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Review: 70639 Street Race of Snake Jaguar

Posted by xccj , in Review Feb 22 2018 · 12 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 · 108 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 · 36 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



Set Review: 75529 Elite Praetorian Guard

Posted by xccj , in Review Dec 13 2017 · 39 views

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Man, I've been putting this one off for months waiting until just before the movie premier to post this! (Truth time, there are older set reviews that I'm still working on. Sigh.)

I'm waiting to see how many angry Youtube comments I'm going to get on this one. I hummed the theme music, added snarky captions, and generally felt meh on the set, so it's bound to set off a few folks. (Tis good to know I set the bar pretty low as the worst BZPower reviewer.)

Anyway, for the TL/DR (which probably applies to most people) the set is meh, who even is that character, action feature is lamez, but solid set with few gaps (yay robe) and also lotsa red pieces!!

I have at least one more review to post this year, but still needs a lot of effort, and just don't have the time or energy to do these anymore. :( (But it's an awesome one, so I do want to get it up.)



Review 70620: Ninjago City - Level 3

Posted by xccj , in Review Oct 26 2017 · 89 views

I have finished the Ninjago City model, so one last rambling of thoughts on it. The third and top level here consists of the rooftop sushi restaurant and the radio tower.

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The Sushi restaurant isn't too extravagant, because it is just sitting atop a rooftop. The edged of the curved roof are nice, with the two straight bits being made of door pieces. (One side is right hand doors, the other is left hand doors, so if you part this set out, you've have a full set of matching pairs.) There's plenty of seating up here, with nice use or rounded orange tiles filling things out, as well as a table with the menu sticker on it.

The big draw is the sushi conveyer belt, which totally works. I mean, it's not too complex; just 1x2 liftarms connected into a loop and placed in a nice slop, which uses some SNOT techniques to make a nice fit. It does get caught in a few places, and it's not secured in so if you tilt the roof upside-down (as one does with buildings) it'll fall right out. More irksome is the fact that the provided sushi dishes only fit in loosely, so a slight bump of the set and they go flying off the belt or their respective tables. There's a little table for the sushi chef to prepare the fish, but it's a little high for a standing fig, and I had to include a small stand for him for the display. (You can either refit the crab restaurant chef with a new hat and mustache and turn him into the sushi chef, or you could borrow the sushi chef from the Collectible Minifigure wave and have him man the table.)

Two of the final builds in the set are actually some of the best; the blowfish and squid sculptures, used to advertise for the restaurant. The squid makes excellent use of the small catapult arm and cheese slopes to get a striking design. (Granted, it took me a while to realize it was a squid, I thought it was just a fish design at first.) The blowfish is a bit more fragile but it's a technique I wouldn't have thought up, so it's quite impressive that they managed to design it and still pull off the look. Certainly a highlight of the model. (The last sticker of the set is also used on the green sign that hangs below the puffer fish, and is the final step to the entire set. Given how many stickers have been used, this seems fitting.)

But before you do those final designs, you have to build the big radio tower, using a fair amount of sand green elements (that look borrowed from the dragon mech.) It's a fairly sturdy structure, and the design of the hole looks pretty good from the front. The back, however, has a lot of anti-studs showing. Oh well. Not sure what all those bronze swords are supposed to represent, but they add some contrasting colors. What did surprise me was that the base of the tower has a small restroom built into it, thus being the last room built in the set. (And it's kind of needed; two residential houses, three restaurant, and a fish market... they needed a restroom somewhere.)

The figs are again less than impressive. You get a standard Ninja Jay, and although he was new to me he does appear in plenty of other cheaper sets. The Shark Army thug is the most common villain in Ninjago, so he's another repeat. Officer Noonan is slightly different, but basically just repurposing of standard police parts, so nothing special about here, really. I continue to be underwhelmed by the figs in this set.

