A Guide to Writing a First Look Kit Review

The purpose/ goal of a First Look Review is to provide the reader with information about what comes in the kit. This is not a build / fit / engineering / accuracy type of of evaluation. This should be stated at the start of the review.

This guide is a rough draft that will be modified as advice rolls in.

The following items will help make your review useful to others.

  1. The manufacturer, kit number, model subject, Is this a new tooled kit or an updated reissue? If so maybe include some Scalemates history on the kit. Does this kit provide parts to make multiple variants? Include the date the review was written and author writing the review.
  2. State whether the kit was purchased by the reviewer or was supplied by a vendor. If the reviewer paid for the kit, list the price the reviewer paid with shipping. Post the MSRP of the kit. Noting where you purchased the kit may be helpful to some readers.
  3. The authors level of experience in model building should be noted.
  4. Because this is a review of what comes in the box, comments on scale or accuracy are not required. However if you have in depth knowledge and you notice an issue it should be noted. Please if possible include any reference you used to help identify an issue.
  5. A short history of the vehicle depicted with points of interest should be provided.
  6. Photo of the box art should be supplied.
  7. How many parts are in the kit?
  8. As the kit is unboxed, comments on the quality of the box and the packaging is appropriate.
    Is the box jammed full or is there a lot of empty space?
    Are the sprues in sealed bags or not. Are there parts that are loose in the box?
  9. A photo of the box with the lid off showing the still packed contents is helpful.
  10. How many sprues are provided and other items like photo etch, metal barrels
    etc…that came in the box.
  11. Photos of each sprue should be provided.
  12. An assessment of the sharpness/ crispness of the molding is needed and if comparisons can be made to other kits with comparable moldings then do so.
  13. Provide sharp close up photos to illustrate the crispness of molding.
  14. What is the surface texture like? Make comparisons if possible.
  15. Provide photos that show the surface detail.
  16. Can you provide anything about the quality of the plastic itself?
  17. Provide opinion on the level of detail molded on compared to the amount of small parts and pieces to create detail. Again, provide photos.
  18. Is there flash, if so how much? Are there any visually warped pieces? Any shorts in the molding of the sprues? Any other problems noted? How many and where are the ejector pin marks located? Provide photos.
  19. Are there any forming jigs for indy track or photo etch included?
  20. Observe any photo etch. Is it extensive or a small set? What is the level of detail in the etchings? Is it brass, steel or copper? A photo is required.
  21. Are there clear parts or cable/wire that come with the kit? What about vinyl parts?
  22. Observe the decal sheet. How many options are provided? Is the film carrier thick or thin, gloss or flat. Who makes the decals? Do the decals appear to be truly opaque or somewhat translucent? How much clear film surrounds the decals? Sharp photos of the decal sheet are needed
  23. Do the instructions seem straight forward? Are they confusing? Is it easy to see where the parts are to be located? Are the diagrams overly crowded with parts? Are there parts included for different versions, if so are they readily indicated in the instructions? Does it appear that their will be many left over/ unused parts? Provide photos of the instructions.
  24. Provide photos of the paint schemes recommended and the paint color suggestions. Are there any unique or special decal options?

The more specific your observations are, the more helpful you will be for the readers.
High quality photos are necessary to provide visual detail to your text.


I don’t know exactly where you would slot these points but as a re-entryy to the hobby kind of guy these next items would be helpful for me.

If the kit contains anything other than rubber band tracks then does the manufacturer provide a jig for assembly of individual links?

Likewise, do they provide any other items to shape PE that would be worth mentioning also as a few manufactures have started doing this and for newer builders this is valuable info.

If the kit contains parts for variants - are these pointed out clearly in the instructions and what is the nature of the extra parts (good info for those looking to add parts for future kit bashing/improving). I do feel this is relevant, if I buy a kit that provides enough spares for future projects it may (for me) justify a higher price since I may be getting more mileage out of the box.

If it is a Re-box/re-issue but with slight improvements or new sprues then please note it as such but continue on the review since the original might not be easily obtainable.

