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Review 10261: Roller Coaster - Night 04

Posted by xccj , in Review Jun 13 2018 · 37 views
Aaaaaand done!

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Bag 10 builds up the rest of the left side, including the large pole tower with the angled supports. As precarious as it is, the geometry on the angles is impressive. Honestly, I don’t know how I could MOC my own Roller Coaster; I was not keeping up with the various brick heights to get the math just right. I did have one column that wouldn’t fit on right… and lo and behold, it was because I forgot a single 2x2 round plate in the stack. You start off Bag 11 by building the roof over the loading docks, which has an interesting SNOT design and utilizes the circular cutout plate in brown, which is a fairly useful element. The sign also has a bunch of signs showcasing the various things that you can’t bring on the roller coaster, namely a camera, a mug, a popsicle, a baby, or a dog. While it seems fairly obvious that these items shouldn’t be taken on the ride, the signs also look like something President Business would post. (Now I want to make a baby invasion with the no baby sign above them.)

Bag 11 continues by connecting the two halves together and then building a bunch of supports to really lock them in. I suppose it would still be easily to separate them with a little dismantling, but they do get locked together pretty well. You also build the double track contraption, which allows you to store a second train (or slide it out to add the carts to the track in the first place.) You also put together the six carts and… the chain. The small chain links have been around before (for a while, I was having trouble finding them because they were relatively rare, only appearing in the occasional Technic set) but I believe that this is most that ever appear in one set. There are 203+ of these that you need to individually link together… the process maybe took me 10 - 15 minutes and was far more tedious than building all the columns. But you know what they say about the weakest link.

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Getting the extra-long chain in place is another troublesome hassle. Basically, you need to feed the chain through the various holding mechanisms, but some of them are difficult to access behind the support beams. (Especially if your hands are somewhat clumsy like mine.) There is a rubber band powered stopper that’s supposed to cut down on the slack of the chain… but it works only moderately well. My chain also catches a lot when I use it to drag up the trains; perhaps there are some pieces that are not flush, but I notice the chain tends to wobble a bit and not remain central along the track, so I may also need to adjust the length. But I’m careful about putting too much force on the lever when rotating the chain; I’ve had it break twice already, and to fix it you basically need to rethread the entire system. It’s a bit disappointing that the wheels on the top of the curve are basically powered by the chain, which I think adds extra stress to the chain. It might’ve been better to build a separate system that goes up the columns and spins those wheels without relying on the chain, but that would’ve complicated things and wouldn’t be as intuitive as just having one system that powers the whole thing. I haven’t attached my motor in yet, so I don’t know how problematic that would be to have the chain in constant motion. I fear the trains would get caught on something, the motor wouldn’t relax on the stress like I’ve been doing by hand, and then the chain would snap and I’d have to put together the whole system again.

Oh, and also I haven’t been able to get the braking system to work; the carts blows through so quickly that it just pushes past the wheel if it’s extended. The only way it works is if I’m manually pulling it out, and I don’t think that’s the intention.

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So while the lift mechanism is less than desirably... once that train starts dipping down the track, it moves along quite smoothly. And it’s awesome and totally worth the giant set... well, mostly worth it. Basically, it’s the same kind of mesmerizing movement out of a Lego set that I’m used to seeing in Great Ball Contraption, which has always been something that I’ve never felt qualified to build for. But motors today are far cheaper than they were ten years ago (and I also earn more money) so it’s always a possibility for the future.

As for the trains, you get two cloned designs with different shades of blue. The first cart also has a longer nose that covers the clip, so the other two need a different design to easily attach to each other. The three cart limit seems ideal for the lift mechanism, although I have had some trouble with the first cart getting attached to the chain at the bottom, forcing me to give it a manual push. You can attach all six together, but the carts tend to snag when they reach the top curve, as they’re moving with the side wheels and the chain. When I’m doing it manually, I sometimes had to back up the chain to get something to hook before I could get it moving forward again. (Still, it’s fun seeing the six carts together rush down the track.) Despite the warning signs, the young child is capable of riding by just standing in the cart, so realistically it’s not a deal breaker. (Although when I made it so her feet were loose on the studs, she did get thrown off on the curve after the first big drop... so safety first.) Ironically, it’s the taller minifigures who could be in more trouble, because they’ll hit the sign at the top of the climb. (Batman’s mask, in particular, is just over the limit, so Batman cannot ride the Roller Coaster. Bruce Wayne, maybe.)

The final product is actually sturdier than I would’ve expected. While the individual beams and columns are still wiggly (the far left tower in particular) the inclusion of the tracks actually help lock everything in more than I was expecting. And it’s strong enough that you can lift the whole thing by grabbing onto particular sections (or just the baseplates.) All together, it’s not that heavy, since there’s a lot of opened space between all the bricks. So, despite taking up twice as much shelf space as the Ferris Wheel, I’d say they weigh about the same.

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The last bag gets you three more civilian figs, bringing your total to 11. They include some interesting pieces, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Above is the full collection of figs from the set. Overall, some of them have uncommon hair pieces, and lots of them have alternate facial expressions that work nicely with the Roller Coaster, so it’s a fun lot. Most of the torsos appear to be generic City styles, although I recognize more than a few from the “Fun at the Park” minifigure pack from two years ago. Plus, the two park employee yellow torsos are nice, and have the Lego logo on the back. (And Batman doesn’t actually come with this set, but let’s be honest, you didn’t know that at first. :sly: )

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This is my most expensive set I’ve ever purchased, and it’s also probably one of the largest too; the foot space is about the combination of Ninjago City and the Ferris Wheel. But in terms of height... well, the other two beat it. The top section only comes up to the top of the third Ninjago City level (not entirely visible here, since my Ninjago City has been modified with an extra level) but the sand green tower would still beat the Roller Coaster. However, the Roller Coaster only gets up to the midpoint on the Ferris Wheel, which continues to hold the title of tallest Lego set (in my collection.)

