From Disco to Disco – LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708)

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a LEGO Friends set here and the multitude of reasons is still perhaps something I should one day lay out in a separate article. Suffice it to say that the price is a big factor, but also the overall boring-ness that has crept into the series and there just isn’t the appeal anymore except for the rare occasions like with this Roller Disco Arcade (41708).

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Box

Price and Contents

As mentioned above, prices are really becoming an issue with LEGO and it pains me to see this effect ripple down to Friends as well. It has always been on the more affordable side of the spectrum, but these days it sometimes feels you have to sell your house just to be able to afford some packages. Mind you, I don’t have anything against “adapting to the market” and compensating inflation and money devaluation, but LEGO are certainly taking this way beyond what’s necessary and are being greedy. Having multiple 100+ Euro sets in the Friends series just didn’t happen in the past, if you get my meaning.

With that in mind, this little crazily colored building isn’t even the worst offender. At 642 pieces for 60 Euro it is still priced reasonably, though I have this feeling that not too long ago it would have been marked as 50 Euro only. That’s why even with discounts you have to pay around 45 Euro most of the time. There were some crazy special sales where it was fired out for 35 or 37 Euro, but you can’t bet on those to be available when you may want to buy, of course. I bought mine for 43 Euro, but a good chunk of the cost was offset because someone had sent me an Amazon voucher shortly before and I only had to cover the remainder.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Overview

Figures and Extras

The set comes with only three minidolls, which is rather meager not only in relation to the overall size, but also the bustling free time activities hub this purports to be. You cannot even man each activity nor do you have any spectators. This should at least have had five figures. The minidolls themselves aren’t that special and can also be found in other sets. Jackson, the male, is apparently the token wheelchair guy and Evelyn the new girl with the blue hair. Andrea got a tied up new hairdo, which is about time. The old long hair was really getting long in the tooth.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), FiguresLEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Figures

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), ExtraThe only side build in this set is a small palm tree with a trash can in Coral parked under it. This is a new recolor that also can be found in a few other sets. Outside the Friends universe it’s not that useful, though.

 

The Building

I have no specific like for bowling alleys, arcades or roller skate discos, but somehow this thing pushes a few buttons with me. I couldn’t get that scene from La Boum out of my head where the kids sneak out of their homes to meet in the hottest roller disco in town. That and then the mere mention of disco triggers a whole slew of eponymous songs, be that Alcazar‘s “Crying at the Discotheque” or Whirlpool Productions“From Disco to Disco” as per the title of this article. This brings back so many memories from the time when I was a young lad pushing my bum across the dance floor. ūüėČ

The other thing that immediately caught my attention is the mere flamboyance and exuberance of the design. It’s completely wacko, but in a good way. It brings back this slightly off-kilter style that I used to love about Friends, but which unfortunately seems to have been lost recently with so many sets being all too realistic to the point of being completely boring. I guess now those naysayers loathing Dark Pink finally got their way, but where does it say that it has to be this way?¬† As I’ve written a few times, the problem was never that Friends was so colorful, it was rather some unfortunate use of color combinations that looked uneducated and unsophisticated. So for what it’s worth, I’m glad that we got some of that back with this particular set.

The build process for this set is pretty straightforward with most pieces simply being stacked linearly on top of each other. There’s no fancy SNOT building or any of that here, only a few brackets and clips used to attach some decorations. You start out with the center section, the bowling lane, then the two side wings with the other areas which are attached via hinges. The result is a quite spacious building that’s very accessible and provides good visibility all round.

The downside to all that is that the stability and robustness of the whole thing isn’t that great. This begins with the plates at the base, where there is often only a single layer of other plates or tiles that holds together the multiple pieces. some areas stabilize a bit more after a while when you add some bricks and interior details, but overall this is not the best. This trend continues with the walls themselves. It’s nice that they are thin and elegant, but at the same time this once again comes at the cost of stability. A few 2 x 2 plates or some inset bricks to enforce the vertical structure would have been welcome and you could have disguised them as corner seats or similar. The wobbliness not only produces gaps in the walls but also extends to the “roof” where individual elements tend to loosen themselves a bit. The roof also feels incomplete with too many exposed studs. It would have been better if the overlap was actually three studs and a second row of rounded bricks or at least some tiles had been added to cap it off.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Open, Overview

An interesting nugget of information are the Trans Neon Green windows, which is actually the first time ever they are available in this color according to Bricklink. Once more one of those things where you would think that LEGO had run through all colors in the last 30 or 40 years already, but no. On the promotional photos they look Trans Yellow, which in a way that would have been even more useful. I feel the same about the tubes used on the outside which are “rigid hoses”. Once you’ve bent them into shape, it will be hard to get them straight again an d in the long run the tension might break of the clips. I’ve mentioned this already when reviewing the Luke Skywalker Helmet (75327). I’m definitely not a fan, but LEGO have used them in so many sets recently, we might just have to get used to it.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Open, Left Side

