Something good, something bad – Lady Liberty (40367) and Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847)

Today I’m going to roll two smaller sets into one review for practical reasons, both of which I bought somewhat spontaneously to sooth my nerves and pamper myself at the LEGO store in Leipzig when I was roaming the premises after an unpleasant doctor visit. That being the case and the sets therefore having been bought at full price no matter what I can at least spare you my usual ramblings on overall value vs. price.

Worst Set of the Year?

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Box

To get things out of the way, let’s start with what I basically consider the worst LEGO set of the year. Sadly, as a tie-in for The LEGO Movie 2 this should be at least some sort of fun, but  the Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847) is unfortunately so lackluster, you wonder why they ever bothered to bring it out.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Overview

I fully intended to buy this set for a number of reasons, but even though I didn’t expect it to be particularly elaborate or outstanding, I never would have thought it to be this underwhelming or even terrible. Point in case: It’s basically a parts and figure pack marketed as a full set where unfortunately nothing gels and the parts don’t make up for the lack of play or collector’s value.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Babies

First and foremost of course I like most likely 99% of people who buy this set had my eye on the baby figures. Oddly enough, though LEGO had the mold for quite a while now, it’s seriously underused and the figures only pop up once every blue moon in a handful of sets. As you would have guessed, this makes them highly coveted items that fetch good prices on Bricklink. The two little tykes represented in this set will do nothing to improve this situation, as this is the first time we actually get Bright Pink (baby pink) and Dark Cyan (teal) bodies and a lot of people will be desperately scavenge for matching heads sans “tattoos” to integrate the babies into their City landscapes or whatever. That said, the two kids certainly are appealing and would enliven many a scenery.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Island

Now for the ugly part. The rest of the set is pretty much a stinker. The sad, sad irony is that each component on its own would actually be useful, in particular the plant parts in new colors. It’s just that there aren’t enough of them to do anything serious with them and to boot, they have been slapped on to some piece of island that looks like it was a lowly intern’s morning task before lunch break. I’ts just *ugh*. I get what they were aiming for, but please, could we at least have gotten a real palm/ bush with three leaves or something like that? As it is, it’s nothing more than a frustrating glimpse into a happy, colorful dream world that could have been. Imagine how awesome it actually would look to see your babies stomping around on a larger meadow surrounded by those crazy colored plants!

On a whole this is an epic fail and nothing can justify buying the set other than really having the hots for the baby figures and being crazy enough to shell out the dosh. This really just strikes me as yet another misguided attempt to quickly cash in on the movie without making any effort whatsoever. Hell, even the Emmet and Lucy minifigures are the same boring ones found in pretty much every other set of this ilk.

Little green Cutie

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Box

On to more pleasant things, the bright spot on the horizon for me on this day was the Brickheadz Lady Liberty (40367). I was actually quite surprised to find it in the LEGO store, after all, given what I overheard last time. That and the fact that the set had long been out in other countries and sold out quickly. I had little hope to be able to catch it, but sometimes there is such a thing as lucky circumstance, I guess.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Front Left View

Over the years I have only bought a handful of Brickheadz overall and whenever I did, it usually boiled down to getting my hands on some of the special printed tiles or rare parts in unusual colors that these sets often contained. I’ve never been much of a collector and as a matter of fact the only such figure I kept around is Thanos, which somehow tickles my “Aww, he’s cute!” senses in all his Medium Lavender glory. He’s now going to get a permanent companion with this little green lady, as she’s cute, too, and I can’t find it in my heart to dismantle her for the parts.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Front Right View

There’s very little that I don’t like or that I think could be improved here. The model is cleverly done and even employs the “textile folds” technique using the cut-off wedge slopes also used on the larger Statue of Liberty (21042) in the Architecture series just as it borrows the same trick with the golden hair piece for the flames. Due to these details you end up with a reasonably complex build and a model with a well-structured surface that feels weighty and voluminous and not just like a tile-covered regular box like some other Brickheadz.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Back Right View

As for the things I would improve: First, the crown piece clearly could have benefited from including a disc/ dish piece to cover up the center like it’s done on the bigger version. In fact this could have looked even better here, as they could have used a 4 x 4 dish which is a little less steep in curvature/ less convex and would have blended in better. The other thing I would have done is made the figure taller. I know, they are all meant to be about the same height so they form a nice even line on the shelf, but this is one case where an exception could have been made. Adding e.g. two more rows of bricks at the bottom would have allowed for more details on the robes and looked more elegant. These are minor things, though, and a true collector might have different opinions on the matter.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Back Left View

