Noodles in the Flesh – LEGO Creator, Downtown Noodle Shop (31131)

I would love to deck out my flat with LEGO‘s Modular Buildings as much as the next guy, but sadly I have neither the money nor the storage space to keep them all around. Therefore I have to settle on smaller fish and make do with the building-themed sets in the Creator 3in1 range and other series, but even that is an exercise in itself for similar reasons. There’s just an over-abundance of options, yet models like the latest Sanctum Santorum (76218) are out of my class, either, due to their price. For now let’s have a look at the Downtown Noodle Shop (31131) therefore. 

LEGO Creator, Downtown Noodle Shop (31131), Box

Contents and Pricing

Unfortunately even these smaller buildings don’t come cheap and so you’d have to invest at least 40 Euro MSRP. That is before the price increase as since this very September 1st you have to add 5 Euro more on top. The irrationality of LEGO‘s greed is a discussion for another time, but of course it sucks having to pay even more. For now this is obfuscated by many retailers still selling it for the old price minus their usual discounts, but after the transitional phase this no doubt this wear off and prices rise, regardless, once consumers have been conditioned to just accept it.

In theory paying 40 Euro for 569 pieces isn’t half bad, but as you can already see in the overview image this number also is made up by many smaller elements that are good to have to detail and enliven the scenery, but do not contribute much to the bulk/ volume of the model. Even the walls are actually to a good extent just 1 x 1 bricks to build support columns and frame the windows. Realistically, you only have around two thirds of “substance” with the rest being decorations. Of course this is not an unusual ratio and on some level even good compared to e.g. some City sets. However, the lofty impression is furthered by the overall very open structure and no real big parts giving the package some “weight”.

LEGO Creator, Downtown Noodle Shop (31131), Overview

With that in mind, hunting for discounts can be really worthwhile. Typically you will be able to find this for around 34 Euro, representing 20 percent off. I got mine for 31 Euro and at some point an online retailer fired it out for 26 Euro. This really helps, especially if you buy multiple boxes to either build all three models from the instructions or simply create a bigger house.

The Figures

There are only two minifigures in this set, which is a little underwhelming, given the subject. You cannot even fill the little noodle stand completely, much less add some bustling activity in other areas. At the very least this should have had four figures and five would have been ideal. That way you could add a customer buying some Asian food, place a child near the bike buying some ice cream and so on. The minifigs themselves are just run-of-the-mill. You’ve seen the individual pieces used a million times and they get just remixed a bit like the lady having one of the new heads with the hearing aid printed on. In addition there’s a buildable dog, but as you well know I’d much prefer having a molded animal. After all, there’s enough different breeds available, it just seems LEGO are too hellbent on keeping Dachshund, French Bulldog et al exclusive to their Collectible Minifigures series and it takes so long for these to appear in mundane sets (usually as other color variants, no less).

The Bicycle

The bicycle, or more exactly tricycle frame is another variation on the small food cart as already seen e.g. in the Heartlake City Organic Café (41444). Looking back at this set the green wheels/ tires look just odd in conjunction with the white frame (they may have worked better if the frame was Lime Green or Bright Green), so I’m glad we get “ordinary” Black tires here. The ice cone is an interesting build, but feels too heavy and overall whoever would drive this bike would be very unsafe, given that he barely can see anything. 😉 This would likely work better on a classic roof on four poles.

The Building

Important preface: For this article I’m going to focus exclusively on the primary model, the noodle shop. The alternate builds, a bicycle shop and a small arcade struck me as stylistically too similar and/ or too small to be worth going through the trouble of rebuilding the one set I had at hand into the other variants. I may consider buying another one of these when there’s another good discount and maybe then I can give those secondary models a whirl. Now on to the good stuff.

A trend that as someone who never can have enough colors at hand certainly views positively is the fact that someone at LEGO must have realized that skin tones are actually “real” colors and could be used for regular pieces and not just minifigure components as well. This change came about around two years ago when they started doing the LEGO ART packages and had to recolor all those 1 x 1 round plates and studs, anyway, and shortly after that they released the buildable “huge minifigures” Harry Potter & Hermione Granger (76393), containing more flesh-colored pieces for the hands and face. From there it probably took on a life of its own and simply became a standard thing. I’m pretty sure, though, that there was some heated debate on the matter internally, given how long they refused or had not considered producing parts in skin colors.

To get to a point: One of the things that attracted me to this set was the use of Light Flesh/ Light Nougat pieces. I just didn’t have any in my collection yet (yes, that price thing again preventing me from buying costly sets) and wanted to check out how it would look in person. To boot, there were some other interesting elements in useful colors like more Olive Green bricks, the Dark Red slopes and the flat “arch” slopes in Dark Green and Bright Green. At least my nerd genes would be stimulated and I could live out my obsession in that department.

The build overall is pretty straightforward, but also somewhat delicate. This is due to the building being very open to begin with and consisting of a lot of individual one brick thick walls that are not interconnected. This means everything is very wobbly and only stabilizes once you cap it off with the plates for the next floor or other transversal elements. Until you do so, things are prone to being pushed out of alignment again or snap off entirely. You have to have a tender touch to not apply too much force. In the end everything works out, but a little care goes a long way. The assembly order can also be a bit frustrating as it jumps across the model. It’s kind of structured in slices instead just finishing off one corner so you find yourself adding something to the noodle stand only to then be asked to add an Olive Green brick on the other side. Flipping a few pages ahead in the instructions every now and then can help to make this more efficient by doing multiple steps at once.

The default layout for this building is a sort of “cheat” square layout for a corner building. This is technically plausible with the main facade facing the main street and the noodle stand being tucked away into a branching side street or alley. However, this also exposes what perhaps is this sets biggest shortcoming: the lack of height. You never really believe (at least I do) that someone could live there above the shop and those rooms are at best a small business office for the snack bar’s owner. It’s also visually odd since in particular the right-hand side of the building with the stairs and the door has no thickness and doesn’t even pretend there would be something else. It’s like where there is the hollow in the back there should be the actual building and everything we see are just additions that were constructed later. Anyway, I think having a third floor would have helped hugely to avoid this impression and made things more functional and believable.

The small insert with the vending machine is only loosely attached with some pins and once removed you can play around with different configurations for the house. Because the model is built with hinges, you can just close it up. This would also be a good option for storing it since it prevents the interior from getting too dusty. In this closed state the kitchen sink under the stairs is at the back of the noodle shop and likewise, the second floor gets more logical as the previously unconnected door now acts as the entry to the living room. The big downside is of course that you cannot get inside and visibility of the interior is seriously restricted as well.

The second possible arrangement is simply forming a straight line. This looks nice, but all the same exposes the identical problem as the initial layout – the lack of depth. This really screams “Buy me a second set to extend the rear!”, a recurring theme with this package. In this configuration you would also have to adjust the width of the sidewalk for the building to be integrated into an existing neighborhood.

Since the building itself already is made up of mostly small elements despite a relatively high piece count, the interior isn’t hyper-detailed, either. Not that this would be too much of an issue, given that there isn’t much space, but you can somehow feel that the designers struggled and had to sacrifice one for the other to stay on budget. Not meaning to propagate stereotypes, but certainly a real noodle shop would be more cluttered and also have some more utilities. There isn’t even a fryer or a fridge anywhere in sight.

Incomplete as it may be, the living room on the second floor feels cosy. Similarly, the tiny hallway reminded me of those small British hotels – crammed and a bit stuffy, but always a table with fresh flowers near the window. The roof ladder/ emergency ladder also fits.


Concluding Thoughts

While overall this model is just fine and really captures that feeling of early 20th century American urban/ suburban buildings as you would find them e.g. in San Francisco or some areas of New York, the flaws/ shortcomings can’t be overlooked. They really show without looking for them even if you may not be able to exactly pinpoint what bothers you at first.

For one, the all too apparent lack of height by not having a third floor is felt immediately. As can be seen in the photos the building looks very square. Other buildings like the Townhouse Toy Store (31105) from two years ago were effectively not much larger, but never felt as vertically compressed. Arguably the balance just isn’t there in strict architectural terms. The second issue is the overall feeling of incompleteness. The building comes across as an half-finished skeleton of what it could have been. The many open spaces contribute to this feeling as does the lack of some “interior” when the building is at a 90 degree angle or perfectly straight. Certainly some inserts on the inside similar to the one with the vending machine would have made a huge difference.

All that being the case, the path to happiness most definitely is buying multiple packages of this set, but then it really becomes a question of whether this is still cost-effective. Buying two is certainly feasible, but adding a third already gets you dangerously close to the price of actual Modular Buildings or something like the big Sanctum Santorum (76218). Likewise, you could then find alternatives in other series and bash something together from multiple Friends sets or similar. In that regard one might even call this noodle shop a failure. If you get my drift: When it’s easier to cobble together a larger building from other sets, then the point of buying a dedicated set to that effect is defeated.

Unfortunately this set doesn’t quite know what it wants to be and the conditions when a purchase pays off will be very specific. Regardless whether you use it standalone or want to integrate it into your existing LEGO city you will have to put in some extra work to make it look nice. Therefore my view is that it would have been better had this been a slightly more expensive, but also more complete set in the 60 Euro range with at least some of the issues fixed. in fact even if they had just duplicated the second floor and given it a different interior this would have improved things a lot.

Another Deep Dive – LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130)

As you well know from many of my posts I really have a soft spot for underwater creatures. The Deep Sea Creatures (31088) were one of my favorite sets back then – very affordable and well designed – and even compelled me to create my own octopus MOC. This year’s Dolphin and Turtle (31128) weren’t bad, either and in-between I’ve reviewed a number of submarines, a fish tank, you name it. Therefore it was an inevitable certainty that I would get the Sunken Treasure Mission (31130) one day as soon as I heard about it, which is the subject of this article.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Box

Contents and Pricing

LEGO‘s logic when it comes to their in-store exclusives completely eludes me and on a rational level just doesn’t make any sense beyond reeling in casual shoppers passing by in a mall. However, even that is not really the case, given that these small sets aren’t even displayed in the shop window. Anybody who has a LEGO store near them knows this. Worse yet, often these packages are simply not available and sold out because they’re not stocked sufficiently. You know, it’s this odd situation where you can buy a 400 Euro Star Wars spaceship, but not simple stuff like this. It frustrated me massively back then with the Crocodile (31121) an it’s no different here. Yes, it’s one of those friggin’ exclusives they keep to themselves, at least here in Germany and only on the third trip to the store was I able to score a purchase because you couldn’t even order it online at the time.

With that in mind there is of course zero room for price discussions, as you don’t get any discounts. The question therefore become whether 30 Euro for 522 pieces is a good price and the answer is a definite “Maybe!?”. Personally I’m inclined to give this a pass for once because I love the subject matter so much, but more objectively it is perhaps still a bit overpriced. While the size and volume are there, my main peeve are the man, many 1 x 1, 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 elements this is mostly built from. The larger parts just don’t compensate the amount of small, finicky items. Therefore seeing this at 25 Euro would have been better and 20 Euro after discounts would then make this a fantastic offering.

That also might have encouraged me to buy two packages instead of just one despite some of the parts not being that interesting for my potential future custom builds. Also one of those weird things about LEGO‘s policies. It’s as if they don’t want you to buy more even if the combined revenue could offset any discounts. As it stands, I only got a single package, after all, as I didn’t see myself investing 60 or 90 Euro only to end up with a ton of wedges and bubble canopies that I rarely ever will use.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Octopus, Overview

The Minifigures

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), MinifiguresThe minifigures aren’t anything special with a standard skeleton and an operator for the submarine(s)/ diver. Initially I was under the impression the torso print would be new, but no, it has been used in a Stuntz set already. So LEGO just combined what they already had, anyway. However, there’s a small treat here in that the helmet is the first time that the revised Classic Space helmet is available in Dark Bluish Grey. I’m sure nostalgic fans have set their sights on it and you could fetch a good price for it as long as it is this rare.

