Hidden Side, Hidden Gems? – J.B.’s Ghost Lab (70418) and Newbury Juice Bar (40336)

Just like in the fashion industry there are sort of recurring cycles in the LEGO world as well and so it’s not really that much of a surprise that we get similar sets within a series every few years or for that matter new series featuring similar subject matter. Not a bad thing, though, as long as it helps to rejuvenate the overall portfolio and keeps things fresh, be that taking a new approach to building techniques or for that matter re-evaluating an entire genre with a renewed perspective.

With Monster Fighters now being several years in the past, in fact before I even started to get into LEGO, a theme around, ghosts, monsters, zombies and the like isn’t that far fetched and Hidden Side so far seems to fill that gap nicely. At least the first wave got me quite excited for a number of reasons. Might naturally be a different story when the next line of sets is released next year and things may begin to feel a bit repetitive or redundant, but we have to see. It’s still early in the series life and as they say, it could “have legs”. Before I delve into the sets themselves, a few thoughts on the digital integration/ gaming stuff.

Crippled Reality?

One of the key marketing points is of course the Augmented Reality integration, meaning you can interact in a virtual world that’s lined up with the real one. In this case once you’ve the assembled the models they act as gateways to this alternate dimension or Hidden Side. See what they did there? Cheap word play aside, this idea is not without merit, but… And yes, there are a number of big “buts” here.

First, I can freely admit that I’m a skeptic when it comes to things like Virtual Reality and by extension Augmented Reality. The irony is that I can see the value of some of that if it’s done right, but working in the media industry for more than 20 years I have seen all those bold promises that these companies made completely crumble more than once and despite what those same people keep saying we’re still not there yet. A lot of this stuff is still prohibitively expensive and the technical requirements are steep. In my view in fact the commercial aspect is perhaps the biggest hinderance here as it excludes a good chunk of users from the get-go simply because they can’t afford it.

How is this relevant to Hidden Side you may ask? Well, your mobile device may simply be not contemporary enough or powerful enough to run the app. With Apple and Google only having implemented relevant functions into iOS and Android respectively in recent versions, you are going to need a smartphone or tablet that isn’t too old and has been updated consequently to those later versions of the operating systems. The official list on the LEGO site isn’t that long and even then there may be a chance it still doesn’t work reliably even if you have a spankin’ new iPhone. That is to say you should definitely verify the specs and test the app before actually getting into any active play.

The other thing that I was afraid of was endless commercialization of the actual gameplay via micro-transactions and similar. Luckily so far there are no traces of it to be seen, but I choose to remain just those five percent skeptical on that matter. You never know what happens and how companies desperate for cash might find creative ways to exploit their customers, to put it cautiously.

Of course you may take my ponderings with a grain of salt as I may be basically talking out of my behind, as they say. Because I don’t have a compatible device at the moment, I can only judge the actual gameplay from watching videos from other people. My conclusion here is that it barely seems worth the time, at least not as an adult. The core activities seem to be centered around chasing the “Gloom” by activating certain items to collect points and battling ghosts, or if you are playing on the opposite side, as a spectre or possessed entity to avoid being scanned by an imaginary other ghost chaser with a mobile device.

The presentation and detail of the world seems well enough, but truth be told, this more or less feels like pretty much any other free to play game of a similar ilk with the high technical requirements and the over 1 GB gigabyte app package size (due to apparently containing a lot of complex 3D assets and textures) representing an extra challenge. If your phone is full with other apps, photos, videos and other games, getting the app even installed could be tricky. In any case, to me it appears like something that could keep kids up to a certain age busy for ten minutes, but even if you buy all sets and try out all play modes this will quickly lose its attraction.

The good thing, though, is that the sets themselves are not dependent on the AR gimmick and have been designed well enough to be worthwhile on their own merits, so let’s have a look.

