Have I mentioned recently that I have the best job in the world? This week, I spent three and a half hours building an Xbox 360 out of Mega Bloks, the Lego-like bricks produced by Mattel.
In September, we brought you word that Target would exclusively sell a brick-built $150 Xbox 360 replica, complete with a gamepad, internal Easter eggs, and a “copy” of Halo 3.
Now, ahead of an October 8th debut, I’ve built the thing, snapped some hasty photos, and shot a little basic video:
It’s a slick set that absolutely captures the essence of the console — even if it might not live up to The Lego Group’s exacting standards when it comes to build quality.
Mattel starts you off with an appetizer — the Xbox 360 Wireless Gamepad — and it perfectly illustrates what the entire build is like.
Pros: Mattel nails the overall profile, turns the iconic guide button, joysticks, and (terrible) D-pad into perfect-match custom parts, and lights it up with a button-battery powered light brick that glows for eight seconds after you tap the guide button.
The joysticks have soft, flexible rubber stems that let you move them around, too. Every part with letters is printed — unlike many Lego sets, there’s not a single sticker in the entire box.
I also love that the controller “doesn’t have power” when you remove its battery because that’s where the light brick is installed! Each trigger and bumper is printed, the sync button is printed, the charge-and-play port is printed, and there’s even a printed headset jack on the bottom.
Cons: The printing quality is pretty hit-and-miss. The letters don’t line up perfectly for the legends above the “Back” and “Start” buttons. The “X” and “Y” aren’t centered on their corresponding face buttons. Some pieces, like the D-pad and the triggers, are flimsily attached by a single stud underneath — my D-pad has fallen off four times already when I’ve bumped it.
The outside of the console
I don’t envy the designer who had to capture the Xbox 360’s subtle curves in brick form, and I’m a bit in awe. So many of them are spot on.
But there are also plenty of places Mattel’s blocks don’t line up with one another — sometimes because the bricks aren’t shaped for purpose and sometimes due to imperfections on the assembly line. An extra bit of plastic here, a misprint there; my Xbox power button‘s etched power logo is oh so slightly rotated wrong.
Mattel covers the Xbox 360 in so, so very many white tiles, and when I squint, it looks great! With them open, I see loads of gaps because the tiles were impossible to all line up.
It’d be quite an effort even if they were all printed correctly, partly because the inconsistent clutch power of Mega Bloks’ studs makes it hard to seat them all flush. But also, many of my “air vent holes” were slightly misprinted, with the black dots too high or too low compared to one another.
The back of the console is arguably the most faithful part — I really love the simple execution of the recessed ports — but still, a bunch of mismatched black dots for the vent holes. They’re so close; I really wonder why they didn’t follow through!
Inside the console
Here’s where things get really neat — if you lift off the removable hard drive and press a green button, it’ll pop open a panel so you can peek inside.
I’ll let the images tell the story:
So that’s all wonderful… but all the largest components are strangely annoying to place on the “motherboard,” and frankly, I’m still figuring some of them out.
I’ve moved around the Xbox button and the disc drive spindle several times, carefully consulting the instruction manual, but they simply don’t line up quite the way it shows in the pictures.
The game disc doesn’t always want to stay in by itself; sometimes, the force of pushing down the spindle doesn’t trigger the Cortana light; and every time I open the console to play with it, some piece inevitably lifts off the motherboard and requires reseating, which isn’t an instant fix because the motherboard floats in the middle of the console (not unlike a real motherboard), and you can’t simply press down on it.
Mattel did have me erect a series of temporary orange “placeholder” bricks on the back of the motherboard that you could theoretically press against — but weirdly, the build never had me press against them during construction and told me to remove them before adding the exterior panels.
As if to make up for some of the other slipshod printing, Mattel includes a truly excellent one: an incredible case for your miniature Halo 3 disc, with full cover art printed on big translucent emerald green panels. (Never mind that the Xbox 360’s actual cases were a brighter green; I never really liked the official shade.)
The box looks great, too — frankly, you could confuse it for an official Xbox 360 box if you didn’t look closely.
It comes with a big disclaimer because of that:
The final touch is one I didn’t expect, one that Mattel saves for the very last bag of bricks:
Mattel’s $150 Mega Xbox 360 should arrive at Target on October 8th. I also shot a timelapse build video which we’ll be editing together soon, if you want to see what the build process is like.
Photography by Sean Hollister / The Verge