March Veterinary

Some topics are come back again and again, so it’s little surprise that the new LEGO Friends magazine once more is built around the pet veterinary subject in its March issue.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, March 2020, Cover

Most notably this becomes apparent by the buildable parts included. The examination table has been done a million times. In fact it was in one of the first Friends issues I reviewed on this blog and is also a recurring feature in similarly themed sets like e.g. Emma’s Mobile Veterinary Clinic (41360). The building style is always pretty much the same, with some variations on the decorations and extras thrown in to adapt it to whatever is the latest fashion. This time this means it comes with some prominent Dark Cyan pieces, bringing its color scheme in line with this year’s Heartlake City Hospital (41394) for instance. Overall that’s okay, but I wish they’d at least include some different animals.

One possible way is in fact even presented prominently in the magazine – one of the comics heavily leans onto the new magic cubes with the surprise animals, playing around with the fact that they contain the animals in previously unseen colors and even include “rare” versions in Pearl Gold. The comic features a blue peacock and lama, but for the immediate issue I would have settled on Chico the cat coming perhaps in Medium Azure or Lavender instead of the standard grey version.

The rest of the magazine is surprisingly well done (within the limits of what you can expect). It seems the message is getting through and it’s steering into a new direction with more emphasis on activities. There’s a good amount of puzzles and some large coloring and tracing images, so you might want to dig out the crayons… This could keep your kids busy for quite a while. That makes it overall pretty okay even if you don’t obsess about the little bags with the pieces on the cover like I do.

Magenta Hair, Anyone? – Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391)

Some sets have an amazing longevity and are around for years, so it becomes hard to imagine that there was ever a time when they didn’t exist. Such was the case with the old Heartlake Hair Salon (41093) from 2015 that in fact was available until earlier last year after having been EOL‘d in late 2018. Someone at LEGO must have missed it a lot and here we are with a new Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391) pretty much only one year later, effectively.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Box

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: While the details are different enough, the similarities between the old and the new set jump in your face right away. To say that somebody drew a bit of inspiration would certainly be an understatement. The most noticeable change is the reduced base area no longer using a large 16 x 16 studs plate and instead being adapted to the contours of the building using round plates. Likewise, there is of course only a single rounded window here instead of two.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Overview

The extras included in the set include a couple of wigs/ hair pieces, some accessories and the necessary tools and utilities for the coiffure, but regrettably no longer include the old “hairdresser utensils” sub-set. I’m all for things like building things like the hair dryer from pieces instead of relying on large compact single-mold pieces, but in light of the fact that there are no alternatives to some of the other elements like the hand-held mirror or even the star “broach” this diminishes the set somewhat. They should have included these bits, regardless.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Accessories

The main building is as simple and straightforward to build as you might want to imagine. Just a bunch of panels and a few elongated bricks plugged side by side like a child might build it if it had the parts. Funny enough, the building instructions again make this more complicated than it needs to be because somehow instead of focusing on stability first it asks you to build this layer by layer from left to right, with a bit of jumping over the place to occasionally place a single element elsewhere. Who even comes up with such nonsense?

Personally I also regret that the large window is done using a transparent panel, not the new actual 6 x 6 window with frame introduced last year on the Lighthouse Rescue Centre (41380). This would have clearly amped up the value and made it worthwile to perhaps even buy this set a second and third time just to scalp the part. Alas, t’wasn’t meant to be. 😉

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Front View

Interestingly enough in comparison to the older set the exterior looks pretty lively, despite the trimmed down plates allowing for fewer options. Of particular note to a parts-obsessed guy like me are once more the new Lime Green leaves elements also found in the Moana set I reviewed recently and the single Dark Pink 1 x 2 plate with round edges holding the barber pole.

The life saver ring/ toilet seat element used for the eyes of the scissors is also included in Medium Azure for the first time ever and could make it worth buying this inexpensive set if you plan on e.g. creating a nice bathroom in your custom building with a consistent Caribbean blue color theme.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Front Right View

The interior feels very uncluttered despite the limited space, which perhaps is one of the biggest improvements over the old set. It goes to show that within only a few years and new/ different pieces becoming available it can indeed help to improve things and not just be a means to reduce the overall parts count (while keeping the same price) for LEGO.