The final question of is this set worth it is... a challenging one. The $379.99 price point is insanely high. Luckily, they’re releasing the Creator Roller Coaster at a far more affordable level. (I mean, $89.99 isn’t exactly cheap, but it won’t break the bank either.) Plus, the track pieces are appearing in other sets too, either as part of a coaster or trolley system, or just as decorations. (The pieces do have some use. In fact, the ones angling upward would be place side by side and make for an interesting Golden Gate Bridge design. I’m not taking apart my model to test it out, but it could be done.) The only exclusive track piece is the vertical climb track, and we’ll inevitably see that again. Sure, it would be problematic to motorize your own mini Roller Coaster, because you’ll need to track down the chain and build the lift mechanism yourself. But honestly, if that’s what you’re going for, you might as well go big and get this set which includes all you need to pull that off. (Well, you need to supply the motor and battery pact, but there’s an easy connection point already built in.) Or you could go insane and buy three copies of the set and build a monstrous Roller Coaster with a full vertical loop! (I mean, you'd be spending $1,139.97, but it would be worth it, right?) Besides the high price, this set also takes up a lot of space; you’re going to want to keep it on a hard table. (Building it on carpet, like I did, is not recommended.)

So really, I wouldn’t recommend this set for the average builder; you need to have a certain level of dedication to invest time, money, and shelf space into this set. And even then, I’m still not very impressed with the chain lift system. That said, if you are the kind of dedicated builder this set is targeted towards, you probably know. In that case, the high price point would be the major deciding factor for whether you should get this. For the same price, you could get 19 Toa or Star Wars CCBS figures, 4 of the Creator Roller Coaster, Ninjago City and the Fire Mech, or a little less than half of the big Millennium Falcon. Or also the cost of two months’ worth of lunches, more than half a month’s rent, or a plane ticket to go to BrickFair Virginia (but not quite enough to also cover the ticket back.) The point is, it’s expensive, so I recommend that you take financial consideration of the purchases. (To be fair, I did this and still bought the set anyways.)

I might put together a short video review showing off the set in action, but honestly I don’t have the setup to make it any good; I barely have the shelf space for this!


Edit: I've tweaked the chain and added the motor, and it seems to be working alright.


Review 10261: Roller Coaster - Night 03

Posted by xccj , in Review Jun 12 2018 · 21 views
Yeah, I skipped a night, sue me. And then sue me for this... SMOKE BOMB! :rollaway:

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Today I got through bags 6 - 9. 6 build the base, 7 added more columns (ugh), 8 added the ticket and fruit stands, and 9 built the gearbox beneath the loading zone. Overall, I've probably put in 5-6 hours of build time into this, but splitting this up across multiple days does make it seem like a less monumental task. (I have two bags left to go, so I'd estimate another hour and half of building time left.) It's going a little faster than Ninjago City, which has more small pieces to put together, despite costing less. But it's taking longer than the Ferris Wheel, which I believe I pulled off in a single 6 hour sitting. The building here is honestly less enjoyable than Ninjago City. That model had clever building techniques crammed in in every available space. The Roller Coaster, instead, is built more for functionality, so while there are some interesting designs, there's a lot of repetition required for structural integrity. I did include the "Coaster" sign in the picture since I built in with this batch, and it has been one of the more clever designs; I like how they created the letters in a new style.

That said, there are a few nifty builds on this half of the track. There's a little path leading to the ride's entrance and exit, and reminds me of the meandering queue lines I used to build in Roller Coaster Tycoon (man, that was an older game that I played way too much.) Funnily, the path forms a loot on the interior of the plate; I get that people are supposed to enter and exit on either end of the ticket stand, but there's not much room there and no colored plates, so I just image that some riders are forced into a constant loop of riding over and over again. Anyway, some of the little details include a small pond, another tree, a fruit stand, and a ticket / photo booth. The latter is impressively fitted on a single stud, but the clips on the top attach it to the curved track and hold it in place nicely.

There are also a couple of technic contraptions built here. The first is the mechanism for the chain lift on the far end, which includes various gears and a neat wedge that looks like it will pull out any slack on the lift chain. (Not looking forward to putting together those links, and that's one of the very last steps too.) Even more complicated is the gearbox beneath the loading platform, which has a few interesting placements for the gears. The far right lever reaches across the baseplate and it used to manually work the lift chain, for those who forgo buying a motor. The bar on the far left is the break; it pulls in a time that's supposed to stop the cars at the loading dock. The middle lever then spins that wheel, allowing you to "start" the ride. Meanwhile, the bar can be pushed back so that the cars don't stop when the ride is going fully automatic when you plug the motor in. However... at this stage, the bar doesn't like being pulled out far enough to catch the cars. I've double-checked the build and it's all correct, and I don't think there's anything else added to this later that makes it more effective... so I dunno. It would be lame if you have to manually pull it out to catch the cars as the zoom into the station.

This set doesn't have any new figs until Bag 8, so I guess they decided against dispersing the figs equally. In Bag 8, you get an employee to man the ticket counter and other to work the fruit stand. Bag 9 offers you the ride operator and two riders. There are a few rare parts, like the white female hairpiece and the long brown female hairpiece. Two employees get a fancy yellow jacket to show that they're ride operators, so that's fancy. As for new pieces, you get a few nice curved tiles in light yellow with the fruit stand, and also the 2x2 triangle tiles used beneath the ticket stand, the latter of which I can see being very useful. The gold roller skates, Ninjago City ornate fences, and BrickHeadz glasses are also nice to have. There's also the new rock element, which is modestly rare too, and it's my first chance at getting this piece.

One thing that I've started to notice about this set is that it's skimping on the extra pieces. Normally, when a bag contains a small element, it includes an extra of it. But then you have sets like Ninjago City, which reuse the same small element multiple times across multiple bags, so you essentially get an extra of the piece for every bag it shows up in. Well, this set doesn't appear to do that for me; I'm getting an extra of the small elements in the first bag they appear in, but if they show up again later (like the white 1x1 plates) the extra doesn't show up. And that's not the only penny-pinching this set does; it asks you to save a rubber band from one bag to use later on in the build. I swear they use to just include an extra rubber band later on instead of this whole "remember to use this rubber band a hundred steps from now" deal. I wonder if this was a conscious decision on their part to limit the number of extras... I mean, is sparing a couple of 1x1 studs really that big deal when the set is already costing $379.99? The running tally for this set is just at $0.09 per part... but that also includes 280 of those small links, so that bloats up the part count, and then you have the specialized track parts that probably cost more. But... come on, this is not a licensed set and is already uber expensive, there's no need to get cheapskate-y.