Monster Lab

The first set is J.B.’s Ghost Lab (70418), which is basically the smallest of the sets you can buy in this series currently.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Ghost Lab (70418), Box

Stylistically the set is built on the stereotypical “monster lab” as you so often see it in old movies in different forms, but always more or less featuring the same recognizable standard features. Most notable is of course the large electrical arch generator with its insulator construct, a trope from a time when electricity was still considered something mysterious and the lightning flashes and sparks would mystify, scare and impress people.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Ghost Lab (70418), Overview

The set comes with a selection of three minifigures and and part of the appeal is that they feel fresh and modern. One of the reasons I never took much interest in minifigs clearly is that most of them just look stuffy and boring as if the world hasn’t changed in the last thirty years or so. There are some good ones in collectible series or e.g. Ninjago, but for the most part the average minifigure still feels like someone from the 1970s to me. Things have been improving with quite a few new accessories and hair pieces having come out, though, and Hidden Side seems to amp this up even further.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Ghost Lab (70418), Figures

There are some recurring characters throughout that are basically included in every set, just with different outfits. One of them is Jack Davids, the guy in the red hoodie sweater. You also get the friendly ghost dog Spencer this way. Other figures are exclusive to each set like J.B. (the lady with the Lavender hair) and Douglas Elton (the green guy). In contrast to what you might have expected there are no dedicated ghostly figures like spectres and zombies. Rather the idea is that some of the protagonists can be possessed by evil spirits. To distinguish and transform them visually you therefore get a separate head and hair piece in different colors, sometimes also some suitable add-ons like ragged cloaks, weapons and so on. For now those are done in Yellowish Green and Transparent Neon Green, but I would expect other colors to be used in the future as well, be it just that overuse of those colors could get a bit tiresome eventually.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Ghost Lab (70418), Douglas Figure regular LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Ghost Lab (70418), Douglas Figure possessed

The first batch of this particular set seems to have a consistent printing error on Douglas‘s head also noted in other reviews. While it’s a dual face head, it only has printed eyebrows on one of them. As you can see in the photos, this looks kind of odd even with the hair piece on. Most of my minifigures rest peacefully in a dark box so it isn’t exactly a critical issue like it would be if I displayed them on a collector’s shelf, but since I wanted everything to be correct and felt a bit entitled to get a flawless product, I requested a replacement part from LEGO, after all. Lo and behold, they seem to be fully aware of the issue and have produced a new badge with complete prints already.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Ghost Lab (70418), Douglas Figure missing Head Print Issue

The laboratory itself isn’t much of a complex build and funny enough its construction reflects the movie origins it’s trying to mimic. For all intents and purposes, it’s just a flat wall with everything integrated like it would have been on those old film sets for quick turnarounds, i.e. being able to move things easily when preparing scenes. That would have been even more critical on TV productions shooting several episodes in a row or even live broadcasting them directly from a studio as wasn’t that uncommon in the early days of television due to the technical limitations. But I digress.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Ghost Lab (70418), Front Side

The center piece of the model naturally is the arch generator with the transformation/ ghost decontamination chamber underneath it. it doesn’t have any actual (fake) transformative features like a revolving door mechanism to quickly switch between two minifigures or something like that. It’s not essential, but would have at least given one actionable feature in an overall mostly static setting. Spreading out from this center are some gadgets left and right.

The right-hand-side features a selection of vials and other lab vessels all neatly arranged on and around a shelf. It also has a wall-mounted computer screen, but since I never use the stickers, apparently it loses its magic and the functionality doesn’t really come across. Speaking of which – since the stickers are stylistically quite different, it seems odd that they included the rather old 2 x 1 tile for the keyboard.

