April Infiltration

A certain virus is infiltrating the world and the Sith are to blame for it! No, of course I’m just kidding around. It’s true, though, the April issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine comes with a mini model of the Sith Infiltrator spacecraft, if minus a Darth Maul figure.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2020, Cover

Though barely even visible in The Phantom Menace, the ship has become somewhat notorious and a fan favorite on its own. Once you actually do your research the shape is immediately recognizable even though personally I think LEGO has not been very successful in capturing it in one of their many attempts, neither in big sets nor as a Microfighter. As far as that goes, this version is kind of okay, but without the name printed on the front page it would be hard to discern what it is supposed to be. I’m not going to complain about a “free” goodie, but it definitely lacks volume in the aft section.

On the bright side, and for me the highlight of this little package, it comes with the new 3×3 dome piece introduced with the The LEGO Movie 2 sets last year, specifically the Unikitty & Friends set (70822). The grey version so far has only been used in the Trafalgar Square (21045) set in the Architecture line, so this is extremely valuable if you are a MOC builder and may warrant a purchase of the magazine for that reason alone. It may just take a bit to hunt it down given the current situation out there.

I’m certainly past the core demographic age, but the comics are quite appealing. The main comic ties into the failed Solo film and thus feels a bit like recycling content that they had produced for it and didn’t want to throw away, however, I must admit. The posters are okay and the games/ puzzles can occupy your time for a few minutes. In a time where many people are stuck at home for weeks on end one should be thankful for small diversions.

Easter Double – Brickheadz Sheep (40380) and Bear (40379)

Despite the hard times out there, Easter is of course not far away and like every year since the inception of Brickheadz there’s a seasonal one to go with this event. Last years Chick (40350) was kind of so-so as was the Bunny (40271) in 2018, but this year the Sheep (40380) is really taking the cake.

LEGO Brickheadz, Sheep (40380), Box

Incidentally this special event themed set is also the 100th in the whole series, so this better be good, should it not? I have a soft spot for everything that is cutesy, anyway, and this one sure delivers.

LEGO Brickheadz, Sheep (40380), Front Left View

Of particular note is of course the face which gives a nice impression of the typical sheep/ lamb snout with the nostrils. initially I wasn’t sure whether the grey was actually a good idea, but the more I thought about it, the more it became clear that making it Bright Light Pink would have been even more odd. So I guess it works out, after all.

LEGO Brickheadz, Sheep (40380), Front Right View

The sheepskin is given texture by alternating 1×1 tiles with matching plates. Actually attaching them is of course its own story. It can become a bit tedious and you have to pay attention. Thank goodness this isn’t a large model where you’d have to do it thousands of times instead of just hundred or so! There’s also a few of the relatively new 1×1 bricks with the curved top thrown in for good measure and of course there had to be a rockabilly curl giving the little guy some character.

LEGO Brickheadz, Sheep (40380), Back Side View

While the sheep itself is nice, the surroundings are a bit lackluster and only rehash the same accessories known from the previous sets – a tulip-like flower and the “eggs” build from 2×2 round elements. That’s where the set really missed its opportunity for total awesomeness and a chance to outshine other Brickheadz for a while.

Point in case: As the 100th set in the series and with the narrative being that the sheep dirtied itself while painting eggs (as hinted at by the orange “paint splats” here and there) this would have the perfect occasion to give us a printed egg of in some form to support that storyline. Even partially printing one of the dome pieces with just a few dots to indicate that something went wrong and the coloring had to stop would have been nice.

While there, this could even have been expanded by creating a “puddle” of paint using those 1×1 quarter/ pizza corner tiles and to go fully crazy this could have been done in two or three nice-looking colors and gone along with 1×1 round bricks in matching colors for the paint cans. so much potential there!

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Box

When I bought the sheep I saw that they still had the Valentine‘s Bear (40379) at our local LEGO store in Leipzig, so after a week of pondering whether to buy it or not and a lucky coincidence of being on the road again with a doctor’s visit and thus getting an opportunity to stop by, I took the plunge and ultimately bought the set, again for its pure cuteness.

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Front Left View

The first interesting thing to note is that the designer chose to represent the bear in the sitting position as seen on a lot of teddy bears/ care bears, making it even more adorable. The build on the other hand is pretty basic and this set doesn’t feature any specific printed elements, either. One could say that it is as pure Brickheadz as it may get on some level.

