This amazing model is on the march with the Meccaspider from Meccano. It's an incredibly versatile and engaging model that combines outstanding construction play with a rich technological experience. Using the classic Meccano bolts and washer construction--a staple of the Meccano brand for more than 115 years-- the Mecca spider goes together in about four hours.
It's a fairly sophisticated build, but it's pretty cool to watch this big model come together. It's designed for kids ages 10 years and up, and Meccano rates it a 3 out of 4 on their difficulty scale. The assembly instructions, though, are really clear, and any 10 year old who's good at following instruction, or is willing to spend the time to figure them out, should have no trouble figuring out how to get this together.
The power unit takes 5 C batteries, and the wiring you have to do is fairly simple. The last thing you do is fill the Mecca spider's tank with Venom. Okay, water. Once it's assembled, then you can start playing. The Mecca Spider has several modes built into it, and you program them using the control unit on the back of the model. In Autonomous Mode, Meccaspider will move about fairly randomly, playing songs and music. In Prowl mode, it will move about quickly and attack at will. Excitement mode is pretty much when the Mecca spider runs around. It switches into this mode automatically after sensing new objects 9 times with its IR sensor. Reclusive mode has the spider backing away from potential threats, though it may attack at random. In Wild and Wacky mode, the thing just goes kind of nuts. There are also two guard modes and two game modes. The games include a Simon-like, follow-the-lights challenge and Venom attack in which kids sit in a circle and the spider turns, randomly spraying one player with venom.
The basic play is okay, but what really makes this appropriate for older children is the app that works on iOS or Android. It allows you to drive the spider, record movements and program sequences using a block-based programming tool. It also lets you fire the venom at will. After the fun of building, this is where the really immersive and longer-term play comes in as kids bring their creation to life. The Meccaspider connects to the app via bluetooth, and we found that really easy to do.
Now, as much fun as this is, we did have some concerns. For kids who are not going to get into the app-based activities, the play is a bit limited over the longer term. The play instructions aren't very clear, and we just had to use trial and error to get it to switch between guard modes and game modes, for example. Once it's built, app is really what makes this toy special, but there's not a lot about the app in the instructions, and the tutorial only goes so far. You'll definitely have to delve into the app and go through a good amount of trial and error to get the most out of this model. This is fine for kids who are willing to explore, but others may find it frustrating.
The immersive building process has a satisfying level of complexity, and the building process helps kids understand the mechanics of the model really well.
Once kids get used to and familiar with the app, being able to put the Meccaspider through a lot of different paces will be fun, too.
The sophistication of the build makes it appropriate for kids of that age.
It will most appeal to kids who are intrigued by robotics and are willing to spend the time building and learning to control this.
Meccano is a classic play experience, and it's pretty exciting for many kids. The recent sets introduced by Spin Master under the Meccano brand have been very successful and, like this one, offered a rich play and diverse play experience.
We really like the different modes of play, but, to be honest, there wasn't a great deal of difference between them, other than the games.
The app controls are part of a larger Meccano app that includes other products as well. Once you download the app, you have to find the Meccaspider within it and then activate that part of the app.
The basic driving and controlling of the Meccaspider through the app is fairly intuitive. However, the app makes a lot of assumptions about what kids may or may not know about programming, particularly the block-based language used. Many kids may be aware of this from other toys, but it takes some getting used to and requires a lot of experimentation if kids are not familiar with this technique.
Overall, this is a terrific toy for kids who are into this type of thing, but it does require patience.
Meccaspider takes 5 C batteries, which are not included.
5 C batteries required
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