The roller skate part of the building comes with a small pedestal/ stage made up of two turntables with a microphone in the corner also hinting at its use as a karaoke/ music stage. as you can see everything looks rather crammed to the point where the turntables have gaps between them because there isn’t enough room to insert more of the plates with the inner rounding to cover the gears underneath. in order to do that, the building would have to have more length, or more exactly depth with at least another window (four studs wide) having to be inserted. It would have slightly whacked out the square-ish layout and rhythm of the colored columns vs. the windows, but would have been perfectly doable. It’s a somewhat odd decision and omission. The ramp on the door would of course also be way too steep for any wheelchair-bound person and there should perhaps be some longer gentle slope along the windows at least on the outside, which incidentally also might have helped with those pesky stabilization issues.

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Open, Center

The center section has a bowling lane, which is actually even functional. You can take the pins from their studs and place them on the smooth surface, then topple them over with the red ball. The latter is the genuine “heavy” ball element LEGO unfortunately only drags out once every blue moon and that’s so coveted by people building GBCs, only for them to be disappointed and resorting to other alternatives. At the top of the gate you can see the two Technic arms forming a smartphone stand (also visible in other pictures). Unfortunately they were not recolored in a way that would look more graceful with this set, so they really, really stand out. Luckily they are easily accessible and only held by two pins, so you can easily remove them if you don’t ever want to use this functionality.¬†

LEGO Friends, Roller Disco Arcade (41708), Open, Right Side

The arcade section is just fine, but of course doesn’t really look interesting without all the stickers for the screens and bling bling. The best part of it is the “dancing machine” in the middle, a genre which seems particularly popular in Asia.


Concluding Thoughts

This set has a lot of pros and cons at the same time. It’s good that it brings back a slightly more crazy version of the Friends universe, but there are many shortcomings in the mechanical/ architectural design. It feels a bit too flimsy for the size it has and while it can be handled well enough, it still requires a gentle touch. In addition a few of the details could have been refined and the whole thing made more plausible. What point is there in harping on including special needs people, when Jackson never actually could move around in the place? The lapses in internal logic cannot be overlooked.

The colors certainly aren’t for everyone and that is something you also have to acknowledge. Even I think there is something a bit off and that perhaps a more stringent color scheme with fewer colors might have been preferable. Especially the many dark colors feel kind of depressing at times and give the building an unfriendly, uninviting touch while on the other hand there’s a lot of overly bright accents with the Neon Yellow stripes or the Dark Pink roof. The middle ground is missing that would have toned down the contrast and acted as an intermediary.

All that said, this is still one of the better LEGO Friends sets and if you have similar feelings about those days rocking the dance floor or feel that simply the theme and design appeals to you, you should definitely get it.

Insignificant Helmet – LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327)

Before we dive into the details of the Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327) from the LEGO Star Wars theme series, let me clarify a few things.

The collectible “Helmets” series has been around for two years now and this (unofficial) moniker not only covers various Star Wars headgear but also some notable Super Heroes stuff like Batman‘s cowl, Iron Man‘s helmet or Venom‘s entire head for instance. Again, there is no “Helmets” series per se, as they’re all filed under their respective other themes, but people habitually call it that because of the undeniable similarities and commonalities they all share with regards to scale, overall style etc..

When the first one was announced, which of course had to be a Stormtrooper Helmet (75276), I was mildly enthused, but not over the moon. The idea had merit and it could be cool to have some iconic helmets lined up on the shelf. Still, even back then I already feared that LEGO would milk this and the pricing would be outrageous, so I remained slightly skeptical. And wouldn’t you know it, what I suspected indeed came to pass, so my reservations were warranted (more on pricing considerations in the next chapter below as usual).

What made this even worse is that the actual results looked rather naff and by that I simply mean way too many visible studs, gaps and recognizable building techniques. That may get some fans drooling, but I decided it’s not for me and basically swore to myself to never buy any of these things. I just want my collectibles to look nice and in case of these helmets that would have meant much more of an effort to make them smooth and rounded and solid without resorting to cheap tricks, which badly enough also includes having to use stickers because even with these expensive items LEGO can’t be bothered to just print everything.