The Octopus

The main model or rather set of models are based around the octopus.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Octopus, SafeThe first of those three is the safe. It comes in a very classic Dark Green, a color traditionally associated with banking, communicating reliability and integrity. In fact so much that it has become sort of an insider joke in movies, including one of my childhood favorites the Danish Olsen Banden series. Anyway, it’s a very efficient small model that benefits from the 2 x 4 dual jumper plate introduced a while ago for a more compact appearance without an extra reinforcing plate on the top. The door is a new 2022 color for the 4 x 4 dish as oddly enough it has never before been done in Dark Green.

The submarine is a surprisingly realistic take on those deep sea exploration vehicles with this type typically being slaved to a long cable since it has limited buoyancy and storage capacity for fuel and ballast. It’s really a nice model in its own right and I genuinely did not expect it to be this good. The only thing I’m missing is perhaps some ropes and a net plus perhaps an emergency buoy in Coral.

The drive section makes use of the new steering wheel element to portray the protective cage around the propellers and again for the time being the Yellow variant is exclusive to this set.

The interior provides room in the aft section as well as the cockpit so you could even sneak in a second minifigure from your collection, e.g. a diver that egresses from the back hatch when needed to do his thing.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Octopus, Submarine, Cockpit open

The most obvious shortcoming of the octopus itself is exposed right away: Once again the arms are way, way too short. Even if you account for small species like the Blue-ringed Octopus, which I’m sure this isn’t even meant to represent, the ratio between head size and arm length just doesn’t match actual proportions. That being the case my first request to LEGO would have been to include at least two more segments per arm. That, however would have exacerbated another problem. The tentacles aren’t connected with ball joints except where they are attached to the main body and instead use simple clips, so posing them is severely limited. That means you can basically only sensibly pose it in the “umbrella” stance depicted here with its “cloak” (the skin between the arms’ roots) spread out evenly and only little variation.

The suction cups represented by the Bright Pink 1 x 1 studs to me feel superfluous. They’re a pain to plug on to the plates and hinges and since they aren’t the proper scale, anyway, just having some full coverage plates in their place might even have looked better.

The mantle, tubes and eyes are simply large wedges, slopes and round elements attached to a central SNOT block. It’s certainly sufficient, just not very detailed. I always prefer more granular builds using smaller elements that approximate the variations in surface curvature better. Overall it just looks a bit too symmetrical for my taste.

The Lobster

The second model is a red lobster with some more extra builds.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Lobster, Overview

The underwater ruins with the gate are a way or putting the many slopes to use that previously were used upside-down on the submarine plus there’s some pieces from the safe/ money vault as well as you can clearly see. Simple, yet effective.

The little submarine is another interesting spin on the subject. More to the point, I believe it’s actually an underwater scooter, meaning it’s mostly just a means of motorized transportation, not a fully isolated environment. You’d sit inside it with your diving gear and still get wet since it isn’t pressurized. I vaguely recall something like that popping up in one of the older James Bond movies. All the necessary details are there and one is willing to buy that this could actually work. Small side note: As you see the model is raised from the ground, which isn’t my doing to enhance the photos or anything of the sort. Indeed you are supposed to add two brackets as skids according to the manual. For “correct” play one would simply remove them.

The crayfish is structurally much more simple than the octopus, but the build feels just as repetitive. Now some of that is inevitable, but if they could change anything in this set, it would be to add a bit more variety. Had they e.g. thrown in a few of the small 1 x 2 wedge slopes for making the octopus’ mantle look more refined, they could be re-used here for some of the feet, the clippers and even the mouth. Likewise, the sides of the body could have benefited from actually having SNOT studs onto which those curved slopes and wedges could be plugged for better vertical rounding. This would also have helped to disguise the grey ball joints.

 

Another change I would have loved would be the inclusion of Red fishing rods for the antennae instead of just regular bars. Those would then of course also need to be placed in matching Red clip holders, not Light Bluish Grey ones. This shouldn’t have been much of a stretch as those little buggers exist ever since they were introduced as a recolor for the Chinese New Year sets. Clearly, throwing in two of those little buggers wouldn’t have made the budget explode.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Lobster, Aft Left ViewThe fishing rods and additional slopes might have been a different story, but as you may have observed I’m not a friend of “half-assing” things. I’m more of the mindset that if you do such things and it doesn’t take too much effort you go the full mile and don’t stop halfway. All things considered, this is perhaps why this lobster doesn’t feel all this great. This point is also reinforced by the considerable amount of leftover pieces that aren’t even used. Those range from some larger parts originally required for the submarine and octopus to the numerous small plates, many of which were buried inside the models.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Lobster, Leftovers

The Manta Ray

The final model in the package is a Manta Ray with a side of a small section of reef.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Manta, Overview

I’ll admit I think the reef is a pain in the butt. It feels like the designers were actually forced at gunpoint to come up with something so there wouldn’t be to many unused or extraneous pieces. While I was building it it seemed like I was doing it for hours. It’s all piecemeal stuff – a 1 x 2 brick here, then a 1 x 2 plate on top of it and then another at an 90 degree angle to connect it with a neighboring element and so on. It was extremely tedious and just dragged on. There’s per se nothing wrong with this and if you don’t have that much LEGO you’d likely even build it this way yourself, but gosh, do I wish they’d just thrown in some 2 x 4 and 2 x 6 bricks to build up volume much quicker. only a few 2 x 4 bricks needed. It looks the part when finished, but the assembly wasn’t very enjoyable in my view.

The Manta itself is okay, though the proportions suggest that this is more a baby than an adult. The wingspan is not proportionately large enough and it appears too thick and compact, thus also making the mouth look too large and kind of cute. The wingtips feel a bit odd. I get what they were going for, but all things considered a Manta genuinely is just a large rhombus shape with sharp corners. Throwing in some Dark Red 2 x 4 wedge plates would have looked a bit more realistic.

In a similar vein there could have been more wedge plates to create the tapered transition zone for the tail. It’s not just plugged on as it appears. On that same not, of course it should have more segments and be slightly longer.

An interesting observation about this model is the use of some direction inversion techniques. This can be clearly seen with the mouth and its upside-down mudguard piece and continues to manifest itself on the underside with actual surface detail, including some hinted-at gills. The disadvantage here is that during the build process it is rather flimsy and really only begins to stabilize once all the layers of plates have been stacked. To me this is yet another situation where it clearly shows that LEGO’s refusal to introduce actual direction inversion plates gets in the way of building models more efficiently as already pointed out once.

For the leftover pieces there’s a lot of overlap with the ones on the lobster, but also a few notable substitutions. Once you veer away from the main model the parts usage really isn’t that economical.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Manta, Leftovers


Concluding Thoughts

Yet again this is one of those sets that gets in the way of itself. That is, LEGO are making it hard to give this a perfect score with the circumstances surrounding it. People with more money to spend than I will easily get over the price, but the overall difficulty in actually finding this set to be able to buy it is a bit of a show stopper. It just seems unnecessarily complicated to the point that people not as engrossed in LEGO will simply miss out on it. They’ll either never notice it in the first place or just give up the chase.

The sad state of affairs aside, this is another pretty good Creator 3in1 set for this year. Seems like the LEGO designers are on a roll and made some good decisions what to pick and throw out among the crowds. If there’s the slightest chance for you to pick it up, I’d definitely recommend it. You should keep in mind, however, that this is a “builder’s set” and the models are not collectibles.

If you don’t plan on spicing up the default models or re-using the parts for your own builds it would be a costly investment compared to more refined actual collector models. Inevitably buying a second or third model would skew this even further with so many parts left over. That basically is also the only real shortcoming – the way the parts that are there are used is not always very efficient and at the same time I feel that there are a few bits missing that would have enhanced the experience.

Car Triple – LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd’s Race Car EVO (71763), LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127) and LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181)

As a LEGO user on a limited budget it’s sometimes not easy to find something to buy, strange as this may sound. Some sets don’t interest me right out of the gate, others I may actually want are out of my league and then there’s this weird thing where you have downright lulls when you have ticked off your “Must have” list and newer sets aren’t released yet or there’s no worthwhile discounts that deter you from buying something. In those situations, especially when the drought becomes too long and I get this nervous itch, I like to resort to my alternate “Would be nice, but only if…” list. This is sort of a random collection of sets that I might buy, after all, to scalp them for parts. This inevitably requires them to be cheap or offset the cost by being able to sell minifigures for a good price. The three sets featured in this article are exactly that. None of that means that they would be bad on their own merits, it’s just not the main focus of this review.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Box

LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127), Box

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181), Box

Pricing and Contents

Not being much of an actual diesel head or any other kind of car aficionado, the underlying logic for these purchases has always been the potential long-term usefulness of the parts vs. the price and the short-lived fun I might derive while building. As it is, I never got too worked up over the specifics of Ninjago lore or the The Batman movie’s details and the accuracy of the model. With that in mind, the motto of the day always has been “It needs to be cheap!” and so I was biting my time on each of the sets until my gut feeling told me to buy them at what logically seemed to be the lowest price realistically feasible.

That mostly worked except for the Street Racer (31127) where I missed my window of opportunity and had to buy it at slightly higher cost. This one was 15 Euro, which is not too bad, given that a 20 Euro set would not be discounted as much proportionally compared to others. Interestingly, this set seems reasonably popular, so the price is pretty stable and it more or less never was “dumped” anywhere for 10 Euro during a promotion or something like that. The lowest I’ve seen is 13.50 Euro, which really isn’t that significant compared to what I spent.

The other two sets have a regular asking price of 30 Euro, which quite frankly is ridiculous, especially for the Ninjago car. Sure, the number of pieces is there that would fit the usual piece count x 10 Cent per piece = price, but there just is not enough volume of stuff. LEGO are even giving away their game with the marketing photos. One can’t shake the feeling that only half the parts are actually being used anywhere. That said, of course you can rely on discounts, which kind of is the point when you want things cheap, so I ultimately got both packages for around 18 Euro. That’s so much more tolerable and feels more in line with what you would pay for a comparable Speed Champions car for instance.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd’s Race Car EVO (71763)

Perhaps the most disappointing of the three, Lloyd’s Race Car will be the first to get a look. It comes with 279 pieces, which on paper sounds good enough, but as mentioned before it just doesn’t feel that way. This isn’t unexpected or even untypical for a lot of Ninjago sets, as a good chunk of the elements are always swords, blades and other appendages/ decorations as well as side builds and minifigure add-ons. Once you strip them down and put them on their own pile, you sometimes already have 50 pieces that don’t contribute much to the bulk. In this case this is further reinforced by the EVO concept where you are supposed to upgrade a barebones base build to a fully decked out maximum version or vice versa. More on that later.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Overview

The minifigures in this set are very colorful with Lloyd having multiple shades of green and the snake warriors heavily featuring orange. This makes them almost look a bit too friendly compared to other iterations of these characters. Still love the snake head piece as much as back then, though. If LEGO were to produce Light Bluish Grey or Tan versions, they’d make for wonderful decorations of some similarly themed temple.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Figures

There’s a small buggy for the bad guys, but it’s basically one of those lazy lackluster designs I’ve criticized a million times in my LEGO magazines reviews. It’s an utter waste of pieces and simply not worthy of even being there.

