Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Brick Miser: Dr. Star "Light & Sound" Christmas Mini Blocks Nanoblocks


And for anyone who doesn't celebrate Christmas:

And for anyone who doesn't celebrate anything at all in some sort of "overcommercialization" protest:

 So in all likelihood, you're first reading this after you've just gathered with family and opened your presents and are now either enjoying the rest of the day or killing time until dinner or some event. In which case, thanks for making my blog a part of your holiday! So let's celebrate by looking at some Christmas-themed building brick sets with Dr. Star's "Light & Sound" Christmas Mini Blocks!


Name: "Light & Sound" Christmas Mini Blocks
Distributor: Dr. Star
Model: 607B-610B
Pcs: Various

It's pretty obvious that Christmas is no stranger to building brick sets. Besides Mega Bloks' Advent Calendars(including the Despicable Me one I just finished), Lego has produced dozens of different sets with a holiday theme.

Including their own advent calendars.

But when it comes to third-party manufacturers, there's surprisingly not as much. The most "mainstream" thing I could find not from Lego or Mega Bloks is an advent calendar from Block Tech(which itself is hard to find in the States.)

You'd think there would be more push for lesser-known companies to manufacture holiday-themed sets, considering it's the season where anyone will buy anything with "Christmas" in the title for a quick stocking stuffer. But I guess with companies located in more Eastern countries like China and Japan, where Christmas is more of a novelty, there might not be enough of a market for them.

 Also, brick molds and production are expensive, so it's probably better to produce the generic Military and Space-themed sets they already have than to spend money on things they can only sell to a niche audience during one short window of the year.

But if you want some Christmas-themed building bricks on the cheap, without having to resort to mold copies from bootleg companies, the way to go is Nanoblocks. While searching for obscure Christmas brick sets, I found a surprising number of micro building brick models, ranging from your typical Santas, stockings, polar bears, etc.

To unofficial characters they dressed up in little Santa outfits.

 But what I have to show you today may be some of the most ambitious Nanoblock sets I've ever seen! Not necessarily in size, but just in what features they give you! And for a set that, like I said, not too many people are going to know or care about, you know this is going to get interesting!

These sets come to us from "Dr. Star", which from what I've found, IS a very ambitious micro brick company.

I briefly touched on them in my general Nanoblock review, where I showed a Tinker Bell model they made, but as well-made as that was, it's almost nothing compared to what else they've created!

Now a lot of their models are the standard Nanoblock sets with generic and knock-off designs you'd expect from unofficial brick companies

But on the higher end, they've produced what I can only describe as Nanoblock "Action Figures." These are much larger than regular Nanoblock models and have ball joints on their arms and/or legs, similar to "Budder", providing a bit of articulation.

My favorites are probably these giant TMNT figures. There is no doubt these will feature on this blog one day.

And if that wasn't enough, there are also articulate figures that come with vehicles. And they can be positioned to fit on or inside them!

In fact, a lot of their models come with something extra! Even their smaller knock-off figurines have additional models, like this Hello Kitty with a tiny playhouse!

And I feel it would be a crime if I didn't show you their models based off of the Lego Ninjago series, which was ALREADY a brick set to begin with! Brickception. Yo dawg.

When it comes to making their products stand out, Dr. Star has managed to establish an image that sets them apart from the hundreds of other Nanoblocks and copycats on the market. A very admirable quality for an obscure knock-off company!

However, even compared to everything else they offer, what I have here are probably the most entertaining products they've produced! And the high quality box art is a good indicator of what you'll get inside.

On the front, besides the picture of the completed set, they've also included a stock image of a Christmas Tree with the caption Merry Christmas. I'm a little disappointed that they didn't have a Nanoblock tree, but at least the image looks good and not like they cut it out of another picture as with most other knock-off boxes.

And these aren't Nanoblocks or Diamond Blocks. They're the even more generically named "Mini Blocks", which they inform us "Develop fine  motor skills; build this micro blocks with imagination; enjoy the fulfillment of your own masterpiece." Well, they abuse the semicolon more than I do, but it's not as Engrishy as Jie Star.

The back just shows you the other models in the set, but since we'll be looking at all of them anyway, let's move on.

And the name I gave these is actually just a guess, since nowhere on the box does it say what these are called besides the generic Mini Blocks series. But it does tell us it has "Flash and Christmas Music."