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Front Right View

The one thing that this has going for it are the many pieces in Medium Nougat. If you need this type of stuff for a project, this would be a good parts source, mainly for the fact that neither the 4×2 curved double slope nor the 4×2 plates are used in such large numbers in any other set currently. depending on the situation, a single set could have you covered.

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Back Right View

the details are nothing earth shattering, but I like those little inventive builds from 1×1 elements like the bee. Here’s another nice idea not quite unlike that other one in the polybag set from last year. The honey pot uses a Dark Brown inverted dome piece, so it’s useful for generic “neutral” flower pots as well, should you decide to remove the side extensions for space reasons like I did and use the parts elsewhere.

My only small criticism would be the Dark Pink 1×1 heart tiles. It feels like LEGO are still sitting on large stockpiles of this element that they produced for Friends and The LEGO Movie 2 sets and throws them in wherever they can to deplete the surplus. Actual red hearts like the larger one on the stick would have been preferable or at least something in Bright Light Pink.

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Back Left View

Overall I’m pretty satisfied with both sets. Of course one could always do more in terms of adding more details, but for 10 Euro a pop I’m not expecting something overly complex. Yes, the sheep could have been a bit more round-ish and fluffy and the bear looks a bit too smooth, but on the whole both models capture the essence of what they are supposed to represent and that is what counts.

April what…?!

As indicated last time, we’re getting yet another LEGO Hidden Side magazine issue with Jack all too prominently featured on the cover and while I would be glad that him receding into the background might hint at something better, that is far from the truth. Yupp, I thought my eyes were cheating on me, but the El Fuego skeleton is already visible in the exact same pose in the preview for the next edition in May.

Talk about over-re-using stock art! That’s like when you find the same stock photo being used in totally unrelated adverts for different products. This couldn’t be *facepalm*-ier and is a poor testament to the designers, given how much new artwork has actually been created for the series.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, April 2020, Cover

The minifigure of the bicycle gang member for me is a win, because I still haven’t bought the El Fuego’s Stunt Truck (70421) set where it was originally featured. the prints are nice and if you manage to buy a couple of those figs, vary their heads and other details and have some ideas for bikes an Easy Rider like formation is not impossible.

The magazine itself is oddly overblown and yet incoherent, trying to cram in a million story beats into the comic. This is just plain confusing and to me does only confirm how directionless Hidden Side is overall. It’s just jumping from subject to subject to crank out sets and that will be its undoing. The puzzles are only mildly challenging and the posters are as awful as the cover. Aside from the figure there’s not much of interest here, unfortunately.

Yellow April

Just another month, just another LEGO City magazine one might say. Yes, the April issue is already here.

LEGO Magazine, City, April 2020, Cover

First thing to note: Blue Ocean seem to be using a different glue for the tacked on bag with the buildable elements (and also in this case a free sample pack of Ninjago collectible cards). It appears to be a bit less elastic and thus sticks to the paper more. Being unaware of this and following my usual method i therefore managed to shred the cover and rip of bits of the top layer of the paper, hence the white areas. I need to be more careful next time.

The parts included are touted as being for a bulldozer, but honestly words begin to fail me. It’s quickly becoming pointless to even include these elements if the supposed vehicle is barely even recognizable. They are clearly taking the reductions too far. The pieces are not without merit for me, though. Funny enough in all those years I never had come across this particular wheel hub type in yellow nor did I have the shield element in Dark Blueish Grey yet. So at least it’s a minor addition to my parts stock. The yellow hubs might come in handy if I ever decide to build a DHL/ Deutsche Post (German postal services) vehicle at least.

The comic is pretty wild and colorful, which I guess is natural when it’s about a rainbow-colored theme park being built. The activities, i.e. puzzles and so on also tie in quite well with this subject. And for once there’s even a pretty good poster (the one with the construction worker standing on the steel bar in mid-air). While certainly not essential, this is overall a good enough issue.

