JMBricklayer Space Astronaut Panda Building Block Set review – Pandas in space!

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REVIEW – Mankind has explored most of our planet, but there are still vast regions of space that we have never been to.  What better way could there be to explore space than to mechanize pandas, provide them with armored space suits, and send them out!  This is a review of Space Astronaut Panda, a new building block set from JMBrickalyer and another in their line of Fantastic Ideas.

What is it?

The JMBricklayer Space Astronaut Panda is a LEGO-compatible building block set (model 70005) that features a half-animal, half-machine panda in a space suit.  This set contains 829 pieces mostly in white and black but with plenty of bright orange highlights.  Nearly all the pieces are small, and some are compatible with LEGO Techniq.  JMBricklayer’s motto is “Joy Makes Brilliance,” and their mission is to help builders “reap the rewards of their ideas.”

What’s included?

The following items are included:

  • 829 pieces
  • A brick separator
  • A manual with 265 steps
  • Two sheets of stickers

Design and features

When it comes to the design of LEGO alternatives, there are a handful of questions that always need to be answered:

Are they compatible with LEGO?  Yes, this set is compatible.  I got out a bunch of LEGOs and were able to connect them without any issues.

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Are they of the same build quality?  They are close but not exactly the same.  When two bricks are placed right next to each other, there is a small but discernable gap between them, something that I don’t see with LEGO’s bricks.  Even so, these are good bricks.

Do they fit tightly, or do they come apart easily?  They fit quite snuggly together, and I never had problems with them coming apart.

Are they cheaper in cost than LEGO?  One of the best reasons to buy alternative brick sets is a lower price.  To see how this set compares, I found three sets from LEGO that build somewhat similar items:

In comparison, the Space Panda is 6.6 cents/piece (829 pieces for $54.99), which means it is cheaper than some LEGO sets, but not all.  Price may or may not be a good reason to buy this set.

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How do the instructions compare?  These instructions are very good.  They explain the various features of panda’s space suit, show how far the build will progress after each section, provide helpful hints in various places, and show the length of flat pieces without studs.  Previous steps are grayed out, though still colored, to make it easy to see where new pieces go, and each step uses only a few pieces.  This is as good as it gets.

Assembly, installation, and setup

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There are four major sections in the manual, and each of the included plastic bags were labeled accordingly.  The last set that I built that was made by Wekki — JMBricklayer is the distributor — had the stickers in a bag, and they were all crumpled up.  Wekki has gotten smarter and put the stickers in the manual, where they were safely protected.

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In addition to stickers, several of the pieces came with colors and patterns on them already, which I actually prefer over stickers.

To help me build the Space Panda, I brought over three young ladies, Bella (15), Evie (12), and Anna (9).  They are avid LEGO builders and were excited about a chance to build this set.

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Section One builds the main part of the body.  It began with the center carcass on which everything else would be built.  As expected, it made use of the SNOT technique to ensure that pieces can be added in any direction.  The design was solid and well-constructed, which led to the entire head and body feeling this way.

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The girls appreciated how vibrant many of the colors were, especially against the backdrop of the white and black bricks.  They commented on the helpful hints in the manual, the tension in the studs, and the cool pieces that had colors and patterns already on them, like the belt buckle above.

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Section Two adds arms and thighs and the base of the backpack.  The hip and should joints both use a ball-and-socket that gives some range of motion, allowing the panda to be staged.  This is great for the arms, but it came back to bite us later for the legs.  The hands also rotate 360 degrees.

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The bright orange highlights were the favorite color of the girls.  The box says that the Space Panda is for kids 14+, and the older girls thought this was about right if a bit too conservative.  Evie was able to build without any problems.  At this point the panda feels very substantial, perhaps even a bit heavy.  I wondered if the legs and base would be able to hold it up, a problem that I’ve had with other JMBricklayer builds, most notably the t-rex.

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Section Three builds out the head.  As the girls worked they commented that a set like this was probably not their favorite type of set, as the panda is designed to be built and displayed rather than played with; Bella, however, admitted that she rarely had time to play with LEGOs anymore, so maybe this was ok.

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The face of the panda is one solid, molded piece, a characteristic of several set in this series, including the chameleon.  In general, I don’t like these types of pieces, preferring them to be built with bricks instead.  I must admit, however, that the expression on this guy’s face is delightful, a perfect combination determination and grumpiness.  The clear faceplate looks great, just like a space suit helmet should.

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Section Four lays out the base, adds the backpack, and connects the panda to the base.  The backpack is its own construction and is attached to the back via four bricks.

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The baseplate is plenty wide and reasonably sturdy.  Surprisingly, the shoes are attached to the baseplate, not to the panda; I won’t be posing it independently.

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The panda’s thighs attach to the shoes, and this is where that ball-and-socket joints of the thighs became a slight problem.  The weight of the body and head is more than the joints can handle, and the result is that the panda constantly wants to tilt forward or backward.  Given how small the range of motion is, I think it would have been a lot better to attach the legs directly to the body; it certainly would have resulted in a much sturdier built.

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I like this Panda Space Astronaut!  He’s a pretty cool looking guy.  I think that he needs to lose a few pounds; I’m not sure how he got into the space program with this gut.

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I appreciate all the details that JMBricklayer’s designers have added, like the gears, a battery, and the tubes.  It all comes together as a complete set.

If you’re interested in astronauts, JMBrickalyer also has a mechanical spaceman set that Kenneth has reviewed:

What I like about the JMBricklayer Space Astronaut Panda:

  • Half-animal, half-machine, all space panda!
  • Solid and sturdy build
  • Poseable arms
  • Good use of color
  • Excellent manual

What needs to be improved:

  • Replace the ball-and-socket in the hip joints

Final thoughts

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Space is still waiting to be explored, so I say, “Bring on the pandas!”  This building set constructs an 8-inch tall panda that is ready to go, whether exploring space with you or just looking fierce on your shelf.  Of all the Fantastic Idea sets that I have built from JMBricklayer, this one is definitely my favorite.  The price isn’t especially cheap, but these are good bricks for the money.  If you’re looking for medium-sized set to build one afternoon and then put on display, I recommend getting the Space Astronaut Panda.

Price:  $54.99
Where to buyAmazon (save 15% with code: JMBVIPJUEL expires 4/6/2024) or JMBricklayer’s online store (save 15% with code: VIPGAD15 expires 12/31/2024)
Source: The sample for this review was provided free of charge by JMBricklayer.  JMBricklayer did not have a final say on the review and did not preview the review before it was published.

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