Anyway, I have more column builds to look forward to. :bored: And there's also putting together all those links. Still, although the build is less enjoyable than some sets, I'm eager to finish it and start playing with a motorized Roller Coaster! The car's been fun to test out on the track, but it still needs to go the full loop!



Review 10261: Roller Coaster - Night 02

Posted by xccj , in Review Jun 11 2018 · 129 views
And the building continues...

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So tonight I finished bags 3 - 5. Well, mostly; I left out the sign bit to do later, and I jumped to the end to build one of the cars (literally the last bits you build for this set.) But in general, the right half of the Roller Coaster is finished.

The build was tedious, to say the least. If I wasn't building more columns (which had enough slight variations that I had to pay attention to each one) then I was building one of the supports. The whole thing is modestly sturdy; I wouldn't bet on any stress tests, but it'll hold it's weight for the most part. The most precarious design is the angled bits on the front (where Batman's standing) which is essentially a base for the tracks being held up by two clipped support beams, which is currently not sturdy at all. (But upon closer inspection I realize the sign bit would lock the bases of the two angled beams, thus creating a full triangle.) So it would probably be sturdier if I accurately followed the instructions. There was a bit of technic building on the top, consisting of the gearbox for the top of the chain and the wheels that pull the cars around the top curve. A few clever designs there, but I'm sure nothing a Technic fan hasn't seen before.

This is about as tall as the structure will get... and it's tall. It's not quite as high as the Ninjago City tower, but it definitely reaches the top of the third level with the sushi table. There weren't any actual new figs built here, but there were a couple of new pieces I found interesting. One was a 2x3 plate with a bar underneath which has shown up in a few sets, but is new this year. It's not exactly versatile, but I'm sure it'll be useful for some designs. More interesting is the 1x2 curved brick which is not only brand new but exclusive to this set at the moment. (Alas, it only contains two.) This element would be extremely useful, although I didn't test how the curve compares to similar bricks. Hopefully it starts making a wider appearance in cheaper sets, but it has a very specific use in the chain gearbox for the Roller Coaster, thus requiring it's creation, because I don't think any other bricks could pull off the same design. Getting to add in some of the track pieces was fun too, and the little car glides easily down them.

Looks like I'm back to building the base tomorrow, but there's the more complicated loading platform to make, as well as a few of the stalls, so hopefully enough to keep me entertained. Although I do get to build the sign; I was saving that for when I'm not burned out; I need a break from building more supports. :annoyed:



Review 10261: Roller Coaster - Night 01

Posted by xccj , in Review Jun 10 2018 · 140 views
So I caved in and bought this. It's now the most expensive set I've ever purchases, beating Ninjago City by about $80, and it's definitely looking to be the set that takes up most of the shelf space; it will be taking over the display space where I previously had Ninjago City and the Ferris Wheel. But it just looks so cool that I couldn't NOT get it, right? Now, this does kind of kill my Lego budget for the rest of the summer, and there are some cool sets still coming out, so I am going to have to show a little more self control over my purchases for a while...

But anyway, while I get started building this, I'll do a short documentary in my blog. Not a full on review because, well, I don't have THAT kind of time.

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So Night 1 got me through the first 2 bags (although each number really includes two or three bags a piece, but this is the terminology I use for smaller sets, so I'm sticking with it here.) Basically, it builds the base and first level of supports for the right half of the full set. Now, I thought the Ferris Wheel had some tedious builds, but I have a feeling I'll be sick of constructing all these white columns after a while. That set, the design technique for using clips on the base really holds them together, although the various support beams look like they'll be only partially effective. It's cool how they're using Mixel joints to create some angled beams on the end, but I feel like it's more for show than true support. Seeing at this set is supposed to get three times taller than this, I think the top might be more rickety than I'd prefer, but I'll make that judgment when I get to that point. And one thing that I haven't seen stressed in other reviews is the hazard for pinching yourself while trying to snap these columns together. Maybe it's just due to my hap hazardous building style, but I got pinched a couple of times and actually drew blood once... so now I am being a tad more careful.

There are a couple of small builds that fit in with the base. The cotton candy cart is a neat design; nothing super impressive, but it works. (I would've liked to see a gear mechanism to spin the inside of the machine... but how one could pull that off at this scale, I do not know.) The beehive piece as cotton candy (or, as I learned from another British review, is called candy floss in the UK and fairy floss in Australia) is quite ingenious, and I'm kind of disappointed that I only get two of them here. The tree is another nice design for it's size. It's simplistic but manages to work, mostly thanks to various newish plant molds. Even the park bench (not quite visible in the photo) is a neat design, using a new spoiler element to build the backrest.

As for the figs... well, let's be honest, these theme park sets just create a bunch of standard city figs, which are useful but not exactly a reason to get these sets. The first bag includes a young girl (too small to ride the coaster, unfortunately), a cotton candy vendor, and a grandpa. The vendor's blonde hairpiece is new, I believe, but not exclusive. I guess points could be had since this set actually includes more female characters, which is a trend not often found in Lego sets. (Six ladies to five men.) Honestly, I'm going to use this Roller Coaster to display some of my more unique figs. Since the Marvel characters have taken over my Ferris Wheel, I'm thinking the Roller Coaster will go to DC, and Batman's already swinging in to claim his spot!

I'm not going to look into parts too specifically, because I don't plan on scrapping this for pieces, ever. But I mean, if you want white or gray plates or tiles, or if you're really hurting for some 2x2 round bricks in white... well, this set would have you covered. I haven't gotten to the new track pieces yet, but I've looked through the bags that contain them, and they look like they'll be fun. (For the record, outside of some spare track from the Black Panther set, this will be my first Roller Coaster set, so I won't be comparing it to the Batman set because, clearly, I don't own it.)

Anyway, expect more ramblings on this tomorrow when I get to build a little more after work. Maybe when I finish I'll do a short video review, but maybe not, since people generally aren't fans of my talking. (I'm not sure they're fans of me writing either, but if you got to this point in this entry, then you've got a lot of time on your hands. :P )



Review: Gahlok Pen

Posted by xccj , in Review Apr 19 2018 · 177 views
There was some talk in the forums a while ago about the Bohrok pens, an abstract collectible item from the era of excessive Lego merchandising. In looking up some pictures, I discovered a relatively cheap copy of a Gahlok pen on BrickLink, and because I have no impulse control, I now own it. And since I previous wrote a review on the Lewa and Onua Mata pens, I decided to do the same with this one. So without further ado...