So not only does it play Christmas music, but also the theme to the Flash TV show?! ...I'm on board.

And on that note, here's an image of The Flash dressed as Santa. No context. Just enjoy.

Finally, they have the standard "0-3" sad face, but "14+" on the side(yeah, sorry, the picture got corrupted and I currently don't have them with me.)

Anyone between those ages will find in their stocking that Santa has taken a shovel to the reindeer stalls...

And here's the complete set! Four adorable little Christmas models of a Santa, a snowman, a reindeer, and a teddy bear. All in their own little Christmas dioramas and all put together with exceptionally dangerous choking hazard bricks. ...Remember, parents: unlike Lego, these are NOT for little kids...

Now let's just skip to why I love these so much. You'll notice that the bases for these models are much thicker than regular Nanoblock bases.

 That's because these are electronic, stuffed(ish) with lights, speakers, and wires. A pretty good indicator of what we're about to get.

And yes, the plate comes off the top. Why? I have no idea, but it's a little hard to get it back on straight after taking it off...

So let's flick the switch, turn off the lights, and see what wonderment is in store for us.


As I pointed out, they've included lights under the base plate, which perform the standard light show you see in a lot of light-up toys. They cycle through different colors and alternate between crossfading and flashing lights. Simple, but still pretty.

 Just grab your copy of Lego Rock Band, put these boxes in front of your TV and some matching minifigures on them, and heighten the experience of your next Rock Band party.

For added effect, throw in the Rock Band Stage Kit. ...Yes, this exists...

So it lights up. Nice... but not exactly enough to be considered enjoyably creative. What does make this one of the most interesting sets I've come across? Well, as the box says, it also plays music. ...BOY, DOES IT PLAY MUSIC!

With normal cheap(or even fairly expensive) electronic Christmas toys that play chiptunes, you can usually expect one or two songs to be included; maybe three if you're lucky. Only rarely(usually with toys that feature buttons to play different tunes) do you get something that plays more than that, and then it's usually a maximum of 6 songs.

These things, on the other hand, play not one, not two, not three, but TWENTY different songs! Once you turn this on, you are subjected to nearly TEN minutes of Christmas music, ranging from pop music to old hymns! ...You doubt?! As always, I made a video, so click it at the top of the post to be bombarded by more 8-bit Christmas music than the Holiday Lemmings game!

In order, it plays:
  1. Jingle Bells
  2. Oh Christmas Tree
  3. The First Noel
  4. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  5. Oh Holy Night
  6. Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  7. Ave Maria
  8. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
  9. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
  10. Deck the Halls
  11. Angels We Have Heard on High
  12. Joy to the World
  13. Oh Come All Ye Faithful
  14. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  15. Silent Night
  16. Up On The Housetop
  17. White Christmas
  18. Santa Claus is Comin' To Town
  19. The Twelve Days of Christmas
  20. Frosty the Snowman
And not only does it play them, it plays them LOUD! I left these on in a bathroom on one side of the house and I could hear them in the bathroom at the other end of the house! And to normally get that volume from my computer speakers, I have to turn them to just a few notches before full volume! These are earsplittingly loud!

 ...I have SO many questions about these. Why put so many songs into it? Why these songs in particular? Who did they get to compose and program all those songs? Why make it so loud? Why do it for such a cheap toy nobody would buy besides novelty seekers like myself? Why not have a way to skip songs since you put TWENTY FLIPPIN SONGS IN THIS?!

I don't know, I don't think we'll ever know... and I LOVE IT! When this hit the 5 minute mark and it was STILL playing, I was rolling with laughter! It's such a strange feature to give to a toy, so much unnecessary effort that you just have to smile. In fact, the next time someone's bugging you, give them one of these and tell them you'll talk to them again when it runs out of songs. Average Joe is just going to think "Ok, it just has two, maybe three songs, we can resume in about 30 seconds." And by the time it's finished playing, you'll be far enough that he'll never find you again! This is STUPIFYINGLY hilariously put together, and it's impossible to hate!

But, at last, let's talk about the models themselves. First, we have Santa. A very skinny Santa who looks like he's playing hopscotch in the snow.

 Seriously, why have one foot positioned like this? Is it a running pose? ...Well in that case, he looks like he's playing airplane like a two-year-old. Just imagine Santa blowing a continuous raspberry as a sound effect...