On the left-hand-side you see the typical color choosing gadget associated with the AR game. The logic here is to select a differently colored element based on what the app tells you and once it verifies this you will be able to clear another sub-set of “Gloom”. In this case it’s disguised as some sort of electrical transformator, but again, since I didn’t use the stickers the voltage gauges are missing and the idea is lost on uninitiated observers.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Ghost Lab (70418), Back Side

As you would expect, the back side continues the TV studio theme and doesn’t provide any additional details. In fact the hollowed out panels almost scream “fake paper wall”, so I guess you could call it only consequent and well done. My slight peeve with the non-existing turntable functionality is even re-affirmed with the small stair step at the back of the cylinder – as if someone could wait there to do a quick swap while the studio goes dark and lights flash. The things that could have been…

On a whole this small set is a good way to get your feet moist in Hidden Side, but you should not expect too much – neither with the build nor the interactive play features. Personally I feel it could have been grander, meaning that trivial things like having actual side wall would have rooted it more in reality as a genuine ghost lab rather than playing on the TV show/ movie clichées.

Not all is lost, though, as apparently this set is  structurally simple enough to modify it relatively easily. With the average price now being around 14 Euro buying it twice or three times is an absolutely attainable goal and with some parts from your stock thrown in, you should be able to create something nice without breaking a sweat.

Juicy Extra

The second set of the day is the Newbury Juice Bar (40336). This isn’t a regular Hidden Side set, but rather a promotional “Gift with Purchase”. Here in Germany you could get it when buying stuff above 45 Euro in a LEGO store (or their online shop) and as I’m publishing this article, this two-week promotion in fact just ran out. You may still be able to obtain this set, as naturally not only promotions are different across the globe but also many who picked up the set will sell it second-hand. Anyway, for which set I actually scraped my last pennies together to get this little freebie is a topic for another time, but maybe you will find out soon-ish… 😉

LEGO Hidden Side, Newbury Juice Bar (40336), Box

While I generally don’t get too worked up over promotional items, the reason I’m including this set here is because it’s actually quite superb. It’s perhaps not worth the 13 Euro mentioned on the receipt for tax reasons (which immediately are subtracted again, of course), but I’d be totally game if this was one of those 10 Euro sets you can buy via regular channels. Knowing this blog and how critical I’m of those things you can imagine what this means and how impressed I am with this little model. I had this positive gut feeling right after Io saw the first photos and just had to have it.

LEGO Hidden Side, Newbury Juice Bar (40336), Overview

Why is it so good? To begin with, it contains two full figures, one of them being recurring character Parker L. Jackson, the other Rocky the barkeeper, including his alternate head for once he gets possessed. The other thing that drew me in is the overall appearance. While certainly small, this feels like it could exist as some 1960s style retro-futuristic kiosk made from sheet metal parts or for that matter a converted caravan from that same era. It’s all bullet-y and round, if you get my meaning.

LEGO Hidden Side, Newbury Juice Bar (40336), Front View closed

The colors, in particular the Bright Light Orange parts, stand out a bit too much perhaps, but otherwise this could easily fit into a city environment. Ideally of course they would have made it with more Sand Green then right of the bat, but let’s not that this is targeted at kids first and foremost. In contrast to J.B.’s Ghost Lab this is one of the sets where the buildings/ vehicles themselves get possessed, too, so the center section of roof can be opened to expose some grimacing face with staring green eyes and teeth.

LEGO Hidden Side, Newbury Juice Bar (40336), Front View open

Of course for me a good part conversation is always about what pieces are included and their potential for future uses. Say what you will, but getting a bunch of Dark Blue 2 x 3 window frames, Sand Green 1 x 6 bricks and even the quarter cylinders in that same color can never be a bad thing. None of those components are in short supply of course, but you’d have to be crazy pass up on getting them free. I can only re-iterate: This set is damn useful and nice.

If that wasn’t enough, I also thoroughly enjoyed assembling it. With around 120 pieces it equals a small Creator 3in1 set and unlike those 5-minute-jobs with poly bags keeps you busy for a bit longer. When I was finished I immediately regretted that there wasn’t more to do. That’s how much fun I had. There is a tiny little caveat, though: Similar to other such sets that have perhaps been designed a bit too much with cost-awareness in mind, stability is not necessarily the best in places because the evil budget supervisor made no allowance for some extra parts. As you would guess, this especially affects the quarter cylinders before attaching the roof and some protruding parts of the counter. not the end of the world, though.

