Curious Cars from SAM Labs- An expensive frustrating toy

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SAM Labs sent me one of their sets of wirelessly connecting blocks to try. The set consists of a several 1/2 inch square modules that are rechargeable and have Bluetooth built in, They are designed to be snapped onto a plastic chassis with 2 large wheels. Depending on how they are configured, the resulting vehicle can be remotely controlled and have a flashing light or slightly other variations (like no flashing light). Paper cutouts allow you to add a cover to the chassis to make it look more like a car.

The blocks include an LED light block, motors for each of the 2 wheels, a tilt switch, a sliding switch and a power button.

To use, you need to download the Curious Cars app. It provides graphic instructions for activating each module and assembling the blocks into place. You then draw lines on your phone screen connecting the various modules so they work together. If you like pairing your Bluetooth devices, you’ll love this. It was about as frustrating, except this has many more connections.

I gave this to my 9 year old grandson and we worked together on it. We had some frustration understanding the directions. The written pamphlet was pretty useless, and following the directions on the app was only slightly better.

Once we assembled the first vehicle – if you’d call it that with just 2 wheels, you could steer it around and then go on to the next one. As noted, each successive one was a very minor variation of the one before. While I became pretty bored with it, my grandson was more fascinated and figured it out quickly.

But we ran into trouble trying to assemble the paper cutouts into the slots on the chassis that became the car body. The paper just was impossible to fit in and stay without popping out.

We were better off using the Legos that could attach to the chassis. However there were just two attach points, making it difficult to add a substantial Lego structure to it.

My take is that this kit is extremely expensive ($199) for what it offers, and what it offers was better in concept that the way it was executed. Poor instructions, a poorly designed chassis, and very little variations between the different vehicles. My grandson liked it for a while, but there seems no long lasting play value, and its unlikely it is something we would return to. That makes it a poor value for its cost. At $50 it would be more appealing.

by Phil Baker

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