When the folks over at ERECTOR (or MECCANO as it’s known elsewhere in the world) approached me about checking out their new line of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG products for possible inclusion in my 2012 Holiday Gift Guide here on The Rock Father, I was excited. What was even more exciting was that they sent us the top-of-the-line offering from their collection, the “Sonic & Knuckles Chemical Plant Racing Tracks,” which is a Toys “R” Us Exclusive here in the ‘States. While we received the set and prepped it for review in early November, it didn’t make the cut for my gift guide.
With 165+ Pieces, this ERECTOR set poses an impressive and time-consuming task right out of the box. Combining two of my oldest daughter’s favorite activities – “building” and “cars” – I figured this would be a great way to spend an afternoon as the infant of the house enjoyed a nap. The building process itself was enjoyable, albeit lengthy. We started with assembling Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles the Echidna (both from the popular world of SEGA games) along with their motorized vehicles.
This battery-powered duo is FAST, which is something I’d expect from the speed-laced world of Sonic the Hedgehog. On their own, these vehicles were speeding across the laminate floor of our kitchen/toy-testing facility here at Rock Father HQ upon completion. The vehicles themselves scored well with the already octane-obsessed little Addie.
Assembly of the track was slightly daunting, as Addie lost interest right around the time where the numerous decals where ready to be applied. That was a Daddy-project, and one I wasn’t too fond of. Truth be told, even as a child, I wasn’t a big fan of applying stickers and decals, and that hasn’t really changed in 36 years. All built and ready to go, Addie was ready to race!
THE FATAL FLAW: The cars absolutely do not stay on the track at all. The outer “lip” around the edges is so small that the powerful cars just jump right over it and go flying in every possible direction. There are a few flimsy inserts made of clear plastic that seem intended to guide the cars around the corners, but they just fail completely. But here’s the real kicker – the problem appears to be only with the sets in the U.S. market! The same set marketed in the U.K. features tall inserts made of yellow plastic that keep the cars on the track pretty well, as evidenced in a video from UK-based Kids Top Toy Reviews. Even more interesting, the official product video from ERECTOR never actually shows the cars making a turn. In fairness, I took screenshots from both videos and sent the following image to ERECTOR’s press representative back in November prior to writing this review:
I received no explanation for the difference in sets, but was told that my report was the first they’d heard of the “cars flying off the track,” though as the sets have gotten out there, I’m definitely not the only one now.
An additional warning is that those with long hair might want to watch out for those fast-moving wheels (though that goes for any motorized vehicle)…
THE BOTTOM LINE: This is a toy with a $79.99 MSRP (already marked down to $54.98 as of this writing) that I would be angered to have paid money for. Even if it was $30, you can’t have a “Racing Set” on which you can’t actually race. While the time spent building it with my daughter was enjoyable, we could’ve just cracked out the LEGOs for some afternoon fun. Toy makers need to be held accountable for what they’re putting out there for consumers to spend their hard-earned money on, and this is an example of a set that is completely unacceptable. Frustrated parents and disappointed kids are likely the end result for those who happen to have a SONIC & KNUCKLES CHEMICAL PLANT RACING TRACK under their Christmas tree next week. And if you’ve already bought one? There’s still time to take it back!
The Rock Father Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Stars
(and that’s only because the cars are cool)
FTC Disclosure: A SONIC & KNUCKLES CHEMICAL PLANT RACING TRACK set was provided to The Rock Father for the purpose of review consideration. All opinions are that of James Zahn with input from his daughter.