LEGO Hidden Side, Newbury Juice Bar (40336), Back View

Overall Hidden Side seems to be shaping up to be a hit series and so far I really like what I see. It remains to see whether LEGO can keep up this level of quality in upcoming sets. I have a few more of the first wave already lined up, so stay tuned for more reviews…

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October Dog Spa

Two months seems like a long time when you’re at the start, but time flies quickly and in the end a few weeks isn’t that much, after all, as the October/ November issue of the LEGO Friends magazine proves.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, October 2019, Cover

Where the buildable parts are concerned, it’s back to “cutesie animal plus bubble bath”, which at this point is getting a tired and stale trope. I still have more Chico cats than dogs, but I think with the one from this issue I now also own at least five brown Dash dogs. The only saving grace this time around is the old-style golden dual tap, a piece which had a bit of a renaissance in the last three years after it was barely used anywhere after its introduction in 2011. That is to say it could sure be useful in a custom build one day.

The rest of the mag is forgettable or even terrible. The latter category is prominently filled with the very botched-looking CG cover and posters inside. I’m not going to bore you with my 25 years of 3D graphics knowledge, but if you look up “bad deformations” in a web search within this context, you can surely find enough examples of what I mean. It’s really creepy. The comic uses my preferred newer, more dynamic style of drawing, but its content is kinda WTF?. A parade of costume fetish? Just weird.

So overall this isn’t much to write home about and with the last issue for this year falling into November, we can’t even look forward to some good Christmas-y stuff…

Something good, something bad – Lady Liberty (40367) and Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847)

Today I’m going to roll two smaller sets into one review for practical reasons, both of which I bought somewhat spontaneously to sooth my nerves and pamper myself at the LEGO store in Leipzig when I was roaming the premises after an unpleasant doctor visit. That being the case and the sets therefore having been bought at full price no matter what I can at least spare you my usual ramblings on overall value vs. price.

Worst Set of the Year?

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Box

To get things out of the way, let’s start with what I basically consider the worst LEGO set of the year. Sadly, as a tie-in for The LEGO Movie 2 this should be at least some sort of fun, but  the Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847) is unfortunately so lackluster, you wonder why they ever bothered to bring it out.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Overview

I fully intended to buy this set for a number of reasons, but even though I didn’t expect it to be particularly elaborate or outstanding, I never would have thought it to be this underwhelming or even terrible. Point in case: It’s basically a parts and figure pack marketed as a full set where unfortunately nothing gels and the parts don’t make up for the lack of play or collector’s value.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Babies

First and foremost of course I like most likely 99% of people who buy this set had my eye on the baby figures. Oddly enough, though LEGO had the mold for quite a while now, it’s seriously underused and the figures only pop up once every blue moon in a handful of sets. As you would have guessed, this makes them highly coveted items that fetch good prices on Bricklink. The two little tykes represented in this set will do nothing to improve this situation, as this is the first time we actually get Bright Pink (baby pink) and Dark Cyan (teal) bodies and a lot of people will be desperately scavenge for matching heads sans “tattoos” to integrate the babies into their City landscapes or whatever. That said, the two kids certainly are appealing and would enliven many a scenery.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Island

Now for the ugly part. The rest of the set is pretty much a stinker. The sad, sad irony is that each component on its own would actually be useful, in particular the plant parts in new colors. It’s just that there aren’t enough of them to do anything serious with them and to boot, they have been slapped on to some piece of island that looks like it was a lowly intern’s morning task before lunch break. I’ts just *ugh*. I get what they were aiming for, but please, could we at least have gotten a real palm/ bush with three leaves or something like that? As it is, it’s nothing more than a frustrating glimpse into a happy, colorful dream world that could have been. Imagine how awesome it actually would look to see your babies stomping around on a larger meadow surrounded by those crazy colored plants!