In any case, this is one of the few Brickheadz that genuinely should appeal to everyone, be that occasional LEGO buyers, experienced builders looking for a satisfying diversion amidst other projects or the aforementioned collectors hunting down every set in this line of products. I certainly still have warm and fuzzy feelings as little Lady Liberty is looking at me from the shelf while I’m writing this article…

September Trooper

With the magic 50th issue in August, the race up to the next fifty is now on with the September edition of the LEGO Star Wars magazine.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, September 2019, Cover

To celebrate that anniversary, belated as it may be, someone figured it might be a good idea to include a Stormtrooper minifigure. People are clamoring for this all the time and this seems to be so much in demand, they likely could bundle another variant with every second issue without the subject ever being covered to the point of getting stale. In this instance it’s not the “cool one”, though, with it actually being a First Order version rather than one from the original first movies, which most aficionados still prefer.

Still, not a bad move if you have bought any of the sets for one of the movies in the last three or four years and want to bolster your troops. In fact I would predict that quite a few people will buy more than one copy of the mag. With those figures being in such high demand everywhere, prices on Bricklink are not necessarily cost-effective to build larger line-ups and in the end the math could add up, even if paying 4 Euro for a figure may seem steep at first.

The rest of the magazine once more is indicative of the meandering back and forth between “barely acceptable” to “okay” to “almost good” in terms of the quality of the comics, posters and puzzles, all very apparently depending on which team took responsibility for any given month. This one falls in the upper half of this range and therefore isn’t that bad. I always like it when in particular the puzzles are reasonably complex and not dumbed down as if only three-year-olds read the mag.

Under the Sea… – Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378)

As I wrote in my first review on the subject, I was quite taken in by the water animal rescue theme of this year’s LEGO Friends novelties even before I actually owned any of the sets and that I wanted to basically get all of them. So here we go with the second outing thanks to the Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378).

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Box

I got the set pretty much right away when it became available, but of course only because the price immediately plummeted from its official 40 Euro suggested retail price to 30 Euro. It has been hovering around that mark pretty stable ever since, give or take the occasional additional promo where you can get it for around 25 Euro. Let me be clear: It’s a good thing that the market regulates itself in this case. I really like the set, but 40 Euro is definitely not a price I would have bought it for. It’s a 360 pieces set with no specific exotic pieces and even the few larger ones can’t justify the inflated price. LEGO are completely out of touch with reality by dreaming up those numbers, which is kinda sad. It makes it so much harder to recommend these sets and is detrimental to sales as it puts people off.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Overview

Why am I saying this again and sound like a broken record? While it’s one of the better Friends sets and you get a decent return value, the overall volume of stuff just isn’t there. In the end the two main builds, the submarine and the ship wreck, are still small-ish with the additional side builds also not contributing anything noteworthy in terms of the sheer bulk of the set.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Underwater ScooterThe underwater scooter literally consists of something like 15 pieces and while it’s an adequate representation of what those things might look like, it is far from a complex and detailed model.

 

 

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Map ChestSimilar things can be said about the treasure map chest or more specifically what amounts to a crate with a bottle and a super secret treasure map inside. Again this doesn’t really contribute much to making the set more bulky and as a matter of fact the small isolated island could have been integrated into the ship wreck section easily and with a bit more fancy and finesse. It’s okay, but really leaves me with a “So what?” feeling.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Map ChestThe supposed treasure map itself looks more or less just like a collection of random camouflage splotches. It’s based on the same principle and employs the same trickery as the “painting” in Emma’s Art Studio (41365), i.e. a piece of cloth printed with a special varnish that repels water and in turn the areas having a different darkness/ saturation when moisturized. Overall a bit uninspired, even more so since it would have been a good idea to include a complementary printed map on a folded A3 sheet or something like that to tie into the play fantasy.

 

 

The submarine is a nice build and oozes a sense of realism. Many research and utility submersibles e.g. in the off-shore oil industry fit the construction pattern with a big single-piece bubble canopy, a main pressure cell and most technical gadgets being mounted externally. even the compact proportions feel about right.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Top View

There are of course a few things that don’t make sense, either. The odd snorkel/ periscope piece is exactly where on most real world examples the main access hatch would be and isn’t really of much use. Most of these subs would operate tethered to cables and/ or at least very close to their mother ships plus unlike on military u-boats there is simply no need for surface reconnaissance while the craft stays under water. While this part is therefore more or less superfluous, you could argue that another critical item is missing. Assuming the vehicle ever actually goes deep enough to crash on the sea floor, naturally it should have skids and not sit on the ballast tanks. Yes, I’m obsessing over minutia, but I’m just saying… 😉