The conveyer belt is a neat play feature, but not quite as nice as the crab grill. There are a few sushi stickers used here, as well as a couple of signs on the small black tower. (I think in the live stream, they mentioned one was a reference to Bionicle Glatorian? The top one with the circles reminds me of the Ga-Metru Kanoka disk design, although it's not exact.) This overall top level isn't quite as fulfilling as some of the others, but it serves its purpose as a rooftop restaurant and completes the model, so that's nice.

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I think it's easy to say that I like this set. The build was FUN, lots of different techniques used, some felt pretty standard, while others were quite creative. Plus, the designs generally don't skimp out; they use lots and lots of useful pieces. This set would make an excellent parts pack, with a fair amount of uncommon elements and colors. (But honestly, why would you not want to build this set? Unless you bought two... in which case you're way richer than I. This set was half the cost of my rent, or rather the majority of my Lego budget this summer.) But it was lots of fun and now I'm disappointed I don't have a new section to build after work every day. Heh.

This is a big set too. The rooftop restaurant is higher up than the top of the Airjitzu Temple. The top of the radio tower doesn't quite match the height of the Ferris Wheel, my other tallest set... but if you count the fishing pole antenna, it does. And there is a lot of room to desk this out with minifigs, which is what I've already started to do.

Overall, I would say my favorite designs include the bridge, the crowbar roofing, the comic shop, and Lloyd and Koko's house, plus the squid and puffer fish sculptures. Favorite stickers are the movie posters, comic book cards, and the Kimono lady. Best action feature is clearly the crab grille, but the elevator isn't bad either. The set isn't super great as far as figs go, but the exclusive ones like civilian Kai, Ivy, Mother Doomsday, and Tommy are my favorites. (Plus, I guess you always need some average figs to help bulk your city out. And from the mindset of a collector on a budget, it's nice that there aren't too many important exclusive figs here. There's nothing quite on par with the Airjitzu Temple's exclusive Misako fig.)

You do have the issue with the modular building design, where lots of details go into the interior, but it's too tight to really play in and it's not visible from the outside while on display. Luckily, there's plenty on the outside that it looks really good on display. The movie may have been a bit of a dud, but this set is excellent, and now I want to get even more Ninjago Movie sets to deck it out. (The street lamps from the smaller City Chase set can be easily placed on the roof, and the extra civilian figs can fill out the sidewalk and restaurant seats.) It's a great set... but it's super pricey and takes up a lot of room, so if you don't have the space or cash, you'll probably have to pass on it. Or just save up a lot and decide that you don't need shelf space in your kitchen for food. (Good thing too, cause you can't afford anymore now!)

That said, I should really get back to working on those front page reviews again...

Thanks for reading.



Review 70620: Ninjago City - Level 2 B

Posted by xccj , in Review Oct 25 2017 · 99 views

Onto the second half of the second level of Ninjago City. This level features the fashion store, another extension of the elevator, and an abandoned room with the bonsai tree growing out of it. And I also decided to add Lloyd and Koko's house to this section, although it's technically part of the third level.

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The main feature here is the fashion store, where they're selling a bunch of hats, as well as cell phones and a skateboard and a few other small things. (Basically, I think they rummaged through the accessories bin and threw in what they thought looked cool.) The color scheme of white and various shades of light blue is quite contrasting compared to the nearby buildings, which rely heavy on earth colors. In many ways, the fashion level feels like a Friends set, in that it has long sections of windows, a bright color scheme, and plenty of free space on the inside. (Seriously, it's the most opened "room" in this model so far, everything else has been very cramped.) I really did like the technique with the curved window piece on it's side... only after some research, I realized its been used this way before, although that was nine years ago. :o Overall, it's not quite as interesting as some of the other shops, but it is different.

I think there's a bit of wasted potential on the abandoned "construction" site on the right side of the fashion store. At this point, I'm guessing they were trying to keep from going over budget, because the room only has a few vines to represent tree roots, and single piece walls on the interior edges. (AKA the two sides not visible in my photo.) I'm tempted to redesign this region myself and make it more substantial, although I'd need to buy some more bricks in that light yellow colors, which is fairly rare. (And some pieces, like the 1x2 plate, only show up in that color in this set.) But this drab room can be forgiven because it attached to the amazing bonsai tree, which actually connects through the window using some CCSB parts. It doesn't feel like there were too many leaf pieces included here (really just four large leaf pieces with accompanying detaining) but they're spread out in a way that still makes the tree feel substantial. Quite a cool design, and the ball joints allow for easy positioning.