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It seems like the standard pen case for the Lego pens at the turn of the millennium. (Although I guess it's missing the plastic backing that would hold the spare beads on display.) A cool design bit is that the top is somewhat shaped like a Bohrok faceplate.

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(Click for larger images)

The leaflet shows off some of the other various pens, including the original Toa Mata pens, the rest of the Bohrok pens, and a collection of the Toa Nuva pens. (I have the masks from all the Mata pens, but I haven't found any of the Nuva pens. There are a few available online from ebay and such... but I think they're going for $40 to $60. So that's a no from me.) There are some quirky descriptions of the pens (with a tip to add them to your collection ASAP, subtle marketing there) as well as a bio for the Gahlok Bohrok. (Which sounds vaguely familiar, so it's a little more official than the Mata Bios on the previous pen leaflets.)

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The full pen can hold about six beads, and comes with a handful of extras to let you customize the design. I mean, neat concept, but Lego played that out for a ton of different pens back in the day, so it's not exactly revolutionary here. The grip is kinda cool with the swirly blue design. Alas, the ink is long since dried up (it's been 16 years now) and I have yet to find a replacement cartridge. (I have looked through a few craft stores... if somebody more knowledgeable knows anything, please share, it would be kinda cool to make these pens usable again.) The main unique feature here is the Bohrok faceplate. Unfortunately, it's attached to the top of the pen (and as such to the pin that runs down the center of the entire thing) so you can't really use it to make a mini Bohrok. But it folds up and down nicely to cover the krana and keep it from falling out. (Kinda.)

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You get 11 beads plus the mini krana. The cooler beads, IMO, are the printed ones. The giant black one with the Bionicle logo appears in all the Bionicle pens, as far as I can tell, but it's still a decent design. Then you've got some medium blue beads with the Bohrok symbol, Gahlok shield, and a silhouette of the Gahlok Va. Then there's a blue bead that has an outline of the Mata Nui island on one side, and the name spelt out on the other. The rest of the beads are generic filler, including a blue, orange, trans orange, and thin medium blue bead (the latter of which it still on the bar in the image above.) The last large bead is actually molded after the Bohrok limb piece, which is clever.

Of course, the beads are largely superficial decorations. Yes, they do roughly fit onto a system stud, but there's no real practical MOC use out of them. Instead, everybody's interested in the krana and the head bead it attaches to.

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The head bead does attach to a minifig neck... kind of. It attaches as well as any of the other pen beads, which is to say barely. Unfortunately, while the original Toa Kanohi hung down and covered the neck gap, the krana does not. (The head bead also sticks out quite a bit in the back, making it even more awkward to place on a minifigure torso.)

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The krana is a hard plastic orange Krana Yo (the tunneling mole krana, for those who haven't memorized the powers). It has a small pin connection that fits exclusively into the mouth of the head bead. It is too small to fit into a traditional system bar hole, but too large to fit into the small accessory holes seen in minifigure hairpieces. Basically, it's useless without the head bead to attach to. And the attachment is weak... I don't know if that has to do with age or not, but the clutch power is barely there.

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It's not to say the head bead is completely worthless. It attaches firmly to a stud, so it would actually work nicely to incorporate a small krana into a system MOC. There's potential... but not enough for me to go and track down the other five Bohrok pens. :glare: Unfortunately, it looks like the Toa Nuva pens also have unique masks that clip to the same head bead, which means that making Toa Nuva minifigures using the pen masks does not seem like a feasible project either, even if the pens were moderately affordable.

So the pen is only sorta meh, and the beads and krana aren't quite as worthy as the Toa Mata pen masks. There's a nice nostalgia kick for those of us who grew up in the Bohrok saga, but honestly it's not a must-have collectible.

And standard disclaimer: the Toa Mata masks pictured are from the *spoiler* Toa Pens from 2001. The torso decals were done by Nuju Metru (I gave him a handful of collectible minifigs for them.) I already did a post about maybe getting a bunch of torsos printed on commission, but there was no interest and instead people just griped about my color choices.)



Set Review: S.O.G. Headquarters

Posted by xccj , in Review Feb 26 2018 · 159 views
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Ninjago occasionally releases a set that’s basically an arena for the latest spinners. Usually it’s a couple of walls built to contain the spinners with a few functions and themed sculptures thrown in. Some of the designs are better than others, but mostly their appeal is in playability or unique minifigures. Well, in the case of 70640 S.O.G. Headquarters, I totally got it for the figs, although 530 pieces for $40 did convince me to get the full set and not just Bricklink Lloyd’s exclusive fig.

So, character wise, you get five figs. Spinjitzu Lloyd is in the same style as the other ninjas from the spinner packs, and I’ll admit that I needed him as a completionist. You also get two generic S.O.G. goons in Nails (the short one) and Skip Vicious. (Technically they’re both unique characters, but I think thing their components are reused in other sets.) Snake Jaguar also reuses Skip’s torso, but with a more familiar head. (Spoiler: he’s actually Zane in disguise. It’s odd that this fig didn’t come in the set named after him.) The final fig is one of the leaders, Ultra Violet. She appears in another set, but has a unique torso here. (And I like how they’re using a stud with a hole to hold onto the ponytail piece; when the ponytail previously had to fit straight into the minifig head, the connection was too loose.) As a collectible, you also get the cool Oni Mask of Hatred.

You get seven basic builds; the spinner launcher, a motorcycle, and five wall pieces. The first section of wall (moving from left to right) has a spinner stand for Nails (complete with a gear control) and what appears to be some sort of ATM that you can knock over. (I didn’t apply the stickers to this set, since I’m going to be parting it out, but the stickers seem to imply that it’s part of the Ninjago subway. Maybe it’s a ticket machine?) There’s also a big stoplight attached to the end, which looks kind of cool with the Samurai X horns. The second section has a wall with graffiti art... if you apply the stickers, anyway. It also has another spinner bit with two hammers.

