Pros: A fun action playset
Cons: Structures do not stay together once built
“You’re only four once.” That was our mantra around the house this September when Bugs turned 4. This was the first year she really seemed to get the whole birthday concept and starting anticipating her birthday the moment the calendar changed to September. From cake to presents we pretty much let her have what she wanted. Tops on her wish list was Fisher Price Imaginext T-Rex Mountain.
A cross between a building set and a play set, Fisher Price Imaginext T-Rex Mountain is recommended for children ages 4 and up. The set consists of plastic wall and base panels that snap together easily, pegs into holes, to build cubes. The cubes can then be built on top of each other. The wall pieces are reddish brown and made to look like rocks while the bases are light tan to look like sand. There are special pieces including a skull of a tyrannosaurus, a pond, a moving claw like hand and a rib cage. Additional building pieces include fences, hedges, a tree trunk and large fern leaves. For play pieces the set includes two small dinosaurs (one on foot and one flying), a caveman figure, two boulders and a bone shaped club and boulder launcher for weapons. Three AAA batteries are required but not included and there is an on/off switch. We purchased T-Rex Mountain at Toys-R-Us and it included two bonus playsets, each one including a small dinosaur and an additional caveman.
Several of the special pieces are action pieces as well. The T-Rex head has two buttons pressing one makes the eyes glow and chomping sounds. The other button lifts the “tongue” in the skull to “swallow” anything in the mouth, the eyes blink and the sound effects include growling and a burp. The ribcage piece has an escape hatch. By pressing on the orange button in front part of the rib cage falls forward. The hand piece is normally up but when you press the button the claw falls acting as a trap. The pond piece has a place for a tree trunk and pressing that button lets the tree topple over. There is another fence like piece that can manually be pulled down. The ramps and holes in the base plates are large enough for the boulders to roll through but the cavemen figure tends to get stuck while sliding.
Included in the box is a set of step-by-step pictorial instructions to build the set shown on the box. When assembled this way all of the pieces are used and it measures about 2’ X 1’ and 1 ½’ tall. There are additional pictures showing alternate ways to build the mountain but there are no step-by-step instructions.
T-Rex Mountain as a Building Set
The mechanism for building is quite simple, just align the pegs with the holes on another part and snap them together. The pieces are easy to snap together as well as take apart. While putting the pieces together is easy enough to actually build is another matter. The design of the pieces with pegs on two sides and holes on one means you have to pay close attention as to how you align the wall pieces. You must put bases pieces between each level and once again you have to be careful how you align the pieces to be able to build correctly, you can’t build walls directly on top of other walls. The system is both simple and complicated to build with. While the set is suggested for children ages 4 - 8, I highly doubt any 4 year old could master the complexity of how to turn the simple to build cubes into large play structures. My 4 year old certainly can’t and doesn’t seem to be ready to take on that task by herself anytime soon. She likes to offer input but really wants to get on to the play aspect instead of sitting around building with the set.
As an adult I have trouble building with the set unless I follow the instructions. The step-by-step instructions are fairly clear and it takes about 15 minutes to build the structure. It takes me much longer to try and build the other samples or to try and make one on my own. I get frustrated since there never seems to be enough of the pieces that I need for the structure I am trying to build. I wish Fisher Price would offer “Idea Books” similar to what Legos sells for building additional structures. I find it frustrating to have what I think is a fun structure only to find that at the end I need one more base plate or wall. I usually end up building structures while the girls are in bed so that I can concentrate and do it without "help" and I don’t have to worry if a colorful word slips out when I get frustrated.
Once I have built a mountain it lasts for about an hour or two of play. The downside of easy to assemble pieces is that they come apart easily as well. It does not take much rough play before the walls come tumbling down. I can usually snap the pieces back together without much trouble but it doesn’t take too long before there is too much destruction for me to salvage. They continue to play until most of the set is broken down to single panels and then we clean it up until another day.
T-Rex Mountain as a Playset
As a playset T-Rex Mountain is great! Could anything be more appealing to young kids than a dinosaur that burps? The action pieces are fun and easy for the kids to operate. They love to drop the boulders down the holes and have them roll through the chutes to the bottom. They trap the caveman under the hand cage and drop the tree on the unsuspecting dinosaur. The set does contain several small pieces so extra care needs to be used with children who still mouth toys.
Although I hate to do it, I would have to say that T-Rex Mountain is geared toward boys. But that doesn’t stop my daughters from enjoying the set, although they probably play with it differently than boys might. Along with the included dinosaurs and the bonus sets we bought 2 additional dinosaurs to go along with the set. All of the dinosaurs and cavemen are part of a family that eats, sleeps, shops and attend swimming lessons on T-Rex Mountain. They definitely do not have the whole predator concept in their play repertoire. How they play with it does not really matter. The only important thing to me is that they enjoy it and that we got out $35 worth out, which we have.
The set as sold in most stores does not come with many play pieces. I can't imagine this set being much fun with only three characters. The bonus set (available at Toys R Us for the same price as everywhere else) is worth the trip but you should probably plan on purchasing more dinosaur sets which range from $4 - $16 depending on the size of the set. We purchased Razor the T-Rex and Thunder the Brontosaurus to round out the playest and we now seem to have a sufficient number of dinosaurs and related accessories. Costco currently has a large add-on set available for about $20 that would provide plenty of figures for lots of play opportunities.
While I really like the concept of T-Rex Mountain the execution is a little lacking for the suggested age range. The individual pieces are quite durable and withstand falls and being step on, but once assembled the structures are not very stable. Since at 2 and 4 my girls are too young to build on their own they are only interested in the playset aspect of this toy the fact that it falls apart without much effort on their part is a little disappointing. I don’t always have the time to build the set for them all day long when they want to play with it so the set doesn’t get as much play time as they seem to want.
I struggle a bit with exactly how to rate this toy. On the fun scale it seems to be between a 4 and 5 for my girls. The imaginative play they have with the set earns it another 5. The fact that this is not a toy they can enjoy by themselves is a mommy 3 at best. The lack of stability can bring on the tears if someone is having a bad day, a definite 2 there. I end up with a 3 1/2 which I will bump up to a 4 based on the burping dinosaur factor.
Should You Buy Imaginext T-Rex Mountain?
Despite its structural flaws this is a fun toy, but I would think most children in the suggested age range are going to need help building. If you are looking to purchase a toy that children can play with independently, T-Rex Mountain is not it. However if you don’t mind being involved in the building process the playset aspects of this toy really are a lot of fun. Children don’t need to be dinosaur fans to enjoy the set, although I am sure that would make the set even more fun.