As you know, I love underwater life. Not all forms of it, but I sure could get lost for hours just observing whales, sharks, octopuses, reef fish and so on. That’s why my recent excursion to the SeaLife & AquaDome in Berlin with a buddy of mine felt too short. You know, you almost wish that elevator inside the cylinder basin would get stuck so you can just watch the fish swimming around you for longer than those eight minutes just as I would spend more time inside the exhibition without someone hurrying me. Anyway, this little trip reminded me that I still had my photos from the LEGO Dolphin and Turtle (31128) set, that somehow slipped off my radar and I never published an article, so it’s now time to do just that slightly belated.
Contents and Pricing
Regrettably, in recent years the pricing for Creator 3in1 sets has been all over the place with some seriously overpriced sets damaging the trust in the once very affordable staple of LEGO‘s product series, so I’m all the more happy to report that this one is a very affordable affair.
At 137 pieces its suggested retail price is 10 Euro, which is pretty reasonable. However, anyone is right who would point out that it really doesn’t look like there is actually so much stuff in there because the “hero” models of the dolphin and turtle look tiny. Another caveat on all of the three out-of-the-box models is that a good number of elements are only used for the base and its decorative adornments, thus not contributing to the volume of the creatures.
This can be slightly offset by discounts which bring the cost down to around 7 Euro in many online shops and physical retail outlets. During some crazy promotion shortly after I had already purchased mine, one vendor even fired out the sets for 5 Euro only, which would make this a total no-brainer. That is to say buying this set in triple to build all models at once would be reasonably doable, with or without those discounts.
The Dolphin and the Turtle
The primary build is of course the dolphin and the turtle as advertised on the box art. The reason I opted to present everything separately is not just visual clarity, but also the fact that mounting the creatures on the stand doesn’t really work that well and looks odd in terms of scale. The panels would need to be much higher, but even then the limbs of the animals get in the way of each other. That and of course if you were to assume that based on the size of the eyes relative to the body this would be a baby sea turtle, the size of the dolphin would be unrealistic and implausible. Even newborn dolphins are much larger already. Therefore your best option is probably to indeed keep them apart to not give people ideas…
The base is constructed from a bunch of round quarter plates in Tan, which at least is a useful generic color. I guess nobody would have been surprised had they gone with some crazy color like Coral. I have a feeling that Medium Blue would have been an interesting color, though. It would have looked like some distant sand bank whose color has been shifted by the light being filtered through the water and floating particles. The details on top feel a bit sparse and don’t really convey the idea of underwater vegetation or even a coral reef. It would have taken much more pieces to make this more lively.
The turtle immediately reminded me of the polybag set 30476 from 2017 that used a few similar techniques and was about the same size, even though it represented an adult specimen. Inevitably just like this version it suffered from the ball joints not having been recolored. At this size there’s simply no good way to disguise the grey elements and it limits how good everything looks. Mind you, it’s not that terrible here as in particular the gaps between different groups of pieces are small, but I still wish LEGO had gotten over themselves and colored the items in question in Sand Green or similar.
The dolphin shares the same issue with the color of the joints, but some effort has been made to at least bury the central one with in the body. At the same time, though, I feel that these connections are redundant, anyway. The body is too short and with so few segments there’s no good way of creating some dynamic and dramatic poses. Or in other words: As far as I’m concerned, this could be as solid and stiff as a bathtub toy for kids. Of course you could improve the design, but that would require more parts to create more segments, different wedges and slopes for more slender, elegant shaping and so on. At the end you’d probably end up with something completely different that barely bears any relation to the version from this set.
I have to admit that the first alternate model, the fish, is actually my favorite from this set. It’s one of the few I actually kept around and it’s sitting on the shelf next to me looking cute, joined by the turtle from the first build. The fish itself is just some non-descript generic variant that could stand in for whatever is your favorite. From something as mundane as a Sea Bream to your most-liked variety of Scalpel Fish any interpretation is valid. Of course things would be even better if this actually used bright colors like real reef fish. Imagine how stunning this could look using Yellow, Blue, Orange or Coral contrasted with some Dark Bluish Grey or Black.
Because it happened to come out around the same time as this set, I got myself a couple of the Tropical Parrot (30581) Creator 3in1 polybags as well to compare the fish in there with the one from this one. The little red fish is notably more crude and simplified, but does not look at all that bad next to its bigger brother. In addition, the smaller offering comes with some actual leaf elements and a few wedge slopes, the latter of which even perfectly matching in their Lime Green color, which could be used to enhance the larger fish or the scenery around it.
Since we’re already here, here’s also a look at this bag’s main hero, the parrot. It was released pretty widely, including some cardboard promo boxes in regular grocery stores, so it should be easy to find and even be obtainable for 2.50 Euro or less sometimes. Another of those little gems that you should not miss out on.
Back to the main subject of this review, there’s a good amount of leftover pieces that aren’t used. Not too dramatic in absolute terms, but in relation to the size of the set still notable.
The third model is a little seahorse and next to it its companion sea slug/ snail. The upper body half of the little vertical swimmer is reasonably proportionate, but the tail is way, way too short. This is one of those situations where throwing in ten more pieces or so could have made a huge difference even if the tail was presented coiled up. Also, since these little critters are latched on to a grass blade, plant stem or even just a piece of material floating in the water it would have been nice if there had been some elements to mimic that.
The number of leftovers is rather moderate, though following through with some plant-like structure for the little guy to cling on could have reduced it even further by e.g. using the yellow blossoms on a coral twig and hiding the crab underneath.
While it doesn’t get me quite as excited as the Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), this is still an excellent little set. That is, if you remove the somewhat nonsensical forced combinations of elements and the resulting scale issues from the equation. More or less the animals should be viewed and treated as separate entities and treated this way while you dispense with the rest. The uninspired presentation is really the biggest issue and it may be worthwhile to invest some time in building pimped bases if you feel so inclined.
Otherwise it’s a very enjoyable experience. The builds don’t take too long and aren’t in any way convoluted, yet still look good, which makes this a good option for kids. The finished models are also reasonably robust for play within their design restrictions, so your little tyke swooshing around the dolphin, turtle or fish is perfectly possible. I’d definitely recommend this package. Even if you don’t have a particular interest in underwater creatures, it is relaxing fun and the set is very affordable.
Creator’s animal sets have been on quite the roll lately.
Absolutely! A good year for Creator 3in1 indeed! 🙂