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Attack of clones

Lego – or LEGO – is expensive and children – especially my children – want a lot. Our basement looks like the returns service from a large toy store, covered from one corner to the other of toys and, most importantly, from endless minefields of small building blocks. And we love to build models and imaginative games and my youngest child, Guthrie, loves Star Wars. But all this quality plastic is expensive and the Star Wars kits are the most expensive of all. What do we have to do? Add his favorites to holiday gift registers so that his grandparents can buy him for him? Spend hundreds of dollars on ships that crash and leave debris and minifigs for miles? Or do we turn to the Internet, this source of consolation, and find Lepin.

A long time ago, in a very distant galaxy, there were Lego knock-offs . The most popular comes from a company called Lepin which I first learned from this amazingly comprehensive overhaul of the First Tie Fighter set. This video, which presents a surprisingly thorough look at Lego and Lepin, has been a family favorite for a while, overtaking the Star Wars and Bad Lip Reading trailers that my kids usually watched. They were hypnotized by the slow, steady rhythm of the video and I was hypnotized by the thought that I could save money on my Lego.

Before you get excited about the morality or legality of these knock-offs, understand that I know Lego deserves every penny he receives. After building the whole Lepin, I began to better understand the care given to a good Lego game and the satisfaction of having a product that does not collapse in the middle of the flight . That said, it was an experience and it was really surprising to see such a complete and blatant copy of the Lego kit in a plain brown paper bag. Unlike other knock-offs that I've seen – trading with Louis and fake Rolex, for example – the Lepin kit was a one-to-one copy of the original, albeit one of a kind. with some major problems.

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So I hit Alibaba and I bought the Tie Fighter kit, a model that immediately pushed all the right nostalgic buttons for me and the pimples for excitement for my children and was sufficiently complex and expensive that we did not want to order the real model. I would build this Tie Fighter … for science.

The kit cost $ 48 with the $ 12 shipping and arrived in two weeks. He came in a simple brown quilted envelope with an instruction manual and small bags of coins. Lepin's pieces are not organized in a discernible manner although some of the larger pieces are glued together in the same bag while the smaller pieces are stacked inside several smaller bags. There is no bag order and the manual does not expect you to open a bag first. Basically, your best bet is to empty all the pieces and build.

The first thing you will notice is that the ankles are completely smooth with some teeth where the injection mold is entered. These blocks have no Lego mark and are rather bare, as if someone had sandblasted the logos on a real kit. Minifigs are also problematic. The faces and paint are not as clean as those of Lego and accessories – in this case, a small hose connected to the pilot's helmet – was strangely connected to the helmet itself, a measure that saves money. lost quite easily.

Once you have organized your pieces, you can start assembling the kit. That's when you meet another measure of economy. The manual only shows the part you have just assembled in color. The rest of the pieces are grayed out. This means that you do not know what the kit is supposed to look like during its construction, which makes it particularly difficult to mount the internal components. In addition, the entire manual is full of steps. While the Lego Kit guides you through every step, placing one or two steps on the page, this manual is packed. It's very easy to get lost.

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We built this model in two days. My son was able to build some, but I stepped in late because I liked the challenge and he was bored. Soon, we discovered the fatal flaw of the Lepin system: the models do not stick together.

My wife's father made injection molded toys. He always speaks reverently of Lego, repeating several times that the company repeatedly destroys plastic molds to make new ones, thus ensuring that each piece is clean, clean and straight. Mussels, you see, are the most expensive part of the process, costing tens of thousands of dollars to make. Creating new molds for something as complex is very expensive, but, as far as plastic traditions are concerned, Lego is more than willing to spend that money.

Lepin is not.

When you start building, you will find that some of the straight pieces wind up. The hinges do not stick together completely. The big tips do not quite fit. As you build, you wonder if the whole thing is going to hold and, in the end, that will not be the case. For example, this model uses four small U-clamps that protrude from each side to connect to four integrated bars in the wings. These U-clips sometimes seem to snap but when they do not fall, the wings fall and break, requiring another ten minutes of reconstruction. These are not built for a brutal game – or any game at all – because even the hatch into which you slip your drivers will fall if you close the door all the way. The tolerances – the soft, Danish, Lego tolerances – are gone here, leaving behind something that is better displayed on a shelf.

If you or your child will have Lego on a high shelf where no one can see it better, then take one or two models. But understand that you will be disappointed. Although this is an almost exact clone of the original kit, small differences add to a mess. This Tie Fighter is currently next to our hermit crab, intact, while X-Wing of Poe Dameron regularly bombs Storm Troopers and the rest of the Lego is reused in bases, homes and adventures of Minecraft. The only toy that is not played is the Lepin kit.

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That says a lot. Of course, you can save money, but should you? Lego should not cost that much and our kids should not want that much but, in the end, do not we teach them the value of the touch game, the power to build from the constituent parts. In addition, I will not be reluctant to a child who wants to play with Lego the ability to build their own Tie Fighter if that's all they can afford. But, in the end, Lego wins in a head-to-head, Minifig claws.

Should you buy Lepin? The brand defender stalwart in me says no. However, if you are looking to save money and want to give your children the joy of creating a knock-off – but not the joys of playing with it – then you can probably come out with that little piece of C- 3PFaux. That the Force, as they say, is always in your favor.