Maybe I’ve seen far too many toys in my life, but it is quickly becoming a rare occurrence when I find a toy that genuinely surprises me. And I don’t mean a company picking up a license I never expected. I’m talking about a toy where I get it and can’t help but think “why hasn’t anyone done this before?”
K’NEX getting the Mario Kart license when combined with their expansion into brick building certainly makes for an interesting case study on doing something better than your competitors. But much like the KRE-O line from Hasbro, K’NEX is just a few details shy of beating LEGO at their own game.
The almost LEGO minifigure style used for the Mario Kart figures works very well. The stylized, blocky bodies with unaltered heads ends up with a figure that just works. Yoshi is wider than Mario with his stance being three studs wide. With a waist made longer thanks to a tail and a shell-saddle item glued to his back, Yoshi looks right. Sure, the arms seem a bit too spindly but I like that his hands aren’t just Mario’s cast in a different color.
The head looks amazing. So good, I wonder if the sculpt came from a different toy and just thrown on. It wouldn’t surprise me given how protective Nintendo is of their characters. Or all Yoshis look alike. Articulation isn’t bad, but not perfect. The head arms and wrists all work well as cut joints. The waist is a touch awkward given the figure’s design but the legs barely move.
As an added surprise, Yoshi comes with an accessory – a Super Mushroom! About the size of Mario’s head (how does he eat it then…?), the Super Mushroom has a special hole on the undersize that sadly isn’t the size of a stud. That means you won’t be able to have a mushroom headed guy terrorize your other figures. Instead, it is kept in place by an orange peg that is similar LEGO pin that goes into a black 2×2 brick. The Super Mushroom itself looks great though.
The rest of the set consists of building Yoshi’s go-kart itself. Consisting of almost 60 pieces, the go-kart is kind of odd when assembling. Much like KRE-O Jazz, the building of the set quickly shows that someone at K’NEX knew what they wanted for an end result but didn’t know how to get there. Little things like the stickers being just slightly too big or the fact that the only way to have Yoshi sit in the vehicle is by removing him from the waist down, which just feels weird. It’s also really odd that all of the stickers cover between bricks except for the license plate on the motor.
But the motor is the one thing in this set that is beyond amazing. It is nothing more than a pullback, spring powered motor that allows two wheels to connect. It works so well though! I’m amazed LEGO hasn’t released anything like this because it really ups the toy factor of this set. I’m really excited about the building opportunities this single piece provides.
To add some additional value, the packaging can once again be used as an impromptu ramp. Making it even better is that the pullback motor gets enough power for the vehicle to make use of it!
The original retail price for this set was $16.99, which seemed far too pricey initially. I didn’t know about the Super Mushroom and didn’t realize just how good the pullback motor was. If you can find this set for under $10 though, it is an absolute steal. Yoshi is a decent figure, the Super Mushroom is near perfect and the motor makes up for the other flaws.