The third section is the big entrance door; I guess it could be an abstract Oni mouth, with the yellow lights as eyes. There’s a bar on the back so that if you push the doors opened, it knocks down the Oni Mask of Hatred from the top. The forth section is pretty bare, but it includes a small stand for the bike. The fifth and final section includes another geared spinner, this time with a big red sawblade attached. All in all, nothing particularly impressive about these bits, but I know I can use the extra plates and slopes in my MOCs, so it’s not a total waste.

The spinner build is the exact same design as those used in the Spinjitzu sets for the other Ninja, with only the element colors changing. (And, in fact, the design is only slightly different from the Airjitzu launchers from two years ago.) But the real gem of this set is the motorcycle. I was complaining earlier that all the motorcycles in Ninjago were meh… well, I hadn’t taken a closer look at this one, with the unconventional front bar design and neat angles. This is one of the better Lego motorcycles designs ever for its size. (I have a feeling that maybe it’s been used before in another theme, but I can’t recall which?)

But while the rest of this set is pretty blah worthy as far as visual designs go, it turns out there’s quite a bit of playability. The new spinner launcher makes the top spin so much faster and longer than the original Ninjago spinners, and it can really tear around the room if you can angle it right. (Well, it works better on a hard surface; carpeting really restricts it’s movement.) I thought all the use of tires on the wall attached spinners were kind of odd, but it turns out they’re positioned at the right height to line up with Lloyd’s spinner when it’s in action, and when it hits them it sets them spinning. This works out nicely for the hammer and Nails spinner. The sawblade spinner is a bit more difficult, as the saw blade is more likely to hit Lloyd’s spinner than the tire unless Lloyd is perfectly level. (It also doesn’t help that I’ve found Lloyd’s spinner to drift to the left, so it usually spins away from the sawblade.) The function of hitting the doors and knocking the Oni-Mask down kinda works, but it’s not as nifty as setting the hammer section spinning.

Overall, for figs and pieces, this set is okay, but still a bit expensive to just be a parts pack. (I mean, the pieces are useful, but not exactly rare or plentiful. You do get the 2x2 red wedge plates, red 1x1x1.66 SNOT bricks, and a red 6x6 tile.) Some of the figs are exclusive, but none of the characters really are, so there’s no must-have fig here. For display purposes, the designs are pretty generic, with the exception of the cool motorcycle. But for play value, this set has a lot going for it. Bring in a second spinner (from one of the cheaper sets that also include their own exclusive Ninjas... yes, I’ve bought all of those for the figs too) and there’s definitely some competitive play options here. Although this clearly isn’t intended for the standard AFOL, I think it’s actually a pretty cool set to tinker with as a kid, even with the lackluster designs. There’s plenty to do. So, all in all, an easy enough set to pass up on, but if you do pick it up, it will be worth it.



Set Reviews: Black Panther Royal Talon Fighter and Rhino Face-Off

Posted by xccj , in Review Feb 24 2018 · 159 views
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The Black Panther movie was pretty epic, and there were two Lego sets to go with the film (in addition to a jet released with Civil War). So today I’m taking a quick look at 76100: Royal Talon Fighter Attack ($29.99, 358 pieces) and 76099: Rhino Face-Off by the Mine ($19.99, 229 pieces). There will be some moderate spoilers, but I won’t go too in depth to the movie.

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Between the two sets, you get seven figs from the movie, hitting most of the main cast. T’Challa appears in both sets in two different uniforms. Black Panther’s suit is a bit plain to make in minifig form compared to some of the other super heroes we've gotten before, and honestly I would’ve liked to get a non-uniform T’Challa fig somewhere. The fig in the Royal Talon set is only a slight costume update from his Civil War version (furthest on the left in the pict above), which looks a bit more organic. The Rhino version includes the blue highlights from the movie’s finale.

Killmonger also gets to show up in both sets, but in very different outfits. The Royal Talon set has him in his main heist outfit, complete with the very cool tribal mask. The head, however, is a generic one that’s appeared in a couple of Star Wars character, as well as Spiderman’s Shocker fig from last year. Killmonger’s Black Panther suit from the Rhino set is only moderately different from T’Challa’s, with some gold highlights to make him stand out. Rounding out the villains is Klaue from the Royal Talon set, who is also the only non-black fig in these sets. The vest printing is pretty cool, but I’m a bit disappointed that they gave him a hand weapon instead of a full on robotic arm, since we’ve seen that happen before.

The female characters in the movie were some of the best, and we get two of them with Nakia in the Royal Talon set and Okoye in the Rhino set. (And it looks like we might get Shuri in an Infinity War set later this year.) The two figs here have similar torsos, which reflect the uniforms of theDora Milaje with only a few slight style differences between them. I’m disappointed to see Okoye’s uniform in dark orange, when she’s in red from the movie, from what I remember. I guess they wanted the color to differ from Nakia’s red uniform, but since Nakia didn’t wear that uniform for most of the movie, I would’ve preferred to see her in one of her other outfits. Still, it’s great to see more women of color as figs, and Nakia’s round weapons and unique hairpiece are also nice.

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The Royal Talon Fighter is an impressive vehicle, and looks similar enough to the one from the movie. (Although I would’ve preferred to see some of the dragonfly-style ships from the movie... maybe as future sets?) The main stand out from the model is the twelve Bionicle fin blades along the edges, which are angled out to give a cool effect on the wings. The rest of the ship is well rounded, and the two flags on the front poke up like panther ears. It’s swooshable, and has a compartment in the middle to hold one of the baddies prisoner, but doesn’t have a lot of other features. The cockpit has room for two figs, but you can’t put a fig with hair in the back because their hair will hit the windscreen. It’s a decent model, but not exactly as iconic as the Milano. It does have a fair amount of cool black pieces to use, including a new style for the base.

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From the two sets, I think the Rhino is the best model. The legs are single molds, but they work well and still have some connection points for additional armor. The body is solid and well rounded, and the head has a detailed and fairly realistic look, with decent motion on the neck to allow for a few poses. (The head also uses two of the 1x2 round plates with holes in the studs, so that’s a useful piece to have more of.) The stud shooters and handle bars on the top work for minifig playability, but if you want to make the rhino look more natural, then they’re easy to remove too. It’s nice to get a decent rhino model, especially since we were cheated out of a Rhino Legends Beast from Legends of Chima.