The elevator extension is just more of the same. The front end does use clips to get a neat window design. I don't know exactly what it's supposed to represent besides just some cool visuals to break up the wall. There is room on the inside to place a fig, although you have to disassemble the entire thing to get to it. Perhaps this could be a display room for the fashion store, or perhaps a place where Lloyd or Jay could hide as Ninjas (or even the Shark Army Goon.)

Next is Lloyd and Koko's house, and while it's part of Level 3, it doesn't actually connect to the rest of the level, so I put it here for greater visibility. It continues with the light yellow / tan color scheme, which is great, and it's packed with details, which is impressive considering it's only has the base of 10x10 studs. It has a bookshelf with the "book" plates connected to the back wall via clips, as well as a small table with a TV, a dresser, and a microwave. There are also bunk beds, with the upper bunk removable to place the figs in. Koko and Lloyd also have accompanying posters for their levels (although Koko's hair makes it difficult to fit her in.) The sloped roof is make using the plate with pin holes, and although the design isn't exactly groundbreaking, the repetition looks amazing. (This roof design also repeats on the one wall of the construction site, immediately below their house.) Finally, there's space in the roof to store Lloyd's ninja suit... although it's surprising Koko hasn't seen it since she just has to look up. Anyway, it's a cozy little house that would make an awesome Creator set of its own, and it's impressive that they squeezed so much detail on the inside.

The fig selection is mediocre again. Juno is the last civilian fig, and stands out with her umbrella, but all her parts are reused. Koko (or Misako) also uses a new head print to go with her unique hair piece, but the torso is pretty common and I'm surprised they didn't go with her movie outfit, although I guess they covered that with her collectible fig. Civilian Lloyd and his ninja suit both appear in other sets, so nothing too exciting about them either. (Granted, I suppose it's fitting that he shows up here... he's like Emmett or Batman from their respective movies; he has to be in a lot of the sets.) What did surprise me was the use of the training Ninja suits as the mannequins; if you want to make some for all six Ninjas, then you've got two right here. (I already have two, so I need to track down two more and the correct Ninja heads to complete that collection.)

No special functions on this level, unfortunately. Most of the stickers don't stand out either. The house has a few neat ones on the inside, plus some designs on the outside that resemble Gali's Nuva symbol. (This may have been intention... or not, it's not that uncommon of a design.)

All in all, it's not the most impressive level. The Fashion store is large and bright, but it doesn't quite compare to the crab restaurant or the comic shop, and the two side builds are dull too, although the tree is great. The house design is pretty nice, one of the highlights of the set really. (Now I'm tempted to make more compatible designs and start stacking up houses... maybe figure out how to add another level to Ninjago City. Eh, eventually, anyway.) Just one more level to go after this, nearing the end of this build...



Review 70620: Ninjago City - Level 2 A

Posted by xccj , in Review Oct 22 2017 · 104 views

Instead of finishing all of level 2, the first half had so much detail that I'm just going to do that part now.

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This involved bags seven thru ten, and makes the seafood restaurant, the comic shop, the ATM, an extension of the elevator, and an elevated sidewalk. There's another half level that sits on top of this that is technically Level 2, but there's still a lot going on here.

The restaurant is the biggest draw, and come with a small cooking area and a seating area. What throws me off the most is the array of tools that are hung in the corner: A frying pan (makes sense), a pick axe (um, I guess to crack the crabs?), Thor's hammer (just how tough are these crabs??), and a buzz saw (seriously?!?). This chef is serious. But the main attraction is the oven, which is the coolest action feature so far. By turning a knob on the outside, the interior of the oven flips, and stuff that was hidden in the bottom is now on the top. This is best displayed by a crab and a banana, which both come in two colors to show cooked and precooked versions. A neat idea, although there have been instances where the crab falls out when you open the oven and gets stuck beneath it, making it difficult to fish out. (PUN!) There's also a crab display over the main door, which is slightly pose-able. The placement of the round tiles in the clear 1x2x5 brick is also an ingenious idea. This could easily be its own set, either in City of even a stylized Friends verson.