And, as I explained is the norm with Dr. Star figures, his arms can move thanks to a ball-and-socket joint, providing about 150 degrees movement.

Sitting next to him is this... Sled? Sleigh? Cornucopia? Santa's Bag? I have no idea, but it has a nicely built candy cane and tiny present, so that's festive.

 But a word of warning to whomever buys this: The Christmas wreath is the work of the devil! It's made by "weaving" these L-shaped pieces together, effectively making a round shape. ...But this is next to IMPOSSIBLE to do, since you need to find the EXACT position of each shape on the wreath and angle it EXACTLY so it will connect to the adjoining brick. I spent HOURS trying to put this together!

And once it's together, good luck KEEPING it together! It falls off at the smallest touch and effectively crumbles when you try to reattach it. While writing this, I had to reassemble it nearly every time I moved the model! And because of how it's built, I can't superglue it for fear of getting something out of place and being unable to bend it back! So when you're putting this together, expect a decent amount of pain and suffering...

So let's move on to something less frustrating: this Snowman. ...And now I've implanted "Walking in the Air" into your head for the rest of the review. You're welcome!

Ok, this is actually the more generic-type of snowman and not the kind likely to melt into a puddle at a moment's notice... But it is cute. With its top hat with a holly sprig pin, its long carrot nose, and its red scarf, it looks like what you picture a snowman as.

Unless you're this kid, but I digress.

Unfortunately, this doesn't have the articulation the others do, just having these "stick" arms. ...Which I had to apply copious amounts of superglue to to keep from falling off...

I really like the design of his broom. You'd think they would just go the easy route and make the bristles four straight lines, but instead they used these "step" pieces to give it the appearance of a ragged broom. That was creative and I wish there was a way to have him hold it.

He even has a present for you! ...Or someone gave HIM a present, one of those. What's inside? ...Probably the same thing that was inside the briefcase in Pulp Fiction: the secret words Bill Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.

And we have this snow-covered sign with a sprig of mistletoe on it. You'll notice that they wrote a secret message in invisible ink on it that can only be seen by holding it to extreme heat. What does it say? ...I'm not ruining my set to find out! You buy your own stupid set if you're curious!

By the way, I forgot to mention that the images on front of the boxes are mirrored from the sets you actually get. The snowman's supposed to be on the right, the broom on his left, the structure of the sign is backwards, etc.

Why, I don't know. The instructions told me to assemble it this way, so either there was a space problem on the front and they had to flip it to fit, or the instructions artist accidentally rotated the art. Probably the former.

By the way, I REALLY like these instructions. They're the single-sheet layout that most Nanoblock instructions are, but they're laid out in a vertical left-to-right book format as opposed to the horizontal top-to-bottom layout others have. This makes it MUCH easier to follow along, especially with the arrows pointing where to place the bricks. Heck, if Lego did this with their larger sets and didn't have to resort to printing multiple books, I'd be perfectly fine with that.

Moving on, we have this Reindeer, off to play games with Ben Affleck. ...Very boring games that are a waste of a good idea, but I digress.

We're back to having articulation, but, as Nanoblocks are prone to have, it's a faulty socket brick, so it pops off if I try to move it. ...So let's not try it.

And upon closer inspection, we see that it's the star of the forgotten Christmas special Drunky, the OTHER Red-Nosed Reindeer. His nose is red for different reasons!

The twist is that he slips on this ice patch 20 minutes into the movie and breaks his neck, then the rest of the 100 minutes is just him lying paralyzed in bed, whining to his pink elephants that he can still fly better than his third-cousin Rudolph while drinking a large keg of beer through a straw and he dies of liver failure at the end. ...You can see why it's a forgotten special...

And with this one, they gave us a nice Christmas tree that we can put the the presents under. Wish it had some lights on it, but I don't have my spare Nanoblocks with me right now, so I guess we'll have to do without.

And they give us a similar sign to the Snowman's, just flipped, shorter, and not as decrepit-looking. Again, you need to bake at 350 degrees to see what it says. Let me know when you find out!

And finally, we have Mr Teddy Bear in a Santa suit. ...And he's immediately 100x funnier than Ted, but I digress.

Interestingly, they switched around the ball and socket bricks for his arms, putting the socket on his shoulders and the ball on his arms. I like it much more than the other design, since it's much sturdier and flexible and not in as much danger of being bent out of shape. I wonder why they didn't do this for the other figures? ...Or why I didn't catch on as I was building them and switched them around myself...?