This becomes most apparent with the seating where this time they went for the “heavy old leather armchair” look. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but feels very 1960s American and/ or (male) barber shop. It’s definitely not as common here in Europe, or Germany specifically. This is also one thing I would definitely have changed. Not so much the shape and construction, but the color.

In my opinion the whole set is drowning in way too much Magenta and Dark Pink and thus looks a bit dreary. Ideally I would of course have preferred something like Dark Orange or Medium Dark Nougat for that genuine leather look, but in fact I’m inclined to think that this screams for Bright Light Orange to lighten the mood.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Back Right View

On the subject of screaming I once more could also yell at someone at LEGO for not including more prints beyond the standard greenback piece, the dime and the cash register. This is ridiculous, given that there’s a dozen variations of different newspaper tiles at least and clearly in the digital age it also wouldn’t hurt if they came up with a bunch of standard newscast or info screen designs for 2 x 4 tiles used as LCD screens. This just is too obvious.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Back Left View

Overall I think this is a nice little set and with a few modifications or building a larger version from multiple sets it might even not look half as bad as an annex to a building in your city. It’s very typical Friends, though, and thus the coloring may not be everyone’s kettle of fish. I also don’t see where the original 20 Euro price is coming from. It’s definitely not worth that. the good news is that this can be bought for around 13 Euro in many places, which makes much more sense.

Getting Hexi

While I’m admittedly a slow builder who likes to take his time and doesn’t too often jump in with immediate solutions to specific problems when people ask on forums, occasionally it still happens when something is pretty obvious and I can exploit my limited experience in these matters.

Such was the case a while ago when someone had bought commercial MOC instructions that just didn’t live up to the expected standard. I believe it was some sort of Star Wars TIE Fighter and as some those vehicles so often do, it used a triangular/ hexagonal arrangement of the wings/ cooling panels. This was done very flimsily (which to me proves that the original creator never actually had built a physical copy and only relied on digital creation or else he’d have noticed this easily) and needed some serious changes. The person asking had come up with an own solution that didn’t work that well either, so I spent an evening figuring things out using a mix of Technic pieces and conventional stud-based construction.

I’m not claiming it’s perfect and by all means it’s more an exploration of specific construction techniques, but it should meet the following criteria:

  • It’s perhaps as narrow in diameter as it can get under these circumstances.
  • It’s relatively stable compared to stud-only methods.
  • It’s expandable by inserting more elements and swapping out the axles, so you can in theory create some pretty long segments just by repeating bits.

There are some downsides, too, of course, with the biggest likely being the extensive use of the half-width Technic liftarms. They tend to be more expensive on Bricklink as they are simply not found in as large numbers in commercial sets. I was just lucky to have them in my repository. Anyway, check out the small instruction booklet and make up your own mind. This will also be linked via my Rebrickable page, so you should be able to conveniently access the inventory. The crazy colors are just for distinction. Use whatever fits your type of model or whatever you have at hand on your own projects.

Hexa Core MOC, Preview

Hexa Core MOC, Instructions

2-22-2020-R2-D2

It again feels like I was writing my review just yesterday, but it’s true – another month has passed already and here we are with the March issue of the German LEGO Star Wars magazine.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2020, Cover

This edition comes with an R2-D2 droid minifigure. This hasn’t been included for the first time, but since it’s been like two years when it was featured last, enough people will have missed out to appreciate it reappearing. There’s definitely at least one guy out there that might want to have this droid sans crooked printing. Yes, I’m of course talking about Mr. Jang of Jangbricks fame on YouTube. how he always seems to end up with misprinted versions is indeed quite baffling.

In addition to the main figure there’s some pieces to build an imperial mouse droid, so that’s a nice little addition. Next month’s issue is supposed to include a Sith Infiltrator and judging from the preview image this could be a cool thing and yield some nice parts for the collection.