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Aft View

The color choices feel a bit arbitrary, too. As I wrote in my review of the Underwater Robot (31090), a clear plexi glass canopy would probably look better and incidentally also make quite a bit more sense. You know, in an underwater environment where already everything is blue your wouldn’t use additional tinted glass in that same color to make things even darker. If I were to rebuild the model I’d also use the rounded corner train style panels for the windows instead of the plain transparent ones. Perhaps I’d also add a cupola for the hatch area.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Front Left View

The Coral bits feel out of place and in actuality my impression is that they were forced in just for the sake of it as an afterthought or color swap the last minute before the set was released and the components were actually available when the prototype may have been designed with other colors. They just don’t serve a specific purpose in the context of how this would work in practice other than as recognition marks for aerial rescue should the boat go adrift on the surface. Most of the time those areas would be just plain walkways and railings in boring colors, though.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Top View with open Loading Bay

The good part about the sub in addition to it being built to figure scale are some actually usable play features, that being primarily the openable canopy and loading bay. You could position one of the girls behind the steering column while the other goes back and forth from the open aft zone, e.g. retrieving items from the bottom of the sea and stowing them for later analysis. the other scenario is of course a diver egressing from the cargo bay and rescuing dolphins, hence the syringe and the feeding bottle. In addition you can of course also pose the robotic arms and swivel the propellers around, though this will get boring rather quickly.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Front View with open Canopy

I have a bit of a peeve with the ship wreck. It’s extremely lovely done, but man, is it small! It kinda ruins the whole illusion and in a way reminds me of painted box art for plastic model kits – you have the hero item (an airplane, a ship, a car etc.) large in the foreground and some decorative stuff in the background. This is pretty much what this is. If you arrange it suitably, the optical illusion kinda works, but otherwise just falls apart. Sadly, this becomes a real limiting factor for playing as well.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Front Left View

To begin with, applying realistic measurements the ship wouldn’t even qualify for a tourist excursion ship on a small river. You can literally fit two or tree people onto it and that’s about it. Similarly you can ever only explore it by bringing in the girls on their own or with the mini scooter. As soon as you bring the u-boat anywhere near it the fake scale crumbles and it just looks silly. You know, no such thing as beaming the spotlights onto the hull or moving things with the robot arms.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Aft Left View

Now here’s the thing: I fully understand that they couldn’t build it to scale and make it as large as for instance the Destiny’s Bounty (70618) from The LEGO Ninjago Movie. That inevitably would have meant to inflate a 40 Euro set to another 150 Euro set for no good reason just to get a large ship. Not only would that be unnecessary, but also make it harder to afford the set. However, I still think it wouldn’t have taken too much effort and also not increased the cost too much by adding more pieces if the wreck was at least twice as large. It wouldn’t need to be hyper-detailed, just line up better scale-wise. It’s one of those “I need to buy a second set.” things that I might try one day.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Front Right View

A larger scale/ size would have helped with the integration of the dolphins as well. It’s just hard to imagine that they could get trapped when the “mother” is already half as big as the ship. To that end you can tilt down the main mast as if she was caught under it, but seriously – she’d just push it out of the way on the real thing. The pole would need to be really tall and thick to represent any danger whatsoever. That then in turn would again require a different representation for the sails. An endless causal chain! For the time being I would have settled on different colors for the “torn rags” at least. Always having the same Dark Pink and Magenta flag elements in Friends sets is getting a bit long in the tooth. For once, plain Tan or Dark Tan would have worked perfectly here.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Aft Right View

My criticisms notwithstanding, this is still a pretty fine set, all things considered, even more so in the Friends universe with its many downright awful offerings. It captures the mood of an underwater exploration, the submarine is fully usable and when placed strategically far enough apart could even look good on the shelf. Regardless, though, if I was totally serious about the matter my contingency plan would be to get at least two or three of these sets and also heavily dig into my parts stock to build a larger ship wreck. I really only consider the small version an inspiration or template for how to do things, with an urge to one day genuinely do it kicking in even as I just look at the pictures…

Space September

As a science fiction fan of sorts and a nerd with a general interest in exotic scientific subjects like quantum physics, astral dynamics and so on of course I love myself some space-y stuff even in LEGO form. This month’s issue of the LEGO City magazine caters just for that.

LEGO Magazine, City, September 2019, Cover

The content is derived from the current space exploration theme. Unfortunately for my taste it’s a bit too simplified with many large and specific parts and kind of crude looking models, so my interest in buying some of those sets is a bit limited to say the least. That’s why I’m all the more pleased to get some of the stuff that is contained in those sets on the cheap, in a manner of speaking, by ways of the mag.