The comic shop is cramped, but filled with details. Like, a large amount of stickers are in here. You have a display of 8 collectible character cards, similar to those in previous Ninjago sets. There are some that are easily recognizable, like Legends of Chima and Unikitty, and a few that are a bit vaguer. (I sort of recognized Fabuland, but did not catch the Rock Raider reference until it was pointed out to me.) No Bionicle, sadly. Only the Johnny Thunder one actually has a printed name. Luckily, the shop is split in two, for easier access to all the visual goodies, and the top half includes the Lego Movie cat poster, as well as an ingenious brick build "Comics" sign. (Does it count as cheating since they use printed plates pretty heavily?)

The shop also contains the action figure display, which has a dark blue, black, dark gray, dark red, sand green, and white figurines. They don't quite represent any Toa teams... the Inika come closest, if you could switch the sand green for dark green. And if you also switch the gray to brown, you could have the Metru. Apparently they're not quite matched up color wise for Galidor either, and the only sand green character I can think of is from Ben 10, but the other colors don't match up for that collection either. (But I've been told that they're actually supposed to represent the ninjas in their movie colors, which I guess is appropriate.)

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Between the comic shop and the restaurant is the ATM, which has a function to shoot out money tiles. Make it rain, eh! (The fence in front of it also rotates down, giving easy access to refill it.) Next to the elevator extension is the movie poster display. The posters are all quite epic, with the best being either the Galidor or Ronin posters. (Again, another chance wasted to make a cool Bionicle movie poster. I guess we'll have to make do with the subtle Bionicle references.) There's actually a cool mechanism to kick out the stored posters, so you can swap them out easily. The sidewalk also is bordered by the fences with various advertisements on them. Some are recognizable, others are in Ninja-script. My favorite is actually the reference to the Xtreme Team Lego Island Xtreme Stunts theme from the late 90s early 2000s... I may have to utilize the X on a brick badge now. The sign with the three boomerangs is also cool. The backside of these buildings, however, is fairly bland. :(

There aren't exactly any stand out figs in this section, but they make for a good civilian collection. Mother Doomsday is a character from the cartoon series, and I think Tommy closely resembles some of the kids from Darkley's School for Bad Boys... but apparently not their names. MD's Galador shirt is pretty nice. (Again, where's the Bionicle fan? :( ) The Chef and rich guy are also unique figs and fit in nicely with the cityscape, but again none that I would go out of my way to get. (This set is not really about the minifigures.)

Anyway, this is another awesome selection of shops. The crab restaurant could easily be its own set, while the comic shop is incredibly packed with details. It feels like this level has a majority of stickers here with lots and lots of references, some that I get and others that probably require some translating and / or research. :P And the crab grill is a great play feature (but does the chef know his grill can be accessed from a lever outside? Is he even cooking at all?) I'm excited to move onto the next level, although I have a feeling that they won't be quite as packed as this level. (Which may be a good thing... a little space to move the figs around helps with playability, IMO. The restaurant is accessible, but the comic shop is super cramped! Hope Mother Doomsday isn't claustrophobic!)



Review 70620: Ninjago City - Level 1

Posted by xccj , in Review Oct 19 2017 · 103 views

This model is so big and packed with detail, that a single blog entry won't suffice. (But not a full on front page review, that would be exhausting to finish.) I haven't even finished building it; partially because I was to spread out the build for as long as possible, partially because it already takes a really long time. (This would make for a great group speed build set, IMO, but I'm not rushing through it myself.) Anyway, I wanted to talk about some of my favorite bits, and because the levels are almost independent of each other, I thought I'd split it up that way.

