Friday, 1 November 2013


This past week my wife had to go to England for some family stuff, and before she left she asked me to look around online and see if I could find anything I wanted her to bring back for me.  What I found was the Construct-A-Bugz line from Character Options' "Character Building" series.  I hoped she'd bring back a bug for me.

She brought me nearly the entire collection.


First a little background information.  Character Options is a UK-based toy company that holds the licence for Doctor Who toys (among other things), and they also have a series of Lego-esque building toys called Character Building.  There are the expected Doctor Who building sets, but they also do some original stuff like military and wildlife sets, Monsters vs Zombies, and Construct-A-Bugz.  I've been able to find some of the blind bagged Doctor Who Character Building figures here in North America, but there's a lot we don't get.  When I saw the Construct-A-Bugz online, I knew I had to have one.  You could say I was practically buggin' out...


I love these little bugs!  If I only got one set out of this entire series, I would have been more than happy with any of these Bug Rider sets.  They just look so cool!  Are they mutants?  Aliens?  Machines?  With their techno-organic insectoid features, they could be whatever you want them to be.  I like to think of them as beings from another world who wear special battle armor during their missions.  The noble, hard working bee people serve their queen and the good of the hive!  

The figures are small and incredibly easy to put together.  Their winged armor slides over their regular Character Building minifigure torsos, and their detailed heads make them stand out from other building toys.  Their two sets of arms each share a shoulder joint, but each wrist is articulated so all four hands can be rotated and posed, and both legs are individually articulated.  Each Bug Rider set also comes with a spring loaded cannon that can stand on its own or be attached to a nest or a Battle Bug.  I know I haven't built the cannon yet, but be patient!  It's coming up...


So what's a Bug Rider supposed to do, anyway?  Well, I imagine they ride bugs.  Like this!  I'm sure all of these characters can fly on their own, but they ride these mechanical monsters into battle when they need to add some power to their punches.  These are like flying tanks, and no Construct-A-Bugs team is complete without one.  And if you don't like that angle, these Battle Bugs could also serve as the queens for each respective bug type, or whatever you want!

The Battle Bug sets don't come with a rider, but they do have light up eyes and the ability to scurry around the table (in random directions).  They also have a mechanical "screeching" sound that I'm sure is part of the electronics working inside, but they suit the characters of the Battle Bugs themselves.  Each Battle Bug has "pips" on their backs for attaching the riders, cannons, or just the seats from the cannons if you want your bugs to put their feet up while they're travelling.


Welcome to the hive!  Each of the four bug types has a deluxe nest set to serve as their base of operations.  Each set is made in the same way, with a colored column in the middle, two flags, and a series of pillars (that strangely look like dragon heads - must be from another series) to hold the whole thing up.  They're simple playsets, but with some imagination, they're all you really need.  They're pretty big too.  This set is big I couldn't completely crop out the white sides of my photo set!  Ah well...

The nest set didn't go together quite as smoothly as the bugs.  It's not that it was overly difficult, it's just that some of the pieces don't hold together as well as I would have liked.  Lego is still the boss when it comes to tightly holding bricks.  This set is probably a step below Mega Bloks.  Overall it's still playable, but you'll want to be gentle with it.

The flags that come with the set look great, but the graphics are stickers.  I hate stickers!  My least favorite part of any toy is having to apply stickers.  I'm just not very good at it, no matter how careful I am.  I did a decent enough job with these ones, but they're still a little off.  Maybe I'm just too picky?

Remember I said the Bee Rider's cannon was going to show up?  Here it is, perched proudly atop the nest!  The bees have to protect the hive, and a big ol' cannon goes along way to that end.  

The nests also come with a Bug Rider figure, and while some companies would have cheaped-out and repacked one of the regular riders, Character Options was nice enough to at least repaint the figures and give us more characters to play with.  It works especially well for the bees, who often aren't far from others of their kind.  This bee has reversed colors from his bug riding friend, but they still look like they're from the same colony.

Lastly, the nests also come with upgrades for your Battle Bugs.  The armor usually decorates the central columns in the nests, but you can remove them and add them to your bugs for an even fiercer appearance.  The bee armor looks similar to the regular version at first glance, but the antennae and clawed hands do make for a cooler look.  And you can place the regular armor back on the column for safe-keeping.