On a whole this is an epic fail and nothing can justify buying the set other than really having the hots for the baby figures and being crazy enough to shell out the dosh. This really just strikes me as yet another misguided attempt to quickly cash in on the movie without making any effort whatsoever. Hell, even the Emmet and Lucy minifigures are the same boring ones found in pretty much every other set of this ilk.

Little green Cutie

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Box

On to more pleasant things, the bright spot on the horizon for me on this day was the Brickheadz Lady Liberty (40367). I was actually quite surprised to find it in the LEGO store, after all, given what I overheard last time. That and the fact that the set had long been out in other countries and sold out quickly. I had little hope to be able to catch it, but sometimes there is such a thing as lucky circumstance, I guess.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Front Left View

Over the years I have only bought a handful of Brickheadz overall and whenever I did, it usually boiled down to getting my hands on some of the special printed tiles or rare parts in unusual colors that these sets often contained. I’ve never been much of a collector and as a matter of fact the only such figure I kept around is Thanos, which somehow tickles my “Aww, he’s cute!” senses in all his Medium Lavender glory. He’s now going to get a permanent companion with this little green lady, as she’s cute, too, and I can’t find it in my heart to dismantle her for the parts.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Front Right View

There’s very little that I don’t like or that I think could be improved here. The model is cleverly done and even employs the “textile folds” technique using the cut-off wedge slopes also used on the larger Statue of Liberty (21042) in the Architecture series just as it borrows the same trick with the golden hair piece for the flames. Due to these details you end up with a reasonably complex build and a model with a well-structured surface that feels weighty and voluminous and not just like a tile-covered regular box like some other Brickheadz.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Back Right View

As for the things I would improve: First, the crown piece clearly could have benefited from including a disc/ dish piece to cover up the center like it’s done on the bigger version. In fact this could have looked even better here, as they could have used a 4 x 4 dish which is a little less steep in curvature/ less convex and would have blended in better. The other thing I would have done is made the figure taller. I know, they are all meant to be about the same height so they form a nice even line on the shelf, but this is one case where an exception could have been made. Adding e.g. two more rows of bricks at the bottom would have allowed for more details on the robes and looked more elegant. These are minor things, though, and a true collector might have different opinions on the matter.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Back Left View

In any case, this is one of the few Brickheadz that genuinely should appeal to everyone, be that occasional LEGO buyers, experienced builders looking for a satisfying diversion amidst other projects or the aforementioned collectors hunting down every set in this line of products. I certainly still have warm and fuzzy feelings as little Lady Liberty is looking at me from the shelf while I’m writing this article…

September Trooper

With the magic 50th issue in August, the race up to the next fifty is now on with the September edition of the LEGO Star Wars magazine.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2019, Cover

To celebrate that anniversary, belated as it may be, someone figured it might be a good idea to include a Stormtrooper minifigure. People are clamoring for this all the time and this seems to be so much in demand, they likely could bundle another variant with every second issue without the subject ever being covered to the point of getting stale. In this instance it’s not the “cool one”, though, with it actually being a First Order version rather than one from the original first movies, which most aficionados still prefer.

Still, not a bad move if you have bought any of the sets for one of the movies in the last three or four years and want to bolster your troops. In fact I would predict that quite a few people will buy more than one copy of the mag. With those figures being in such high demand everywhere, prices on Bricklink are not necessarily cost-effective to build larger line-ups and in the end the math could add up, even if paying 4 Euro for a figure may seem steep at first.

The rest of the magazine once more is indicative of the meandering back and forth between “barely acceptable” to “okay” to “almost good” in terms of the quality of the comics, posters and puzzles, all very apparently depending on which team took responsibility for any given month. This one falls in the upper half of this range and therefore isn’t that bad. I always like it when in particular the puzzles are reasonably complex and not dumbed down as if only three-year-olds read the mag.

