Scary times two? – Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150)

Spontaneous impulse buys can be a dangerous thing and despite my tight budget I’m not completely immune to making those spur-of-the moment decisions, especially when the vividly colored shelf labels in a store prominently announce a discount on LEGO stuff. Of course I’m still being quite rational on some level, as I spend a minute or two almost every day checking prices and weighing my options on what to get next, so my purchase of the LEGO Minecraft Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150) set wasn’t entirely unprepared.

LEGO Minecraft, Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150), Box

One of the main considerations is of course the price and while the value for money ratio in the Minecraft sets is quite terrible in general, I figured I would be a bit forgiving this time. I definitely wanted to check out the set because it uses a different building technique than the one with Alex and the chicken and even if it wouldn’t turn out super-exciting, at least the parts would be useful.

For instance the Light Bluish Grey 3 x 2 tiles aren’t used as widely as one tends to think when looking at the tons of Star Wars vehicles and other technically-oriented sets out there, so having a bunch of them along with their 4 x 2 counterparts in a single set isn’t really that bad a thing. Similar observations can be made for other parts – they are and will be useful in custom builds, but really not that special on their own, though i would argue that somehow one can never have enough 2 x 1 tiles in Dark Medium Flesh.

What really got me jazzed even more were the Dark Brown 2 x 1 plates used in the Magma Cube along with the Dark Red tiles. It surprises me again and again how LEGO use them in such mundane sets as filler, often completely invisible, while at the same time aggravating people with extremely colorful similar elements used for the same purpose even in expensive sets where you would expect consistent color usage. Go, figure!

LEGO Minecraft, Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150), Front

The skeleton itself is constructed in the simplest way imaginable – white plates and tiles, some joints a few brackets and it’s all stacked together in the most straightforward manner. Once again of “Your kid could have invented it, would it have had the parts at hand.” That’s in itself not a bad thing, but it kinda furthers my point about those Minecraft sets perhaps being a bit all too obviously overpriced to begin with. They could at least have made the joint parts all white, to provide some unique incentive for getting this set.

Arguably the latter point at least applies to the bow element. Similar to the sword in the Alex set it has studs on both sides, which shows that LEGO know how to do that stuff, they just refuse to give us regular two-sided adapter plates for bi-directional building, however they may rationalize that decision. Anyway, the bow also is in Dark Brown and has a more or less obtuse triangular form, which makes me think you could very successfully use this creatively for e.g. building roofs on little country houses and the like.

The spring-loaded shooter arrows coming in Reddish Brown is also nice and could likely be exploited as extra long bar elements when needed like with all sorts of high-stem bushes and young, small trees, a flag pole or just as a long faux “axle”.

LEGO Minecraft, Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150), Back

Looking at the backside doesn’t really reveal any surprises. There is some minimal effort to cover the calves by ways of the Unikitty style 3 x 1 inverted tiles and I sure do not object to having the new T-style brackets in white, but other than that there’s really nothing exciting to see. Unfortunately the model once again doesn’t take the opportunity of expanding and refining the original Minecraft in-game creature design with additional joints, so you can’t really pose anything – at least not without it looking rather ridiculous for a “collectible figure”.

LEGO Minecraft, Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150), Lava Monster

As written further up, the Magma Cube/ Lava Monster keeps most of its secrets hidden inside, which in addition to the cool Dark Brown plates is a simple mechanism with a Technic axle that allows the upper half to be lifted and dropped back as if the creature was chomping onto someone. There’s no friction and it can’t be fixated in a (semi-)open position, so it’s ultimately not that useful, after all. It’s a nice touch, regardless.

Overall this is an okay set, but really not much more than that. Somehow the Minecraft theme just doesn’t click with me despite my best intentions and everything feels somehow a tad off. The figures are really too small to impress and can be built so quickly, it’s just unsatisfying. It seems I really would much prefer a more liberal, slightly more realworld-ish interpretation with much more pieces instead of just re-creating the in-game items so simply. Perhaps I should simply focus on my other stuff.

That said, if you are a fan of the game or the characters, this set represents them faithfully as far as I can judge. Then you actually might appreciate the quick and simple build, too.

Blocky Chicken – Alex with Chicken (21149)

Minecraft has often been touted as a form of virtual LEGO with an infinite supply of bricks, so it was inevitable that at some point it would take the reverse direction and move from its computerized version to a real one. From my own observations that venture seems to have been a limited success, as at least here in Germany many stores don’t even stock the series and the ones that do seem to suffer from slow sales.