The main vehicle as depicted here is the maxed out and leveled up version. Not only was I simply too lazy to take photos of the lesser variants with some pieces removed, but in my opinion this EVO stuff also just doesn’t really work that well. The base version looks rather underwhelming and a bit weird and one can’t help but shake the feeling that this was fundamentally designed the wrong way. By that I mean that my overall impression is that the car was designed as the complete version and only then they started thinking about which parts could be removed when in fact it should have been the other way around.

This isn’t helped by the modular concept not having been thought through. Whenever you try to remove the sub-assemblies there’s a good chance you also pull off other parts that are supposed to stay on or at least you loosen up some connections. This isn’t the end of the world, just sloppy design and it feels utterly unnecessary.

The car itself is just fine and has a few things going for it in terms of useful pieces. For instance the green wedges haven’t been in any set in ages and could be interesting to some. Similarly, the relatively new golden “motorcycle style” wheel hubs haven’t been in too many sets yet. This package is also one of the few to have the 2 x 2 corner tile in Green. The most important item however, if you wanna call it that, is the transparent windshield element. It’s rather common in Trans Black, but outside this set it has only been once done in Trans Clear. That means it has been rather expensive (though not particularly rare) and increased availability will help to bring down that cost. Personalyl I can see that piece being useful if e.g. you want to convert a Speed Champions car to a different version and are tired of the shaded windows.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Front ViewOn a somewhat broader note, I really hate LEGO for doctoring their promotional images the wrong way. I was under the impression that the Green would actually be Bright Green, which would have made the car look a bit more aggressive but would also have been cooler overall. You can imagine that I was mildly disappointed when I realized that. As a Photoshop user myself I find it baffling that they don’t put much emphasis on a reasonably correct rendition of their own colors. It really cannot be that difficult, considering that no doubt they can easily afford all the bells and whistles of expensive photographic equipment and high-end calibrated computer screens.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), CockpitThe play value of this model is acceptable. The car is pretty robust and the cockpit is large and accessible. However, there’s not much else to do. Unlike some other Ninjago offerings this one doesn’t have some hinge-based transformation features or hidden functions that can be triggered with some lever. Even the stud shooters feel less than ideal, considering that the round 1 x 1 studs more often than not tend to be consumed by the carpet monster and are harder to retrieve compared to arrow shooters.

LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127)

I got this set somewhat reluctantly. It’s not that I totally disliked it, it just didn’t strike me as essential when viewed from the angle I was treating the whole operation. Arguably one could say that this is a bit of an acquired taste and my interest only grew when studying the digital building instructions and realizing that it would offer some unique Dark Turquoise parts and a few useful ones in Light Aqua as well.

LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127), Front Left View

The set comes with 258 pieces and they are put to good use, at least for the primary model. Apparently I haven’t built the Formula X racer and the custom dragster, which use less elements. I might have if the set had a different color scheme, which is a bit of a qualm I have with this. I don’t mind the Dark Turquoise, but I feel that other contrast colors would have served the set better. The Light Aqua could have been substituted for Yellowish Green or Dark Azure and if nothing else, at least the Red decorations should be Bright Light Orange. That and of course the exhaust pipes and the compressor intake would look way cooler if they were in a metallic color.

Building the model is pretty straightforward as unlike some other cars this one use mostly conventional building techniques and not fancy sideways or upside-down construction as often found on Speed Champions these days. This makes for a rather relaxing time and a quick turnaround. I’m a slow builder at the best of times due to often being distracted with other stuff like watching TV, but this was a pleasant build that didn’t drag on for a whole evening.

One thing you’ll notice right away is that this car is rather big and has a lot of usable volume. The downside to that is that it’s definitely not minifigure scale and any of the little guys you put in the cockpit and behind the wheel will look like an elementary school kid having hijacked his parents’ ride. The available space is really huge as evidenced by the images below. There’s even a well worked out stowage area, it’s just that in order to actually use any of that and make sense scale-wise you may need to find some dolls/ puppets/ figures from an alternate manufacturer like Playmobil.

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181)

The The Batman movie came and went without much fanfare. It was barely marketed and then it felt like it was in cinemas for two weeks only. The short window of opportunity certainly hasn’t helped to compel me to drag my lazy ass to the movies, but I won’t use it as an excuse. I haven’t seen the whole thing and only know bits and pieces from trailers and isolated clips. Based on that, the model appears to be an adequate rendition.

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181), Overview

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181), FiguresThe set comes with minifigures of Batman himself and his nemesis The Penguin. The decapitated head isn’t some unfortunate victim, it’s a replacement for Batman without the cowl. I guess for the realistic look of the film they’re okay, it’s just that they don’t look very spectacular, either. Bats doesn’t even have any weapons and for Mr. Cobblepot  you can build a small rocket launcher (forgot to include it in the images), but that’s pretty much it.

The set officially has 392 pieces and they’re are used well. as you can see on the photos, it has a certain fine granularity with many individual details breaking up what otherwise would just be a sea of black. It even has the flames from the nitro charger to make things look more intimidating. They get a bit tiresome to look at, so if you want to keep the model around for your showcase, it’s likely better to remove those transparent blue parts.

The car in the movie is a custom build, though it has clear references to a Mustang, a Pontiac and some others, depending on which details you look at. Within reason that has been translated well enough to the smaller scale version, though of course some of the straight surfaces would be curved on the original. In terms of size this feels like an oversized Speed Champions car and it even builds similarly. You start out with a 8 wide chassis element which is considerably extended front and rear and then add the other elements.

One of the things I found slightly problematic is how fragile some assemblies are. It is inevitable that some of the flames will come off occasionally, but there’s also several other locations where pieces are only attached by two studs and you can break them off just by handling the model wrongly. The overhang of the front hood is the most annoying of those, but also some of the 1 x 2  slopes used for the sharp ridges tend to dislocate. Another weak spot is the “forked” suspension of the motor. With all that in mind you should handle the model carefully.

The interior details are sufficient. Personally I’m a bit irked by the shooter mechanism. It requires you to have the arrows in the model at all times or else the hinged mechanism will just drop down and stay at an angle, ruining the illusion of a solid surface on the hood. If I were to build this a second time I’d just forego the arrow shooters entirely and close up the gaps with regular bricks and tiles.

The motor is an interesting little assembly and sells the illusion nicely. Most importantly it does so by using some Flat Silver elements that have only been introduced in this color this year such as the 90 degree clip/ bar and the Fez cone. Definitely interesting pieces for anyone building machinery or designing Steampunk stuff.


Concluding Thoughts

Given that I bought all the sets under the premise that I would harvest their pieces and derive a little distraction from them rather than looking at them too critically for their originality, realism and other factors, I’m not that disappointed. Yes, they all have notable shortcomings, but I don’t find them too bothersome within my reasoning.

Of course my opinion would be most definitely different if I was more serious about the matter. I might criticize the lack of more minifigures on the Batman set and its less than robust handling and I might simply write off the Ninjago set as lame and unpolished in relation to the official retail price. In reverse this however also means that I really would not necessarily have bought those sets if they hadn’t been discounted massively. Such is the logic forced upon us by LEGO‘s crazy pricing.

To my surprise I really liked the Creator 3in1 race car and if you’re on a budget and can get over the slightly weird color scheme I would recommend picking this over the others. It’s just as robust as the Ninjago car while looking a lot better and at the same time it’s as big and reasonably detailed as both its alternative offerings. The Batman car would be last on my imaginary list due to its stability issues and boring black look. There simply are way too many other black cars out there.

Cheap Blue Sea – LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128)

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.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Box

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.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Overview

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…

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Dolphin and Turtle, All Assemblies

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Dolphin and Turtle, Base 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.

The Fish

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.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Fish, Comparison

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.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Fish and Parrot

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.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Fish, Leftover Pieces

The Seahorse

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.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Seahorse, Leftover Pieces


Concluding Thoughts

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.

Mr. Green Plastic Thumb – LEGO Creator Orchid (10311) and Succulents (10309)

One of my weird obsessions as a 3D graphics artist always has been the exploration of how to create plants, landscapes and complex organic structures and in a way, this has carried over to my LEGO activities as well. However, there were and are severe limitations in what you can do in terms of availability of suitable elements and their colors, something which really only has improved notably in recent years. That and due to my artsy inclinations I always had some reservations about tacky decoration kitsch.

That’s why I took a dim view on last year’s Bonsai Tree (10281) and Flower Bouquet (10280). They both looked a bit rough around the edges, though I eventually bought the flower bouquet for parts when it was cheap. This year’s second iteration of the theme by ways of the Orchid (10311) and Succulents (10309) looked a bit more interesting and refined, so I decided early on to get them and exploit the opportunity to create a review for your pleasure. Will they hold up to expectations or are they just another parts pack for other projects? Let’s find out!

LEGO Creator, Orchid (10311), BoxLEGO Creator, Succulents (10309), Box

Contents and Pricing

Both sets have a suggested retail price of 50 Euro for 608 and 776 pieces respectively and while on paper this may sound like a good value, the real world metrics turn out quite differently. There are several factors that contribute to this.

For one, the final size and (perceived) volume of the finished models is notably different. The orchid is large and quite sizable while the orchids even when arranging all of them in a single layout look tiny. This is in part intentional due to what they are supposed to represent, but also a case of many small parts simply not providing the amount of bulk. At the same time, just having nine modules just doesn’t feel enough.

The other thing is that the orchid is widely available from a variety of vendors and retailers whereas the succulent set is not. As a result, you get discounts on one, but not the other and unfortunately my sentiment is that the situation is not ideal and kind of the opposite of what it should be – a cost-efficient small set for the equally diminutive succulents and cacti and a larger set for the orchid. In fact doing so might even have allowed for an even lusher, more decked out version of the orchid or perhaps an alternate color variant. In this case I wouldn’t even have minded paying a few bucks extra.

That said, I of course fully understand why LEGO decided to have things this way. Orchids simply have a much broader, more generic appeal to a lot of people and in line with their adult-centric strategy trying to rope in new customers it makes sense as whatever discounts are given is offset by the sheer number of items sold. Still, it would have been nice if things were more even and both sets would be available through regular channels where you could get them for around 35 Euro, the now established market price for these sets. Still, even then the succulents set would feel costly. The content in there is more like it should have cost that price to begin with and then it could drop to around 25 Euro after discounts.

The Orchid

It may sound pretentious, but I had this idea for an orchid for years myself. When I built the Scout Trooper & Speeder Bike (75532) and later disassembled it, I of course had the shoulder pad elements in my hand and dang, didn’t they look like flower petals? But you know how it is – I always wanted to buy some more of these pieces off Bricklink, but never committed myself and kept pushing the idea further and further into the future.

One of the reasons inevitably was that I never could quite figure out how to fixate the elements because this little beauty only came out much later and other elements that could hold those pins at the time also were not available or at least not available in colors that would be useful to this project. After all, even the Bright Pink 1 x 1 cones were only introduced a while ago. The same goes for various other elements that would be needed for leaves, stalks, roots and buds. So to cut my long story short: Things never gelled in a manner that would have satisfied me and I ultimately abandoned the project.

Alas, someone at LEGO must have had similar thoughts and only waited for the right time to do it, so here we are with the Orchid (10311) set.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the model actually matches the size of a smaller real world specimen of the Phalaenopsis (butterfly orchid) quite well. It even holds up next to my mom’s collection of these plants, but it is important to keep in mind that this is an idealized version, regardless. The actual plants tend to be less compact and often only have a single stem with blossoms as that apparently is how most people prefer it. You could re-create something similar by simply connecting the various sub-sections of the branches differently. In fact there are already a few examples on show on one of the first few pages of the instruction manual. Implementing these changes might require a bit of patience. Even if it’s all just Technic connectors, 2L axles and pins and technically simple to do it may take some time before you arrive at something that looks “nice”.