Under the Sea… – Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378)

As I wrote in my first review on the subject, I was quite taken in by the water animal rescue theme of this year’s LEGO Friends novelties even before I actually owned any of the sets and that I wanted to basically get all of them. So here we go with the second outing thanks to the Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378).

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Box

I got the set pretty much right away when it became available, but of course only because the price immediately plummeted from its official 40 Euro suggested retail price to 30 Euro. It has been hovering around that mark pretty stable ever since, give or take the occasional additional promo where you can get it for around 25 Euro. Let me be clear: It’s a good thing that the market regulates itself in this case. I really like the set, but 40 Euro is definitely not a price I would have bought it for. It’s a 360 pieces set with no specific exotic pieces and even the few larger ones can’t justify the inflated price. LEGO are completely out of touch with reality by dreaming up those numbers, which is kinda sad. It makes it so much harder to recommend these sets and is detrimental to sales as it puts people off.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Overview

Why am I saying this again and sound like a broken record? While it’s one of the better Friends sets and you get a decent return value, the overall volume of stuff just isn’t there. In the end the two main builds, the submarine and the ship wreck, are still small-ish with the additional side builds also not contributing anything noteworthy in terms of the sheer bulk of the set.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Underwater ScooterThe underwater scooter literally consists of something like 15 pieces and while it’s an adequate representation of what those things might look like, it is far from a complex and detailed model.

 

 

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Map ChestSimilar things can be said about the treasure map chest or more specifically what amounts to a crate with a bottle and a super secret treasure map inside. Again this doesn’t really contribute much to making the set more bulky and as a matter of fact the small isolated island could have been integrated into the ship wreck section easily and with a bit more fancy and finesse. It’s okay, but really leaves me with a “So what?” feeling.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Map ChestThe supposed treasure map itself looks more or less just like a collection of random camouflage splotches. It’s based on the same principle and employs the same trickery as the “painting” in Emma’s Art Studio (41365), i.e. a piece of cloth printed with a special varnish that repels water and in turn the areas having a different darkness/ saturation when moisturized. Overall a bit uninspired, even more so since it would have been a good idea to include a complementary printed map on a folded A3 sheet or something like that to tie into the play fantasy.

 

 

The submarine is a nice build and oozes a sense of realism. Many research and utility submersibles e.g. in the off-shore oil industry fit the construction pattern with a big single-piece bubble canopy, a main pressure cell and most technical gadgets being mounted externally. even the compact proportions feel about right.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Top View

There are of course a few things that don’t make sense, either. The odd snorkel/ periscope piece is exactly where on most real world examples the main access hatch would be and isn’t really of much use. Most of these subs would operate tethered to cables and/ or at least very close to their mother ships plus unlike on military u-boats there is simply no need for surface reconnaissance while the craft stays under water. While this part is therefore more or less superfluous, you could argue that another critical item is missing. Assuming the vehicle ever actually goes deep enough to crash on the sea floor, naturally it should have skids and not sit on the ballast tanks. Yes, I’m obsessing over minutia, but I’m just saying… 😉

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Aft View

The color choices feel a bit arbitrary, too. As I wrote in my review of the Underwater Robot (31090), a clear plexi glass canopy would probably look better and incidentally also make quite a bit more sense. You know, in an underwater environment where already everything is blue your wouldn’t use additional tinted glass in that same color to make things even darker. If I were to rebuild the model I’d also use the rounded corner train style panels for the windows instead of the plain transparent ones. Perhaps I’d also add a cupola for the hatch area.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Front Left View

The Coral bits feel out of place and in actuality my impression is that they were forced in just for the sake of it as an afterthought or color swap the last minute before the set was released and the components were actually available when the prototype may have been designed with other colors. They just don’t serve a specific purpose in the context of how this would work in practice other than as recognition marks for aerial rescue should the boat go adrift on the surface. Most of the time those areas would be just plain walkways and railings in boring colors, though.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Top View with open Loading Bay