The last model is the mine cart from the Rhino set. The roller coaster track pieces are nice, but not much you can do with just two of them here. The cart reminds me of the Temple of Doom carts from the Indiana Jones set, and the Nexo Knight armor fills out the ends nicely. Unfortunately, the track is too short to really have much playability with it, which is disappointing, but I see what they were trying to do. Having more of those track elements in these sets is never quite a bad thing.

So, of the two models, I think the Rhino Face-Off by the Mines is the better choice. The mine cart is lackluster, but the Rhino is great. Royal Talon Fighter Attack’s vehicle is a bit less impressive, but the fig selection does make the set worthwhile. The various Black Panther figs are a bit meh, but all the other figs are really nice. Still, at $20 and $30, these sets are fairly affordable and do a good job at representing the movie. And since the film was such a big hit, maybe we’ll see future sets also focusing on the movie. (Although I guess there hasn’t been a case of LEGO releasing sets based on a non-current movie. Oh well.)



Review: 70639 Street Race of Snake Jaguar

Posted by xccj , in Review Feb 22 2018 · 143 views
I was planning to do a full review of this set, but after sitting on it for two months, I realize I don’t have an awful lot to say about it. Soooo... I’m saving myself the effort and just doing a short blog review.

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This set consists of two motorcycles, a popular vehicle to create in the theme. (There’s generally at least one motorcycle set per year, usually around the $20 mark.) This set goes for $29.99 and has 308 pieces. There’s not exactly a lot of great pieces here, but white, dark azure, and gold go on Zane’s bike, and black, red, and purple show up on Mr. E’s bike. The two main new pieces are the new blade element and the Oni Mask of Vengeance. This is the cheapest set to get the latter, and white it’s cool that it clips onto a standard minifig helmet, it’s disappointing that there’s no real way to a fig to grip it, considering the mask changes hands in the show a couple of times. The katana in red are also a nice touch, and it’s cool to get the weapons in a new color.

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The two minifigures are certainly a highlight. Zane is exclusive here (he does appear in his Snake Jaguar disguise in another set, which is a bit odd that he’s not disguised here, given the set’s name.) Zane’s outfit actually looks remarkably similar to his movie version, with just a few subtle color and texture designs. Mr. E, meanwhile, is the new bad guy, and certainly seems like one of the strongest in the antagonistic bike gang this season. He has a badge on his torso with the Ninjago script letter “E” on it, for his name, and the script spelling out “SOG” on his back for “Sons of Garmadon.” (SOG doesn’t sound particularly intimidating, IMO.) The mask he’s after also comes with a second set of arms to let him better imitate Garmadon. Overall, an interesting fig, and his style matches with the Oni Mask nicely.

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The two bikes have some individual style to them, but what disappointed me the most was that they’re basically built atop the same base chassis, which has also been used in a few other Ninjago motorcycles in the past. I feel like the motorcycle designs are just getting boring, and even with an entire bad guy team based on motorcycles this wave, I still don’t think any of the designs really stand out. Still, to be fair, it’s a good design. (It’s hard to change the designs if you’ve already got a really solid build. And I understand that not everybody has been collecting Ninjago motorcycles since 2011.) The big standout on Zane’s bike is the Eagle drone, which can easily pop off and fly out for reconnaissance. It’s a nice callback to Zane’s falcon, although the style feels more like something out of Legends of Chima. (For reference, the Ninjago script on the wings reads “Ice”.) Mr. E’s bike focuses more on the function; the spikes on the front wheels work to lift the blades up and down in a fluid chopping motion, which works quite well for such a simple design. He also has a cooler seat on the back, which also includes some Ninjago script that spells out “D81” although I don’t get the reference here.

Overall, this is a nice set, and the two bikes add some extra playability with two evenly matched vehicles to race each other. The pieces are okay and the figs are good, and the price isn’t too high either. Still, it’s perhaps not the best set in the theme. Not bad, but not too exciting either. I got it ‘cause I’m a completionist, but some of the other sets might be more interesting to folks looking for a cool design. (The Ninja Nightcrawler or the Temple of Resurrection look more appealing, but I haven’t picked them up yet.)



Best Lego Sets of 2017

Posted by xccj , in Thoughts, Review Dec 31 2017 · 245 views
Long-Post, Ninjago, Best-of-2017
Another year has come and gone, and with it I’ve spent a large sum of it on Lego. There were a lot of sets that I wanted to review this year, but alas I have not been able to touch on a lot of them. Some sets were great, others not so much. Some had great figs, some had great builds, and some had great pieces. Instead of doing a comprehensive review, I figured I’d do a quick “Best of 2017” list. So, in no particular order, here are my picks for the best Lego sets of 2017 (based on what I’ve purchased):

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70627 Dragon's Forge

The line of classic Ninjago at the beginning of 2017 was a bit mellow, probably because they were expecting to go big with the movie later in the year. The snake villains felt like another repeat, and the Ninja costumes got Metru-fied (they started using the darker tones) which I didn’t like. I picked up Destiny’s Shadow and Samurai VXL, which were decent sets, but far from the best the theme has to offer. But then you look at Dragon’s Forge, which is easily the gem of the wave. The dragon’s design isn’t exactly revolutionary, but the clever combination of the blues and reds and the two heads work out nicely. (The dragon’s been on display at my work desk since I picked up the set, that’s how good I think it is.) Plus, the blacksmith’s hut is a fairly sizable structure, and it swivels opened for better access to all the play features, while still looking good from the outside. That, and you get Kai and Nya’s parents as figs, so this set was easily a win.

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41184 Aira’s Airship and the Amulet Chase

It’s not that the Elves line for 2017 was bad, it’s just that 2016 was hard to follow, and my budget isn’t endless. (A majority of my money went to the Ninjago theme, which meant I didn’t venture too much into other various themes.) The goblins weren’t particularly interesting IMO, and some of the buildings either felt meh-worthy or just more of the same. I even picked up Rosalyn’s Healing Hideout for the dragon, which is nice in dark blue, but the design isn’t really new. (Never did grab the evil dragon, been meaning to.) But then there’s the airship; while reminiscent of Nadia’s boat from the first year, it has enough clever design features to get me interested. The elegant gold curves on the edges were nicely done, and the action feature with the wings works out too. Plus, purple boomerang! (And I wrote a mini review of it too.) If you only had to pick one Elves set from this year, this would be my recommendation.

