Monday, March 1, 2021

Chuchik Toys Blaster Cars Break-Apart Crash Cars (Amazon)

NOTE: This product was reviewed on our radio show! If you'd rather, listen here.
If you're looking for toy cars that break apart upon impact, this should be your only option.

Through the first two or so years, our son was pretty much the poster child of the perfect baby/toddler: he didn't really fuss much (unless he was hungry or tired, of course); he picked up on things (especially words) rather quickly; and he was incredibly calm with toys. When we would visit his cousin (who is three months younger than him), we would be shocked at how ridiculously over-the-top that kid was, as he was loud, obnoxious, and rough on...well, everything. Our child, in comparison, never really crashed cars, and would even cry sometimes if he felt he was accidentally too aggressive with one of his toys, acting as if he “hurt” it. (In actuality, his cousin was actually just a typical kid; we were just blessed to have a much less temperamental one.) Everyone said to prepare for the terrible twos, but we breezed through those with no problems...our lives seemed like the equivalent of the characters inside a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Then came the threes—and that's when we learned the absolute truth in the saying “too good to be true”: All of that sweet-natured temperament went out the window, and we were subjected to the same boundless energy, neverending questions, incoherent blabbering, temper tantrums, and messes that every other parent experiences. And that is also around the time that he became fascinated with car crashes.

No, of course we didn't subject our child to images and videos of actual car crashes—we're not that morbid or heartless—but one day during rest time, he requested a video of two cars crashing into each other. I had no idea how I would find a video that would innocently appeal to that request, but I nevertheless searched YouTube for car crashes—and discovered crash tests. You know, the carefully constructed ones that auto manufacturer's use to determine the safety of their vehicles. He was enthralled, and watched hours upon hours (over the course of several months, mind you) of such videos. 

When he got bored with that, we moved onto “computer car crashes”, which were sometimes elaborate, sometimes silly crashes created with a computer program ( Drive) in which cars made up of computer graphics would realistically crumple, smash, and break after running into walls, or falling off cliffs, or smashing into other cars. Yes, my friends, he officially crossed the threshold into a “normal” boy child.

One day while we were running some toy cars into each other over and over again, he asked me if there were some magnet cars that would break apart once you crashed them. That was a pretty intriguing idea, and something I had actually been meaning to look into. A search of Amazon yielded only two results for "cars that break apart" (or whatever I searched for), and Chuchik Toys Blaster Cars where one of them. I was actually going to splurge for the second option (which I will cover in a separate review), but a lack of funds (it was a couple of days after Christmas, which was responsible for depleting our account) forced me into settling for Chuchik Toys' Blaster Cars, which come bundled in packs of three, for the low price of $9.97 (a price that was a third cheaper than the other option, which does at least come with six cars). 

Chuchik's toy cars are bundled in packs of three, consisting of a red, blue, and green car. There are some basic white designs etched into the parts...visually, they aren't really much to look at (although the transparent effect is kind of cool, and gives them almost a neon glow). The plastic of each part is thin and feels pretty cheap. I honestly wasn't expecting these to last a week. Also included in the package, beyond the five pieces per car (two doors, hood, back, and roof), are some extra accessories, like a spoiler and engine, that can be attached to the finished car. These pieces are also pretty sturdy, but are mainly included just to make the crashes more spectacular, giving you more parts that can fly every which way after a crash. The effect is pretty neat (although some parts, like the spoiler, seem to fall out at the slightest touch, while others, like the motor, rarely seemed to fall off after a crash at all), but also just lead to greater odds of losing pieces. Thankfully, he didn't really care about these all that much, so we rarely used them.

As for how they work, magnets don't factor in at all: there's a plastic base that the wheels are attached to, and all of the pieces snap into that. When the car's bumper runs into something, it basically “releases” the base, causing it to shift backward, which then ejects all of the pieces. It's a much more elaborate setup than the one I had in mind, and it works really well. Piecing them together (with the included instructions) takes a little getting used to at first (they have to be put together in a certain order), but with a little bit of patience, becomes much easier with practice...before I knew it, I was putting them together in seconds. I panicked when I realized we were gypped a bracket, only receiving two in the package, because I thought they were required while assembling the car, so that it didn't break apart while you were snapping the pieces into place. Thankfully, they can be put together just as easily without them. 

If your child isn't too keen on watching them break apart, each car also has a little bracket that snaps into the bottom of the car. This locks out their breaking function, so that they work more like “regular” wind-up cars; thus, they don't break upon impact. We never used these at all in play, but I tested it out a couple of times and it seemed to work as advertised, as it ran into a wall without breaking apart. If you just want a wind-up car, I'm sure there are better, cheaper options out there, but it's nice for houses with multiple kids who might have different preferences on how best to play with their toys. Or for temperamental children who like to break things one moment, and then pretend like they are gentle little creatures the next. 

The cool thing about these kinds of cars is that, since they all follow the same basic design, each of the parts can be mixed and matched, which allows kids (or in our case, me, because he refused to learn how to put them all the way together) to put the cars together any way they want. So you can use a red hood with a blue roof and green doors, etc...there are a lot of possible options on how to design your car, and it can lead to some pretty neat combinations.

Honestly, I've put these things together at least a hundred times (probably each), within about a month of purchase, and they all still work just as they did out of the box. None of the plastic pieces have chipped or cracked, either, which still shocks me. I would consider them “durable” overall, but keep in mind that I still have my reservations about that: a drop to hard pavement, or repeated impacts to areas that don't trigger the "crash" mechanism would probably damage these a lot quicker. In fact, our son actually did end up smacking it against our hardwood floor at an odd angle recently, which caused the whole base to come apart, along with the colored bumper (which isn't supposed to come off at all). In this scenario, I was impressed with how easy it was to fix it (the two bottom parts of the base snap together, the bumper slid right back on - making me wonder why they can't be swapped out anyway - and the spring just slides right in) and get it back up and running like normal. However, if it had been on pavement, or from higher up, I could easily see them breaking to the point of no return.

At any rate, if you're looking for a toy car that breaks apart upon impact, these should be the ones you get.

Overall: 8/10. I have to say I'm impressed with these cars overall, especially considering their low price point ($9.97 for three cars, or $3.32 per car). The base and plastic pieces initially felt pretty cheap to me, but each one has withstood over 100 crashes (estimate), with no permanent issues. The fact that the crashing mechanism can be blocked, allowing use as “normal” wind-up cars, is also a plus, and really adds some flexibility to the toy, depending on the child's mood. Arguably the worst part for me—which is certainly unavoidable for a toy meant to launch parts everywhere - is the amount of time you have to spend looking for parts after some crashes, especially if your son is prone to not paying attention where the pieces go after crashing them. But that's just a part of toys in general, and is certainly not exclusive to these. I would highly recommend these...a recommendation that comes even stronger when I tried the competition...

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