I like where you are headed, as a guy w lots of Tamiya and has tapped out LHS for kits of interest I’ll be soon buying online predominately. This guide your fleshing out here will be a great tool.

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Updated to include recommendations.

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I’ve not written any reviews, but I’ve read a few. This seems like a very thorough and comprehensive guide. Some things that might also be useful (although perhaps the genesis of much controversy) would be comparison of MSRP against similarly situated kits (i.e. same subject, scale, etc.) and an overall assessment of value for money.

The latter is probably not entry-level review writing and would be reserved for those with extensive building/reviewing experience.


The above rundown looks like it covers just about everything that needs to be there. The only thing I like to add is a short history of the subject. This doesn’t have to be in depth, but enough so the average person understands when/where/for whom the subject served or was in use, any specifics about the type, etc. to add a bit of context to it.

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This all seems fairly comprehensive. The suggestions made by others are also all good ones. However…

The one thing that seems to be missing is a clear description / definition of exactly what a “First-Look” review is intended to cover. Just what is being attempted? What is the reason for writing such a review? After the reader has finished with the review, what is he supposed to be informed of? How will that information be useful?

This is the universal first-step in all problem-solving paradigms. Clearly define the problem and desired outcome. One might imagine that the reader of the review has some problem and needs some particular outcome or result after reading it.

This purpose might seem obvious or intuitive given the list of suggested observations. However, the goal or purpose should be clearly and completely understood before the solution is devised. The solution should not define the purpose and method, but rather the desired purpose or goal should structure the process needed to achieve that purpose or goal. The writer and the reader, both, should know what the reiew will achieve right up front.

Without a clearly defined goal or purpose, the list of reviewer observations that could or should or must be made is essentially open-ended. Anyone who reads this review, and who has his or her own idea of what he or she thinks the purpose should be, is libel to feel that the review is either too much or lacking. The possible (probable?) reception is a demand for more content or a criticism that such and thus content is irrelevant.

This kind of goes with the discussion on the “review rant” thread where various individuals proposed many different personal versions of what constitutes “good” or “bad” reviews. The fundamental issue with most of those observations is that without a clear, specific statement of a review’s goal or purpose, any and every individual will have his own “standards.” The folks making the observations didn’t really state their own desired or needed purposes or goals for reviews, they just observed over and over that this or that review was (presumably for their own needs or desires) inadequate.

With a clear and concise description of the goal or purpose of the review, these potential criticisms are “headed off at the pass,” so to speak. The reader may have her own idea about what she wants in a review, but if the review presented matches the goal or purpose stated upfront, then despite what any particular individual might want, what they are getting is exactly what the review was intended to be.

I salute the effort and time put into trying to create a useful review standard to guide potential writers. It has the potential to be of real usefulness.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that there’s any possible, single standard, so for any kind of “standardized” format or content should start with defining the objective, goal or purpose. The details of the content can then be devised to satisfy that objective, goal or purpose.

Thank you all for your suggestions. I have included each suggestion into this draft.

Looks comprehensive to me.
Maybe add ‘short moulded’ as one of the criteria for mould quality.
Everything else may be top quality moulds but some plastic is still missing.

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While most things are already covered above, the one I’d add is to list any reference-works consulted (especially any published plans) so readers can see what benchmark info was used for any comments about size/shape or location of details. We know that there are some good references out there, and some not-so-good.

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Note to reference identified accuracy issues is now included

That’s exactly what I did in the one below. In fact I did a majority of the things on the list. Even so, should I do another “official” review I don’t plan on following proscribed formats. Never been into them, so why start now? :thinking:


A list of recommended content can often be a guide/help for an inexperienced writer.
Some of it may be ‘Not Applicable’, type of tracks does not apply to a truck …

Experienced writers will settle into their own preferred format

I find it quite useful, will keep it at hand as check list for my future reviews. Not to follow it as a template but to ensure all that information is included somewhere on the text, thanks to all who contributed.

Greg, good work. Thank you, everyone, for commenting. It is a good list. Coming to the party three days late, I can’t think of anything to add. Not being lazy, I just can’t think of anything else that needs to be covered.

Thanks to all who contributed.