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The first level is build using six numbered bags... although that's slightly off, since most numbers have multiple bags. It's a LOT of pieces. Not a lot of vibrant colors on this level; the buildings are mostly brown and white, with gray, dark tan, and olive green built into the base. The water uses a TON of trans blue tiles, which itself was a mighty task to put down properly, but the instructions weren't too bad. The water itself is a cool design, because they have different colors underneath the tiles, giving a vague idea that there's a waterscape below the city. (An interesting bit is that trans neon green was used as the base beneath the sewer... so take that for what you will.) There have been a few unusual parts here and there, so this does make for a good parts pack, but hopefully some of the newer, rarer elements will start showing up in cheaper sets.

The first thing that surprised me was how small the set's footprint is. Others have commented that it's only on a 32x32 baseplate, but at least a third of that is already taken up by water tiles, so the entire model is build up on three corners of a baseplate. :o There's already a lot going on the first level, as you have the clean up robot's storage area, the fish market, a small bedroom, and a tea house, as well as a cool bridge and the start of the elevator. The individual rooms are rather small, but have distinctive looks to them. It does remind me why I decided to avoid module buildings; there's a lot of detail packed into them, but they're hard to look in when the set's build, and even harder to access due to their size. (The cleaner robot's storage room is particularly irksome to access.) There are some nice details, and I especially liked the green Sabine hairpiece used as a plant. Some of them also have distinctive roof designs, but my favorites so far is the design using the crowbars. (Did that crowbar piece always snap onto a bar like that? Was I seriously missing their potential?)

The water is mostly tiles, but there are still a few studs popping out, either as plant life (the paint palette as a lily pad is great) or as 1x1 plates (to fit in the corners that the 1x2 tiles couldn't finish.) On one hand, that means the boat can't be slid along effortlessly through the water, but then there are also some connection points for it. The boat is an awesome little design, and I really like how they built the cover. (I mean, it doesn't feel like it's minifig scale, but I can let that slide.) They also included a neat dock on the back using brown technic connectors. The bridge is also a great design, and I'm impressed at how they designed the angles rails. Previous sets have used the clips, but they leave exposed gaps and sometimes aren't secured in. Well, they cleverly used the neck brackets to hide the gap, and the balljoints secure the tile at the bottom. The elevator is also a simple but effective and modular design. I skipped ahead and build the elevator stand, and it works great. There's also the small tower on the far corner, which is okay but the cooler part is the design they used to anchor it at the 45 degree angle, which is something we don't usually see in system sets.

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The figs are... well, they're not exactly the highlight of the set. Three figs have traditional Asian robe designs... that are seen in a lot of the Ninjago sets, wore by various civilians. Civilian Kai is great, mostly because he completes my civilian ninja collection, but the actual design is still pretty meh. I guess the best here is Ivy Walker, with her colorful torso design. (I thought she might be Jay's sister, since his last name is Walker on the TV show, although he doesn't have siblings. Instead, maybe she's his Aunt, and little Sally is his cousin?)

One thing I don't usually look forward to in sets is the stickers, but this one is an exception. Only, the ground level doesn't exactly have a ton. The two tiles along the bridge do reference Bionicle (they were the first stickers applied too) but sadly they're partially hidden by the plant life. My favorite here would probably be the kimono lady design on a door panel, but the tiger poster in the tea house is also well done.

There aren't really any fun play features on the ground level, although I know we get some as we move up in the set. I guess there's the elevator, as well as a few sliding door panels.

In conclusion, the bottom level is a solid design, and is sturdy enough to add more rooms to the top of this. The room designs are okay... some would be nice as their own mini set. The highlights so far have been the boat design, the crowbar roof, and the stone bridge design. I'm eager to build the next level and see what cool designs are waiting there.



Review 41184: Aira’s Airship and the Amulet Chase

Posted by xccj , in Review Feb 23 2017 · 409 views
Elves, Airship, Review
I’ve been sick for the last couple of days, but the highlight has been getting in a Lego order and putting together some of the sets I’ve had sitting around for a while. The new Ninjago stuff has been fun, and the Nexo Knight year 2 sets aren’t too bad either. The BickHeadz are pretty meh outside of being parts packs. But although I was expecting to like the new Elves airship, it still turned out to exceed my expectations.