So how did I end up buying the Red Five helmet, after all? I’m not going to pretend otherwise, but the core motivation was simply a number of distinct and unique parts I could add to my collection just by buying this set. Some are also in other sets, but still rare, some are exclusive to this one for the time being. I also of course wanted to check if my own prejudice against these helmets was justified and if a positive build experience could not sway me and convince me otherwise (hint: It didn’t!). So let’s see how things went…

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Box

Pricing and Contents

As already mentioned, I find these sets shamelessly overpriced. That’s nothing new in the LEGO universe and you’re probably tired of me complaining about it, but it still stings/ stinks. Worse yet, they don’t even pretend that this is in any way related to the parts count or other factors. The smallest set, the Classic TV Series Batman Cowl (76238) with its meager 372 pieces costs just as much as the others – 60 Euro. There are a few exceptions with the Darth Vader Helmet (75304) at 834 pieces even costing 70 Euro, but at the same time the Scout Trooper Helmet (75305) with 471 pieces costing only 50 Euro. Does that make sense to anyone? There’s just no rhyme or reason to it and it seems totally arbitrary.

Luke‘s helmet is somewhere in the middle with 675 pieces and on paper when applying the old formula of 10 Cent * piece count the math turns out just fine. However, as you would expect many of the elements are just 1 x 1 and 1 x 2, so this is not necessarily a good price. All things considered, what’s there really feels more like it should have cost you 40 Euro from the outset. Of course you can get this price with discounts at many retailers, but ultimately this is not a sustainable model in the long run. While LEGO keep raising MSRPs and wholesale prices, those vendors barely make a cut. When their businesses crumble, everyone may feel the repercussions.

Anyway, for now I’m a beneficiary of this policy and even if I don’t feel good about it (Wouldn’t it be fantastic, if those products were simply sold for reasonable prices from the get-go and we all could afford that?), in my situation I’ll take whatever discounts I can get. I bought the package for 36 Euro and only recently I saw a special promo for 32 Euro. So keep your eyes peeled! There’s always a chance to get this for a better price if you’re not in a rush.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Front Left View

The Helmet

As mentioned in my intro, I’m not that terribly enthralled by these helmets due to the designers not even attempting to make them more rounded and smooth. This becomes extremely apparent on this particular example due to the stark contrast between the center ridge, the ear covers and the rest. It is even more noticeable when you compare the overall shape to images of the original or other replicas and it just feels wrong on so many levels. Even if you allow some room for the usual limitations that come with brick-built designs it just feels inadequate.

On top of it, the build is of course quite tedious and repetitive. By that I don’t just mean the inevitable symmetrical building, but also some decisions in how elements are laid out and which items are used. For instance there are several locations where the 1 x 5 plate introduced late last year could have been used favorably, but instead you are forced to piece together several sections using 1 x 1 plates in conjunction with a 1 x 4 or a 1 x 6. It is highly questionable why nobody gave this a last minute polish and substituted the elements, even if you consider the potential delays in production due to additional lead-in time. It really would have helped to minimize some frustration.

In a similar vein I found it quite annoying to piece together stacks of plates that barely overlap or are only held together by tiles. Typically you end up building three or four plate high sub-assemblies that are very wobbly and only stabilize once they connect to the various SNOT bricks and brackets on the central block. That can be really annoying if you don’t have a large flat table to built your stuff on and like me prefer to “freestyle” holding them in your hand.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Detail StandThe socket/ stand is more or less the same standard type as used on the other helmets and heads, but has been extended quite a bit towards the top to allow for the hollow construction and disguising the attachment points. in the upper dome and rear. This works, but naturally only by creating a “black hole” illusion where you can’t discern any of the interior details because it’s all dark.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Detail Print DamageThe prints in this set are a pain, which really doesn’t surprise me anymore, given how LEGO have dialed down the thickness of their paint application (faster drying = more throughput = larger quantities in the same time). The white stripes on the central ridge are rather faint and thus look pink-ish plus they appear oddly frizzled and uneven. The prints on the various dishes are actually okay, but leave it to LEGO to even screw that up. Yupp, there’s some damage on one of the dishes with the Rebel Alliance insignia where clearly the paint has been peeled of by the stencil or shortly thereafter. This should have been caught at the factory. The irony here is of course that this would actually be cool in a way if the helmet had been designed to represent a worn out version that has seen battle many times.

Now I’m gonna sound like a hypocrite when I tell you that I didn’t request replacements despite my complaining about it. Yes, LEGO would have probably sent them without much fuss, but I just didn’t wanna go through the steps, knowing that the bust would not have a long shelf life and after disassembling it I would just stash the printed pieces somewhere until I may one day have an idea on how to use them for something else.

