Monday, August 4, 2014

Thoughtful Toys: LaQ

Welcome to another edition of "Thoughtful Toys." Due to things being busier now and I am revamping how I do things, these reviews will stay mostly the same, but I will not be doing as many custom designs for the sake of the reviews. In light of less amount of builds for the sake of the review I will be doing a new segment that will cover custom builds as I do them. So when I get free time and want to make something out of a reviewed construction toy I will make a single post dedicated to the creation.
Continuing our discussion on construction toys great for inspiring concept design or creative thinking we are covering a Japanese building system called LaQ. I first discovered LaQ at Mitsuwa in Chicago. They actually were somewhat expensive but I took the gamble and bought a couple of the sets. I picked up the frog, which I can not seem to find much on and the Bunny from their Sweet collection. These sat for years. I made the figures they were designed for and stored the extra pieces. I didn't think I would bring this line up due to the price point, but now these are carried at Toysrus and on clearance. A set that normally would had cost 30USD is now under $2. At a price like that I could not pass up buying out their stock at the one store I saw them. TRU carried the Hamicron line, which was either blue jet or a red race car and I ended up with six sets from TRU in addition to the two sets I already had. These actually had about the same amount of pieces as the Bunny set, yet the box was twice the size. The box size was not really necessary considering you get a literal handful of parts. I suppose the size was in part to helping the consumer justify the cost.
Package comparison. I have over 1,200 pieces and unassembled they could fit in an empty tissue box. 

As I messed with the pieces I found there is a limitation in the design. Instinctively I try to make finished looking objects that are fully closed, but that is somewhat unlikely to accomplish beyond making a box. The angles selected for connectors and designs of the main pieces requires one to work in a more simplified style. You have the option with 0, 90, and 120 degrees to connect pieces with. Once you understand their limitations you might spend more time being productive with these figures. I find they are better suited for making stylized characters. So super deformed or something that might inspire a more cartoony look will be easier to achieve with these than something of great detail. That is unless you buy thousands of these and go in a much larger scope. I am not sure these would be strong enough to stay together under the stress of a massive model design though.

The first sets I got were just for their animal forms. The frog had few pieces and at the time I only wanted the bunny kit for the character rather than to make other things. I liked their look and felt sort of like early game polygon art. Rather than the popular pixel art inspired toys, these were like making forms from PS1 era games.

 Rather than making a range of designs I made a single robot. What I felt like these lacked in creative inspiration I felt they made up for in brain training. Due to their limiting designs you had to think far ahead or you were going to loose a lot of progress due to breaking things apart again. The system can be built with as little as one connection but can support up to twelve connections with special pieces. So if you were to make something with many connections, they impact other pieces when you have to take something apart.
I am a robot.
 I spent the most time on the torso largely because of being an open cavity and I could not support it as easily as a rectangular shape. I often broke the design apart while trying to finish other parts. I found to work in segments then press everything together that attached in the same direction the best strategy.

The hamicron line included these large discs that with a little creative work could act as a core for some parts. They are meant to be wheel pieces but I used them as shoulder joints as well. The have a snap in axle type piece but there is no friction on it so I can not keep the arms raised though they are articulated. There are a couple other special pieces from other lines I don't have that might add a little variety in construction methods.

A sense of scale. This is just to give a littler reference to how large my design is.
As far as the LaQ line goes, it is quite expensive and somewhat hard to work with. I found myself fairly frustrated during the course of making my design. Not to mention it is pretty limited in relation to other building kit. However, if you can find them on the cheap, they are still a neat little creative tool. I find they are far more useful in respect of challenging you creatively in construction methods as well as creating a form. The end product may not be what your after, but the process goes a long way to improving a designers ability to plan as well as being creative with something full of limitations.