All boxed in! – Frozen Storybook (43175) and Ariel’s Storybook (43176)

I’ve never paid much attention to the Disney Princess theme, but somehow this year a few things caught my eye that inevitably led to me buying a few sets. After the two mini sets for Moana and Aurora last time, here’s a look at the “storybook” line. Specifically we are going to check out Ariel’s Storybook (43176) and the Frozen Storybook (43175), but before we delve into the details, let’s have a generic glance at them from the outside.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176) and Frozen Storybook (43175), Comparison

Each book consists more or less of three large pieces plus a few additions. The front and back lid are held together by a spine piece to which they are connected using Technic pins with an axle holder head. Those come in either Pearl Silver or Perl Gold to match some of the other decorations. If you ever wanted them in this color, which I believe hasn’t been available since the Bionicle days, here’s your chance.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Front Right Side View

The spine is done in a different color, which in my opinion makes things a bit messy and less aesthetically pleasing as it could have been. I’m in particular miffed with the Lavender box for Frozen that uses Dark Azure when LEGO have three different lavender/ lilac/ purple colors in their portfolio. It didn’t have to be this way and the irony is that if you were to buy Mulan’s Storybook (43174) you could use it there to get a uniformly colored book. Go, figure!

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Front Left Side View

As far as decorations go, you only get the main plaque on the front and the printed lock hinge tile. That could be okay, but ultimately I think this should be overflowing with some golden embossing or at the very least have some extra gold elements thrown in in order to decorate the few visible studs. The lack of same makes the outward appearance oddly barren and pales compared to similar products from other manufacturers that are overflowing with glittery stuff and bling.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Box

Speaking of market competitors – this is of course LEGO‘s version of Polly Pocket and similar portable play sets based on microfigures. You’d have to be utterly foolish to not recognize the sameness. I don’t have any actual figures of the alternate product at hand, but I’d bet next to each other even the size and scale line up pretty well.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Overview

The figures themselves make an interesting point about themselves in that they are modeled in the minidoll style used in LEGO Friends and Elves, but somehow look a lot cuter. Funny how the same heads and hair pieces can give a totally different impression on another torso. Never having bought any of the older sets I also had my sights set on Sebastian and Fabius, which aside from generally wanting to check out these boxes provided additional incentive to buy Ariel’s Storybook (43176).

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Figures

On the inside it becomes quickly apparent that these sets draw quite some inspiration from the LEGO Ideas Pop-Up Book (21315). The effectively usable height/ thickness of the book or width of the spine is in fact identical at four studs. This of course also means that the same limitations apply to what you can build, even more so given the overall smaller size. There is naturally no actual pop-up mechanism, which compensates somewhat for the lack of space.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Front Left View

The main parts are all built onto the spine. That is they are not plugged onto it directly but rather are constructed on separate 4 x 6 or 4 x 4 plates that in turn are attached to the spine. This kind of allows to take them out for playing, but it’s really only “kind of”. I found it difficult to pull out the plates without damaging whatever is built on them and it doesn’t take much to imagine that smaller kids would not have the necessary strength.

One of the plates stuck so hard I was only able to get a hold of it after removing the pieces on it and then using a brick separator. My theory here is that the spine part is so stiff and rigid, it doesn’t bend and wriggle even the tiniest bit and thus the plates can “suck” themselves to the surface like they were glued on.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Top Down View

The slide, an inverted canopy part, uses the same pearlescent effect also already discussed on Aurora’s carriage. I maintain that this is simply a coating used universally on different base colors to different effects no matter how much New Elementary and other sites may obsess about new color codes and LEGO assigning new part ID numbers to those items.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Front Lid Inside

As you would imagine, with the center region being so decked out, the insides of the lids don’t leave much room to add more stuff or else it would collide and block with the pieces on the spine. There’s only a few extra leaves and my new favorite part, the 1 x 1 sundae swirl posing as clam shells in the front lid. The back one features even less and only has a generic 4 x 2 tile in the center and some round jumpers in the corners. However, it also has that large print of a section of beach.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Back Lid Inside

This being meant to be taken along when your kids visit their friends or you are travelling, there is sufficient provision for securing your figures on the various jumper plates scattered throughout. as shown in the below image. I didn’t think it at first, but when you get into the nitty-gritty you realize how well thought out this is. There’s a place for everything and everyone and unless you handle it very roughly nothing will come loose and clonk around in the box.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Transport Configuration with Figures in Place