There are three types of leaves on this model with the larger ones being constructed from large wedge pieces and the smaller ones being recolored helicopter windshields. It’s really as straightforward as it gets, but it comes of the cost of in particular the large elongated leave with the 10 x 3 wedges at the base not being very robust. They’re only connected to the top half with a few studs and that goes doubly for the pin hinge as well. Trying to move them and change the arrangement makes them come off easily. Not the end of the world, just a bit annoying. Also note how the leaves are stacked on top of each other like on the actual plant, which may also require some tugging and pulling so the placement looks organic.

The ends of the branches bring a little surprise in that the grass stem piece has been done in Dark Green for the first time ever, which is one of those weird things where people tend to think that this has been the case for forever, given how long this element has been around. It definitely makes for a welcome addition to any builder’s arsenal.

Looking at the blossom it pretty much becomes immediately clear why it might have been difficult to create it in LEGO in the past. First and most noticeable of course are the various pink elements for the core and lower lip, be that the Bionicle claw elements in Bright Pink, the Dark Pink “cross” gear and of course the Magenta frog. Once you actually have them available, everything seems quite simple and almost naturally falls into place. Having the central gear element allows to plug in all sorts of bar elements, including the integrally molded short stubs on the petals and this opens up all sorts of possibilities. Again, trying to not sound too pompous, but perhaps one might argue that if the gear had existed in this color I may have invested more energy in coming up with something orchid-like myself.

The smaller intermediary petals are a whole different story and while the result looks excellent and works, I don’t necessarily think that this is the best solution, though I would back this up with a disclaimer that coming up with something different would require quite some experimentation and might in fact be just as clunky. That ultimately is my point here: the thing seems overly involved and is reliant on – shall we say – a rather creative use of an element only recently introduced. I do get the logic in abstract engineering terms, but I firmly believe there could have been another way. The way it’s done does make for a very repetitive assembly and since the small fork was never really intended to be used in this fashion there is a lot of variability across the board. Some petals fit very tightly and make for a stable connections, others more loosely, making them wobble around. this state of affairs is somewhat unsatisfactory. At the very least there should be more spares of the fork so the user can pick the best ones for his build.

LEGO Creator, Orchid (10311), Detail Medium BlossomThe “halfway there” versions of the blossoms are a neat little touch and put the Demogorgon head from the Stranger Things the Upside Down (75810) companion set to good use in a different color and with an alternate print. In fact way back then I already quipped in a comment on some blog that the head would make for a wonderful flesh-eating plant. Sometimes things work in mysterious ways! A minor complaint here would be that the actual center could have an underprint in a darker color like Dark Tan or Yellowish Green to give it more depth and also give credence to the fact that in those stages the blossom doesn’t appear perfectly white yet.

LEGO Creator, Orchid (10311), Blossoms Cluster

These orchids are potted in a variety of substrates ranging from white pebbles to sandy soil to the “mulch” (shredded tree bark, sometimes also partially composted) LEGO went with for this set. It doesn’t really matter much to the plant as it extracts a good chunk of moisture from the air, so this is mostly a matter of personal preference and aesthetics. In this set it is also simply a way to cover up the underlying Technic construction with a few random bits. The Dark Brown “claw” slopes are a new addition to my collection since they’ve only recently been introduced, but the rest is just standard stuff.

LEGO Creator, Orchid (10311), Detail Mulch

The outer shell of the pot is assembled from a number of slopes and plates in Sand Blue, which by itself is already a nice and soothing color. This is further helped by those roof slopes having a textured, matte surface, giving the whole surface a classy silky sheen and making it look high value. A few other colors like plain old Tan would work just as well here if you’re looking for alternatives. For my taste there could be more aerial roots and perhaps in a different color as well. The two Olive Green ones used here look a bit too much as if they’re freshly grown and for an older specimen there would be many more, but looking in brownish or greyish colors.

The internal construction is pretty clever and elegantly bypasses some of the issues you would have by using four round plates with pin hole bricks attached and rotating them in pairs of two so they mutually cover the gaps of the other in order to allow attaching the liftarms, effectively doubling the number of available slots to which the ridges then are plugged on seamlessly.

The Succulents

The Succulents (10309) set clearly is LEGO‘s attempt to capitalize on the trend of simulating “micro gardening”, i.e. breeding small plants in a limited space and keeping them that way with meticulous trimming and managing their growth conditions. It’s apparently a hobby that is popular in many of the overcrowded big cities of the world where living space is at a premium and you can’t dedicate a lot of it to your greenery. As a “late to the party” set this one almost instantaneously struck me as the lesser of the two packages discussed here. It’s just a bit too obvious and not very original. Even so, they could have made this something special by employing fancy building techniques or using exclusive parts, but that didn’t pan out, either. That is to say: If you have seen competitors’ versions or MOCs you already know what’s coming next.

LEGO Creator, Succulents (10309), Overview

Before we proceed to the individual plants, a word on the pots/ trays: Regrettably LEGO did not bother to genuinely design a nice presentation arrangement of e.g. columns with different heights, so everything is flat. Since every module is identical, in theory you should be able to arrange them in whatever shape you want – in theory. That’s where things pretty much fall apart as effectively there’s only so many layouts you can create without the plants overlapping and pushing each other to the side. That alone should have been incentive for a stacked presentation where overhanging plants could simply occupy the higher levels without disturbing anything. What further compounds this issue is that even on a working layout you may have to leave large gaps and you cannot create a compact, uniform “block”. This defeats the idea of being able to freely place the modules.

The other thing that is very irksome is the uniformity of the modules and their ever same build. While this facilitates the assembly (you simply always repeat the first few steps), it makes for dull building. That and the many axle holes you end up with because there is no provision to substitute the modified bricks with solid ones. Would have throwing in an extra 40 or 50 1 x 2 bricks killed LEGO? It seems so unnecessarily petty and measly. And again, at the risk of beating this to death, having extra layers of bricks to vary the height of each box would have been very welcome.

Though most other plants are simply variations on the five gigazillion Echeveria types, the first one is an Aloe put together from various claw elements as you regularly find them on dragon models e.g. in Ninjago. At a fleeting glance it looks okay, but if you look closer the shortcomings become apparent. The spikes are really too short and don’t touch the bottom, their hollow undersides can look weird and – disappointing, but predictable – LEGO did once more not put in the effort to recolor all elements.

The first in the Echeveria department is a yellow one whose only special feature is the use of a new slightly curved ridge slope. Otherwise it hasn’t much to offer and if you’re serious about the matter, even the color is kind of wrong as this probably should be a mix of Bright Light Yellow, Regular Yellow and Yellowish Green to better reflect the pale yellow with a green tinge appearance of the original.

The Chicken & Hen Echeveria is a prime example why competing products beat this set flat hand. Most of the examples I’ve seen have more leaves to begin with and often a fourth or fifth row/ ring. They’re much more massive. Also, as the name implies, this species spreads easily and appears in clusters, so there could have been two or three side by side in a larger container.

The violet versions is certainly different stylistically, but does not spell Echeveria, either. It’s just not dense enough and looks too much like the blossom of a conventional flower. That in itself could be of course a sneaky way of using the elements here. Four of them plugged into the pink gear from the orchid (or the longer existing yellow version of that piece) combined with some decorations could make for an interesting fictitious flower.

Next on the list is a Sedum, a relative of the Echeverias but apparently it’s so young it only has grown one ring segment yet. It doesn’t really do the plant justice, at it grows very quickly and forms large clusters and it should really have at least one or two more levels. A few people got totally worked up about the classic Forestmen hats, so there’s that at least.

Back to Echeverias, we have the biggest one in this set, the red variant. The intense coloration is a sign of the plant’s age and exposure to strong sun light, so it’s not technically correct that the young leaves in the middle are already completely red. This is also detrimental in that they barely stand out. A different color certainly would have helped. On that note: One thing I completely miss is a blossoming stalk on one of the Echeverias. This is not uncommon and in particular on this Dark Red one a pale green stem with some yellow or orange blossoms would have provided a nice contrast and added interest.

The Burro Tail (Donkey Tail) is perhaps the most original plant in this whole set due to using the eggs in Yellowish Green. The scale and density are not realistic, but it still looks pretty cool.

LEGO Creator, Succulents (10309), Ball CactusThe small ball cactus is one of those “My kid could have done it!” models that are so simple it literally doesn’t contribute much to the overall value

 

 





LEGO Creator, Succulents (10309), Moon CactusThe moon cactus, a strawberry cactus grafted on another, more robust species like an Euphorbia is perhaps the most “LEGO like” model in the whole set, meaning that it actually has some bulk and does not just rely on a few shapes creating the illusion of something being there.

 





In summary, the models in this set are serviceable, but also somewhat tedious and frustrating. My biggest peeve is that they never feel “real”. By that I don’t mean “realistic” but rather that I felt like a fraud and cheat already when putting them together because I knew it was all utter illusion painting with very little substance. It’s also clear that LEGO opted for the bare minimum in this package and while I’m sure the designers have many more pretty awesome prototype models in their vault, none of them appear to have made it into the final release.


Concluding Thoughts

The final verdict is a matter of two completely opposite judgments. The Orchid (10311) is a nice little set and illustrates what you can do with LEGO elements when you choose your subject thoughtfully. It’s about right in size and proportions and from a distance really almost looks like a natural plant. Combined with the fact that overall it feels like you’re getting a good volume of stuff and it is available in broad retail where you can expect some discounts, it’s really worth a consideration.

The same cannot be said for the Succulents (10309) whose illusion quickly falls apart except when you really, really are far away or e.g. a window frame obstructs the view and hides the “ugly” parts. In addition the value to price proposition is disastrous once you consider that half of the pieces go toward building the little black boxes and auxiliary stuff that does not necessarily contribute to the appearance. Worse yet, since it’s exclusive to LEGO and some premium partners at this point you end up paying way too much for some flimsy, tiny plants that don’t even look particularly realistic.

This problem is further compounded by another fact of life: LEGO is late to the “plants & flowers” game and there are literally tons of alternatives from some Chinese manufacturers based on licensed or ripped of MOCs or their own creations. I will not say that you should support bad business practices, but not only are some of them much more dense and offer more parts and details, but ultimately it’s also worth considering whether you are ready to let an expensive 50 Euro set catch dust on your window sill or a 15 Euro one. Even if LEGO tried to evade exactly this scenario by introducing a few unique ways of creating plants it’s just not worth the price of admission.

So in summary I would definitely recommend the orchid in a heartbeat, but I would caution against the succulents. Maybe it gets better if and when it comes into free distribution via regular retail channels, but for the time being it pretty much only makes sense as a complementary set if you already have exhausted other options or if you want the specialized parts.

Twice the V, twice the Fun? – LEGO Creator Vespa 125 (10298) and Vespa (40517)

I try to adhere to my self-imposed 50 Euro limit when it comes to LEGO sets due to my limited finances, but occasionally I find myself coveting certain packages so much that I’m willing to disobey my own rules even if it isn’t always easy. The Vespa 125 (10298) was one such set as it just looked good and the Bright Light Blue color was extremely appealing to me, especially given that for my taste LEGO are using it way too rarely, anyway.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Box

Rather cleverly LEGO pulled off a double-strike on the whole matter and also released a significantly smaller version of the Vespa (40517), this time in Red. I would not necessarily have bought it had they designed it differently, but again this one has some pretty clever parts usage and just looked excellent so I had to get it, not just for the purpose of this article.

