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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
In comparing the two types of marble drops, I found it much easier to build an iCoaster run than a traditional marble drop. Once built, both are equally vulnerable to damage when bumped. With the iCoaster, the couple of times we bumped the track, a piece or two fell and it was a simple repair. With the traditional marble drop, while the track typically stayed together, rebalancing it and resetting any supports that may have popped off was typically more difficult. Once assembled, the Quercetti does have more longterm durability (e.g., if you want to keep it up for days at a time). This is because the iCoaster support bases are hard plastic with no anti-slip. The longer the iCoaster runs, the more the heavy marbles hit the track, the more the supports shimmy out of position. If they shimmy too far, track pieces are susceptible to falling. So you need to pay regular attention to the joints to see when/if any supports have shimmied too far. I will probably modify the bases with non-slip feet someday.
Assembly of both types of marble drops requires strict attention to which level you place the supports. The iCoaster magnetic segments adhere well if you fasten/couple them properly (e.g., a two notch drop from beginning to end versus attempting a three notch drop). If they are at any type of non-optimal angle (left, right, or too steep of a decline), the magnetic attraction quickly reduces and it may fall when bearing the weight of a marble. With the Quercetti, the nature of it's design does not allow for making the wrong setting on supports. This makes free-lancing with the iCoaster more trial and error, but that is also part of the education process with this type of toy.
Miscellaneous thoughts: the iCoaster came with more sample runs pictured in the owners manual, there are four inputs for presence detectors but only two detectors provided -- does this mean there is a possiblity of an expansion pack, the small piece that causes the marbles to do a vertical 180 needs to be set the right way or else the marbles will drop off too much, the elevator is not really as cool as it looks -- inside the housing it's just a normal marble elevator with magnets spaced every 7"-8".
Comparing the iCoaster to other marble drops I've seen, I find it to be more accessible and user-friendly. It's not the perfect toy ... marble drops in general tend to be a bit boring once you set them up. But the iCoaster is getting more play than the Quercetti did because runs are easier to set up and tweak.
For two or three Christmases we purchased whatever K'nex monster project that was on the market. Enjoyed them, but they ended up being two-three day projects. After they were done we didn't dare tear them down and rebuild it with a different variation.
Since my son enjoys "Thrillville" on the Wii so much (the player is an amusement park operator and building roller coasters is on of the main activities in this game), I though we would take a chance on this. I'm pleased with the purchase, for the most part.
The good is two fold: this takes a lot of effort to get right. When you connect pieces together they have to be just right. From an adult perspective it's easy to see when something is a little off. Fron an 11 yo perspective, it's the marble going off the track this is usually his first clue something is amiss. When it does work it's really neat.
The bad is it can be frustrating. Even when the marble successfully makes it back to the start line, the force of the marble over a few/many trips on the track can knock something out of line enough to send it sailing to the floor. Before I forget, you need a level, hard surface. I don't think this would work on any type of carpet. My son spend about 90 minutes with it this Christmas morning and had many successful runs with it, but also walked away in frustration a couple of times.
He's watching Shrek 3 right now, so I'm glad that was in the stocking too. But I am also glad we purchased the I-Coaster.
Nearly everything everyone said in the other reviews is true. You must set the coaster up on a flat, even area. It is frustrating to set up until you understand that each piece is unique (especially the corners). It is important to understand the first few pages of the instructions where it tries to explain the best way to fit the pieces together. After some trial and error, we figured it out and we made the best coasters using the diagrams provided. I do wish that they made the magnetic attraction stronger between the tracks because if they are not lined up exactly or if you accidently brush up against them, the track does tend to fall down.
That said, once my son understood how it worked he started creating his own coasters, first using the diagrams, then without. It really keeps his attention for long periods of time and I love the fact that he really needs to use creativity and critical thinking skills to build each coaster. He just thinks it's a lot of fun! I'm actually secretly glad when he asks me for help to complete a coaster because I think it's fun also!
Think twice if you want to buy this for a younger child or a child that gets frustrated easily. It does require a lot of patience and care to build. My 3 1/2 year old son is only allowed to watch and is not allowed to touch any of the parts once the coaster is assembled. But he thinks the results are great also!