HEXBUG VEX Robotics_Ant with packageHexbug‘s Vex Robotics line just raised the bar for must-have R/C toys. I’ve been a fan of Hexbug for a long time, and for good reasons. Hexbug’s cool, semi-transparent colors are eye-catching and attractive, and their structures just make you want to play with them and see what they will do. Add to that the fun-sized controller and hypnotizing movements, and it’s a hit all the way around.

One of the coolest parts of the Vex line is the fact that kids ages 8 and up build these giant robotic Hexbug creatures themselves by assembling more than 150 pieces that snap together without the need for glue or tools. The Vex line also encourages STEM learning, as kids not only build the bug, but also customize its programming.

The bugs in the Vex line—Ant, Scarab, Spider, and Strandbeast—have two modes of play: Manual mode lets kids control their Hexbug’s movements themselves, while Autonomous mode allows the Hexbug to move freely on its own, turning and changing direction as it encounters objects in its path. What I like about manual mode is that the controller is simple. It doesn’t have a bunch of buttons on all sides, which I find to be confusing and even frustrating. The intuitive design lets kids control the left side of the bug or the right side, or both together, either forward or backward. Kids can make one side go forward while the other side goes in reverse to cause the bug to spin, or can send both sides moving in the same direction to propel the bug forward. Letting go of the control for one side lets the bug make a turn.

The sheer scale of the Hexbug Vex Robotics line is enough to excite any kid, but the engaging play and interactive elements are the real winners.