From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The box is quite large. Comparing it to other large set boxes I own, it's larger than that of Pharaoh's Forbidden Ruins, as long and thick as Vampyre Castle's, but wider (where thickness < width < length). The back of the box displays all the features of the house, which are mostly from the set's shop at home page. It also shows the house opened up and the glow-in-the-dark feature of the ghosts. The front of the box reminds me a lot the haunted house from I Spy Spooky Night, which was part of the motivation of getting the set (also because it looks REALLY AWESOME).
Now, I've built sets with two instruction booklets before, e.g. Nui Jaga and Tarakava. This is the first set I've ever built with three different instruction booklets. Count 'em. Three. One for each story of the house. I kid you not: the first booklet is dedicated to the minifigures, the details within the house (like the phonograph, potted plant, writing desk, etc.), and the first story; the second booklet is entirely devoted to the second story; and the third booklet is dedicated to the attic, roof, and gate.
But enough of the fancy pictures that you see before the build, let's look at the build itself...
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
This set, with picture-taking time included, took me over eight hours to build. Now, I'm a fussy builder in that I'm obsessed with the LEGO printed on the bricks to align a certain way and such, so if I were trying to speed-build I would probably have been able to build it in less time. But EIGHT HOURS! That's a long build.
Let's look at the pieces.
The top row is just pictures of the pieces in their respective bags. Note that there are about six bags that constitute bag 4 and similarly for bags 2 and 3. The second row is the dumped-out pieces for bags 1 and 2, since the other bags' pieces just wouldn't fit into the picture/I was lazy. At 2064 pieces, it's not surprising that there are this many bags, but I found it entertaining that there were six-ish bags labeled with the same number.
Oh, yeah, there are over 2000 pieces in this set. Just so you know.
The first things you build (besides the minifigs – we'll get to those later) are the detail pieces:
I'll have one heart with a side of femur.
There is a lot of creativity in these details. First off, I love the phonograph. I don't know if it's because of the creative use of a pith helmet for the horn or the fact that it's a phonograph makes the attic feel even older, but it's one of my favorite parts of this set. The antlers that hang in the bedroom are another nice detail. Two taps and four of the newer skeleton arms gives you a pair of antlers; who knew? The old bed without a mattress is pretty cool, and the stove/oven combo is cute. I also like the use of tan bricks/tiles for the old newspapers. The old lamps with the clear minifig heads also give the interior that very old home feel as well, along with the quills by the writing desk. My favorite, though, is that little phonograph.
The next thing you build is the first story:
For me the cool part about building the first story was putting in place all the mismatched cobblestones on the front entrance and in the kitchen. I also love the zombie-head pillars in the front of the house; they're comedic and yet very dark, as though the architect thought about actually using zombie heads as part of the design. I also like the detail on the railing of the awning/porch/whatever on the top of the first story. The little hand-clips jutting out in crooked directions adds to the old, broken feeling of this house.
Since the details are built first, they're put in after the structure around where they go is finished:
Because, you know, every healthy kitchen has a spider web on the wall.
However, no details go into the entrance hall, since the staircase takes up a good portion of one side and the other free walls have windows.
Speaking of the stairs, let's journey up to the second story...
The second story build is rather similar to the first, but without the loose cobblestones on the floor. It's rather bare inside until you add the details, much like the first floor.
Oh noes! I forgot to hang the awesome picture of Frankie in his white tux on prom night!
The bedroom looks like your typical undead sleeping pad. With pictures hanging of friends and family, some undead deer skull, a rickety unfurnished bed, and an empty wardrobe, it's ideal for the everyday vampire who's trying to get away from all the stresses of life. The writing desk at the top of the stairs is in a nice corner by the window(s) so the maximum amount of moonlight is available when writing to those creepy, alive relatives of yours. I also like that there's a railing at the top of the stairs, but no railing following them down to the first floor. Clearly safety is of no concern during the transition between stories.
But why spend time in the main parts of the house? Everyone knows that the most haunted part of a haunted house is the attic...
Again we see use of the hand-clip things that were used on the exterior of the first story, which I think are used wonderfully. Notice that the attic details are added during the build rather than at the very end, which I thought was interesting. The chimney is finally complete, and the house is nearly done! All we have to do is add the roof.
There! All done! There's nothing left to build... oh, wait, there's this tiny little gate...
Honestly, building the gate after this behemoth of a house is kind of an anticlimactic end to a build, but whatever. It actually does add to the feel of the house; an old estate owned by some enterprising vampire with a gate just yelling "keep out" is much spookier than one without a gate.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
You can just drool at this picture, if you like. No reason to read any further.
This set is beautiful inside and out. Let's first look at the out:
The back of the house is fairly bland, but no one ever looks at the back of a house (unless you're creepily lurking in the back yard, you creeper). The front, however, is straight out of a scary movie or Halloween-themed I Spy book. The detail is where this set shines, from the boarded up windows to the shutters hanging at weird angles to the exposed bricks (actual bricks, not LEGO, silly) on the walls. I also like the side entrance with its own little roof above the door.
Now, let's look at the inside, shall we?
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The inside is pretty awesome, too. I think my two favorite rooms are the bedroom and the attic, since I feel they have the most going on in them. The stuff all being piled up in the attic is exactly as an attic should be; the only thing that would complete it is if there a couple of cobwebs floating around (rather than in the kitchen ). I've already talked about the other two stories, so no need to beat a dead horse.
Let's also take this opportunity to look at the minifigs this set has to offer. Some of them you've seen already:
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This is the third set in which you can obtain Lord Vampyre, and if you don't want to grab Vampyre's Castle, this set gives you an alternative to obtain his bride as well. The ghost is the same as those in the Ghost Train save for the fact that he doesn't have traditional minifig legs, but instead a 1×2 plate on top of a 1×2 brick, making him one plate shorter than a normal minifig (the Ghost in the polybag promotional is the same). You get two of him in this set.
This set also comes with two exclusive minifigures:
The butler reminds me of Lurch from The Addams Family. Also, something KK pointed out to me as I was showing him this set over Skype was that all incarnations of Frankenstein's monster (including this one) have their heads shut a different way; the LEGO Studios monster has a zipper, the series minifigure has bandages, the Crazy Scientist's monster in Monster Fighters has safety pins, and Lurch here has crisscross stitches. The chef's head is the same as that of the zombie driver, but his body is new with stains of sauce/rust/whatever. It'd be pretty cool if his toque had rips/stains printed on it, too.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
While this set is geared toward AFOLs, it also has great potential for playing. You can make it the setting of a spooky LEGO story, like a bunch of kids breaking in and trying to prove they're brave by spending the night in the house, or as another battle site for Rodney Rathbone and his Monster Fighters to prevent the total eclipse of the sun.
Or you could do what I do and pull the lever that makes the attic's stairs come down; the sound is so rewarding.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
If you have the cash, go and buy this set. It's 180 USD, but for over 2000 pieces and an awesome Halloween decoration that you spend hours building, it's a good treat (or trick).
What's to like?
- It's beautiful
- Seriously, just look at it
- Amazing detail
- Cool minifigures
What's not to like?
- The price (justified by how ginormous it is)
- The back is bland (but who looks at the back?)
I hope I was able to provide a good review of arguably one of LEGO's most amazing detailed sets.