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76084 The Ultimate Battle for Asgard

Okay, to be fair, this list is based off what I bought this year (and narrowing it down even further, what I’ve bought and built.) Super Hero sets tend to be pretty far down the list as far as quality is concerned, outside maybe fig designs. That said, Thor: Ragnarok was a good movie and this set did a decent job of showing it off. You get most of the main characters here, including the main baddie Hela, the newbie Valkyrie, a snazzy redesigned Thor, and Bruce Banner as a fig (finally.) All the figs are well done and worth of a collection. The Fenris wolf build is similar to the Legends of Chima Legend Beasts, but the detailing on it works. The design and size make is movie accurate too, I believe. I wasn’t really expecting much from the Commodore spaceship, given that Lego doesn’t always do space vehicles justice. And although they’ve really scaled it down, the shape and colors are all there. It even has the drop bay in the center from the movie (although clearly without the necessary space for the minifigures to properly stand inside it.) The one bit that is off from the movie is the stud shooters, since they made a big deal about how the ship didn’t have any weapons initially. Oh well, I guess Lego needed the action feature. Anyway, the set gets onto the list for exceeding my expectations.

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70904 Clayface Splat Attack

The beginning of 2017 showered us in Batman sets, showing that Lego likes to bet on black (and very dark gray). There were some sets that certainly had better designs, but most of them were out of my budget. The few that I did get my hands on (Riddler Racer, Killer Croc truck, and the Scuttler) had vehicles that ranged from meh to bleh. (The huge cast of figs was better, and there were definitely some sets that I bought just for the figs, not to mention the entire CMF series.) Clayface was a set that I didn’t have high expectations for; the medium nougat color was nice, but there weren’t enough cool pieces in that shade to make it a worthwhile parts pack. Still, I was interested enough to pick it up on sale, and I found the Clayface character to be quite cleverly designed and fun to pose, quite exceeding my expectations. Sure, there are still improvements that could be made, but I think they did a decent job on this set to make it worthwhile. (Plus, I quickly made use of the Mayor’s darker skin tone female head, which is a bit of a rarity.)

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70362 Battle Suit Clay

The 2017 run of Nexo Knights was another theme that was just a bit out of my budget. I liked the purple and medium blue highlights of the villains this year, but the cooler designs were generally in the expensive models, so I only picked up a few sets to get those cool gargoyle wings. The Knight vehicles look okay-ish, but I’m not a fan of their color scheme, which tried to keep a dark blue and trans orange scheme mixed in with colored highlights of the specific Knight, which offers mixed results. But my favorite designs were actually the smaller Battle Suits released at the beginning on the year. Although there’s little difference between the five mechs, the color schemes are solid and match the characters, and I liked the new system where they utilize the Mixel joints. In the end, you have a Mixel sized character (with some decent weapon designs) but with a fig snugly fitting on the inside. (The unique fig designs are also nice too, better than their standard armor IMO.) I haven’t had a chance to make any custom mini mechs using these pieces, but I know I’ll get to it eventually, and I think these make for nice small purchases. (Just go ahead and pick your favorite Knight.)

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75532 Scout Trooper & Speeder Bike

I wouldn’t say this has been a great year for CCBS, and I actually didn’t buy a single set with this primary building style. (I did, however, win a bunch.) The main reason is that CCBS is now limited entirely to Star Wars characters, and the last few waves have been pretty bland. I’m getting tired of the same humanoid build (there’s only so many ways you can make a “realistic human” shape. At least the Toa could go off in different directions build wise) and the color schemes have been generally pretty dull. (It was nice to get some tans and browns at first… and now that’s all we get, besides black, white, and red. The Boba Fett next year does add a space of new color to the mix.) But the fun bit with this set isn’t the Scout Trooper but the Speeder Bike. Ever since we got Luke and Vader, I wondered what to-scale vehicles would be like (and I would still like to build a CCBS X-Wing and Tie Fighter), so it was nice for Lego to deliver with one of the smaller vehicle designs. That said, the Speeder Bike isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it conveys the overall shape and looks great with the figure. (Although it’s not very swooshable with the stand, but it looks great on display.) If they’re going to try to unload more boring Storm Trooper characters on us, then at least give us some cool vehicles to go with them!

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60162 Jungle Air Drop Helicopter

The new City Jungle theme this summer looked pretty neat, but I had to forgo purchasing any of the sets due to my budget constraints. Still, I got lucky and got the larger model sent to me free for a review. This set encapsulates most of the coolest parts of them theme in a single model, although it’s a bit pricey so that would put some collectors off. You have a cool assortment of figs in explorer gear, with an almost even gender ratio too. You also get a cool man-eating plant, a new crocodile mold, some spiders, and a tiger, so you’re covered for jungle animals too! You get a couple of cool vehicles (the boat is my favorite, the helicopter my least favorite) as well as a few landscape features (the docks are simplistic, but the bridge bit is very nice.) The helicopter is also designed so it can pick up both the pallets and the truck, and the various pallets also fit beneath the tower and in the boat, so I applaud the design consistencies. The play value is thru the roof and demonstrates the best that the theme has to offer. (That said, putting such a large review together has been time consuming, which is why it’s taken me nearly five months to get it to the front page.)

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70615 Fire Mech

The Ninjago Movie may have been a bit lackluster, but the sets based on it have been amazing and a joy to build. I’m quite a sucker and have already picked up four of the Ninja’s mechs, including the Water Strider (which I felt was a repeat design with too dark of a color scheme), the Lightning Jet (the build was more solid than I was expecting, but there are just too many bits shooting out everywhere, feels like too much of a mess), and the Ice Tank (which has a cool shell design, but in the end feels just a bit too simple.) I’ve yet to pick up the Green Dragon Mech (the design doesn’t speak to me, but I found one on sale so it’s in the mail) or the Quake Mech (haven’t been able to order it yet, waiting until the New Year deals to go live), but these will eventually be added to my collection.

