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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 21 January 2014
Sorry, this review just grew, but I wanted to do the job thoroughly because you don't get enough detail in the product description - box contents, for instance.

First, a complaint. Between buying this product and today [19/12/2013], a matter of four days inclusive, the price has dropped from nearly £35 to £25.

Anyway. Apart from that. Judging by the way this toy was received, as well as the way adults seem to enjoy it, this one certainly passes the 'Young, Blonde 'I Want IT!' Test.
First off, the box was nicely shrink-wrapped and is sturdy enough to keep the set in, as long as it's put back tidily. The blocks inside were also shrink-wrapped, so no chance of rattling or denting during delivery.

The painted wooden blocks have that nice, chunky 'building block' feel and there are no sharp edges or corners as they're all chamfered. The marble tracks are bare wood. While not as finely finished as the wooden blocks, they seem well made and have no sharp edges.

[08/01/2014 Two of the tracks have warped a little. This leads to a slight wobble in the less-well-supported structures if they are placed lower down in the design].

[14/01/2014 One of the marble tracks now needs gluing back together following a temper tantrum. Not me. The young 'un. So. The tracks are reasonably made, but don't become overtired and try to kick the marble run, as some parts may not be as robust as they look.]

There were six marbles inside the set and two in a separate bag loose in the box: eight marbles is enough, but laying in a few more certainly wouldn't hurt.
The blocks and marble tracks are based on a 3.95cm cube.

The box contains:
Single blocks x 4
Double blocks x 4
Triple blocks x 4
Marble tracks (long 5 single blocks long) x 7
Marble tracks/half pipe (short - 1 single block long) x 5
Crenelated right-angle pipe blocks x 2
Plain right-angle pipe blocks x 1
Pointed tower roof blocks x 2

Small hands do sometimes knock the tracks, meaning that a marble can jam slightly if the piece isn't tweaked back into place, and a careless elbow can wipe out a successful build. Even so, I had to almost forcibly remove my five year old from their birthday present and allow a couple of bricks for under their pillow, they enjoyed it so much. For the last couple of days before and after school, if they haven't been demanding their marble run, they've been rolling marbles or joyfully playing Godzilla and knocking the towers down before rebuilding.

Sizewise, I've had the marble run set up on an A2* drawing board and there was plenty of space for it. Mind you, it depends whether you string the marble run out in a line or bunch it up and make it turn back on itself. For the latter, I'd reckon you could fit it easily onto a piece of A3** paper, but a piece of A4*** might be just a little cramped. possible, but cramped. Whatever, there's lots and lots of scope for building zigzags and falls and lines to roll the marbles down, especially if you start getting adventurous and adding in a couple of books and a coffee can to catch the marbles in: noisy, but fun.

I've seen the odd comment or two that it was impossible to build the layout shown on the box top. we had no trouble laying out the design as shown, but doing so revealed that it's designed to use all the pieces rather than work. There's a crenelated section (with its back to the camera) which doesn't actually link to the run - the marble drops rather than rolls into the track below. (Fun, actually. We tried this idea out before we realised that this was shown on the box. I'm just saying.)
There's a turret roof blocking the end of a marble run, and the central tower (two marble runs face to face and set vertically to create a tube) rarely works in this configuration with our set because a slight variation in the production means that the some of the holes have a lip which catches and stops the marble from continuing when the piece is used backwards like this.
The final run from the tower in the box-cover illustration is also made from some of the single block marble run sections: these short pieces don't seem to function well as a track when laid end to end because they don't line up without careful sorting: there's a step between them unless you're very careful with the order you place them in. I've numbered the pieces so I can get them into the right order if we need to use them for this sort of thing. What we have successfully used them for is as short vertical tubes. Either you can place two together to form a pipe for the marble to fall down or, and this one went down very well, we set up a layout with single short run-pieces as verticals. This gave height to a drop but both lets you see the marble falling and helps keep it in line with the hole beneath.

Overall, I liked this product - you can tell, eh? But, more importantly, my five year old loves it, and that's one of the things I REALLY like about it.
The only thing that I'd add to it is a few more marbles and a good lump of Blu Tak to help keep some of the higher structures from slipping out of alignment if somebody small gets a little excited and knocks the tower. Otherwise, it's great. Four stars because... I'm not sure. Five seemed just that little too much, but three is too low.
Maybe I just wanted it to have MORE blocks, MORE track, MORE marbles. For my child's enjoyment, of course.
[21/01/14] I'm tempted to knock off half a point for the very slightly warped marble runs, mind...]

*A2 - that's like two sheets of A3** paper, long edges together.
**A3 - that's like two sheets of A4*** printer paper, long edges together.
***A4 - 27.94cm x 21.59cm
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on 13 July 2011
I bought this for my two year old but there's not even enough parts to make the run on the picture!! You need to buy more sets!! So....very misleading I think and rather frustrating as we were all looking forward to making a large run. Also...some of the parts do not 'run' the red cube and dish that the marbles end up in at the end of the run as pictured, does not fit the marbles get stuck at the end of the crap is that?? Rubbish.
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on 6 April 2011
When my four-year old found my collection of marbles I had to find something pretty quick to allow him to play with them and not just hide them under the sofa. The local toy shops had plastic clip together marble runs but they didn't seem very exciting and friends who had them said they tended to be clipped together once and that was it.
Thank goodness I found the wooden run - it's great fun and stimulates the imagination. My boy continually builds, and re-builds, castles and space stations and the marble adds a degree of animation that brings it all to life.
This toy is played with much more than the "Hot Wheels" set which cost twice the amount.
Highly recommended for play and value!
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on 1 January 2013
bought this for our 6 year old grandson. Grampy and uncle played with it all day!!!! Easy to set up and runs like a dream. The child can make up the picture on the front or any combination they wish. No instructions so the child's imagination can work. Excellent product for an excellent price.
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on 30 January 2011
This toy is brilliant. I bought it for my two year old son, but everyone in the family loves it. At the moment he is more of a tester (he loves to put the marbles down the runs we build) and to be honest, he loves to knock the runs down and run away laughing. My five year old daughter really enjoys building the runs and is starting to make quite complex ones, learning which bits speed up and what kind of momentum is needed to get the marble places. My husband, needless to say, cannot be pried from the creating side with a crow bar. Definitely the best of all the Christmas presents we bought.
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on 2 April 2013
I bought this for my son's fourth birthday and we both really love it. A versatile set with limitless possibilities. Contrary to a previous review, you can build the castle as pictured on the box with the pieces in the set, no problem. My only very small quibble is that because the pieces are hand crafted they are not uniform, so the pieces don't always line up smoothly, but this really is such a small thing and I generally love handcrafted things. A truly classic toy and great purchase.
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on 15 January 2011
If you are looking for something more natural, educational and lasting than cheap coloured plastic lumps with only one function for your pride and joy - buy this castle.
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on 27 March 2014
Think this will get better as my 4 year old son gets older but at the moment he needs a lot of help to build it and it's very easy to knock out of alignment. Some of the channels have small ridges in so the marbles don't run freely.
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on 10 January 2013
My 3 yr old grandson has played endlessly with this. He loves building different formations (I have to admit that trying to copy the layout on the box defeated me.) It's an absorbing toy which builds manual dexterity, and one wwhich will last for ever.
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on 29 November 2011
This castle run has been a real hit with the children in my school. Lunchtimes now see children of all ages playing together to create the best runs and we have a happy school as a result. Wonderful :)
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