But yes, this teddy bear is wearing a little Santa suit, and I have a weakness for things in red-and-white furry suits. There's just a real charm to it that makes anything in it look cute.

 Case in point.

 It has the same present as the Snowman, only with a reversed color scheme, being red-and-yellow instead of yellow-and-red. [Insert Flash/Reverse-Flash reference here since I don't actually follow the Flash]

And its candy cane is yellow. Must be one of those Crayola candy canes that "color your mouth" when eaten. ...Because kids will buy anything weird. Thankfully, as an adult, I am well beyond buying anything frivolous and unnecessary...

And Teddy even has his own little Christmas tree. ...I'd like to imagine that this is actually the Reindeer's teddy bear and he dressed it up and gave it its own little tree. Like an ungulate Mr Bean. ...Hey, I'll watch that! Better than the 200th airing of Shrek the Halls...

And there's your Christmas Nanoblock quartet, all ready and able to perform a long concert if you so desire. Their designs are a bit generic, but what they lack in imagination, they make up for with... MORE imagination! Besides, we're not supposed to view them in a regular light as Nanoblock models. What light are we supposed to see them in?

 This one.


Quality: Again, we have the standard Nanoblock quality. Relatively sturdy, with a few problem bricks here or there. They still feel like they'll break if you squeeze them hard enough, but they still fit together nicely. The electronics they package with these aren't bad either. Ok, they're typical dollar-store lights and sounds, we're not getting something that'll sing "Gangnam Style" anytime soon, but they don't feel like they're in danger of breaking. Though, as I pointed out, the plate fits loosely over the top and can easily warp and bend out of shape, so the plastic quality isn't perfect.

Design: We get what is usually associated with Christmas presented to us in Nanoblock form. Santa, reindeer, snowmen, teddy bears, presents, trees, snow, etc. Not the most complicated designs, but pretty easy to accidentally make look horrifying. Here, I think they did a good job of creating statuettes that look like what they're supposed to while also capturing a bit of Christmas charm and fun, so they look friendly and not like they're ready to tear your head off. The teddy bear is especially cute, though I like the snowman and his little scarf as well. The little accessories scattered around the main figures really help with the atmosphere and tone, especially with the Santa and his sled/sleigh/bag of gifts. Everyone's built sturdily and they don't feel like they'll crumble at the slightest touch. ...Except for the wreath. Enjoy the 4 hours you'll spend putting it together and KEEPING it together.

Creativity: The designs themselves, while nice, are a bit generic. But, like I said, what sets this apart is that it plays Christmas music. And not just Christmas music. A LOT of Christmas music! Why they decided to put twenty songs into these things, I have no idea, but it's so odd and surprisingly well done, that it's impossible to hate.

Readability: Again, standard Nanoblock instructions, with multiple layers in each step and all contained on one sheet. Since these are simpler designs, I didn't have any problem following along, and they're reasonably legible, especially with the left-to-right layout Dr Star instructions have. Heck, little kids may be able to follow along with how well they laid them out! ...Though I don't recommend giving these to any little kid. The "0-3" sticker is there for a reason...

Packaging: It's not as impressive as the Tinker Bell "Fairy Elves" box art we've looked at before, but they did position the stock Christmas art in the right places and put a sort of "snowglobe" effect behind the models, so it does look nice and Christmasy. There is a it of Engrish, but nothing that really stands out or is particularly hilarious. Heck, I've seen worse English on dollar store items manufactured in the USA. I guess I'm not too fond of the box design, since because it's built so wide and narrow, it takes up a lot of shelf space and it's impossible to get the model back in once assembled... As a box, it does its job. I just wish there was more of that mistranslated goodness unofficial brick sets are known for...

Compatibility: Again, Nanoblocks. Not compatible. ...Though I'll give it one point since I guess you could use the music box to add ambience to your Lego set.


Yes, the first "5/5" on this blog. Why? Because I can't think of a reason NOT to own these! They're well detailed, they have articulation that's missing from most other building brick sets, the idea is charming, they're small enough to fit practically anywhere, and they play a LOT of Christmas music. They are the perfect Christmas decorations! If you can find these, I can't recommend them enough! Track one down, put it together, and enjoy twenty beloved holiday songs in ten minutes. ...Just put it on top of a sock or something if you don't want the neighbors complaining...