LEGO Creator, Vespa (40517), Box

Contents and Pricing

The large version of the Vespa comes in at 1106 pieces and a suggested retail price of 100 Euro. Since many of the elements are larger than average and at the same time there’s really not too many 1 x 1 plates and similar that already would be a good and fair price. Being on a budget I’m of course always on the lookout for discounts and I was almost ready to buy this for around 75 Euro when rather unexpectedly an even better offer came along. During a special “LEGO Week” promo of one of our large German online retailers I was able to pick it up for a mere 63 Euro, representing a 37 percent discount from the original price. That’s hard to dismiss as nothing, so I even postponed some other LEGO purchases that week in May just to be able to afford this and not over-stretch my budget. Currently the price is back hovering at around 72 Euro at the cheapest outlets, which means that even if you missed out or lack the patience to wait for a next promotion you can get it for a reasonable price.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Overview

The small Red version is really not worth making much of a fuss about. For now it is exclusive to LEGO stores and their online shop, essentially nixing any debate about price. Even if that wasn’t the case, at 10 Euro and how nice it looks it’s almost a steal. The 118 pieces are put to good use and the model feels “weighty”, meaning it has enough complexity and volume to not feel like you have been overcharged. Undeniably it would likely go down to 7 Euro in free retail, but for once I feel that even I wouldn’t be concerned to much if it still cost full price.

The Big One

The big version of the Vespa is indeed quite a large lady and comes in at around 35 cm length, 22 cm height and 13 cm width at its broadest section thanks to the “hips”, i.e. the aft wheel covers. For me quite a surprise, as naturally most sets I build have way fewer elements and result in smaller models. You really have to make room for that one if you want to keep it around for display. In particular the height will be an issue, given that it surpasses most much “flatter” car models.

Thankfully the construction process is nicely modularized, which certainly is advantageous for a person like me who struggles to concentrate beyond a certain amount of time and often just wants to put away the LEGO after a while because I’m too tired and exhausted from my illness or something else gets in the way. So yes, I stretched this out across three evenings separated by extra days inbetween, though in fairness you could probably build it in four to five hours in a single sweep if you’re a quick builder.

The assembly starts out with the main trunk of the aft section, which in itself is made up of three separately built blocks which then click together using clips and hinges. This is a very straightforward process with bricks and plates being stacked conventionally for the most part. The only difficulty during this phase is that some elements are only attached by a few studs on either side to provide the hollow space for the wheels in the middle and tend to “cave in” until you fixate them with plates and tiles on top bridging the chasm. In addition, some of the sideways studs you integrate don’t feel very logical as they are only required much, much later. I also would recommend you pay more attention than I did to really pressing the different blocks together for minimal gaps. This is difficult to rectify later as one tends to push other elements out of location, increasing the gap size, while trying to fix one problem area.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Front ViewThe second phase focuses on the front shield and steering column and admittedly feels a bit repetitive and boring due to having to build basically the same shapes twice, just in a mirrored arrangement. This extremely benefits from the new 5 x 5 round corner plate introduced only this year or else they’d likely have had to piece it together from multiple straight elements attached at an angle or arrays of e.g. the 6 x 3 arch. One thing I found totally unnecessary and disappointing were the two yellow modified tiles. Yes, they would be hidden behind the spare wheel, but what if you want to display the model like this? They really should have gone with Light Bluish Grey and if you feel like I do you should fix this right away with some spares from your own stock.

At the aft of the vehicle there’s a small cargo rig/ baggage holder and this being based around the variant from the 1960s it would not be much more than a simple construction with bent tubes and wire, reinforced with fiber board or plywood at the bottom. This is nicely captured here with some bars, droid arms and tiles and while it merely is affixed by a single hinge, the design is such that the angled lower bars perfectly stop when touching the body. a clever solution, if not immediately obvious. Of course I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want the whole thing to be actual Metallic Silver or at least Flat Silver, but I guess that’s too much to expect.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), CrateThe flowers packed in the wooden crate are based on a re-color of the crown/ cracked egg shell element and this nicely illustrates what potential uses it could have if LEGO ever considered doing more colors. In fact I would have loved if they had included an alternate color set in Bright Pink, Dark Pink or Dark Red and possibly some in White so one could create different variations of “tulips”. Similarly, it could have been fun to include a few more bricks to build food items like a wine bottle in transparent green and some fruit like a sprig of grapes, a melon or even the stereotypical pizza box and ciabatta bread.

A small gag item is provided with a buildable helmet. It nicely captures the very symmetrical dome like appearance from that time and is all in all done well enough and very efficiently. The crux however is that there’s just no good place to put it on the scooter. It doesn’t really just want to hang from the steering bar on its own accord (you can, but it falls off with the slightest movement), but there’s no dedicated storage compartment for it, either, like it is common on newer models. In a pinch it would probably be best to just ditch it if you can’t find a good way to place it on your shelf/ showcase next to the main model.

The detail on the model is meticulous and often only could be improved by pieces that LEGO doesn’t have – like more inverted tiles to cover the undersides of elements – or that they only produce very selectively such as Metallic Silver tiles for the edge trim Outside that the sheer number of elements that they’ve recolored in Bright Light Blue is just stunning and they’re put to good use. Of particular not here are the container and inverted wedge used in an upside-down manner to form the center of the steering bar and headlight housing. The right-hand-side has a small clutch lever and there’s a 2 x 2 round tile for the tank hatch between the two seats whose origins go back to the LEGO Ideas Voltron (21311) set.

The seats themselves are one of those “Okay, but…” things. The Dark Blue “leather” cannot be faulted and is actually accurate to models of this era according to references, but there are some apparent problems. For one, there’s that mess with the uneven coloring. More on that further down. Two, despite being correct, the color does not scale well. To me the contrast just looks weird and it would have to be more on the black-ish side or – which is perhaps the better idea – would have had to have some secondary color to create contrasting seam bands. That also brings us to the third point: The seats are extremely bulky and not very elegant. If you look up photos of the original they’re more like thin wafers pressed into shape with a distinct attachment and damping mechanism similar to bicycle seats.

The wheels are another area where LEGO surprisingly went out of their way. Not only did they again recolor a huge number elements for the housing, but they created an entirely new tire type and matching wheel hub. the latter is dual-molded to create the illusion of white wall tires. The downside to that is that the actual rim and tread is very flat and does not sit particularly firmly on the hub. It can be pushed out of the recess easily. For a mere display model that is certainly not a big issue, but those tires would be useless of they needed to work like real ones because there is almost no grip and the treads would just slip on the hubs. The right side of the front wheel is one of the few areas where some Technic pieces are exposed and by necessity also had to be tinted in Bright Light Blue. Here you also find a completely new piece for the suspension and shock absorber. While it’s premiering in this set, I’m pretty sure it will make its way into more upcoming ones.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Left Side View

Understandably, the “ugly” parts have to go somewhere and that is the underside. It reveals a lot about how some things are constructed and it also exposes some of the optical illusions going on like the aft wheel housings being quite offset from the actual wheel and the wheel being mounted on a rigid center frame rather than a swinging mechanism as it would be on the original. The kick stand is essential, as similar to a real scooter the model does not stand stably on its own just on the wheels.

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Bottom View

LEGO Creator, Vespa 125 (10298), Engine HousingThe two wheel fairings are a bit of a delicate thing due to their hollowed out construction and the aft large shell/ wedge piece not having too many attachment points due to how it was originally designed. When you take these things off, you should always try to grab them in the front with the large 4 x 4 quarter domes. The right side hides a small motor imitation with the typical large fan/ momentum wheel. As you well know I never use stickers, so yes, that is the single printed piece on the entire model you see there.You can also see the kick starter.

The left housing does not hold any surprises. Removing the cover only shows the three main blocks of the aft section I spoke about earlier.

Color me baaaddd…

One thing that’s really bothersome, especially for such a slightly more expensive offering, are the inconsistencies in the coloring. This problem is pervasive throughout many LEGO sets and has persisted over many years without the company ever getting a handle on it. Of course it is clear why and how this happens – with millions of different types of the individual bricks being produced in separate batches across multiple factories around the globe, some inconsistencies are inevitable, but man, sometimes it’s just really bad. This is also the case here, which is even more disappointing as many of the parts have been manufactured for the first time in the Bright Light Blue color specifically for this set.

It is also particularly baffling because the variations can clearly be seen with the naked eye, especially under direct daylight. Don’t they have Color Assessment Boxes and spectrometers in their factories or is this particular part of Quality Management/ Quality Assurance (QM/ QA) only stuffed with elderly people with visual impairments? Point in case: If I can see those variations under average conditions in my poorly lit kitchen, I definitely would expect them to see this, too and not let such glaring deviations pass, even if some of them are inherent in the production process like in-machine mixing of base materials and pigment grains.

The arrows show the most egregious offenders which (at least in my package) are:

  • a grey-ish shift on some 1 x 1 brackets along with a white-yellowish discoloration on the 1 x 3 tiles (not just on the front shield, but also in other places they are used)
  • an uneven discoloration on some of the curved plates on the wheel housings causing recognizable strips of lighter shades
  • the wedges at the tops of the wheel housings having a slight yellow-ish tinge, shifting them

There are a few more locations, but many of them are actually hidden under the covers or the “flow” of the surface is interrupted by gaps or other elements, so they visually disappear based on the context.

Dark colors tend to expose the issue even more and while Dark Blue may not be as notorious as the million shades of Dark Red in some sets, it feels particularly bad this time around. This is due to how the bricks are used to form flat surfaces for the seats and spare tire cover. It would be a lot less visible if there was more structure like actual rounded edges, which in itself of course is a point: The shaping on the real vehicle is much more complex and you’d need to use wedges and curved slopes on the model to even come close to it.

The real stinker here is that not only should these color issues not occur in the first place, but that somehow through utter ineptitude they are unable to resolve this. I requested replacement parts for a few of the critical areas and what did they send me? Yes, the exact same problematic pieces. It really wants to make you *facepalm* hard and the slap sound shall be echoing through the universe forever…

The Little One

The small version is just called Vespa in the most generic sense and unlike the large model isn’t pinned to a specific period. As such it could represent anything from classic era models to the modern electrical drive versions of this iconic scooter and on top of it would be an appropriate representation of many similar scooters from competitors that drew major inspiration from the Vespa or copycatted it outright. In any case, it certainly allows for a very broad interpretation and looks distinct enough, yet quite different at the same time.

Similar to the bigger version this little red gem benefits from a few new curved/ rounded pieces that have come out in the last few months or else it would look slightly more angular and the proportions would be different. The most notable items are the round corner pieces used on the front wheel’s housing and the “shoe” slopes I spend some time exploring in my Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184) review. Both elements make their first appearance in Red in this set, though they’ll soon enough found in others as well.

The building techniques used in this model aren’t nowhere near as elaborate and fancy as on the huge version, so this is a very quick build of half an hour or less. It’s the perfect little set you can build on an evening after a stressful day and it will just relax you and give you a good feeling.

LEGO Creator, Vespa (40517), Front View


Concluding Thoughts

It’s interesting that LEGO have been able to actually produce two excellent models of the same subject in different scales. That is so unlike them and you’d totally expect them to still screw up at least one just because they are who they are (as a company, not the actual model designers). This makes for an enjoyable experience all round. There is little doubt in my mind that you definitely should pick up the small version on your next trip to a LEGO store. It’s really a no-brainer.

The large Vespa is a bit of a different story. It’s worrisome that a company that constantly brags about being the market leader does not get a handle on their color consistency issues even on a new set where they had to produce a ton of pieces explicitly. That’s why I would be very picky about what I pay for it. Since it’s available via regular retail that gives you some options and the funny thing is that you could even be lucky and get a perfectly fine package from a different production batch just by chance.