Most notably that covers the new 2019 geode-type piece, i.e. a rock with a crystalline transparent mineral inside. I have to say it really looks nice and interesting when the light refracts through the sharp edges and facets when the rock is backlit. The magazine comes with the Dark Orange and Trans Light Blue version with some other combinations being found only in the commercial sets for the time being. The second piece of mention is the printed 1×1 round tile for the robot face which due to its generic look should find some creative uses.

The minifigure is just the generic astronaut and unlike the cover image may make you think, it neither comes with a special face or an alternate hair piece so you could present it with the helmet off. It’s adequate for basic play scenarios, but not much more than that. Similarly the comics and games this time around can’t disguise that they are more of a marketing pitch for the new sets than really deep content. Therefore the real value of this issue will genuinely depend on whether you are into any of this space stuff and can overlook the shortcomings or are a regular buyer, anyway.

Ornithoraptor vs. T. Rex

Already being caught up in a million projects and never getting much done for a million reasons, I rarely take part in LEGO Ideas“Activities” as they are called as of late, in particular the building contests. I admire how people are able to whip up those creations as if they had never anything else to do all day, but I’m just not that kind of person and somehow I always seem to have too much else to do.

On the rare occasions when I choose to participate and can actually manage to get my butt to sit down for a few hours just dabbling with my LEGO bricks there usually has to be a good reason, i.e. some incentive to rush through those four or five weeks and cook something up. That of course has been/ is the case in the Unleash your own genetically modified hybrid Dinosaur contest (What a title!). I really, really would have loved to win one of them Jurassic Park T. Rex Rampage (75936) sets they gave out as prizes, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. There are a lot of other great creations, so competition was stiff. You should really check them out!

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Side View

Anyway, my humble contribution to the whole affair was what I called Ornithoraptor mylenii, a small, bird-like raptor. I find that those smaller species are often overlooked in favor of the bigger, more awe-inspiring dinosaurs, yet I’m pretty sure if you only do your research you will find that for every Tyrannosaurus Rex there are a hundred other species that are just as important to the overall eco system. My rationale here is that this would have been a relatively harmless, docile creature living near lake shores, small rivers and swampy meadows, feeding off fish, insects, mussels, algae, grass and similar stuff. Pretty much the goose/ duck of its day taking care to keep the waters clean and preventing harmful smaller species from spreading too much while at the same time being a potential prey for other carnivorous dinosaurs, naturally.

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Lateral Front Views

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Front and Rear Views

In order to replicate this and because I just knew I wouldn’t have enough pieces to build a full model in the first place I limited my efforts to a head bust with a piece of neck. I mainly focused on getting the head shape right and make it anatomically believable, that is seeing to it that the mechanics eventually could work, the eyes were in the right position, the teeth overlapped correctly and so on. The tip of the beak is the typical horn “tooth” you also find on many birds and that would be used to e.g. scrape mosses off rocks or dig in the ground whereas the small teeth would function like the serrated edges of a fine saw to bite larger chunks or for instance clip reed grass for building nests.

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Beak Interior

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Head with closed and open Beak

The model is more or less a 2 : 1 or even 1 : 1 scale representation of the real thing and inevitably my biggest struggle was the limited selection of parts I had at hand. This sure would benefit from having more slopes and nice wedges here and there, but I hope my approximations with stacked plates and a few standard curved slopes does the trick. Building it in full would be a whole different exercise and require many more parts, so I’m not too sure if I’ll ever be able to pull it off. That’s also my one peeve with the contest as a whole, BTW – nice as some concepts may be, I’d consider most of them unbuildable because just like my own creation the parts count and size would end up being like the T. Rex set.

In any case, I hope you like what you see and if you’re feeling very, very generous, I sure wouldn’t mind that Jurassic Park set to drop on my doorstep one of these days. 😉

Retro Future – Futuristic Flyer (31086)

Due to the lack of certain types of slopes and panels for flaps, rudders, wing edges and the like LEGO certainly isn’t the best way to pursue an aviation model hobby, but of course that doesn’t stop the company from trying just as it doesn’t stop me from almost instinctively buying every reasonably looking set of that type, especially since they are still relatively rare (not counting the many City helicopter and airplane sets here). The Futuristic Flyer (31086) set is no exception.

LEGO Creator, Futuristic Flyer (31086), Box

Admittedly this model wasn’t particularly high on my list. It has a distinct appeal, but at the same time there are some glaring shortcomings that were clear to me even just by looking at the package and marketing photos. I was quite a bit hesitant and only committed to the model after Jangbricks did a review on his YouTube channel that alleviated some of my concerns as well as showing some of the interesting technical details.