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The set comes with three figs; Aira, Emily, and a goblin. The goblin is a single mold and kinda bleh. Same style of arms as the Nexo Knight imps (which can be given to regular figs) but otherwise I’m not impressed. Aira and Emily have new outfits, but it’s fairly minor. Emily’s necklace now comes as a separate piece, but it only fits loosely around her neck. Also, I tried to put it on a standard fig; too tight a fit. Still, I expect someone will find a neat way to incorporate it into a small MOC. Aira comes with a new medium lavender boomerang, which is a total plus.

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It only has 343 pieces (plus a fair amount of extras) which may be a bit light for a $40 set, but there’s a lot of good stuff here. Some of the obvious choices are the lavender balloon pieces, white dragon wings, and gold tubing, some of which I think might be new. There are some gold twirely decorative elements that I believe are brand new, so they’ll be highly sought after. The set also comes with a decent amount of medium lavender and dark purple pieces (and some standard tans and browns too.) The goblin also comes with two purple ball joints with mouths printed on them. (Lego is certainly doing a lot of printing on ball joints nowadays.)

The goblin’s flying postbox is forgettable, so I’m going to forget about it for the rest of the review. The airship itself is fabulous, and reminds me of the Elves ship from the first year as well as the Ninjago pirate airship from last year. And yet it turns out to be so much better. The hull is built around the wing mechanism. They hang loosely down in a rest position, but when you pull the lever on the back, they snap up alongside the edge of the ship. It’s quite a cool technic design, and I very much approve. The use of the curved gold elements really provide the ship with its shape, and the air balloon is just the right size for the craft. (Aesthetically, now sure if it would actually be large enough to realistically float the craft.) There’s not quite room for the whole gang of elves to climb aboard it; you might be able to squeeze them all on, but it would be a tight fit. And Aira’s position by the wheel is quite exposed; one step backwards and she’s falling overboard. They should really install guardrails back there.

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Overall, I’ve personally been less than impressed with the third year of Elves. It’s either more of the same or just straight up bland for my tastes. (Not saying it’s bad, just that last year’s selection was amazing so I personally don’t favor these new models as much.) But this airship is epic. I mean, it's taking design cues from two other great sets and then surpassing them. I might go as far to say it’s my favorite set of the year so far. (Although the Ninjago Dragon’s Forge and Samurai VXL have been quite epic too.) Anyway, the Airship is a great design and comes with some decent pieces too, so win-win there. I’d totally recommend it. (And I’d do a front page review, but that is way more effort than I can put in at the moment.)

(Also, no posting about how I'm wrong and Elves Year 3 is great and I should like it. You know who you are.)



Review: 76035: Jokerland

Posted by xccj , in Review Feb 22 2016 · 396 views

To take a break from official front page reviews, I’m going to do a couple of blog review. Mostly these were sets that I was planning to review, but for one reason or another they didn’t end up making it to the front page. So here are some thoughts but without all the super details and pictures and video. (I mean, some pictures, but they’re not great quality cause I already had this on display and I wasn’t going to move it just for a photo shoot.)

The priciest Batman set last summer was Jokerland, which weighed in at $119.99 USD. It did have 1037 pieces to it, in a bunch of colors (I think all the primary colors were covered, and not just as filler either.) It came with eight figs, four models of various amusement park rides, and a Batmobile, plus a few smaller models as well. There’s a lot to it, but it is pricey, so is it worth the cost?

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The big draw should be the minifigures. You get four good guys and four bad guys, so an even lineup. However, right away there are some drawbacks, as only two of these characters are actually new in minifig form, and some don’t even have new designs. Specifically, Poison Ivy and Penguin are reused characters. The Joker’s technically new, but it’s a similar design that’s been used before, and although Batman and Robin have some updates (new cowl, duel molded legs and arms) they’re not exactly breaking ground either. Harley Quinn probably goes the farthest for a new outfit design, but it’s easy to see why there was disappointment for the others.