The bees aren't the only forces for good out there in the insect world.  But unlike the bees who live for the service of the hive, the dragonflies fly solo.  You can still tell they're good guys though, because they share the same green and brozne coloring as the bees.  This Dragonfly Rider was the one I singled out to my wife as my favorite, but now that I have them in-hand, I'm loving the bees.  He's still a supercool minfigure, though.  It's the little details that count, and for whatever reason I really like the rings around his big green eyes.


The Battle Bugs all share the same basic shape, but each one looks like the insect that it's supposed to represent.  The dragonfly doesn't have that looooong dragonfly abdomen, but it's tapered enough to sell the image.  Like the Battle Bee, the dragonfly's eyes light up green when you switch it on, another sign that the dragonflies are good guys.

The Bug Riders look fine standing on the backs of their Battle Bugs, but I think I prefer using the chairs from the cannons to really complete the look.  Maybe the bad bugs stand on their Battle Bugs because they view them as "things", while the good bugs respect them and use saddles.  I'm just thinking out loud here.


The wasps share a hive mind like the bees, but instead of living in harmony with the other bug people, they try to conquer the other colonies and steal their hives for themselves.  The evil bugs look the part too, with pieces borrowed from Character Building's zombie figures, and chest armor that resembles skulls.  These skeletal parts work well here too, resembling creepy exo-skeletons while the good bugs look more smooth and humanoid.


Out of all the Battle Bugs, I think the wasp looks closest to it's real-world counterpart.  The bright yellow and black colors, the angular face, and the overall shape are very true to wasp-form.  And unlike the bees and dragonflies, you know this is an evil bug because its eyes glow red.

The spring-loaded cannons can be attached to the Battle Bugs, but they don't sit perfectly centred.  It doesn't look so bad from the side, but it's obvious when you look at them head on.  It's not so bad that I would never want to use them like this, but it would have been nice if they could sit right in the middle of the bugs' back.


I see the flies as the henchmen of the bug world; mercenaries for hire that are willing to do anything as long as the price is right (and the price is usually food (and the food is usually feces)).  The flies are often hired by the wasps to bolster their ranks, but are considered even lower than the Battle Wasps.  Actually, I can see the wasps viewing the flies as being even lower than their Battle Flies, as their mounts serve a specific purpose while the flies themselves are totally expendable.


The Fly Riders pilot their beastly Battle Flies when conducting their unsavoury missions.  I love their big-lipped probosces (very fly-like), and the three lines on their heads add some nice detail.  Like the Battle Wasps, their eyes glow red when you switch them on.

These toys are very cool and I'm sure they'd sell well in stores here in North America.  Whether or not we'll ever see them, I couldn't tell you.  As it is, I'm seriously debating going online and completing the series with the other three nest sets.  The dragon pillars in these sets are an odd choice, but they also give you something to work with, like the bugs built their nests around the structures of the people from a forgotten time.  I know they add a certain extra "something" to the dragonfly nest (dragon - dragonfly, you get it).  It would have been nice if each nest set looked more unique from other ones, but it's really hard for me to complain about this line.  I love each and every one of these figures and I highly recommend them if you can get them.

OH!  And extra thanks to my wife for picking all these up for me!


  1. GAAHH SO COOL. I love the clear wing armor for the Dragonflies and Bees, but I LOVE LOVE the Wasps and Flies above all! The big riding bugs are awesome too! What a great idea; it reminds me of the Sectors from long ago. I wouldn't be surprised if these showed up on the US sometime, but I'm also not exactly hoping they do...what with how much I'm already buying as it is.

    But yeah, I love this kind of stuff, and the theming is usually only found in dollar store toys nowadays. I dunno when the heck people started thinking bugs weren't a good thing base a toyline around, but they should GO BACK TO THAT. Look at this! It's awesome!

    1. These reminded me of Sectaurs too, I don't know why I didn't mention that in the post. Anyway, I agree, bugs make for great toys, so we should see more stuff like this in the toy aisles!

      Also, there's a fly-headed scientist in the Monsters vs Zombies line. It would be fun to try to integrate him into this series.