The good part about the sub in addition to it being built to figure scale are some actually usable play features, that being primarily the openable canopy and loading bay. You could position one of the girls behind the steering column while the other goes back and forth from the open aft zone, e.g. retrieving items from the bottom of the sea and stowing them for later analysis. the other scenario is of course a diver egressing from the cargo bay and rescuing dolphins, hence the syringe and the feeding bottle. In addition you can of course also pose the robotic arms and swivel the propellers around, though this will get boring rather quickly.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Front View with open Canopy

I have a bit of a peeve with the ship wreck. It’s extremely lovely done, but man, is it small! It kinda ruins the whole illusion and in a way reminds me of painted box art for plastic model kits – you have the hero item (an airplane, a ship, a car etc.) large in the foreground and some decorative stuff in the background. This is pretty much what this is. If you arrange it suitably, the optical illusion kinda works, but otherwise just falls apart. Sadly, this becomes a real limiting factor for playing as well.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Front Left View

To begin with, applying realistic measurements the ship wouldn’t even qualify for a tourist excursion ship on a small river. You can literally fit two or tree people onto it and that’s about it. Similarly you can ever only explore it by bringing in the girls on their own or with the mini scooter. As soon as you bring the u-boat anywhere near it the fake scale crumbles and it just looks silly. You know, no such thing as beaming the spotlights onto the hull or moving things with the robot arms.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Aft Left View

Now here’s the thing: I fully understand that they couldn’t build it to scale and make it as large as for instance the Destiny’s Bounty (70618) from The LEGO Ninjago Movie. That inevitably would have meant to inflate a 40 Euro set to another 150 Euro set for no good reason just to get a large ship. Not only would that be unnecessary, but also make it harder to afford the set. However, I still think it wouldn’t have taken too much effort and also not increased the cost too much by adding more pieces if the wreck was at least twice as large. It wouldn’t need to be hyper-detailed, just line up better scale-wise. It’s one of those “I need to buy a second set.” things that I might try one day.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Front Right View

A larger scale/ size would have helped with the integration of the dolphins as well. It’s just hard to imagine that they could get trapped when the “mother” is already half as big as the ship. To that end you can tilt down the main mast as if she was caught under it, but seriously – she’d just push it out of the way on the real thing. The pole would need to be really tall and thick to represent any danger whatsoever. That then in turn would again require a different representation for the sails. An endless causal chain! For the time being I would have settled on different colors for the “torn rags” at least. Always having the same Dark Pink and Magenta flag elements in Friends sets is getting a bit long in the tooth. For once, plain Tan or Dark Tan would have worked perfectly here.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Aft Right View

My criticisms notwithstanding, this is still a pretty fine set, all things considered, even more so in the Friends universe with its many downright awful offerings. It captures the mood of an underwater exploration, the submarine is fully usable and when placed strategically far enough apart could even look good on the shelf. Regardless, though, if I was totally serious about the matter my contingency plan would be to get at least two or three of these sets and also heavily dig into my parts stock to build a larger ship wreck. I really only consider the small version an inspiration or template for how to do things, with an urge to one day genuinely do it kicking in even as I just look at the pictures…

Space September

As a science fiction fan of sorts and a nerd with a general interest in exotic scientific subjects like quantum physics, astral dynamics and so on of course I love myself some space-y stuff even in LEGO form. This month’s issue of the LEGO City magazine caters just for that.

LEGO Magazine, City, September 2019, Cover

The content is derived from the current space exploration theme. Unfortunately for my taste it’s a bit too simplified with many large and specific parts and kind of crude looking models, so my interest in buying some of those sets is a bit limited to say the least. That’s why I’m all the more pleased to get some of the stuff that is contained in those sets on the cheap, in a manner of speaking, by ways of the mag.

