Thursday, October 28, 2010

REVIEW: Onell Design's Glyos Buildman Gendrone

Onell Design are the producers of Glyos, a range of toys designed to be collected, played with and modified.  Customisation is at the core of the line's philosophy, whether it's from extensive repaints and remodels to simply assembling the figures as you see fit.  And the Buildman Gendrone is a perfect example of this concept in action.

I've previously looked at Pheyden and the Founder Series, plus the special edition Solaris Echo Morph.  Today I'm taking a look at my latest purchase, the Buildman Gendrone.

It's an Action Figure!  It's a Construction Kit!  It's Both!

Buildman Gendrone is a simple concept: an action figure that can be pulled-apart, combined with others and used to create new, custom figures.  A single figure offers a few options, but with two (or more!) suddenly you'll find yourself able to create all manner of unique toys.

This is where the real strength of the Buildman line lies: the Glyos Joint System uses a standard-sized peg system, meaning if you can pop a limb into a shoulder-joint, you can pop that same limb into a head-hole.  The standardisation of the Joint System opens up all manner of possible configurations and customisation concepts and allows you to really let your imagination cut loose.

What's particularly smart is the visual design of each piece.  For example, the hands are unique designs, with each Gendrone having one two-thumbed ''humanoid'' hand and one of a two-fingered, quasi-mechanical design.  But this same hand can also be used as a wheel-mount in a vehicle, or a connector piece on a tubular robot.  Each presents a kind of Rorschach test where the pieces are whatever you see them as being.

Perhaps the best way to explain it is to look at the ''standard'' head.  From the front it looks like a Cylon-esque robot head with a ridge across the crown.  Turn it around and it takes on an insectoid appearance with the head-ridge terminating in mandibles.

Now imagine having a dozen or more pieces like that and you'll understand how the Buildman Gendrones are a very cool, well thought out piece of design, where- and I know it's a cliché but it's true - the only limits are your imagination.

With just a few minutes of playing around using two white Gendrones and two Clear Orange Gendrones I managed to create four unique figures, as seen below.  On the left is Insectaur, a six-limbed insectoid inspired by the Micronaut Aliens.  Next is a Dropship Trooper, a mechanoid combat unit with a jet pack.  Beside him is Hyper-Dodo, an energy-form avian (and bad guy comedy sidekick).  Finally there's Brainfish, an evil aquatic cyborg genius.

What's interesting is that as I was simply messing around and trying out different configurations of parts I began to formulate ideas for not only the physical form of the figures but actual characters.  Re-read the above and you'll see what I mean: they're not just combined pieces, but they're - in my mind - new custom toys I created.

That's what's so cool about the Buildman Gendrone: it's as if Onell Design have given us a sandbox toy and it's up to us to play with them and create our own universes.

Buildman Gendrone
Buildman Gendrone has been released in a number of colour variants. However, the variations are purely in the colour-scheme: the molding, articulation and set contents are identical across the line and this review will be applicable to all Buildman Gendrones.

Each Gendrone is - in his core form - a thirteen-piece figure (head, torso, 2x upper arms, 2 x fore-arms/hands, groin, 2 x thighs, 2 x shins and 2 x feet.)  What's unusual is that the figure is asymetrical: as mentioned above, the design of the hands, knees and feet do not tally.  That sounds strange but when you realise that the concept is about combining multiple figures, it begins to make sense, as this gives you more options to play with when working on your creations.

The figure has twelve points of articulation (neck, shoulders x 2, wrists x 2, mid-body, hips x 2, knees x 2 and feet x 2).  In addition, each figure also ships with two additional heads and two ''pipe'' pieces, all of which are multi-functional.

The figures do not come painted.  In this respect, Buildman Gendrone strikes me as being Onell Design's take on the Microman Material Force line: figures that are blank slates to be used by customisers to create their own toys.  This works fine on the Clear Orange figure (I wouldn't want any colour there) but it can make the White Gendrone appear a little plain.  However, that's like criticising a note pad for not coming pre-packed with writing...

My Buildman Gendrones were packed in simple re-sealable bags and lack the awesome packaging of the Founder Series.  That's a shame but at the same time, given each figure is only four dollars, it's no biggie and I'm sure it helps keep production - and shipping - costs so low.

Each Buildman Gendrone comes with three heads: the ''standard'' head, plus what I call the ''Mouth Bug'' head and the ''Admiral Ackbar.''  In addition each ships with two ''tubes'' or limb extenders.

Another point to note is that I have two additional figures and a Phase Arm, none of which I ordered but were packaged with my purchases as a ''thank you'' from Onell Design for my custom.  Do not expect or assume you'll receive a freebie but it's nice to know Matt and his crew appreciate our business.  I know I certainly appreciate their appreciation!

Final Thoughts
I've been trying to contain my excitement during this review, but now it's time to let loose.


Like all Glyos toys, they're robust, tactile and just so much fun to handle.  I'd recommend buying at least two Buildman Gendrones, simply so you have more pieces - and therefore options - to play around with.  And that's the point of them: they're designed to be played with.  Think of them less in terms of collectable toys and more in the Lego ballpark and you'll understand why they're just so much fun to own.

There's really nothing else like Glyos out there right now.  They're affordable (a standard Buildman Gendrone is only $4), long-lasting, well-made and very cleverly designed.  And most of all, they're a lot of FUN.

If you're looking for something to pose in your glass display case, this isn't the toy for you.  But if you want something to handle, customise and just generally have fun with, then you need to get yourself some Gendrones.

Production QualityA-
Final ScoreA-

Image Gallery

Buildman Gendrone is available exclusively from Onell Design.

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