The reasons for this to me seem glaringly obvious – once you move to physical building blocks, every single one of them costs you real money and that large mountain you can easily build in-game suddenly becomes a daunting task because you either have to compromise on size and detail level or spend a ton of cash to make it look “realistic” within the game’s own logic. That’s why I never have bothered much with buying one of the sets, but I was somewhat intrigued by the new “BigFig” sets of some of the game characters and wanted to check them out.

In my world of limited finances of course I always have to plan two steps ahead so as to not spend money on something that I may not have any use for later and I therefore opted to get the Alex with Chicken (21149) set as a test case. If it looked okay enough I could keep it around in assembled form on my shelf for a while at least and if I didn’t like it I could always dismantle it and make good use of its parts, which in this set come in “nice”, very reusable colors like Sand Green, Dark Bluish Grey and so on with only a minimum of parts being used in contrasting colors invisibly inside the model’s body.

LEGO Minecraft, Alex with Chicken (21149), Box

First off, the term “BigFig” in my opinion is quite an exaggeration. At barely around 20 cm size this isn’t what I consider big, though naturally within the stuff released so far in this series this is a new scale. Unfortunately the lack of genuine “bigness” is to the detriment of the model. To me it’s that old gag of the 150% rule striking again. Making the model larger and e.g. the legs three units wide instead of just two would have allowed different construction methods and in this case would have been useful to better disguise the joints by building sort of a “sleeve” with plates and tiles extending beyond the edges of the underlying structural geometry.

LEGO Minecraft, Alex with Chicken (21149), Left View

Naturally, the game being based on a uniform grid makes it easy to represent the individual cubelets with 2 x 2 LEGO bricks and derivations thereof based on multiples of those sizes, give or take height differences that would need to be compensated with extra plates or tiles. That being the case, the model conveys the proportions convincingly. I’m just not sure that this is necessarily a good thing as I would have favored a more amped up, more realistic rendition of the character. That also extends to the coloration, which perhaps could have benefited from using a custom skin as reference instead of the original livery. Alas, things are the way they are.

LEGO Minecraft, Alex with Chicken (21149), Right View

As you would expect, poseability with these literally “stiff as a brick” figures is terrible, so there’s not much you can do here unless you venture into the realm of custom mods and fan art. It would have been nice to at least have knee joints, though. Without those you can basically just leave it standing straight. That still looks okay, but pretty much negates any of the movable features. That not only includes the various joints, but also the mechanism that is supposed to raise the sword. Unfortunately in its current form it can’t be fixated easily, so the arm always drops back with the sword in the perfectly horizontal position.

LEGO Minecraft, Alex with Chicken (21149), Static Pose

Speaking of which… The whole back side to me looks just plain unattractive. It wouldn’t have needed much to improve the situation here – some inverted tiles on the arms, the back of the head and the “butt” area in colors matching the main parts would do wonders to improve the look. That notwithstanding, I still would have preferred a whole different approach. In my not so humble opinion re-interpreting the theme loosely and refining the figures would be preferable to slavishly adhering to the limitations of the game, many of which simply go back to the original version having been developed by one person with no proper game asset/ 3D creation tools at hand and hacking things together natively in code, after all.

LEGO Minecraft, Alex with Chicken (21149), Back Side

My highlight of the set is easily the companion animal of the main character, in this case the chicken. It has been featured in a few other sets already in some form, but it’s always a funny and cute addition. not a fancy build by any means, but still well-executed and effective.

LEGO Minecraft, Alex with Chicken (21149), Chicken

The feet are represented by the new T-shaped bracket element, which is another reason why I got interested in this set. There’s overall three of them – the Yellow one for the birdy, two Dark Bluish Grey ones used in the feet. The other “BigFig” sets also have this, but obviously in different colors. They may be worth a consideration just for that. This part solves so many construction problems, LEGO can’t do enough to get it out there in masses. If it were up to me, there would be at least two of those items in every new set even if they aren’t actually used. that’s how super-useful this is.

LEGO Minecraft, Alex with Chicken (21149), New Bracket

Overall this is a fifty/ fifty situation for me. I’m not completely unhappy with this set and in fact it turned out better than I had anticipated, yet the feeling lingers that this could have been even greater. Perhaps it really needs to be approached completely differently, beginning with something as trivial as a larger plate so the chicken and the person can be placed side by side and then some. In the current form those figures will become boring and repetitive rather quickly, so LEGO need to think of a way to make them more uniquely distinct and varied, anyway. For now they are a little fun diversion, if a costly one, but I can’t see them lasting long-term, least of all when they are so unattractive for people who don’t know the first thing about Minecraft