Most notably that covers the new 2019 geode-type piece, i.e. a rock with a crystalline transparent mineral inside. I have to say it really looks nice and interesting when the light refracts through the sharp edges and facets when the rock is backlit. The magazine comes with the Dark Orange and Trans Light Blue version with some other combinations being found only in the commercial sets for the time being. The second piece of mention is the printed 1×1 round tile for the robot face which due to its generic look should find some creative uses.

The minifigure is just the generic astronaut and unlike the cover image may make you think, it neither comes with a special face or an alternate hair piece so you could present it with the helmet off. It’s adequate for basic play scenarios, but not much more than that. Similarly the comics and games this time around can’t disguise that they are more of a marketing pitch for the new sets than really deep content. Therefore the real value of this issue will genuinely depend on whether you are into any of this space stuff and can overlook the shortcomings or are a regular buyer, anyway.

Ornithoraptor vs. T. Rex

Already being caught up in a million projects and never getting much done for a million reasons, I rarely take part in LEGO Ideas“Activities” as they are called as of late, in particular the building contests. I admire how people are able to whip up those creations as if they had never anything else to do all day, but I’m just not that kind of person and somehow I always seem to have too much else to do.

On the rare occasions when I choose to participate and can actually manage to get my butt to sit down for a few hours just dabbling with my LEGO bricks there usually has to be a good reason, i.e. some incentive to rush through those four or five weeks and cook something up. That of course has been/ is the case in the Unleash your own genetically modified hybrid Dinosaur contest (What a title!). I really, really would have loved to win one of them Jurassic Park T. Rex Rampage (75936) sets they gave out as prizes, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. There are a lot of other great creations, so competition was stiff. You should really check them out!

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Side View

Anyway, my humble contribution to the whole affair was what I called Ornithoraptor mylenii, a small, bird-like raptor. I find that those smaller species are often overlooked in favor of the bigger, more awe-inspiring dinosaurs, yet I’m pretty sure if you only do your research you will find that for every Tyrannosaurus Rex there are a hundred other species that are just as important to the overall eco system. My rationale here is that this would have been a relatively harmless, docile creature living near lake shores, small rivers and swampy meadows, feeding off fish, insects, mussels, algae, grass and similar stuff. Pretty much the goose/ duck of its day taking care to keep the waters clean and preventing harmful smaller species from spreading too much while at the same time being a potential prey for other carnivorous dinosaurs, naturally.

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Lateral Front Views

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Front and Rear Views

In order to replicate this and because I just knew I wouldn’t have enough pieces to build a full model in the first place I limited my efforts to a head bust with a piece of neck. I mainly focused on getting the head shape right and make it anatomically believable, that is seeing to it that the mechanics eventually could work, the eyes were in the right position, the teeth overlapped correctly and so on. The tip of the beak is the typical horn “tooth” you also find on many birds and that would be used to e.g. scrape mosses off rocks or dig in the ground whereas the small teeth would function like the serrated edges of a fine saw to bite larger chunks or for instance clip reed grass for building nests.

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Beak Interior

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Head with closed and open Beak

The model is more or less a 2 : 1 or even 1 : 1 scale representation of the real thing and inevitably my biggest struggle was the limited selection of parts I had at hand. This sure would benefit from having more slopes and nice wedges here and there, but I hope my approximations with stacked plates and a few standard curved slopes does the trick. Building it in full would be a whole different exercise and require many more parts, so I’m not too sure if I’ll ever be able to pull it off. That’s also my one peeve with the contest as a whole, BTW – nice as some concepts may be, I’d consider most of them unbuildable because just like my own creation the parts count and size would end up being like the T. Rex set.

In any case, I hope you like what you see and if you’re feeling very, very generous, I sure wouldn’t mind that Jurassic Park set to drop on my doorstep one of these days. 😉