I’m a sucker for certain subjects and as much as I may want to, my inner demons take the upper hand if only something stimulates my nerves in the right way. As I have written many times, oceanic deep see life is one of those things, so it seemed unavoidable that I would by J.B.’s Submarine (70433) from the Hidden Side series, after all. however, I did do so with some major reservations and inner struggles.
The first obvious reason for my reluctance of course once more is the price of the set. It became immediately apparent that the contents of this set are a bit on the sparse side just from looking at marketing photos. This was further confirmed by the small package size when I saw it sit on a shelf. I’m an advocate for using packaging volume efficiently, but in case of LEGO sets this really communicates that the box may not live up to what you might expect, so I’m always wary.
This weird unevenness of package sizes is also confusing and it begins to bother me – you can have two sets in the same price range stuffed into completely different boxes, making it hard to compare how much bang for the buck you possibly get. One could of course speculate endlessly whether or not this is intentional just like you could come up with a million rationalizations like larger parts needing more “air” so they don’t get scratched, but it’s at times frustrating as heck.
The value of the set is split across four main components: the minifigures, the shark, the submarine itself and what I call a “reef” section for the scenery.
If you have already bought the Supernatural Race Car (70434) like I did, one of the minifigures will be very familiar. I have nothing against Vaughn Geist, but you don’t necessarily need him twice in your collection. On the other hand it’s still nice to have him as a basis for some Steampunk-ish/ Victorian Era minifigure customization.
J.B. has a new torso and legs mimicking a scuba suit. that’s okay in the general sense, but has a very 1990s vibe. I think that was the last time cyan/ turquoise/ petrol and pink colored neoprene suits were actually hip. I also believe a hair piece with a pigtail would have made more sense, as you wouldn’t want your long hair to float about uncontrolled underwater.
The shark is a neat little addition. It is however regrettable, that they gave him “snotty eyes” as if he had some illness. Sure, that’s meant to be spooky and scary, but since the print is relatively weak it a) is difficult to recognize while b) at the same time limiting the use of the shark itself for other scenarios. If you care to remember, I was rambling on quite a bit about which types of sharks I would love to see. The Sand Blue color is a good start, though.
Now for the painful part. Yes, the reef feels like they couldn’t quite decide what to go for, but somehow needed this filler to even validate the existence of this set from a commercial perspective.
Most tragically, this section is not self-explanatory and does not communicate what it is supposed to be about. Maybe it’s somewhere in the AR app, but to date I don’t know what this grey figure is supposed to stand for and how it fits into the overall story. Sure, some sort of sea master/ guardian, possibly for some long sunken ruins, but other than that? It’s really not clear and at best feels generic.
Another massively irksome thing is the excessive use of colors. This little piece of “land” already feels rather flamboyant in a way and revealing the markers used to trigger the events in the game only exacerbates the issue. Again, there is an overall feeling that they really didn’t care much and on top of it were probably not allowed to spend an extra budget, so even the Dark Cyan curved slopes feel out of place and like they had to make do with what they could scrape together. One really wishes everything was Dark Bluish Grey and Black to make it more consistent even if you could argue that the Dark Tan elements are supposed to represent the ocean floor.
In a bit of a “What?” moment there is a rather clever gate mechanism hidden under the central plate. In light of not knowing what is going on here one could assume this could be some way to release ghosts or a strong water stream that pushes away invaders. Just the same it could of course also be some very narrow passage. In fact I’m almost inclined to believe that it was initially even more elaborate and may also have included more coral bushes to actually cover up the statue, but then things were struck from the list to meet budget limits.
This feeling of incompleteness continues on the back side as well. One simply cannot shake the feeling that this originally was designed quite differently and possibly part of a bigger scenario which then got culled and now we’re only getting remnants.
Calling it the main attraction hardly seems appropriate, but for me the tiny submarine is the best part about this set. This isn’t so much a case of it being particularly special overall, but for its size it is constructed pretty cleverly. Sadly, though, no time was spent to even hint at some cockpit interior, be that just adding the standard lever, printed 1 x 2 slope and a seat known from other sets.
There’s enough room inside there and the face print on the glass canopy simply does not cover up enough. On that note I would have preferred an unprinted bubble, anyway. Mine was also rather scratchy, but I didn’t trouble myself with requesting a better replacement part simply because it’s unlikely I will ever use it for any of my own creations again.
The one thing that also bugs me here is once again the excessive use of colors. Someone really must have had a bad day and everything feels kind of thrown together using a little less of the yellow and making those round tanks on the side also Black or Light Bluish Grey would have resulted in a more pleasing, overall calmer appearance.
One thing of note is the wedge piece on the side. It’s actually a new part, not just the existing separate left and right pieces that have existed for the last two years now. Personally I don’t know how to feel about this, to be honest, as the only reason this part seems to exist is further “economization”, i.e. reduction of parts count in sets.
It’s not entirely without merit, as indeed the way it’s being used in other sets loosely hanging in the air and bridging gaps would be difficult to achieve with the same level of stability and elegance, but I’d rather they’d given us some other slope piece with those angled edges instead or at least use a more obtuse angle. if you will: This doesn’t necessarily expand creative possibilities, it really just solves a technical problem.
All things considered, this isn’t a must-have set unless you really don’t mind spending those 20 Euro (or 15 Euro with discounts) to complete your Hidden Side collection. Outside my own weird “I’ll use those crazy colored parts one day.” logic I can’t see how this would appeal to anyone else. It’s not even particularly good or desirable within the series itself. It just completely lacks a unique selling point that would make me recommend it.
I like the sub, mainly because of the stickers. That yellow fin really is too much to take in.
I think Hidden Side struggles with this itch the designers get sometimes to use psychedelic colors in order to evoke a retro ghost-hunters look; the sort of thing that used to be popular in the 90s. As with most things with a haphazard use of color, it tends to miss more than hit.
For this theme I prefer the sets that look more typical/true-to-life, primarily with darker colors, just because I think that’s what fits.
Actually I think that’s part of the design philosophy, it just isn’t done with enough finesse to really be attractive. A lot of what the LEGO designers do strikes me as a hack job rather than being based on clear-cut rules and an actual understanding of the actual (graphic) design principles. If you will, I somehow imagine one of them going “I had one of those way back then, so let’s throw it in for fun.” without it fitting the overall concept.
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