Some people were excited to see the return of Arctic sets this year. Arctic was one of the last system themes I got really excited about back in 2000, right before I got consumed by Bionicle for the next 7 years. The explorers and parkas and snowmobiles and polar bears... it was a great theme. I only ever got two sets from it, but the mobile outpost one was definately a highlight. With that said, this year's theme had a lot to live up to.
And it lives up to it by including the one thing the original theme didn't cover; dog sleds!
I picked up the 60034 Arctic Helicrane last month primarily because it was the cheapest set to get the team of huskies with. Jumping straight into that, the dogs are a lovely new mold with excelent face printing and great two-toned color. Better yet, the shading of the gray on the back varies, so each dog looks unique. The actual sled is fairly basic, but works, and the use of the Friends handle bars to hold onto the dogs is ingenious. I would've love this on its own to be the cheap set instead of the snowmobile, but I guess they'd rather use it as incentive to purchase the bigger sets.
And the bigger part of this set is the helicopter. I couldn't tell you if it is based off a real life helicopter, but IMO it looks a little bare bones. There are a lot of big, bulky pieces here, especially with the cockpit cover, making me feel cheated out of a more intricate build. (But that's just my complaint, I'm sure it's fine for a younger audience.) Basically, it feels like a long stick in which you attach the propellers, side legs, tail, and cockpit. In theory, the empty belly would get filled up with the storage device that's lifted up by the winch, so there's a very good reason it seems so empty in the middle, but the simplicity of the build still bugs me.
There are good parts about it. There's an ingeinous design for the trusters that uses click hindges to achieve a nice SNOT angle. They also use the 5L propeller beams as essentially 5L plates to hold down the larger propellers, so that's a nice trick. (And you get 10x of those 5L propeller beans.) The winch is also securely worked into the design, and although I'm not a huge fan, it works. Plus, you get 6x of the new ski pieces on the end of each leg and bottom of the cockpit. Speaking of neat pieces, the classic rock element appears in trans light blue here. (Last time they had trans light blue meteors, so that's a slight change.)
Parts wise, there's nothing exceptional besides the huskies. There are a few decent elements in orange. While orange makes sense as a safety color, I do kind of wish they had more of the blue color scheme of the original theme, but that's again just personal preference.
The minifigs are nice, although neither is exclusive to this set. Still, like with the huskies, this is the cheapest one to get them in. I suppose the pilot is technically unique (according to Brickset) but none of his parts are. He has a classic brown jacket with some nice orange safety highlights to fit him in with the rest of the crew. I was surprised that the explorer was actually female; she seems to be in most of the sets as the huskies, so she must be their caretaker. She has a unique torso and face printing, as well as the new blue parka head piece. Again, I'm disappointed that the explorers don't come in various colors like they did in the original theme, but the consistant orange and blue scheme does make them all look like part of a team. And honestly, it's cool to see a female explorer who's not (only) in the most expensive set of the year.
This is a hard set to reccomend. The figs are good, and the huskies are excelent, but the actual helicrane is a little too basic for my tastes. It does have some decent parts, but only 262 for the cost of $39.99 is a pretty bad value. And while this is the cheapest way to get the figs and huskies, they do appear in some of the larger sets, so if you can afford those, I might go that route instead. But if you like the design of the helicrane, then there's plenty of play value to be had as you explore the arctic. (Next year I want the team to go to the Antarctic so we can get more penguin molds!)