One thing that is causing me outright agony is the simulated pin stripe on the central ridge. This uses a yellow “rigid hose”, which despite the fact that you can pre-bend it to mimic the curvature is still an element that has tension. Even more critically it is only affixed at two points at the start and end, respectively, which does not bode well once you consider that the elements used are 1 x 1 modified plates with a bar holder on one and a C-clamp on the other. Here’s the thing: This isn’t much of an issue for the few weeks and months I usually have my models around, but in the long run you may end up with a damaged model.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Detail Strip, Lower Back AreaAs the plastic ages and gets more brittle there’s a good chance that in particular the C-clamps are going to go *kerplang*. The forces here are simply too strong and I find it incomprehensible how this could pass quality control (QC). It’s just one bad decision on top of another. There would have needed to be two more fixation points along the perimeter of the tube. Not only would that have relieved the tension and stress on the material, but it also would have helped to lock the whole thing in place and better retain its shape.

The inside of the helmet emulates the real thing by having the typical earmuffs to isolate the radio voice from exterior sounds. I’m not too sure about the color, as most images suggest that inside it’s actually clad in sheer pig’s leather, but of course anything is possible and I’m not that deep into Star Wars that I would nerd out about it. For all I know, across multiple films there could have been different props with different coloring. The way the inner headphone padding is constructed is interesting, but I honestly felt that the designers really had to stretch their imagination to make it work for the simple truth that to this day LEGO does not have direction inverter plates. If they had, this would have been a walk in the park and they could even have made it more elaborate using different pieces.

On that note – the rounded corner pieces used here were one of the reasons I committed to this set. They appear useful and currently there is no other package that has them in Dark Bluish Grey. That may of course change at any point. The situation is pretty much the same for the 3 x 3 round tiles in Yellow that in large part are hidden under the rounded bulges on the side to again create the illusion of some decorative pin striping.

LEGO Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet (75327), Detail GlassesFinally there’s the Trans Orange curved brick/ slope that premiered in the Porsche 911 (10295) last year put to good use on the glasses/ protective goggles/ anti-glare shield, complemented by some other elements. Personally I’m inclined to think that this might also have looked good in Dark Orange with the 3 x 3 pancake piece and some extra slopes and in fact the extra curvature might have produced more convincing highlights and reflections on the shelf. It’s up for debate, though, and the way it is is just fine.


Concluding Thoughts

The short summary of my review could be: “This sucks!”, but that wouldn’t be useful. So who is this actually for? I can basically only see two groups of buyers for this – people who buy all the helmets because they want a full line-up on their shelf and on the other hand Star Wars¬†die-hards who would be interested to at least add the relevant sub-set of the helmets to their collection. None of that does preclude the random anomalies where people just pick it up for other reasons and enjoy it, but those two core demographics probably make up the biggest chunk.

Outside that I cannot see the appeal. As a pure LEGO set it is simply too boring and even for casual Star Wars fans there are enough alternate options to get a helmet in their home from expensive premium collector’s replicas to moderately priced smaller toys. Funny enough, even some cheap toys beat this model hands down in the accuracy department be that with better proportions or proper prints. At least the latter should be a non issue, but no, LEGO once more chose to annoy their customers with stickers, which of course I haven’t applied anywhere.

Combined with the outrageous pricing the many shortcomings make it a hard sell and I wouldn’t really recommend this. You get a relatively small model the size of an adult man’s hand that has notable issues and won’t stand scrutiny from up close. Given the small price gap to some alternate offerings you may forever wonder if those 60 Euro couldn’t have been spent better. I guess the real point is that i get what they were going for, they just weren’t terribly successful. A lot of that clearly has to do with their usual half-assed-ness and cutting corners and it’s all too apparent…

Shrunk Slave 1 – LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett’s Starship (75312)

In this consumerist world we live in I’m usually not bending over backwards to catch special promotions on those “special” days made up by the industry trying to sell you stuff, but then again I enjoy getting a good discount as much as the next guy and not just because of my budget constraints. The very least one can do is keep an eye peeled and hope to make a good catch. I got sort of half-lucky with Boba Fett’s Starship (75312) on this year’s May the 4th event, so let’s see how things turned out.

LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett's Starship (75312), Box

Pricing and Contents

I’ve had this set on my wishlist for a while, but regrettably it never entered a price range that I found acceptable. After all, I’m not a die-hard Star Wars fan who would pay anything and it really comes down to how much I like a certain vehicle from the show and how affordable it is.

The crux of course is that of course Boba Fett’s Spaceship or Slave 1 as it was known in the good old days (and I’ll keep calling it that because I honestly think it’s kinda stupid that they are trying to be overly correct here and avoiding the word slave entirely even if it doesn’t bear any relationship to current day politics) has always been a popular ship due to its unique and distinct appearance. Because it basically sold itself and everybody wanted it, anyway, retailers could ask for relatively high prices. That and of course the The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett series have boosted that demand even further. In fact this really thwarted my plans to purchase the 20th Anniversary Edition Slave 1 (75243) because it was equally coveted by fans the world all over and prices never dropped to a level I would consider sensible (me missing out on a few special promotions I just didn’t catch notwithstanding). Arguably a case of bad timing, even if just coincidental.

LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett's Starship (75312), Overview

With all that in mind I was actually glad I was able to obtain this package for 35 Euro down from a recommended price of 50 Euro. As mentioned already I consider myself only half-lucky because there was a slightly better price that day at only 32 Euro. I was just going back and forth way too long and my inner struggle prevented me from clicking that button. Come back an hour later and the price was higher again already. You really can’t flinch with Amazon‘s fluctuating prices and them adapting to competitor’s pricing almost in realtime.

Was it worth it? The answer may not surprise you: While I’m okay with those 35 Euro, I still feel the set is seriously overpriced. The model turns out tiny and one really has a hard time believing it actually uses the 593 pieces as advertised. From the exterior it feels more like there are only 250 elements, with the real point once again being that many other parts used are 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 items hidden underneath what’s actually visible. Not just that, but also many of the bits constituting the surface and the underside structure are equally small. With only a few exceptions you barely build any volume and just don’t get this satisfaction of working on what should be a relatively bulky model and making notable progress with each building step.

That being said, I can’t help but feel that this is a 30 Euro model, after all, even if you perhaps had to throw on a 5 Euro premium because it’s licensed Star Wars. The original 50 Euro are simply beyond any reason and LEGO just exploit the fans’ hunger for these products. If worse came to worse I’d really not have bothered and simply foregone buying it at all. It’s just not worth it.

The Minifigures

With the vessel being more or less exclusively inhabited by a single occupant it’s only natural that there wouldn’t be too many minifigures bar the occasional person hitching a ride when an opportunity presents itself. That is of course not counting the poor people travelling as frozen Carbonite blocks below decks. Not having seen the series due to not having a Disney+ subscription I have no idea if and when Boba Fett and Din Djarin (The Mandalorian) cross paths, I only know that it happens eventually.

The Mando figure is just the standard version with the cape you find in several other sets. Boba was an exclusive new version for this set when it came out last year but has since made a second appearance in Boba Fett’s Throne Room (75326). It’s considerably different from older versions not just because it uses a black torso as the base, but being ignorant of the actual story I can’t tell you much about the specific whys and hows. That said, both figures are overall pretty nice with lavish prints and certainly have some collector value as well.

The Model

The actual model is based on the simpler design of the Slave 1 from the ill-fated and ill-conceived Betrayal at Cloud City (75222) in the now deceased Master Builder Series. Back then I found the whole concept of a play-oriented yet expensive set in the vein of a dumbed-down and simplified UCS series more than a bit perplexing (or more to the point just another of those LEGO brain farts where you wonder what they were smoking when approving this), but the way this vehicle was built struck me as efficient and desirable as a separate affordable set. Of course things often take a while and I’d almost given up hope of ever seeing this come to fruition, but alas here we are. even better, they really took the time to refine and enhance the concept, including using a few newer and different parts. That way they also made sure that the one in the Cloud City retains its exclusivity and people who bought this expensive mess aren’t too upset.

An iconic shape such as this is of course immediately recognizable in any form and that is pretty much the case here as well. However, and this seems to be a general rule with this ship, the smaller the scale the less compact it looks. Where the original version in the movies was pretty smooth and the various surfaces blended, the smaller models tend to look more separated, not just because of the limitations of brick-built designs. This is also apparent here with the “handle” (upper hull) feeling plugged on to the bottom rather than transitioning elegantly. In particular the front section and the housings for the wing mechanisms feel a bit too small and not voluminous enough. It’s not the end of the world, but worth mentioning.

The tail/ aft boom overall appears just a bit too short and could have benefited from being extended one or two rows of studs. It’s not that the proportions aren’t correct or LEGO somehow got it wrong, it’s more a visual thing where the “scale effect” makes it look a bit too stubby. This is also owing to the overall small size that makes it look more like a toy than the imposing ship it otherwise is. Let’s not forget, that it just has around 24 studs overall length, not even fully covering a 32 x 32 base plate.

There are a handful of functional details like the cargo ramp under which you could actually place the “Carbonite” block as represented by a 1 x 2 x 6 brick and of course you can open the cockpit to place Boba inside, but neither does offer much details beyond that. The wings use a similar approach as their counterparts on the larger variants of this spacecraft, meaning they’re built from a bunch of balanced out round corner plates and wedge plates attached to a Technic axle so they swivel automatically and stay horizontal in every position. To represent the slightly rusty mechanism LEGO even produced this piece in Dark Orange exclusively for this set.

