched as easily (if at all) as for LEGO minifigures. There is one feature of Mega Bloks figures however that is systematically the same; their hands can hold the same accessories, and their feet can stand on studs – and both of these features are compatible with LEGO’s system. In other words, all handheld Mega Bloks figure accessories are compatible with LEGO minifigures, and Mega Bloks figures can stand on LEGO studs.
Because Mega Bloks is not a systemized construction toy like LEGO, their building elements are not always compatible with each other, nor can they be easily mixed to build your custom creations. They do have some basic building blocks that are copied from LEGO that can be used for free-building, but they also have a lot of specialized large pieces that only serve one purpose. In addition, their colors are not standardized, and can be all over the place, which further makes Mega Bloks a bad choice for custom models. Having said that, you can find some interesting small pieces in Mega Bloks sets that LEGO doesn’t make.
The quality of the pieces however is not nearly as good as LEGO. Even in the Collectors line, it is only the figures that are high quality. The rest of the parts feel cheap, and are very inconsistent in both color and clutch-power. Some are way too tight, others are too lose. Their size tolerance is also much worse than LEGO. Pieces next to each other have weird and inconsistent gaps in between. I have only been focusing on getting the Micro Action Figures, but because some of them came in regular sets, I had a chance to try out the quality of standard pieces as well. If you are a LEGO fan and used to LEGO’s quality, I wouldn’t recommend them. However if you are interested in any of the sets, I would suggest that you first pick up a small set in the same line to see how you like the quality.
While Mega Bloks does have a website where all their current products, product descriptions, and prices are listed, they do not directly sell online like LEGO does via the Online LEGO Shop. You have to buy all their sets through third-party retailers. Prices are usually slightly lower than LEGO’s, although they have been creping up. I have found that Toys’R’Us has the best selection of Mega Bloks sets, and it is a good place to check out their selection. Wal-Mart also has a decent selection, although not nearly as extensive as Toys’R’Us. However now that I know what I like, I pretty much just use the Mega Bloks website for researching new sets, check out JANGBRiCKS reviews on them, and then buy what I want on eBay or Amazon. Prices are often better than at retail stores, and you can also buy the figures individually. Here are some of the listings I have been using. You can find them here:
In summary, I would say that while Mega Bloks as a building system doesn’t come near the quality of LEGO, their Micro Action Figures in the Collectors line are excellent. The characters do look really good, are a pleasure to collect and display, and durable enough for regular play. And the fact that they are compatible with LEGO studs and accessories could make them attractive even for LEGO fans. It seems like Mega Bloks finally found a niche for themselves where they stand out – instead of just being a LEGO wannabe. If they could get the quality of their regular building elements at least near the quality of LEGO, maybe they would even gain the respect of more LEGO fans. But at least their Micro Action Figure packs are already making collectors happy.
Anyhow, that’s my story with Mega Bloks. What about you? Have you ever gotten any of their sets or figures? How do you like them? How would you compare their quality to LEGO? Feel free to share your thoughts and own review in the comment section below! 😉
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