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Snap Ships are like Lego bricks for your own snap-together space opera

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Create your own designs, feel free to ignore the app

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A Snap Ships model, looking like an organic alien space fighter Photo: PlayMonster

There is often some tension with toys between how the creators want people to play with it, and how children (of all ages) actually want to play with it.

That contrast was very apparent when I was sent a few PlayMonster Snap Ships to play with and write about, an enviable task considering I have multiple kids who aren’t going to school, and of course I’m working throughout the day. If something is able to keep them occupied, which helps me get work done? That’s going to be a bonus.

The toys themselves are ship components held in a box that keeps everything together and, in a very cool design twist, features a top that can also be used to display your ship when you’re done building.

The pieces don’t look very interesting at all; there are a lot of basic square blocks with pegs, a few bespoke pieces with each ship, weapons that fire, and a tiny character to use as a pilot until they gets lost, which should take about three minutes if your younger children are anything like mine. It’s all kinda blocky and doesn’t make the best first impression; I was skeptical that we would be able to get anything cool out of the pieces.

That skepticism was based on absolutely nothing, because soon the kids were using all the pieces — including some chunky plastic bits that hid the even blockier nature of the square blocks — to go through the instructions to build the pre-planned ships. That lasted about an hour of playing and building, and then they were off to the races to mix and match the pieces to create their own Frankenstein ships, complete with firing guns ... until the missiles get lost, at least.

All of the pieces work together, so the more ships you buy, the bigger and more badass ships you can make. It’s like officially sanctioned kit-bashing, and it leads to some very cool designs and ideas.

The prices of the models seem to range from about $9.99 to $39.99 on Amazon right now, making it relatively inexpensive to build a fleet, depending on how deep you want to take it. The more expensive kits not only come with more pieces, but amazingly enough the ships, once built, do a whole heck of a lot of things you’d expect from a traditional toy model ship.

A Snap Ships model, with all the articulation pointed out Photo: PlayMonster

Snap Ships are an entire universe unto themselves, if you want to dive in that far. There’s going to be a YouTube series, and there’s an app with augmented reality and lore and information about the ships you bought, the ships you can buy, and all sorts of other fun details.

I bring this up only to say that the greater world of Snap Ships seems very important to the people who make them, and my family basically completely ignored it. I still don’t have the app downloaded, and probably won’t, at least for the time being. Getting the kids to play with physical toys and then telling their own stories about them and why they look like that is pure joy, and I vastly prefer that kind of play to an experience that needs to be mediated through a screen.

So fear not; you can in fact completely ignore the toys’ complex backstory if you just want to play with them, and that’s what we’ve been doing so far. They’ve proven to be just as strong a distraction as a new Lego kit, while costing a lot less money. As I said above, I was sent two ships to play with in order to write this story, but I’m also about to order a few more from Amazon to expand our options about what we can design and build. I will admit to being just as into the core building experience as the kids, in fact.

The appeal is easy to see once you get moving creating your own ships, and the rest of the experience you can take or leave; I’m thinking about jumping into the app once the initial novelty of the ships themselves runs out for the kids. Seeing how enthusiastically they play with these first two sets though, I’m starting to think it may be a while.

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| Photo: PlayMonster

Snap Ships battle set

  • $35

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Snap Ships is a versatile building system for creating multiple crafts with action play. Each set includes pieces to build a ship or vehicle, and all sets and pieces are interchangeable so you can build however you want.