The singular side build in this set is a little push tractor/ servicing vehicle with a ladder and it also doubles as a stand to present the model in a upright position. I was hugely skeptical about this solution, mostly because the tractor is very lightweight but much to my surprise this works quite decently. Of course you still should not try to intentionally tip over the model, but it’s more than serviceable for presentation on the shelf and easy to handle for kids as well. It does not use any pins or such and rather just some simple slide-in trickery so you basically can’t do anything wrong. Also note the ‚ÄěCarbonite‚Äú block – without stickers, of course.

The upright position looks a bit odd, mostly because it exposes the hollowness of the interior unfavorably. In this position also even the slightest misalignment of the guns, which are rather flimsily constructed from black light saber hilts and some other pieces, immediately becomes noticeable. You should be careful with them, anyway, as they use a less than ideal way of being attached. Instead of a proper axle or bar they’re plugged onto this “hook” style plate‘s bar element. While it kind of works it’s one of those things that I would try to avoid and look for other solutions.

The undersides have some nice texture and even some pieces to emulate thruster outlets, but once you look at it, you also see the most annoying problem of this whole set: The various small plates and how everything is pieced together. This isn’t so much of an issue once it’s finished, but it really tries your patience during assembly. There’s basically only a single layer of plates and the bricks for the shaping are almost immediately on top, however often in such a fashion that they often only connect by two or even single studs. I found this a massive source of frustration that only gets better once you have finished the red socket.

One final thing: The set is apparently (also) aimed at children and to that effect it has a handle based on an L-shaped Technic liftarm so the model can be swooshed around and held easily without risking breaking anything off when grabbing it elsewhere. The caveat here is that the handle tends to get stuck in the recess on occasion and is difficult to push out even when tipping on the opposite end as intended. You may want to have an eye on that and show your children how to do it right or else they may constantly bug you about it. If you are not interested in this functionality you could just leave it out and shim over the hole, but this would require some major changes (using larger/ different plates to close the gaps) early on in the construction process.


Concluding Thoughts

The model isn’t bad by any means and in an odd way quite appealing. It hits the right balance between looking realistic enough, but also being playable. Still, the out-of-this-world pricing is really what puts me off. LEGO seem bent on deterring a certain part of their customers while raking in the big bucks from the other half of the Star Wars fan crowd with UCS sets and all that and that is on some level sad. Sets like this one clearly prove that the designers have the will and abilities to produce more than acceptable models, it just always seems they’re being sidelined by overriding managerial decisions in favor of squeezing out every last penny from customers.

This dichotomy also makes it hard to really recommend this set from the bottom of my heart. As already written, if there wouldn’t have been a good price I’d just passed on this. You can bet that due to the popularity there will be another Slave 1 in the not too distant future and it might even be an updated re-issue of the UCS version from 2015 or at least something more in line with the 20th anniversary version which will be more attractive to serious collectors and adults. You can save your money for the day when they come out. Completists on the other hand will no doubt want to add this to their line-up no matter what and it should also work well for children.

For me as so often it likely will end up being a short journey where soon enough I’ll dismantle the model and scalp the parts, of which it has quite a few unique ones and that’s just fine. At the same time I can think of other ways to spend those 35 Euro and unfortunate as it is, this set also has not done anything to change my mind about LEGO Star Wars being one big scam, so this will likely be my only such review for quite a while again until the next good opportunity may arise come Amazon‘s Prime Day in November

It takes two! – LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Caf√© (41699) and Pet Playground (41698)

There’s some things that just don’t work all by themselves in isolation and on the rare occasion that can be true for LEGO sets all the same. While within the individual themes and sub-series they of course are always designed with a consistent story or “group logic” in mind, you rarely find yourself in a situation where buying two at once seems inevitable because getting just one would feel incomplete.

LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Café (41699), Box

Those are the sentiments I had with the Pet Adoption Caf√© (41699). Something was seriously missing and I just couldn’t avoid getting the Pet Playground (41698) to make up for those shortcomings and, at least in my mind, improve the overall value. It literally takes two (sets). Ever since I came up with that headline I can’t get the Tina Turner & Rod Steward song with that name out of my head, but that is perhaps a story for another time.