Still, there are two figs that are a major drawl. Beast Boy and Starfire are brand new, with recolored hair pieces. (BB reuses the elf / werewolf design with the pointy ears) Fans of the Teen Titans will surely want these two. (And bemoaning the fact that Raven hasn’t gotten a fig yet.) And they are two excellent figs... but they alone don’t make the lineup super appealing. But it worked out for me, because I didn’t have any of the other villain characters yet (given that they were previously only available in expensive sets too) so I didn’t mind the repetition. But I can see why it bothered folks.

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The first model you build is the Batmobile. This is easily the star of the set. Great use of various slopes and such give it a classic shape, and it even has a decent missile launcher mechanism. (Although, to be fair, the missiles don’t always load in properly, so that can take some extra effort.) I mean, this alone would’ve made for a great $30 set or something. It has the look and play features down; they didn’t phone in this vehicle.

Now, the rest of the amusement park rides… those are certainly weaker. On their own, I think they would’ve made for some decent cheaper sets, so this model could’ve easily been split up into five parts. But for what this set is worth, it just seems a bit underwhelming. A lot of effort went in to making these pieces tall and functional, but also sort of hollow looking. I would expect this from cheaper sets, but I think they could’ve gotten rid of a ride or two and make the others more substantial.

The funhouse mirrors is the biggest set piece, with a decent joker head on the top. The hat spins, you can rotate the eyes, and when you throw somebody through the mouth, they go down the purple slide and into the vat of spare parts. (First time I’ve actually picked up one of these new Lego slides… they work, I’ll give it that.) There’s a little room at the base for funhouse mirrors, where they use the reflective stickers nicely. (The various signs also have stickers, but they were all lame so I didn’t apply them.) There’s also a functioning cannon (which doesn’t function very well), and a brick built jokerbot, which is nice enough for its size. Still, the model looks impressive from the front, but not from the side or back. It’s like they wasted all their time designing the (admittedly cool) Batmobile.

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The next three rides feature the other villains messing with the Teen Titans. Harley Quinn can ride down a ramp and drag Robin into some fire. The design holding the cycle to the ramp works, and it even has a lever at the top to kickstart the bike and send it down the ramp. The function works, but... this thing is fragile. If you try to move it, to reposition the bike or something, the ramp (connected just via a clip) slides around or breaks off. It’s long and tall, but too flimsy.

The Free Fall ride has been taken over by Poison Ivy. The ride has some nice green pieces to it, and the stands and shell pieces in green are exclusive to this set, I believe. I do like the carnivorous plant design, probably my favorite after the Batmobile. But the seats on the ride are also well done, and while they don’t have studs, a standard minifigure will be held in place by the handlebars. The mechanism is if you hit the plant, the seats crash down to the ground, presumably without the breaking system the normal ride would have. Not sure what Poison Ivy gains from this, as she’s shown hanging from the same seats that are going to drop. All in all, with a little bulking up, this probably could’ve been its own $20-$30 set.

Finally, you have the Duckies ride. Of all the rides, this is probably the most fleshed out. It has a decent background, detailed duck cars, and a fun mechanism to spin it. (It would’ve done well as its own set... I know this because they have released a similar ride as a SpongeBob set.) Although the Penguin threw in some dynamite and some shark fins underneath it, the biggest danger for the riders is probably getting queasy as the duckies spin around.

Overall, it’s an interesting set, but quite a lot of faults that make it undesirable. A few great figs, but repeats will only appeal to those who (like me) didn’t get the originals. (I’m sure this still applies to plenty of folks, tho.) The Batmobile is excellent, and the rides all have various functions that offer plenty of play value. But I think they tried to squeeze in too many rides, and a few of them are severely lacking in heft. A lot of good parts in a lot of colors, but besides maybe the green shell / plant pieces, nothing I’d go out of my way for. This set has a few perks, and if there are enough to entice you (How much do you want Starfire and Beast Boy?), then pick it up, but otherwise, it’s still a safe one to skip.

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