JMBricklayer Chameleon 70124 Brick-building Set Review

When it comes to plastic construction toys featuring mostly plastic bricks with studs, the first brand to come to mind is LEGO. But if you are like me who is ready to step outside the norm of LEGO, MEGA, K-nex, and the like, and enter the realm of boundless imagination and creativity, well then may we recommend that you check out JMBricklayer, or simply JMB.

JMBricklayer Chameleon 70124 Brick-building Set Review

JMB is no noob when it comes to construction toys; it has a huge catalog covering a wide range of genres. In addition to norms like automobiles, construction equipment, trains, and buildings, it also has GBC (great ball contraption) and military hardware covered. And now, the brand is venturing even further, into a fantasy realm with a line called “Fantastic Idea”. The JMBricklayer Fantastic Idea Mechanical Chameleon 70124 you see here is one of its flagship sets which I am fortunate enough to review.

The Set

The JMBricklayer Fantastic Idea Mechanical Chameleon 70124 is the first in the Fantastic Idea series which explores humans’ fantasy with biomimicry. It has an official backstory too, which was presented in a handsome instruction booklet. Here are the official words:

“In the future world, the development of bionic technology has reached its peak, and people have launched the “mechanical creator project” to explore the mysterious and vast sea of stars… the “mechanical creator project” continues to iterate, and people have developed mechanical creatures with different functions according to different biological characteristics.”

The JMBricklayer Fantastic Idea Mechanical Chameleon 70124 uses both plastic bricks and technic elements to create a mechanical chameleon that offers two sides: a side with custom-molded shell elements that shows the form of the mechanical reptile and a side that exposes the mechanical inner workings, showcasing the true nature of this man-made creature.

The Package

It comes in a simple printed carton box with tab closure, secured by tape. Fronting the box is a beautiful final product image, along with the brand, the SKU number, the number of pieces, and also recommended age. There is some other information on the brand and contact details printed on one side and on the back of the box. The box is minimalist but has the UCS vibe to it. Though we have to mention that the cardboard material used is not the best quality. Just saying…

JMBricklayer Chameleon 70124 Brick-building Set Review

The Contents

The set contains 827+ pieces packaged into five individual numbered plastic bags, along with 5 unnumbered bags containing special molded pieces and painted elements. And yes, this little guy contains silver-painted elements. Nice. The set is supplied with its own version of brick separator which is essentially a stylized version of LEGO. It functions exactly the same. Anyone who has used a brick separator will be natural with it.

And then there’s a professionally done 94-page booklet that has the backstory of this mechanical creature, a short instruction on how to use the brick separator, contacts for reaching out if you have issues with the set, an overview of the build (i.e. which baggie is for what section), and finally, of course, the instructions. We appreciate how the company has given the toy a backstory. It will provide a foundation for future, similarly themed sets.

The Instructions

The instruction is presented in a 94-page perfect bound booklet. The instructions are well laid out and the illustrations are great too. The printing quality and the paper used are not much different from major brands. The printing is clear and precise. Where it needs to flip around or rotate, it has a symbol to let you know.

However, it did something better than LEGO. Only the parts that matter to the specific step are in color. In other words, elements from previous steps are uncolored, making it easy to see where each element for the step goes. This means no more spending time comparing with the previous step on where that 1×1 plate goes. It may sound rather insignificant but it is less taxing on the eyes.

The color separation is no different from LEGO, though; I do need a bit of context to make sure I am taking the correct shade of gray.

We did find a few mistakes in the parts. Throughout the instructions that require the 1×2 angle plate, it shows that it requires a 1×2 plate that has two full studs and two hollow studs but in practice, the 1×2 angle plates included in the bags are all with hollow studs (pictured below). But that’s not a dealbreaker at all because hollow studs or not, the plate works the same.

JMBricklayer Chameleon 70124 Brick-building Set Review

One last thing about the instructions is, it does not have a part glossary which would allow you to identify replacement parts easily. I guess the brand has not yet had the parts SKU in place.

The Build Time

According to official words, it should take about 3-4 hours to complete. Not going to lie. It took way longer than that. I clocked in at a little over 6 hours because I met with a challenge in the build that really put my brick-building and engineering mind to the test. But when I finally resolved it, it was like an achievement unlocked. But more on this valuable experience in a bit.

Also, I need to confess that I did make a couple of mistakes which resulted in me having to go back and redo some steps. That also added to the time took. Assuming the challenge that I met isn’t an issue for you and assuming you do not make the same mistakes as I did, it really should just take 4-5 hours.

The Overview

As far as the quality of the bricks and technic elements go, they are no different from LEGO’s. In fact, you won’t even notice that aren’t LEGO if not for the lack of the Danish toymaker’s branding on the studs. However, some pieces do have super obvious ‘dot’ which is left over by the plastic injection molding. Aside from that, the pieces feel exactly the same, right down to the tolerance when clicked together.

As for the colors, they are consistent. At least it is on my set. I did not observe any discoloration among the same color elements. The QC on the bricks is commendable. Generally speaking, I don’t have any fitment issues except for one non-brick/technic element that is related to the light-up feature. Before we touch on that, we need to give a shout to the light brick.