The rest of the magazine follows the usual pattern and where the games and puzzles are concerned the Star Wars version of these magazines at least offers some challenge and isn’t just a five minute affair. The main comic with Darth Vader partaking in a pod race of all things first had me confused, but ultimately is pretty much resolved as you may expect. Still, it’s a nice funny spin on a bit of lore and Vader/ Anakin‘s history.

One thing particularly worth noting are the posters, which use a somewhat abstract linocut/ woodcut style. That makes them almost “living room ready” like professional commercial posters. If the colors were tweaked a bit and were more intense and the paper was of better quality, I’d be tempted to actually put up the Boba Fett/ Slave 1 one. So overall this is one of the better editions of this magazine series and you should definitely check it out!

Belated January Princess

Our friends at Blue Ocean have decided that the world needs another LEGO magazine, so naturally I got a bit excited when first news came out late last year about the new LEGO Disney Princess line. As you well know I do have a soft spot for this girl-ish stuff in crazy colors and with the Friends magazine only coming out every two months in these parts I welcome every additional alternative.

LEGO Magazine, Disney Princess, January 2020, Cover

The first issue actually already was released mid-January, but unfortunately they chose to only distribute it through some larger outlets for the time being in some sort of test drive. Therefore I was only able to catch it this week while I was on tour for a medical appointment in one of the nearby bigger cities. Here’s hoping that this will get popular enough that they decide to also pour it into regular channels and I can pick it up on my local newsstand some day.

Having only recently bought the pink carriage set, I of course had no urgent need or desire for the included Aurora figure, but it’s not that bad overall and should be of interest for your kids. beyond that I really only wanted to check out the magazine. As far as that goes, it’s pretty much in line with any of the other LEGO magazines and follows the same pattern. There’s some comics, a coloring picture, posters, some simple puzzle, some crafting activities in the form of instructions for a crown-shaped pillow and even an actual readable text story. Apparently I’m not the core demographic for this, but this seems okay.

I’m also pleased that there’s a lot of painted stuff. Admittedly a lot of it looks like digitally over-painted CG-renderings, regardless, but the natural touch and a few irregularities make it much more bearable and less creepy. It’s still kind of inconsistent, though, with photos, cheap CG, the mentioned over-paint style, the comic illustrations and then of course other graphics often appearing next to each other. this certainly could be smoothed out a bit, including better typography and font use. Sometimes it feels very lumped together.

It remains to be seen how this develops and stabilizes, but if you get a chance there’s no harm in picking this up. I’m already looking forward to the second issue which is due mid March and will contain some actual buildable pieces to create Aurora‘s bed. I just hop that I’ll be able to get my hands on it without that much of a delay and hunting it down will not be so complicated as the first time…

Portal to Nowhere – Hidden Side Portal (70427)

I have been a bit too distracted with other things, so I haven’t been able to keep my regular posting schedule. Therefore this little review of the LEGO Hidden Side Portal (70427) set arrives a bit later than usual and breaks the “at least one post every ten days” cycle I’m trying to maintain, but maybe things will get a bit better again.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Box

As you know I’m actually a fan of the Hidden Side series, but immediately was skeptical and somewhat disappointed when these sets of the first wave for 2020 were announced. that view hasn’t changed much now that I actually have some of them. So lets delve into the details and see what wen’t wrong.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Overview

The contents of the package are okay for the 12.59 Euro I got this set during a sale, but I doubt I would have picked it up for the full 20 Euro MSRP. Overall it feels very light and just by looking at it you feel that there neither will be much to enjoy while building nor much play value after that. that is mostly owed to the fact that despite four minifigures being in the pack and some extra spiders and a bad are thrown in for good measure, none of it really feels integrated in the sense that there is no recognizable underlying scenario.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Figures

The figures feel a bit out of place, to be honest, because the intense colors of the ghosts don’t go well with the overall black and blue “scary moonlight” theme otherwise found in the set. At least that’s what I’m assuming the Medium Azure and Black pieces along with the “other side” blue-ish Jack figure are supposed to represent. Of course I’m referring to the ghosts.

