Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brix Blox look like something your grandmother would buy

From retrothing, I was a lucky "early adopter" of Lego. My father brought some back from a business trip when I was a boy, and that started me on a lifelong fascination with this classic construction toy. Back then Lego was expensive and hard to find, so it's only natural that giant retailer Sears would try to copy that success with Brix Blox.

To be perfectly correct, Sears didn't create Brix Blox. It's a relabeled version of "Loc Blocs" by Entex (a famous maker of handheld electronic games). Remember that Sears used to demand that anything sold in their retail chain stores be relabeled with a Sears house brand. So Brix Blox were included as part of Sears' "Little Learners" toy line.

The shape and size of the bricks is clearly patterned after Lego, though the two aren't compatible. There are also far fewer specialty shapes like windows and wheels.The pieces don't have the same precision snap fit that Lego does, so I found the models to be a bit less sturdy.

Loc Blocs were manufactured in the 70's and 80's (I even found photos of a Smurf themed set). I'm not sure when this set dates from, but perhaps since the pieces are all red, white and blue, perhaps they're from around 1976? I'm surprised that Loc Blocs existed as long as they did, given Lego's protection of their patented (since expired) construction bricks. In the 80's, Lego became somewhat more affordable and featured many more specialized and sophisticated pieces than the competition - so I guess that it wasn't enough for Loc Blocs (or Brix Blox or whatever) to merely be cheaper.

I don't see many Loc Bloc fans around today (Lego forums are notorious for their dislike of other Lego-like building toys). These days the other brands of snap-together building blocks are fully compatible with the Lego originals, so no one has to settle for an also-ran off-brand that doesn't fit anything else.


Octopunk said...

Yeah, I had a tub of these turkeys. I don't remember who got it for me, but they sucked.

After I got them I remember seeing both print and TV ads that had direct comparisons to Lego sets and touted the quantity of the Brix Blox, showing how bummed out the kid with the Lego set was compared to the other kid. Totally the reverse of the truth, and all kids knew this.

JPX said...

My grandmother was always a sucker when it came to buying toys. She would always get the knockoff believing that I wouldn't know the difference. This is exactly the type of thing she would get me. Her heart was in the right place, I think she was just cheap. That's funny that you had these. I've gotten Ben other building systems and they always suck.