On the whole this has been a very good experience, small complaints notwithstanding. I would definitely recommend these two sets, assuming you are even remotely interested in this sort of vehicle.

Purple Fantasy – LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125)

In these dark times we can all use a little dose of cute every now and then and so it wasn’t much of a stretch to commit to the Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125). I was immediately won over when first images started making the rounds and aside from having to wait a short while for prices to drop I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Box

Contents and Pricing

The Creator 3in1 series is all over the place in terms of pricing with some very unattractive and boring sets sometimes being ridiculously overpriced, some equally costly fan service sets like the Medieval Castle (31120) and good, but too expensive sets like the Majestic Tiger (31129) or even worse the Caravan Family Holiday (31108). At the same time there thankfully are enough sets that are surprisingly affordable and good. I’m happy to report that this falls in the latter category and I would even go so far as to call it excellent value for money.

At 15 Euro for 175 pieces this just feels right on so many levels and with the usual discounts pushing that to a mere 10 Euro or even less there’s really not much of an excuse here to at least try this – that is if you can get behind or at least don’t mind the bonkers color scheme. Anyway, I certainly wouldn’t have been able and willing to buy three of these packages and present them here in one swoop if somehow I felt that it wouldn’t be worth it. Now of course there’s always the caveat of what’s in the box vs. actual parts usage on the model, but you’ll find out more on that where it’s relevant for each individual build. For now suffice it to say that it’s okay.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Overview, All three Models

The Owl

The hero model of this package is of course the owl prominently featured on the box art with her little hedgehog buddy and a book. As you would expect, this very much uses all the parts with no extra bits being left over besides the usual spares.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Owl, Overview

The hedgehog is a surprisingly cute little fella despite his extremely simple build. The only thing that left me unhappy is the fact that it has an open back with the rock slopes and teeth elements pretty much being an outline around a hollow area. While not a deal breaker it would just have been nice to have an extra plate and slope to fill that area.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Owl, BookThe book is a simple affair, but reasonably represents a storybook in landscape format. That’s also where the only stickers in this set would come in if you wanted to use them. That in itself is unusual and noteworthy, as 3in1 sets typically don’t have stickers.

 

 

The owl itself is a fabulous little creature and has all the right features that make those creatures so distinct and adorable. The building techniques are not particularly advanced and e.g. the head being based on a cube rotated to one of its edges is borrowed from the Buildable Hedwig (75979), but who would argue over that if it “just works”? in fact I might even have preferred if the head was fixed and not mounted on a turntable. Not that I mind too much, but it kinda turns a bit too easily and you have to re-align it every time you touch the model.

A notable effort was made to texture the surface with a mix of exposed studs, differently shaped tiles and in places multiple smaller elements in favor over larger and smoother solid pieces. This is exactly what for me makes the distinction between a good LEGO model and an average one where it’s “tiled over to death” or too many studs exposed. The balance here seems just right and serves the purpose. However, there’s a minor downside to this as well. In particular the many standalone “feathers” need to be meticulously aligned to look good and similar to the head it’s easy to wack them out.

Though you can bend around the wings and the protruding feathers, there’s not much real poseability here. Only a handful arrangements look good and there is no way to e.g. do something interesting with the feet or put the owl into a take-off pose with the upper body turned forward.

The Squirrel

The second model is the little squirrel. This is sort of a 2D-ish build that mostly exploits how the various curved slopes and rounded plates create a silhouette when viewed from the side. On the other hand it looks pretty dead directly from the front, in particular since the eyes cannot be seen straight on.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Squirrel, Overview

A weak point is the tail. While the yellow wedge pieces sufficiently represent the bushiness and volume of the tail, the curvature could be better. Unfortunately LEGO did not include any extra/ alternate pieces to that effect. Even just adding a second ball joint piece in the middle and flaring it out with some wedge plates might have provided a better transition, not to speak of even more sophisticated methods using arches and curved slopes.

As you would expect, there is a good number of pieces that aren’t used, but overall I think it isn’t as dramatic as e.g. the Majestic Tiger (31129) ‘s build for the Red Panda with its many leftovers. The only thing that has me a bit stumped is that the Dark Purple 3 x 3 corner brick is not used again. It’s exclusive for this set and so they really only included it for the owl. Not that I’m complaining, but this is quite unusual in this series. Not too long ago when this piece didn’t exist yet they would have settled on other, more generic elements to fill this gap.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Squirrel, Leftover Pieces

The Deer and Bunny

The third model is easily the weakest and allows you to build a deer (or fawn depending on your interpretation) and a bunny.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Deer and Bunny, Overview

The bunny/ rabbit feels a bit forced, to be honest. It’s like they sat down in a staff meeting and their team leader told them to come up with anything at all so they don’t have even more unused parts. That isn’t to say that the idea behind it isn’t savvy, but without a few more elements, in particular some curved slopes, it doesn’t look that convincing.

The deer looks cute in a very strange way, but actually reminds me more of a scrawny baby donkey. The head is too large and the body too stubby as well while the legs despite their already spindly appearance are still too short. This would also be my biggest gripe here. Since the ball joints aren’t in the main colors and in a way visually “disappear”, everything looks even more skinny than it would otherwise.

The parts usage is on a similar level as the squirrel with teh major difference being that simply other items constitute the leftovers.

LEGO Creator, Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), Deer and Bunny, Leftover Pieces


Concluding Thoughts

The Creator 3in1 series is shaping up pretty nicely for this release cycle. The tiger was awesome and this set is almost as great, but in a different way. It’s just fun to build and look at the creatures with the only real bummer being that the purple and yellow colors won’t be to everyone’s liking. It would be an interesting exercise to build the models in “natural” colors like Dark Tan, Medium Nougat and Dark Orange, but for the time being there would be serious limitations since not all elements used in this set even exist in one of those colors. That’s really regrettable.

In spite of this I would wholeheartedly recommend this set to literally everyone & their mom. Even if you prefer more serious subject matter like cars or Star Wars, this could be a pleasant diversion. The build is quick and easy and the creatures look good on the shelf. Who could resist an adorable squirrel looking at you from your book shelf or kitchen cabinet? 😉 It’s definitely worth getting at least one of those sets even if you don’t max out at three as I did.

Blue Jet or what? – LEGO Creator 3in1, Supersonic Jet (31126)

I used to do a lot of plastic scale modeling in my youth and while I eventually gave up the hobby in favor of other things, I retained that interest in (military) aviation and try to keep up with latest developments as well as discovering new pieces of info about older aircraft types, their development and operational use. That’s also of course one of the reasons why I love it when LEGO come out of the woods and release sets that at least somewhat resemble contemporary fighter jets, even if disguised as something else. It’s been a while since they had such a model in their range, but now here we are, talking about another one after almost two and a half years by ways of the simply titled Supersonic Jet (31126)

LEGO Creator, Supersonic Jet (31126), Box

Contents and Pricing

The set officially comes with 215 pieces and is supposed to retail for 20 Euro which is within the normal range of what you would expect for a Creator 3in1 set. Here it could be considered a good deal already based on the fact that the package contains several rather sizable parts such as the four Orange fins and the large wedge plates used for the wings. On top of that you get a good number of the triangle tiles along with other notable Dark Blue pieces plus even bits for a stand and overall the model is reasonably large. This gets even better once you consider the discounts out there in the wild and you can’t go wrong buying it for the 14 Euro that now have pretty much become the standard price. This is really good value, even if admittedly a few things could have been done differently.

LEGO Creator, Supersonic Jet (31126), Takeoff, Front Right View

The Model

Much has been made of the shape of the plane and which exact type it is meant to represent, but that’s a discussion that can be had better elsewhere and even then it’s slightly pointless. Given how similar modern combat jets have become in appearance simply due to identical mission requirements resulting in nearly the same technical solutions, this could indeed be an endless, yet unproductive debate. From an old F-16 to an Eurofighter to modern stealth types like the F-22 you can see anything here if only you wanted to and squint your eyes hard enough, yet you’ll never be able to pin it on an exact model simply because LEGO don’t want you to and keep the illusion alive of not doing actual military stuff.

That being the case here, it’s also the single biggest issue I have with this set: The color combination is just a bit weird. Usually Dark Blue elements are very desirable as they can be used nicely for many custom builds, but here things just don’t click in combination of Orange and White. The model feels drab and ultimately the color scheme poorly designed. Things just don’t “pop”. Now of course LEGO never would give us a plain Light Bluish Grey/ Dark Bluish Grey/ White combo, cool as it would have looked here, but at least using some different colors would have helped a lot. Using for instance Coral instead of the plain Orange would have made things more vibrant and lively. Likewise, using Bright Light Orange for the fuselage while retaining the other colors would have looked better. there’s a number of ways this could have turned out, but I feel the option they went with is not the best choice.

The assembly is pretty straightforward with the fuselage being built around a central core of a few long Technic bricks and layers of plates onto which a slew of tiles and curved slopes are shimmed over. On the sides this is apparently done with brackets, but this follows the recent trend of not covering every gap with a stud, so a few areas will only mutually stabilize once everything is complete. I can see why they are doing it this way to minimize stress on some of the angled areas and to keep the walls of the air intake as thin as possible, but occasionally it feels odd and really only begins to make sense when a certain step in the building process is finished. On that note, another serious oddity is the nose cone based on a square roof slope piece. While it contributes to the stealthy appearance and is simply plugged on in one of the final steps, I really would have preferred a more elaborate construction e.g. based on a few of these wedge pieces.

The landing gear is serviceable in that it’s robust enough to hold the model, but due to the thick Technic beams used still feels rather inelegant. In the end I’d gladly have sacrificed stability in favor of a slicker construction using the wheel elements from City airplanes, bars and minifigure android arms, especially if you leave the model perched on its stand and there are no forces on the struts. Another such thing that bugs me is the lack of wheel well covers. For the sake of argument those wouldn’t even have needed to be functional with hinges. Simple slot-in replacements like some pre-built blocks that could be plugged into the pin holes instead of the gear elements would have been fine. Even if they’d gotten in the way of the ratcheted hinge construction for the wings (you can actually make them droop down with anhedral), this would have been better than staring into those somewhat crude openings.

LEGO Creator, Supersonic Jet (31126), StandAs a bit of a novelty this set contains an actual stand for the plane so it can be displayed in an airborne position. It’s the simplest possible solution using a few Technic connectors and a large dish, but it works and looks acceptable if you’re not looking too closely. Somehow I think using the new tail piece would have looked awesome and much more dynamic, though.

 

Alternate models – Are they worth it?

As you can see from the absence of some photos I haven’t actually built the alternate models, but allow me to share my thoughts, regardless. One of my reservations that also factors in here is of course the color scheme. It’s acceptable for the helicopter, but a Dark Blue racing catamaran? I don’t think so, for the simple reason that this would just not provide enough contrast for these ocean racers and the ship kind of disappear against the water. Also, judging from the promotional photos and the instructions the build process is very similar and I’d probably be bored out of my skull repeating nearly the same steps as I did on the jet.

The helo on the other hand would be just fine in this regard, but it’s a tiny build by comparison and doesn’t use a major chunk of the pieces. I feel that this would have been better relegated to its own little set and instead a more complex build be included in this one. In light of these things there would apparently also be little motivation to buy a second or third package to build all models – that is, unless you really also want the leftover parts for your other projects.