But so far, my favorite is the Fire Mech, which is surprising because I thought it would be just “another Ninjago mech.” But I didn’t realize how large it is; it’s probably the largest humanoid Lego mech I’ve ever purchased. (Not counting Bionicle, but I don’t think any of the Bionicle characters I have can match it in size either.) (I’m also not sure there are a lot of other mechs that are larger? Only one that pops to mind is Emmet’s mech from TLM, but there might’ve been some others in Exo Force too.) With its size comes a lot of neat details, and some decent action features. It is a bit disappointing that it doesn’t have knees (I bet that would’ve made it too unstable for its size) but otherwise its articulation is decent. For the scale, it’s also fairly similar to its movie version, and it a great model to display. That said, all the Ninjago Movie vehicles so far have been fun to build, and I can’t wait to get the rest to complete my collection. (The Quake Mech looks like it might become my favorite, but since I haven’t picked it up yet, it doesn’t make the list.)

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70620 Ninjago City

It might go without saying that I’m a huge fan of this set, since I dedicated four separate blog entries to describing my thoughts while building it. The designs are excellent, from the little details to the large architectural designs, and it really conveys the idea that the lower levels are from a different generation in this city. And there are also a couple of nifty action features, as well as plenty of display space for figs on the walkways and within the buildings. And the parts; lots and lots of great colors and designs, and a few brand new molds were introduced here too. (It would make for a great parts pack, except that I’m not taking it apart for pieces. Ever.) Heck, I’ve even added a custom level to it to build it up higher, although my designs aren’t nearly as fancy as the official model, but it gives me more space to display figs from across the Ninjago theme, and then some. The biggest issue is that it’s massively expensive; you totally get the bang for your buck, but not everybody can afford that. (I definitely had to curb my summer spending this year because I knew I wanted to purchase this one, hence my numerous “not in my budget” comments.) The set is like a mixture of a large modular design with all the cool features of a fun Ninjago set, and while I still dislike modulars I loved this set. If price weren’t an issue, I’d recommend this to everyone. (Which is a bit annoying, when these lists are people just saying “the most expensive sets of the year are the best.” Like how everybody’s recommending the new Millennium Falcon despite the near impossibility of being able to purchase it anytime soon. Still, if I had to choose between the Falcon and this set, I would go for this one easily.)

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Collectible Minifigures

I am a big collector of Collectible Minifigures, and I did snag full sets from the three waves released this year, so I’ll share my favorites. The first wave of Batman figs had some cool Batman suits, secondary forms for the main characters, and some rarer villain designs. My favorites are Glam Metal Batman, Pink Power Batgirl, and The Eraser. That said, it felt like a bit of a mellow theme, and next year’s second series of Batman figs will be one of the few where I DON’T collect all of them. Series 17 was a return to classic CMFs, and its looking like we’re only getting one of these mixed batch waves every year in the future, since they’re starting to enjoy more licensed waves instead. (The rumors next year say we’re getting Batman V2, Series 18, and then a wave of Harry Potter figs.) For Series 17, my favorites were the Butterfly Girl, Rocketship Boy (man, that one was a hard one to find, given its popularity), and the Battle Elf Girl. The Ninjago Movie wave was another licensed wave, and there were a couple of designs that I was less interested in. However, it did offer a chance to get civilian outfits for Zane, Cole, and Jay, as well as a few alternate colored fish heads for the Octopus and Angler soldiers, not to mention a cheaper way to pick up Koko. Still, some were a bit too repetitive, like the two Lloyds, Kai, Nya, and Sensei Wu, and they could’ve used a few more civilians to go along with the UniKitty Fan, Sushi Chef, and Punk Rocker. My favorites were General #1, Hipster Jay, and Misako.

Honorable Mentions

There were a few sets that I got that certainly don’t quality as “Best of 2017” but are still worth mentioning. 41591 Black Widow BrickHeadz had the best head design from an otherwise fairly basic and generic theme that’s really only good for the piece count. 60153 Fun at the Beach was a nice pack of summer and beach figs, with plenty of nice fig parts for collectors to mix and match. 40172 Brick Calendar is a fairly basic set, but served as a great way to get a lot of those SNOT corner bricks. (Brick with studs on two adjacent sides, which simplifies the connections for some SNOT designs.) 41150 Moana’s Ocean Voyage almost doesn’t count, since I bought the set in December 2016, but it was a great set for the characters, and I had fun recreating the boat design. 21312 Women of NASA is also a pretty stellar small set, but I have yet to open my copy, so I can’t really speak to the build…

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Worst Set of 2017: 76078 Hulk vs. Red Hulk

Generally I don’t pick up sets that don’t appeal to me. But I picked up this set early in the year. (Or in particular, Chocolate Frogs got it on a steep discount and gave me a further price drop as payment for driving him around at BricksCascade last year. I think there might’ve been a requirement that I had to review it too, but that never happen on the front page, so I guess this has to count.) Anyway, the set looks like it has some cool characters with some awful builds. . . and that’s pretty much what it is. She-Hulk and Red-She Hulk (real original names, Marvel) are okay, and the Red Hulk bigfig is a nice recolor. The Hulk is fine too, I guess, but I prefer some other color combinations to his lime and magenta. Their vehicles are supposed to be some sort of Cyber Slammers; they smash into each other’s bumpers, which trigger the catapults to launch the Hulks out of their seats and at each other. Well, I found that the functions don’t work quite that well; they mostly cause the Hulks to pitch forward slightly into the middle of their vehicles. (The mechanism might work better for standard figs, but not the heavy bigfigs.) The overall vehicle designs are meh, and outside the big wheels and large panels, there’s not a whole lot of unique pieces or colors in use here. And then you consider that there are only 375 parts for a $60 set, and it becomes clear this is quite the rip-off. At this point, I’d only recommend it if you REALLY want those characters, and even then I’d suggest waiting for a clearance sale or something. (As is, I think I made CF overpay for this.)

Anyway, that's my last bit of mini reviews for the year. See ya on the flip side!



Review: 60162 Jungle Air Drop Helicopter

Posted by xccj , in Review Dec 30 2017 · 126 views

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Man, that was an exhausting review to put together, although I took my sweet time on it. Got the set in August, filmed the review in September, touched up the pictures in October, ignored it completely in November, and then got it all edited together in December. :drooling: :dozingoff: :guilty:

Of course, it was a fun set, but it's essentially five playsets merged into one, which meant this was five reviews merged into one. But glad to get it finished. For the record, my favorite part of the set is the tiger. My favorite build was the jungle landscape piece, and my favorite vehicle was the riverboat.

Now... to start reviewing 2018 sets! :D


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