Now the thing is that I fully understand that that’s they way they are rendered/ colored when you use the actual Hidden Side AR app and are chasing the “Gloom”. However, this is a good example of where something that might be acceptable and even necessary inside the virtual world doesn’t translate that well to the real world. That’s even more so the case once you consider that these ghost figures would be kind of redundant next to their virtual counterparts.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Front View

The main build is the portal itself, representing a (almost dead) tree with some sort of crypt or entry gate beneath. The construction is overall okay, but kept to a minimum. For the tree itself it’s mostly dictated by the two rock panels used for the base with only a limited number of extra parts on top whose primary purpose is to hold the arched elements used for the branches and the leaves pieces. Somewhere in there are also a black skeleton torso and the Bright Light Green parts for the face as well as a small tiltable platform to “dump” the spiders and bat on whoever dares to enter the passage.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Front Left View

On each side there are the “claws” of the possessed tree/ monster. On the left side there’s a pretty standard street lamp and on the right one the inevitable dial where you select the color of the “Gloom” while using the app. Unlike in some other sets, the monster mode is not a transforming feature. The sides are attached rigidly with static angled plates and not with hinges and the face is right there from the start. It can’t be covered up or tilted inwards to hide it. In my opinion that lessens the overall appearance and also minimizes the play options. Being able to swivel the claws towards the center as if they were blocking the entry and preventing anyone from getting in (or out again) would certainly not have been difficult to do.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Front Right View

The biggest disappointment for me is the back side in that it is just more of the same and the “portal” moniker isn’t in any way carried through. While I’m not one to expect anything miraculous, at the very least they could have changed up the coloring a bit. Ideally, of course, this would feature some sort of vortex like this one used in the Elves sets, corny and overused as this trope might be, and then some…

Ultimately, I guess this reveals the elementary issue with this set: It’s way too small and limited to really make something of this portal idea and connect two different worlds. It would have needed two stylistically different sides and in addition it would have had to be larger to cleverly disguise the back when viewed straight on from the front and vice versa. This also would have required to add more depth and volume, which is one of those other things.

It’s getting a bit annoying that many of the Hidden Side models are just shallow facades arranged in a triptych, as apparently that’s one of the requirements and/ or limitations of the tie-in app, so it can keep everything aligned when rendering the virtual content on top of the real world camera.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Back View

On the whole this isn’t really a good set. It’s pretty dull and boring and if it wasn’t for the leaves elements in Medium Azure being a new thing, I would likely have foregone buying it entirely. It just doesn’t offer anything that would stand out and for me personally even the parts are of limited value.

A little more attention to detail and a larger build could have easily fixed this easily. After all, the mere name of “Portal” implies that this could and should be important in the overall Hidden Side story, and that should be reflected in the model. There’s no rational reason for it to even be this small. If it were better, I wouldn’t have minded this being a 30 or 40 Euro set to begin with…

March Fire Drone

The predictable alternating cycle of Police – Fire Patrol – Some other current theme continues in this month’s LEGO City magazine (March edition) and guess what – we’re on step two of the loop, meaning that we get another firefighter.

LEGO Magazine, City, March 2020, Cover

It’s getting harder to muster up some enthusiasm, but on the bright side you could technically now have four different such figures from the last 1.5 years without having ever bought an actual set. Good for people who want to bolster their squad, kind of bad for LEGO when users can’t be bothered to purchase boxed sets and just wait it out with the magazines. I don’t have much interest in either and solely obsess about the actual buildable pieces, but that’s not getting much better, either. The drone build in this one is again pretty barebones and wouldn’t justify purchasing the mag more than once. The rest of the content is okay with two comics and a bunch of simple puzzles.

In other news I’ve joined a small LEGO Magazines group on Facebook, in case you’re interested. It’s also permanently linked from the sidebar on the right. I’ve already always posted my articles to my own news feed and now also include them there, so it should be a bit easier for you to keep up. That’s even more so as from what I’ve seen so far the German versions always seem to be among the front runners. Sometimes the same issue is published months later in other countries. Having some advance information might help you make a decision further down the line. I’ll try to keep my schedule of firing out my little reviews pretty close to the release date as much as I can, so perhaps check back regularly…