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The Light

The light-up feature is provided through a custom transparent 2×2 round brick with LED in it. It turns on by the slightest twist on the lower section which, in the build, is connected to an armature that served as a switch. The switch discreetly protrudes out from the side and disguises itself as part of the mechanical structure of the chameleon. I thought it is an ingenious integration. We applaud the designer(s) ingenunity. A light flexible light tube connects from the top of the light brick and snaked out to the exterior to connect to an exterior point. It sounds simple enough. But, trust me, it isn’t.

JMBricklayer Chameleon 70124 Brick-building Set Review

The Challenge

You see, the light tube is flexible but it kind of flexes way too much. It will try to go back to its natural straight form when bent or folded. This becomes a problem when assembling this section. The instructions asked to direct one end of the tube under some technic elements but the light-transmitting tube’s force is so strong that it will break apart these elements.

I spend a lot of time on it but it just won’t work. Believe it or not. I spent between 30-40 minutes on it before I change my strategy. Yes. I can be really stubborn. I decided to build this section first, leaving the tube element above the pieces so it will not break apart. I put it aside and proceed to build the rest of the chameleon, completing everything including the legs, and the “tang”-covered spine/back.

However, I do not click the spine section on yet. At this point, I insert the transparent tube as far as I could into the round light brick, hold the tube down, and install the spine/back section to hold it in place. Then I proceed to secure the section with the light tube to the chameleon’s side.

JMBricklayer Chameleon 70124 Brick-building Set Review
This is the part that you one to set aside and install toward the end of the build.

When doing this, I hold this section in place while the other hand inserts the other end of the tube into the chameleon. Finally, I went ahead to secure the light tube to the grips along the way. You may have to adjust the tube length according. JMB’s official online tutorial recommended that you leave about 1.18 inches (3 cm) from the 1×2 rounded plate with open studs to the end (which plugs into the light brick).

Do take note that the light tube has to be above the armature (switch). My new approach worked perfectly and I regretted not doing it earlier and saving myself a bunch of time. Anywho, I hope you can learn from my mistakes.

When everything is completed, the spine section of the build helps to counter the tube’s returning force much better. I thought this would make for a fragile build but it isn’t. I can’t operate the switch without breaking this section (which, not going to lie, I was half expecting).

Another thing to note is the tube is a tad too thick to go through the 1×2 rounded plate with open studs. It took a bit of finessing to get it into the hole and pass to the required length. This also took quite a bit of time. I’d say about a good 10 minutes. Perhaps JMB could find a better alternative.

Though I must say the tube’s ability to transport the light from the light brick is fairly decent. When completed and lighted up, I find it is well worth the build challenges.

The Thoughts

The JMBricklayer Fantastic Idea Mechanical Chameleon 70124 is a unique build because it does not only focus on the mechanical reptile but the designer has put a ton of effort to recreate its habitat and capturing the act of the chameleon catching flying prey.

I had as much fun building the chameleon as the habitat which I imagined to be an alien rainforest. The entire set brings the chameleon to life. The only thing it lacks is a soundtrack of an alien jungle.

The chameleon is attached to the tree (or part of a tree) via a single point – the rear left mechanical leg – which, to my surprise, offers a sturdy hold for the entire chameleon. Not going to lie. I was skeptical at first but that was really unnecessary on my part.

However, perhaps the build could include a branch for the rear leg to “stand” on because right now it appears to be dangling off the side of the tree.

The front left leg/arms does include a claw hand that grabs onto a branch. Nice. While the mechanical side of the reptile is passable as a creature on a tree, we can’t say the same for the crystal side. At least not entirely.

The legs have no place to “step” on which makes it appear to be hanging off the tree. Not sure if this is intentional or not.

However, the crystal shell quite accurately represents the reptile in green while giving it a biomechanical vibe, thanks to the iridescent effect which offers a hint of purple hue depending on the light hitting on it and the angle you are viewing it.

The crystal shell side managed to offer a sci-fi vibe without exposing the mechanical elements. When the light is switched on, it is even more sci-fi-ish with the green “heart” shining through the crystal case. My only complaint about the crystal side is the tiny leg and arm with half-hearted foot and hand mold.

The completed model has some form of articulation, including the eye (yes, just one articulated eye on the mechanical side), legs, and tail. Speaking of the tail, it would be nice if it has one side crystal but I guess it can’t if you want the tail to be poseable.

The Verdict

For:

• Refreshing theme (it’s biomimicry, baby!)

• Super fun to build

• Have some good challenging build elements

• Affordable

• Excellent quality

• Awesome light-up effect with a clever switch

• Clear instructions

Against:

• Crystal side could have more accurate limbs

• Crystal side could use some branches for the leg/arm

• Light tube could be thinner and more flexible

The JMBricklayer Chameleon 70124 is now available via Amazon.com and JMBricklayer website for US$59.99. But for a very limited time, you can enjoy a 15% discount on a non-discounted Chameleon 70124 building set if you check out with the coupon code VIPMIkE15. Please note that the validity period for the discount is ONE month on Amazon.com.

There is more good news. From now until December 31, 2023, the same coupon code also applies a 15% discount on all non-discounted JMBricklayer products on JMBricklayer’s Amazon store and JMBricklayer.com.

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All images by Mike for Mikeshouts.com.