From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The trunk dented the upper left corner of the box. Sad face.
The titular castle sits here in front of a sinister, spooky background with bats trailing from the moon and a ghostly green glow emanating from the castle, its inhabitants, and the moon. The back of the box shows the secrets and interior of the castle, allowing the potential buyer to see all the features of the set.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
This monstrous set (HA! Pun) has seven bags of pieces. For 949 pieces to the set, it's not too surprising that there are so many bags, but still, I think this is the largest set I've built to date (and probably the most expensive one I've ever bought). All the pieces from the seven bags are shown above, and I can tell you that it took a great chunk of time to build. Expect to set aside 2-3 hours to build this (or more, if you're not a seasoned System-building veteran. I took a bit longer, but I was taking pictures as I went. Also, I did take a couple breaks here and there to spend some time with friends ).
Although it is a long build, it's really cool to watch as the whole thing comes together, which is one of my favorite experiences in building a LEGO set. While time consuming, I didn't find the build too difficult, but that may be due to having past experience with System sets.
To be honest, the only annoyance for me was the stickers. While they do allow for LEGO to not have to print their designs on the pieces themselves (which honestly probably saves them some money), I am quite particular when applying stickers, and it's annoying when I mess up the first time. The stickers do glow in the dark though, along with many other pieces, so that adds a bit to the cool factor if you like glow-in-the-dark.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Let's start with our heroes and their car:
The car is a pretty slick ride. For those of you who like sand green, this is your car. I'm quite the fan of the early 20th century vibe the technology in these sets gives off, and considering that Jack and Rodney's prosthetic limbs are steam-powered, the steampunk vibe is good, too. The car is a one-seater and can accommodate either Jack or Rodney, since the right leg sits on a 2×1 grate, so there are no studs to prevent Rodney from driving it. The most notable feature of the car is the net launcher, which sits in the back, and has a sort of piston that, when pushed, makes the net fly out.
It's like Spiderman's web power, only with a machine and the ability to catch bat people.
The heroes included in this set are Jack McHammer and the leader of the Monster Fighters, Dr. Rodney Rathbone. Rodney sports a very dapper vest (with pocket watch) and bowler hat, a steampunk leg, a rapier, and a revolver. Jack has a steampunk arm, a green flannel shirt with a leather vest, a knit cap, and Mjolnir.
I wouldn't doubt it if he took it right out of Thor's hand.
Now, let's dive into the castle and its villainous vampire owners.
The castle is centered on the main tower where the Moon-Eclipse-Whatchamajig stands.
As you can see in the picture, a hinge with pin pieces is what connects the parts of the castle to each other. The main tower, though, only has connections on one side. The castle is sort of connected in a sideways U or S shape, where the main area is the top branch, the bend is the drawing room/spiky death pit tower, the middle is the gate, and the final bend/line is the prison tower. Only the main/drawing room connection is hinged, though, which allows the castle to have its layout.
The inside of the main tower has five rooms; the attic/organ room, the solar eclipse machine room (which is more like a clock tower chamber than a room, like where Basil of Baker Street and Ratigan duel), the drawing room, the bedroom/potions room, and the coffin in the basement. My personal favorite is the potion/bedroom, as the bed is really neat and the potion room contains some cool pieces. I like how in the basement the curtains around the coffin are portrayed by bricks rather than fabric; I think that if they used fabric it wouldn't have the same feel.
Also, the moonstone device is really neat to behold. It has a cool mechanism for revealing the moon wheel thing behind the moonstones; the moonstones are all on 90° axle joints all connected by Y-shaped axle holders. When the moon wheel is pushed out, the axles that the moonstones aren't connected to end up between two large cart wheels behind the moon disk, and so when the disk is retracted, the moonstones return to covering the disk, which is pretty cool.
The secondary turret is cool due to the cute little map/drawing room that looks comfy-cozy until the floor falls out from under you and you land in a spiky pit of doom. However, if you survive and manage to climb into the attic, you get some treasure! I'm guessing this is the guest room of the castle.
The next portion is the gate, which features creepy old school cast iron doors and, if that doesn't prevent you from entering, a secondary gate which has fangs as the blocking mechanism.
Enter if you dare!
You know, to attract the neighbors.
The final portion of the set is the prison, where a poor, unfortunate soul has been wasting away for a while, since he's only a skeleton now.
Poor guy, I just want to give him a hug.
However, if either of your heroes get trapped here, you can always bust them out with the nifty lever on the outside wall of the prison.
Behold, my finger's debut on BZP! Greet him with kindness, please.
And now, Lord Vampyre and his wife (does she have a name?).
As you can probably tell, LEGO seems to be enjoying making minifigures with printing on the back and front of their bodies, and it seems to be quite prevalent in this theme (as with the latest series minifigures). They also have flip faces, another trend becoming more popular (which debuted in the Studios sets that were released a decade ago. I feel so old...).
Also, note that we get another appearance of the Series 4 Mad Scientist's flask in this set, so the piece is becoming more and more widespread. We also get a translucent green wine goblet, several gems, a toad, a mushroom, and six of the seven the moonstones (zombie moonstone not included).
Note: these probably won't evolve your Clefairy, Jigglypuff, Munna, Nidorino, Nidorina, or Skitty.
And last, but certainly not least, the Manbats!
Not to be confused with Batman.
These minifigures are definitely a first for LEGO with their arms that actually spread outward. However, they don't actually move inward/outward, so the poseability of their arms is quite limited without looking rather goofy. They have ears similar to the Elf and Werewolf Series Minifigures, but are a lot bigger and more...batlike.
Also, to give you a sense of how massively huge this set is, I compared its size to the largest Fright Knights set released, Night Lord's Castle, which is the tallest castle set to date that LEGO has released.
I sense a war between Vampyre and Bat Lord brewing.
It's pretty incredible how far LEGO has come as far as detailed sets go, since you can really see the difference between the present day and the early 90s. But notice that Night Lord's Castle just barely keeps its title; in fact, the only reason it's taller than the Vampyre Castle is due to Willa's telescope at the top. Also note that Night Lord's Castle contains only 598 pieces in comparison to the Vampyre Castle's 949; a lot of those additional pieces go into the detail.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
There are definitely a lot of possibilities with this set. It has several rooms which make good vignettes/settings for spooky interactions between your heroes and villains, and the appearance is right out of Halloweentown (of Nightmare Before Christmas). Along with the prison wall lever, the prisoner can be moved up and down with an axle and the moonstone device can be engaged with a similar sort of piston that the car's net launcher has. Also, the trapdoor to the spiky pit makes for some good fun.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
Let me play you the song of my people.
This set is pretty darn cool. It gives off a great spooky aura and is perfect for anyone who is a fan of Halloween, castles, and/or the Monster Fighters theme. It supplies us with a good cast of minifigs and is definitely one of the best sets released this year. If you can afford the $99.99 price tag, pick this up; you'll be glad you did.
What's to like?
- Hugely gigantic castle
- Cool minifigures
- Cool car
- Awesomely spooky
- Some neat pieces to grab
What's not to like?
- The price tag