Sometimes we get the chance to cover something a little away from the norm. Some times it all ends up a bit “meh”, but other times you find something that you might have ordinarily passed by and not paid much attention to. And don’t get me wrong, this is something aimed very much at the younger demographic so don’t throw away your 5th copy of Skyrim just yet, but if you’ve got children around you with curious minds and a desire to make something cool with magnetic balls, you might want to sit up (or lie down, I don’t make the rules) and pay attention.
Some of you will have heard of Geomag before. They’ve been releasing various sets of magnetic building tools for ages, and they allow you to get really creative and make some truly awesome builds. My son built something resembling an alien spaceship using a couple of Geomag sets, which has lived on the bookcase in the lounge ever since, but at some point he’ll get the urge to build again and might make a giant pyramid, an animal or whatever else he can muster from a set of magnetic sticks, balls and plastic panels. But the Mechanics sets are a little different; gone are the easy magnetic connections and in their place come plastic connectors which form a much stronger bond and let you put together loops, turns and various other funky tracks for the balls to fly down.
At this point you might be wondering where the magnets have gone. Well, in the Gravity Loops and Turns set, it comes in the way the balls interact with each other. Built into the setup is a trigger of sorts which, when hit by a ball, uses some kind of magnetic magic to fling another ball off the other side. It’s your job to then give this trigger a bit of a nudge to jump the ball over to the other side ready for its upcoming projectile work. Meanwhile the ball now on the move is about to hit a second trigger elsewhere which, as before, sends a ball pinging off at speed on its way back to the first trigger again. As before, a quick flick and the ball jumps over and it’s ready for its next adventure. Keeping the momentum up is a genuinely tricky challenge, and we had plenty of competitions in the family to determine who could keep the balls moving the longest, who could do it best with one hand, even trying it blindfolded to do it by sound. It was really good fun, and something we went back to several times.
The set can be joined to others in the Mechanics range (stay tuned for some of those reviews coming soon) to make even larger, more complex sets, and while the instructions guide you to a working solution there’s nothing to stop you trying to create your own tracks and see how elaborate you could make it or how quickly you can get these magnetic balls flying around the place. It might not be as immediately rebuildable as the standard Geomag kits due to how tightly it all clips together, but it is possible to take things off, reposition them or totally rebuild it in a new way. For those with a young, curious engineering mind, this could be an excellent idea.
While different to the Geomag sets I’ve seen and tried before, the Mechanics Gravity Loops & Turns is a great set that, while being more of a challenge top put together, is good fun and gives some fun entertainment once it’s all put together. It’s not as suitable for younger children because of the extra difficulty of clipping the parts together (the plastic tubes are especially tough) but it’ll fill a few hours while you build, rebuild and ping the balls around your creations.