Naturally, the most stand-out feature are the forward-inclined wings. As a longtime  aviation aficionado I could chew your ears off explaining the pros and cons of such a configuration, but suffice it to say that there are reasons we don’t see more aircraft of this type and it was and is more or less relegated to experimental planes like the old X-29 or as Jang mentions, the Sukhoij S-37 Berkut. On the model this is implemented quite ingeniously by locking the wings into place between some angled place using those small ball joints. The added benefit here is that the wings can be easily taken off for transport and clicked into place again when needed, allowing to use a smaller storage box.

LEGO Creator, Futuristic Flyer (31086), Overview

The extra pieces depicted in the above photo are meant for the secondary and tertiary build, a sort of generic space fighter and a small Gundam-like mech. I haven’t really bothered with either, but at least the space vehicle seems on par with the jet in terms of complexity and quality while the robot really feels like a throwaway idea they just crammed in to get three overall models at all. It really doesn’t look that attractive and feels a bit out of place here.

Speaking of quality – that’s of course a relative term for a set with barely 150 pieces. That’s also why this set wasn’t a top priority initially. Unfortunately once you move on from the cleverly constructed middle section holding the wings, the rest of the model doesn’t really live up to that standard. To say it has been grossly simplified would be an understatement as it really feels like the nose and aft were just lumped on after the fact without much consideration. The nose is particularly disappointing as you just can feel how simple it potentially might have been to shape a gently sloped tip from a few different wedge plates and curved slopes.

LEGO Creator, Futuristic Flyer (31086), Left Side View

The same can be said for the engine exhaust using the old plastic wheel. It completely ruins the otherwise sleek appearance. You know, it’s not like this hollow cone doesn’t exist, not to speak of even better solutions like dual exhaust pipes. Keen observers will also have noticed that the model sits terribly low. It’s simply propped up on some standard small wheel plates as commonly used for three-wheeler vehicles in City and Friends. It’s acceptable when you see this as a play item as it’s at least a stable solution, but of course could be improved.

LEGO Creator, Futuristic Flyer (31086), Right Aft View

My main takeaway from this set is that it offers some good ideas and inspiration, but the technical execution could have been done better in places. It’s once more a matter of 150 pieces vs. perhaps 200 pieces where those 50 extra parts could have made a huge difference for the better. Don’t misunderstand me: I understand this this is aimed at kids for playing first and foremost, but the missed opportunity of making this also a better displayable showcase model is still highly regrettable.

August B-Wing

Call me weird, but I was really hyped for this month’s LEGO Star Wars magazine already even a few weeks back when I merely saw the preview for the next issue in the July edition. What could it be that got me so excited?

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, August 2019, Cover

The answer of course is the B-Wing model, but the reason is even more specific than you may think. Looking at the photo I asked myself whether it could be true and it almost brought a tear to my eye when this became more and more clear, but yes, the set does indeed contain two pairs of the new 1 x 2 angled wedge slopes (29119, 29120) and in Light Bluish Grey, no less. For me that’s just plain awesome, being that lately I could have used this part a couple of times and was almost on the verge buying a lot on Bricklink. Not many, mind you, as the prices for these pieces are still relatively high, but a few to cover the most basic necessities every now and then sure would be nice. So here we are and ultimately the problem could be solved by buying the mag more than once.

That may sound stupid, but bear with me. Point in case: This is an excellent micro model with several valuable or at least useful parts. I wouldn’t have done it this way, if it only contained garbage. In addition to the slopes you get some 3 x 2 plates and also equally sized tiles, some droid head cones, hinges, wedge plates and even a Barraki eye, all in Light and Dark Bluish Grey plus a black double slope and tons of round 1 x 1 studs in different colors. This easily rivals some of the separately sold Microfighter sets in terms of parts count and complexity. If you will, the value isn’t so much in the individual pieces, but in everything combined into a nice wholesome model. For me here in Germany even the economics make sense, as buying the parts off Bricklink would cost at least just as much as the magazine. As you may gather from my long-winded hubbub I’m quite happy and satisfied.

The rest of the mag presents the usual 50/ 50 split of okay-ishly good and slightly terrible, meaning the comic and the mini puzzles are acceptable, but the posters are sort of ugly CGI stuff. For my taste it’s also a bit too obvious how the plug LEGO Star Wars sets on the centerfold that seem to be selling not that great. Talk about cheap marketing moves…. 😉 This issue also came with a pack of the series 2 collectible card game and an – ahem –  “limited” Darth Vader special card. There’s also a building competition marking the 50th issue next month and I’m almost tempted to cook something up just on the off chance I might actually win something…