There are a few minor issues with the coloring, though. Arguably there’s too much Coral to begin with and on the other hand where it would have made sense to use a consistent color, in particular on the large clam shell, it is messed up with Dark Pink and White pieces even if the parts in question definitely also exist in Coral as proven in other sets. This is usually explained away as a measure to provide contrast and distinction for kids following the instructions, but it always gets to me, feels unnecessary and looks iffy.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Box

The second set of my test selection, the Frozen Storybook (43175) follows the same pattern and only changes a few things around as needed.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Overview

The figures are okay, but Olaf looks quite creepy this time with his oversized head. It already feels sort of wacky as a regular minifigure and here just plugged onto a printed minifigure head element it looks even more disproportionate. There’s also one critical omission, of course: a reindeer is missing. Sure, there’s the scale issue for a genuinely large Sven, but new for this year we got a Fawn in the Elsa and the Reindeer Carriage (41166) set, didn’t we? It shouldn’t have been to much trouble to throw in that or re-purpose it in a different color.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Figures

The main build here is castle Arendelle in simplified form. As you know I never use stickers, so the shields with the triangular windows and any other element with a pattern you see are actual prints. For me the other interesting parts are the golden candle elements used to construct the columns. So far this is the only set they come in and I’m sure they might be useful for something. The gate tower uses an old, old space wing element on a hinge. I found it occasionally a bit difficult to fold it down when closing the box. It doesn’t quite fit in the gap and sometimes get’s stuck at the edges of the adjacent jumper plates.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Front Left View

The large print is on the front lid this time and features a paved court yard. The bridge is built from two car mudguard elements to keep things simple.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Front Lid Inside

The rear side of the facade doesn’t have much to offer. On the right side there’s a tiny piano, though. I just forgot to take a shot with it in an open position. With so little going on the back lid would have benefited fro ma large print on the inside as well instead of just the lonely carpet tile.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Rear Left View

Again everything can be stowed away neatly for transport by placing it on the corresponding jumper plates. The sleigh would more appropriately fit into the archway, but having it hang from the wall isn’t that bad.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Transport Configuration with Figures in Place

Overall these sets are quite nice for what they are intended and if you have a little girl at the right age that likes to carry around her favorite toys, this should make her happy. even to me the stripped down casings will still be of use for transporting minifigures and small builds inside them, securely tucked to the studs.

The only thing that doesn’t feel right is the price – as so often. For a handful of bricks and a few figures 20 Euro isn’t competitive if it’s indeed LEGO‘s intention to give Polly Pocket et al some heat. This may not be outrageous in the LEGO universe, but just look how much stuff you get in an average 15 Euro set from those other vendors! It’s only a good thing that thanks to the self-regulating powers of the free market you can get this for around 12 Euro on some occasions. This is much more palatable realtive to what you get in the package.

Baby Triceratops?

I was really pleased in which direction the LEGO Jurassic World magazine was heading with the amazing T-Rex in the last issue, so understandably I was looking forward to the current March issue.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, March 2020, Cover

Of course for me the most exciting part is once again the pretty elaborate buildable dino model, this time for a Triceratops. At 65 parts it’s pretty much on par with some commercial polybag editions and by itself represents enough value to warrant a purches of the magazine.

Stylistically it takes a cue or two from the B-model Triceratops in the Mighty Dinosaurs (31058) set, which itself has been around for several years now and has become a staple of the Creator 3in1 series. Next too each other the similarities between the larger and the smaller model are easily apparent and the latter could even function as a child to the former.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, March 2020, Comparison with Set 31058

With a bit of effort one could make this even more consistent by e.g. modifying the building style on the legs of the big guy to be more like the ones of the small guy or vice versa. Even if you just leave them as is, they are both nice models in their own right despite their simplified nature.

Beyond that the magazine has a nice comic, including a good rendition of the Triceratops itself, though in a different color, so the connection is definitely there. The games are too few and too simple for my taste. The posters are oddly framed and feel strangely overcrowded with large text occupying a good chunk of the space and the edges coming dangerously close to the depicted characters.

For me as a graphics artist a bit of a *grmpf* moment, since I value my whitespace and sufficient bleed to let artwork “breathe”, though of course I far too often mess up my own photos and then have to crop them too tightly as well. No shame in admitting that 🙂 In any case, this is another well done edition in this series and if they keep up that level of quality then I’m all for it. Definitely check it out!

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.