Concluding Thoughts

This is an odd set that unfortunately wastes its potential with a few rather dumb decisions. The color scheme is a bit of a turn-off and in fact this isn’t helped by the atrocious package design with its all too apparent fake stadium in a very unattractive toxic green. On the shelf this looks very unappealing. The jet plane itself could be interesting, but is apparently falling short in a few areas where fixes would have been easy to implement. The consolation here is the very acceptable pricing for this set, though it’s not enough to warrant multiple purchases, at least in my opinion, since the alternate models don’t hold up. Perhaps it’s really one of those sets where you would emphasize the play aspect and at least that seems possible, given how sturdy the builds are…

Orange Predator – LEGO Creator 3in1, Majestic Tiger (31129)

It’s the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese lunar calendar and LEGO are certainly going in on the theme. Not only are there the usual Chinese New Year sets (Lunar New Year Traditions [80108] and Lunar New Year Ice Festival [80109]), with the latter featuring a person in a tiger costume and the accompanying Gift with Purchase (GWP) also having been a buildable tiger, but there’s also a bunch of the striped predator cats or their relatives appearing in other sets. It could be totally coincidental, of course, but I sure noticed. The Majestic Tiger (31129) on the other hand is likely far from being a victim of pure chance timing and easily takes the crown of the whole bunch and quite deservedly so in my opinion, so lets explore the reasons why this is such a great set.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Box

Contents and Pricing

Unlike last year’s Crocodile (31121), which never got a broad release and therefore is still very hard to come by, this set is readily available from a huge number of outlets. They even managed to have it ready from day one, which in these weird times with all those supply chain delays and interruptions counts for something. I waited my time for prices to drop to what I consider sensible levels, though, and with that we immediately get to the biggest gripe I have with this set: its price.

On paper, 50 Euro for a 755 pieces set doesn’t at all sound that bad and in particular for the tiger this may be perfectly acceptable for many people. However, those metrics skew terribly towards the negative side with the Red Panda and the Koi due to their limited parts usage, as you shall see further down in this article. Another thing to consider here is the fact that we’re talking about a Creator 3in1 set (also) aimed at children and other demographics, not just collectors. At 50 Euro you’re getting dangerously close to some of the more affordable LEGO Ideas sets and those have more pieces and frequently additional exclusive minifigures. Finally, and this doesn’t really need to be spelled out as it’s apparent in the photos, there’s a ton of small 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 parts that should not cause that much of a price hike. Yes, there’s several large elements, too, but those are pretty bog standard and not exclusively produced for this set, so they should not have such a huge impact on cost, either.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Overview

With all that said, this is pretty much a 35 Euro set and that is what you can purchase it for after discounts. That’s okay, but ultimately it’s unsatisfying that the retailers always have to pick up the tab and fix the mess that LEGO make with their overpriced MSRPs. In a way it might even hurt LEGO themselves. I’m losing this term very loosely here, as obviously they made just another billion in revenue, but wouldn’t it be even better if we all could just buy three of those sets for a lower price instead of having to perhaps settle on just getting one? I understand that this is how works for the super expensive collectors’ sets, but for this bread & butter stuff it just seems weird that you would limit your sales potential by driving up prices. You know, that math thing. If you sell three boxes and make five bucks on each of them you still have made more than just selling a single one and making a tenner.

The Tiger

Tigers are fascinating and beautiful creatures and I could watch them for hours. When I visit one of my buddies two or three times a year I always try to talk him into a visit of their small local zoo and seeing the tiger is one of my highlights. The zoo serves as a retirement home for older tigers and the cage is built as such that you can literally stand 1.5 m away from the big cat at a specific spot and if you’re lucky, the tiger will lay down and take a nap. I could stand there for hours just watching the breathing and movement of the ever on alert ears. It’s really amazing just as it is terrifying how even those elderly tigers explode and go a bit coo-coo if only they catch a whiff of fresh meat or another of their kind…

Anyway, on to the set. It makes no statement of which particular sub-species of tiger it tries to portray, but the tropical bird suggests that it could be a Sumatra Tiger, the smallest one. then again it could just as well be an Indian/ Bengal Tiger or a Siberian/ Amur Tiger. Who’s to know? At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter beyond perhaps considerations for the color of the fur. depending on the season and their habitat those can vary quite a bit from relatively dark browns to almost white pale sand color and anything inbetween, naturally. For a LEGO model the most appropriate main color would be Dark Orange, but I actually understand why they didn’t go for that. The “scale effect” would have made it look too dark. Those cats also have transitional areas with a beautiful deep and saturated curry yellow, a color which unfortunately doesn’t exist in LEGO‘s portfolio.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Overview

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Sidebuild The sidebuild for this main model is a super tiny waterfall which really only counts as the smallest rivulet drizzling through a bunch of rocks. there’s a suggestion of some very short bamboo stalks plus there are some dried up branches hidden behind the rock. The bird is hard to classify, but it could easily be one of those many finch species you can find or a parrot-like one. the funny thing here is that they didn’t even have to include it, since almost all of the extra pieces aren’t even used in any of the alternate builds. Typically they would only include these little gimmicks as a sneaky way of providing a few alternate parts. Not complaining about some extra bits, it just feels unnecessary.

The tiger itself is just gorgeous and nicely illustrates what you can do with LEGO pieces today and some clever building techniques. There’s a lot of places with unexpected directional changes and stuff being built upside down, only to be attached in rather original ways using hinges, clips and ball joints. This in particular applies to the abdomen/ chest consisting essentially of a conventional stack of plates and slopes, then fixed at an angle to get this bulging out at the bottom. However, there’s one big disadvantage to all this: Many times the build process just drags on.

It took me much longer to finish the model than I had anticipated due to a ton of 1 x 1 elements that needed to be placed and aligned carefully and similar finicky stuff consuming my time. The result is rewarding, after all, just don’t underestimate how long it may take to get there. This in particular applies to the legs and  stripe pattern on the flanks. Interestingly, it uses some of the techniques using the new curved slope and inverted slopes I was exploring back then with Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184). The top is capped off with printed 1 x 2 x 2/3rd slopes. This works quite well and even having dedicated printed pieces in a Creator 3in1 set is something that doesn’t happen that often.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Left View

As you can see from the images, the tiger can be posed in a multitude of ways – within certain limitations. You can’t really get him to lay down or do that typical back bend when cats stretch, but you can make him stand and walk with the head allowing to be turned in the right direction as well. This should be sufficient to find an interesting stance for it on the shelf.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Top View

A minor complaint I have is how skinny the orange biggie is. This is not really a problem, as in nature they can go for weeks without food and get very thin from the starvation, I just would have preferred if he looked a bit more rounded. Easier said than done, though, as at this scale it would be difficult with a three studs wide back. You’d need a lot of extra elements to compensate the extra thickness and different offsets.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Underside View

The belly area is structured as well with teeth elements hinting at clumped up fur areas and some inverted slopes providing a bit of additional shaping.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Detail Head The head uses a lot of illusion painting as it actually has quite a few noticeable gaps and open areas. In the end it just works, however. I’d personally perhaps try to close the parts around the ears and in the process also create a slightly smoother transition to the back.

 

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Detail Paw The paws are identical for each of the legs and use the semi-circular 1 x 1 tiles to good effect. The underside is constructed from uncovered brackets, which gives this effect that a real paw would have – slightly elevated by the padded zones with the fur not always touching the ground for this floaty feel and subtle soft walking they are known for.

 

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Detail Anus A somewhat contentious item and subject of some ridicule on the Internet is the inclusion of an actual anus. It’s not that far fetched, as naturally cats have poop hole just like any other animal, but including the extra Dark Pink flower element indeed feels like someone  went out of their way to make it visible when otherwise there would have just been a pin hole from the ratcheted hinge element holding the legs.

 

The Red Panda

The second model you can build from this set is a Red Panda. Biologically of course these creatures bear no relation to the big Pandas, but are just as cute. This makes it even more disappointing that this is actually the weakest of the three options. But let’s adhere to established procedures and do this in the right order.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Red Panda, Overview

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Red Panda, SidebuildThe sidebuild is some kind of flower/ blossom, obviously. I’m saying “some” because I actually haven’t really figured out what exactly it is supposed to represent from a simple cherry or almond blossom to a specific orchid this could be anything. It’s fine that they tried to maximize parts usage, but ultimately it feels forced and once more rather superfluous, given that it doesn’t look very realistic and offers no additional value.

 

The Red Panda itself is a lot smaller than the tiger by comparison. This becomes immediately apparent just by the absence of any of the large hinge/ ball joint pieces. instead it uses the smaller ball joints all the way, which isn’t really that advantageous here. Despite being not as big and overall rather light, the joints can barely hold the weight. This in particular affects the feet, which tend to bend upward under the pressure caused by the weight. I had to correct them a few times just for the photos. This isn’t helped by the legs being stiff as a brick and having no knee joints. Poseability is seriously limited here. Trust me, if there had been a way I’d certainly have tried for some more dynamic arrangements.

The legs are also identical, which is a recurring theme on this little guy – everything is way too symmetrical. Not only are the legs the same, but the main trunk also has a front-back mirror symmetry. This already bothered me massively during the build process, as due to their long, dense fur these creatures look pretty bulked up instead of the skinny thing you are building here. Point in case: Where the real animal goes thicker and wider, the model actually tapers and gets narrower to accommodate the convergence zones of the various joints.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Red Panda, Front ViewThe best part about this is the face, which is adorable. That’s probably also one of the reasons why they picked this creature as the go-to for the Turning Red movie which coincidentally just started streaming on Disney+ on this very day as I’m writing this. I can easily see why they would have opted for this.

 

 

Now for Creator 3in1 sets the way in which the pieces are (also) used on the secondary and tertiary models matters a lot and has a huge impact on buying decisions and unfortunately the Red Panda fares terribly here. There’s just so many leftover parts that are not being used anywhere, including many chunky ones like the joints/ hinges used for the tiger plus a considerable pile of the usual mass of smaller parts. That makes the economics pretty bad.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Red Panda, Leftover Pieces

The Koi

The third model the package allows you to create is a Koi. This is, however, the “fancy” version as you often can see it in paintings rather than a realistic carp. This mostly pertains to the more rounded front portion, which somehow seems to be a desirable result of breeding so it looks more like those Asian goldfish. That aesthetics debate aside the fish just is another nicely done model.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Koi, Overview

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Koi, SidebuildSimilar to the Red Panda there’s another flower build here, this time more recognizably meant or be a water lily or lotus. It’s okay, but somehow one wonders why LEGO just didn’t commit and included a bunch of these wedge slopes in Dark Pink to make it even more clear. Otherwise it’s just as extraneous as the other sidebuilds and I gladly could have gone without it.

 

 

The build employs similar techniques and follows the same pattern as the tiger in that you build it up from multiple segments that are snapped together with the small ball joints. this allows for an efficient construction process without ever having to handle an unwieldy large solid block. The overall shaping is nice if you disregard that the belly is completely flat for a moment. If you were to perch it on a stand you might need to add some volume there as well with a few plates and inverted slopes.

The Koi is apparently meant to represent one of the tricolor variants, but if you have the pieces just downloading the instructions would allow you to build other versions as well. The beauty of the model is that it does not use any super advanced building techniques nor any rare or exotic parts and everything can be substituted easily. In fact many pieces could even be replaced on this already finished model without too much trouble.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Koi, Front ViewOne area that deserves a bit of attention is the head. By that I mean the two large round plates and the bits attached to them. They are affixed to 1 x 2 x 2 SNOT brick clamped between hinges and on their back they’re supposed to butt against two 1 x 1 x 1 bricks with a stud on the side to stay at an angle. This arrangement has some clearance and can wiggle around, which is something I’m not friends with.

 

Therefore I “enhanced” my version by adding some of the spare U-shaped tiles with the curved end pointing forward, so the hinges are always spread rather widely. However, and this is an important warning, this is an “illegal” technique by LEGO standards as the resulting angle is just ever so slightly too large and the round plates can only be mounted under tension and with slight gaps, putting stress on the elements. That should explain why it wasn’t designed that way out of the box. For me this is at best a limited concern since I already know that it won’t be long when I have to disassemble the model due to lack of space for keeping it around, but you should be aware of this and not use my hack or at least consider removing the tiles again after a while to avoid long-term damage.

There are slightly less leftover elements on this one, but the piles are still pretty massive. It’s on some level only a swap where pieces used in the Red Panda are not needed anymore, but some others take their place. This again doesn’t speak in favor of the set solely on the merits how efficiently the parts are used, but on the bright side if you really e.g. buy a second set for these models you’ll always get a good amount of universally usable extras for your own custom builds.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Koi, Leftover Pieces


Concluding Thoughts

As you may have noticed already I really enjoyed this set and in my not so humble view thsi could easily be a contender for Model of the Year, other, even more impressive stuff coming out notwithstanding. It’s really amazing how much detail they were able to get out of this and in a “mundane” Creator 3in1 set at that. Am I exaggerating? Perhaps, but this is truly sublime.

Not everything is roses, though and once more we need to discuss why LEGO just can’t put in enough pieces in the box to build the two alternate models at the same time. Given how the parts usage overlaps it really is very frustrating that you potentially have to buy a third package only to end up with heaps and heaps of spare parts. The irony here is, that the answer is basically in front of our eyes – re-allocate the parts from the sidebuilds to this and you could almost do it.

In such a case I might not have been as pickish about the price or even paid 5 Euro extra. That’s also why I would subtract points and give this set a 8.5 or 9 out of 10 rather than a full perfect score. Had LEGO put a more thought into this aspect I wouldn’t have much to complain aside from the minor criticisms I pointed out. Even if you don’t like any of the actual creatures, this set is great fun building and it’s also somewhat educational, showing how great results can be achieved with conventional techniques applied smartly.

Large green Chomper – LEGO Creator 3in1, Crocodile (31121)

Do you know that feeling when you want a pretty ordinary LEGO set, but for reasons beyond your control it’s more difficult than chasing down a rare old set? In times of seemingly permanent supply issues I’ve had this a couple of times this year, but the Crocodile (31121) from the Creator 3in1 series has proven to be a particular point of frustration. Let’s find out why.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Box

Contents and Pricing

As indicated, this set is by no means anything special, but has been extremely elusive, at least here in Germany. I was released in March/ April, yet can barely be found in some online shops let alone stationary retail. Even in the official LEGO store in my area it has been sold out whenever I was there, rare enough as this may happen. Simply put, this set was unobtainable by regular means and despite biding my time and being patient, things never gelled in a way I would have hoped.

With no improvement in sight, I finally swallowed the bitter pill and purchased a box via Amazon Marketplace from a small outlet. Due to the scarcity and sellers exploiting the situation I even had to pay slightly more than the suggested retail price of 30 Euro. That also prevented me from buying two or more sets as I would occasionally do when a set contains interesting parts (more on that later) and in order to facilitate those reviews by building all possible models at once.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Crocodile Overview

All that said, I feel that this is one of those few situations where the original isn’t that terrible, it’s just a bit of an inconvenience for the purpose of this article and my own limited finances. However, the caveat here is that this only applies if you really build the primary model for the crocodile/ alligator where pretty much all of the 454 pieces are used. The price/ value ratio drastically diminishes for the secondary frog and snake models and for those I would definitely prefer if the price came in around the 20 Euro mark. that may still happen if and when the set proliferates more widely and can more easily be purchased, but so far you have to count yourself luck if you can get it for 25 Euro.

The Crocodile

The main model is the crocodile/ alligator and right out of the gate I thought it looked pretty amazing when I saw the first photos at the beginning of the year. It immediately awakened a strong desire to go out and just buy this set. You know the rest of the story and how we got here…

In addition to the croc there are two small side builds, some very piranha-like looking fishbones and an unspecified little bird which no doubt is more supposed to represent one of those species that rid other animals of parasites rather than being prey.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Crocodile, Front Left View

The crocodile is quite large and comes in at around 35 cm length, which helps that sense of getting some bang for your buck. What also won me over is the sufficiently huge head, a feature that is often not rendered well on other models. The model is not based on a specific species but rather an amalgamation of common features found on these creatures, but for the most pat it seems to be based on the typical North American alligators with their stubby nose and broad jaws.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Crocodile, Aft Left View

As you can see, the model is built from multiple segments that are connected using the small ball joints in their extended version with the 2 x 2 plate as well as the regular shorter versions. For the larger sections two of them are stacked to provide greater stiffness and friction. The joints are in part built into small one stud deep recesses, which ensures that the gaps are as small as possible, but of course there are limitations. That’s why you can still see the interior construction on some of the segments, and in the usual LEGO manner those regrettably use some bright colors, which along with the joint pieces not having been colored green ruins the illusion at times. It’s not really terrible, it’s just that it could have been even better.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Crocodile, Right View

The body is built from a ton of Dark Green slopes, a bunch of plates and olive bricks, a whole lot of Olive Green 1 x 1 x 2/3rds “cheese” slopes and a few other element types, but overall there is not that much variety. It’s efficient, but not particularly fancy or elaborate. Kids should have no problem building this. For adults the lack of some clever sideways building to better approximate the shape might be an issue and the mere stacking of elements may also be a bit boring. All manageable and the result is rewarding, though, so you just have to approach it with a level of patience.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Crocodile, Front Right View, Mouth Closed

By comparison, the legs feel flimsy and their appearance suffers even more from the joints not having been tinted suitably. I think this is yet another case where I would have preferred rigid, non-poseable legs built from plates and bricks, but at least in appropriate colors. My thinking here is that those round plates introduced last year would look amazing in Olive Green. This may even be very fitting, as most crocodiles have very curvy legs, anyway. On the subject of color I also think that it might have been interesting if the set contained some pieces in Dark Tan or even one of the grey colors. This could have made the beast look older and like it has already lived a long life with the occasional scuffles and fights.

As mentioned, the head is quite big and this also allows to represent the inside with long rows of teeth and the visible gums/ palate. Similar to the above point, it might have been interesting to have some yellowed old teeth or even some brown-ish ones. With the belly being Tan already this would have necessitated some other color, though, or else there would barely be any contrast.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Crocodile, Bottom View

The undersides are made up of a whole slew of inverted brackets with sloped sides, both in 6 and 4 studs wide. For me this is another reason that potentially speaks against buying multiple packages of this set. LEGO uses these elements all the time to simplify builds, but their usefulness for MOCs and other stuff is certainly limited. If you were to buy a second or third box you could find yourself with boxes full of these pieces that you never will use again.

The Snake

Second in line is the snake model. Again it’s hard to make out a specific species, but the widened neck suggests it is supposed to represent some small cobra. 

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Snake, Overview

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Snake, MouseThe mouse is an inevitable extra in this context. It’s super cute and adorable plus the way it’s assembled provides a good template for building your own mice en mass for a scene.

 

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Snake, Front Right View, Head

The snake’s head feels kind of wonky and just looks odd. To me this is a good example where LEGO being miserly about perhaps a wedge or a few curved slopes really shows. Point in case: there definitely are better ways to get the correct shaping, but in order to do so they would have had to include extra pieces not used on the crocodile.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Snake, Top View

The segments are assembled in a similar fashion to the main model, but as you might already have guessed this also limits the ways in which this can be posed and arranged. Especially where two of the joints are used side by side or on top of each other you restrict motion on one axis and it behaves like a simple door hinge. This prevents some fancier placement such as draping the snake over a branch or indeed having it coil up for a “snake dance”

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Snake, Rear View

With the snake’s body being much more slender and having less bulk you are left with quite a number of leftover pieces. I haven’t done an exact count, but it’s no doubt close to almost fifty percent of the parts going unused. This hearkens back to my point about buying multiple sets and ending up with a lot of redundant parts.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Snake, Leftover Pieces

The Frog

The third model is a frog, though on some level it could also be a toad. I prefer to see it as a slightly chubby frog. 🙂 it even comes with its own little fly!

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Frog, Overview

The apparent limitation is of course that with the other two models mostly relying on straight slopes and wedges there are not enough curved elements to capture the rounded shapes of the amphibian. It looks, for all intents and purposes, rather blocky.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Frog, Aft Left View

The “tail” might  look odd, but could be explained away as some frog species carry their tadpole tails for very long until it falls of and the remnants shrink away. That said, it would still have been preferable if the creature actually hat a real derriere instead of this chopped off end with a protrusion.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Frog, Right View

The real reason that the tail even exists is the play feature of being able to push out the tongue. This isn’t anything fancy and merely a simple slide mechanic, so it isn’t ultimately that exciting. It would have been cool if they had some spring-loaded mechanism or something with levers where the tongue would pop out by pushing down the frog. Either way, this feels rather unspectacular and like a missed opportunity.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Frog, Front Right View, Mouth Open

As you would have imagined, this build uses even less pieces, so the pile of extra bits you have floating around unused is even larger.

LEGO Creator, Crocodile (31121), Frog, Leftover Pieces

Parts – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

If you put the images of the pieces not used in the secondary models side by side, you begin to realize one of the biggest issues with this set: Aside from the crocodile, the parts usage is rather inefficient. This is even worse as just by looking at the piles you can’t help but feel that there is a certain overlap and that if only LEGO had included a handful of more parts you might have been able to build the snake and frog at the same time. This also includes the color choices, in particular for the 2 x 3 and 2 x 4 plates. If they all had been done in Tan or Dark Green, respectively, we’d already be closer to this.

As for the parts themselves there are a handful of exclusive items like the 1 x 2 x 2 brick with studs on three sides in Bright Pink or the pin hinge plate in Dark Green. Several other elements also were new for this set in a given color, but ever since have also appeared on other models. This includes even one of my much disliked inverted brackets in Tan, the 1 x 3 slope in Olive Green and surprisingly enough also the 2 x 2 jumper plate in Dark Green. I’m always surprised how long it took for some of those pieces to come out in these colors, given how long many of them have been around.

The rest falls into the “ordinary, but useful” category with the positive thing being that the colors aren’t that wacky and the elements can be used rather universally. Most notably you get a ton of Tan and Dark Green plates and slopes, some Red, some Blue and I have never seen so many Olive Green 1 x 1 slopes in a set so far, either.


Concluding Thoughts

As much as I was crazy for it when this set was first announced, as much my enthusiasm has cooled off over time. The problems in even procuring this set were a major pain in the rear and building it was less fun than I had hoped. For the crocodile this is made up by it looking gorgeous, but the alternate models really are weak by comparison. Combined with the parts usage issues explained in the previous paragraph I’m kind of leaning toward a “This is only two-thirds good” rating.

The crocodile/ alligator is great, the snake and the frog sort of *meh*. At the end of the day this more or less feels like they should have made the croc even bigger and more detailed and just sold it as a collectible 18+ set. This might have made more sense commercially even, as the likelihood of someone buying a second or third set just for the snake and frog is not that high. At least I would at best only recommend buying two in light of the limitations. There just isn’t enough here to warrant more. It might even have been simple enough to complete the frog with a few extra parts from my own stock without disassembling the snake, give or take a few specific items. I was just to lazy to dig through my boxes and drawers.

So to bring this to a close: Definitely get this set once if you even remotely like large animal builds like the crocodile, but at the same time weigh your options if you really want the snake or frog or both.