LEGO Friends, Pet Playground (41698), Box

Price and Contents

Both sets are in the more affordable range with the caf√© clocking in at 30 Euro suggested retail price for 292 pieces and the playground at 20 Euro for 210 pieces. As you would expect, that’s not necessarily the “real” price and they can be had for notable discounts. The caf√© can be bought for 20 Euro or less and the playground will set you back a mere 12 Euro if you’re lucky. Aside from my usual Scrooge-y-ness out of necessity this seems much more in line with what you expect, as the original prices seem rather random and arbitrary. One set is basically just a simple house cubicle while the other is a collection of small objects to decorate a scene. The official pricing just does not compute in my head in terms of value for money, regardless whether you pin that on the number of pieces, their size or the overall volume of stuff.

LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Café (41699), Overview

One thing that rubbed me the wrong way right away with the caf√© is the shortage of animals. If this is an adoption opportunity, a measly three creatures just doesn’t cut it. This would then be a “take it or leave it” scenario and people would be disappointed. That’s like going to the animal shelter and only being shown the “problem dogs” nobody wants. There should definitely be at least double the number of pets in this set and this really shouldn’t be a problem, given that there are enough molds and color variants available. Incidentally, the playground fares much better in this regard and getting two baby kittens and a dog almost feels luxurious for such an affordable set.

LEGO Friends, Pet Playground (41698), Overview

The Café

Right away I have to admit that the LEGO version of the adoption caf√© is nothing like I would have envisioned it. I never had any pets myself for a million reasons that are too boring to go into, but I’m friendly with most cats and dogs and have been playing around with the idea on and off in my head. That being the case, I also had a pretty clear picture of what I would the adoption process to be and what the potential venues for this should look and feel like. This certainly does not meet those criteria I envisioned!

Most importantly it just doesn’t have that positive, cosy vibe I’d expect. I basically would want to sit quietly in a corner and watch the little buggers from afar, waiting for a few of them to come up to me and then see how we respond to one another. None of this feeling is present here. It feels like a normal walk-in shop where you’d just pick an animal and then take it home. It all looks rather sterile and there’s neither enough room for the humans to actually sit down nor the pets to perch themselves or get engaged in activities. this could easily have been avoided had they designed it similar to Emma’s Art Caf√© (41336) from a few years ago. Extending at least on side with an additional 6 x 8 plate or something like that to get an L-shaped design would have worked wonders!

This is another gripe I have here – everything looks terribly symmetric/ mirrored, in particular from the exterior. An asymmetrical design in line with the Golden Ratio rule would have looked much better. Conversely, if at least they had decked out one side of the front with, say, three windows, things would look quite different. That also goes for the color scheme. Even if it’s not the most pleasing combination, using Lavender and Magenta stripes could have worked when limited to one side. The other side could then have had a different stripe pattern or a wall in a simple single color. On that note, I also think that the Green floor does not work that well. This should be in Dark Tan or even Light Bluish Grey to not be as distracting, as the model already is way too colorful for its own good.

LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Café (41699), New Door

LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Caf√© (41699), FiguresA small, but noteworthy detail is the new door type with the cat/ dog flap. It apparently appeared first in White in the Home Alone (21330) set and debuts in Dark Purple here. On the subject of colors, there’s a new skin color in the LEGO portfolio, used here for Priyanka (right figure), clearly a girl of Indian/ Bangladeshi descent as the name implies, clich√©ed as it may be. I have some more thoughts on the color itself and the reasoning behind it in a separate paragraph at the end¬†

LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Caf√© (41699), Schnauzer Dog I still try to collect as many LEGO animals as possible, so I’m always pleased to see new molds appear, even if lately I prefer the crisper, sharp-edged City versions over the more softly rounded Friends variants. The little Schnauzer/ (Scottish) Terrier is a nice addition to the catalog and should prove popular.

 

LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Café (41699), BicycleThe bicycle should look familiar to regular readers of my blog, as it was included in White in the Heartlake City Organic Café (41444). For the time being this Bright Light Orange version is only available in two sets, certainly someone with a permanent LEGO city might appreciate having it to add interest to its bustling streets.

 

LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Caf√© (41699), Outdoor Table The small table for the outside is an okay build, but really only your boring standard stuff. You’ve seen it a million times and this merely varies the them by using transparent round bricks, not solid color ones.

 

 

 

 

I’ll never make friends with stickers on brick-built models, but at least I can appreciate some of the effort that goes into designing the artwork, so this is a situation where once more really wish at least some of these motives came as prints on the elements. The thing that baffles me the most is that in a set called Pet Adoption Caf√© they couldn’t manage to print the “Adopt me!” poster at least. If nothing else (considering that it’s on a separate standee, anyway), it would have been a nice gag. Of course it would have been equally nice if the round tiles were printed. I still have a hard time imagining kids in the target demographic putting on those stickers perfectly centered.

LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Café (41699), Stickers

The Playground

LEGO Friends, Pet Playground (41698), FiguresSince there is so little actual play content in the caf√©, either digging out extra pieces and animals from your own stock or buying more sets will be required. For the purpose of this review (and my own ambitions for absorbing the pieces in my collection later) I opted for the latter, which might be LEGO‘s devious plan here, anyway. Doing so will give you another two minidolls and three more pets and that alone is a major improvement. The figures are just your standard Andrea and her sister Liz, but they have at least new prints.

LEGO Friends, Pet Playground (41698), TrashcanThe smallest side build in this set is a little trash bin for collecting the dog poop. While it may not look like much it is already notable in that a) the Lime Green trash can is a new color for this piece and b) the dish element in the same color also hasn’t been around since 2017 according to Bricklink.

 

 

The seesaw and carousel are extremely basic, but do what they are supposed to. They’re built onto the new 8 x 8 round plates in Tan, an element previously only seen in White in the DOTS Creative Party Kit (41926) where they serve as the lids to the “cupcake” containers. The interesting observation here is that likely we’re only getting them in this set, because they’ll also be used in the upcoming Orchid (10311) plant set (inside the pot) and LEGO already have produced large batches of them.

The counter-thesis to that is the gate with the turnstile where they cheapened out and have you assemble the base from two of the Lime Green half-plates that have been around forever. In this case it works okay, because ultimately there is not that much here that would necessitate a more robust construction, but it would have been nice. Maybe the situation changes once the stock of the half-plates has depleted and they switch production. On the positive side, they actually managed to include the only textured element, the signage on the entry gate, as a print. I guess there’s a threshold where printing a single tile is cheaper than producing a sticker sheet, after all.

LEGO Friends, Pet Playground (41698), Gate

The main attraction is the play castle, of course and this is full of little surprises in terms of what pieces are used, even if the build itself is just as simple. I was really taken aback, when I realized the 1 x 1 x 3 brick in Medium Nougat was a new color. They’re used in droves in every Friends set and I could have sworn I’ve seen them before! Other such recolors are the corner panels used for the sandbox and water pool, respectively. The rest is standard stuff and this builds in a breeze. I don’t know much about dog training, obviously, but personally I’m missing a bridge/ balance board on the whole thing where you would condition your dog not to be afraid of heights.

The New Color

LEGO are pretty bad when it comes to “representation” in the broadest sense with many product series propagating outdated tropes and stereotypes, parts of the populace being underrepresented or ignored, their weird pretentious “family friendly” policies just sweeping things under the rug and occasional cultural appropriation having some funny side effects. Now of course the Friends theme is guilty as charged and a prime example for many of those things such as adhering to outdated role models for girls and women.

Portraying different ethnicities and people of color has also been a particularly weak point not just in Heartlake City, with a sweeping majority of minifigures and minidolls being girls of the Caucasian type, i.e. having white/ pale skin. The irony here is that this is a problem they created for themselves a long time ago when they started moving away from just using yellow minifigure heads for licensed themes such as Star Wars and they had to find a way to accommodate all those skin tones. Heck, before it was deemed inappropriate and they gave them the Nougat moniker (though here too it could endlessly be argued what Nougat actually is, given that the same word means different things in different countries), they were even called Flesh.

They’ve certainly made some progress on that in the last two years with more more figures having darker skin tones and more diverse hairstyles and facial expressions, but it is still a far cry from encompassing some demographics. One very obvious omission from the color book was the very specific skin tone prevalent in the South Asian regions, meaning India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and a few other countries. It’s not quite the dark browns and blacks of African Americans, but also not the lighter orange-ish/ light brown color that Hispanics and people of mixed heritage often have.

LEGO Friends, Pet Adoption Caf√© (41699), New Skin ColorThis little problem has now been rectified by introducing a new color. LEGO calls it Medium Brown and it’s placed somewhere between Reddish Brown and Medium Nougat. I tried, but my camera definitely is quite limited, so the specifics of the color don’t come out as clearly in a photo, but you’d definitely see it when you have it in front of you. The color itself actually feels more like a Dark Brown (rightmost brick in the top row) that has been lightened with White since it does not share the reddish tinge of the neighboring colors. It’s more of a “cool” or “neutral” color like the aforementioned Dark Brown or for that matter also Dark Tan.

Now of course as always when LEGO introduce a new color there is a grander plan behind it and while using it for figures only for a while would be just fine, they’ve already expanded its use. The LEGO ART set Elvis Presley “The King” (31204) already features 1 x 1 round tiles in this color as well. That gives me hope that not too far in the future we may also see other elements like plates and bricks appear in this color in other packages, as not too long ago someone seems to have had some sort of epiphany and realized that “skin colors” look nice for other things as well when used with care. The Boutique Hotel (10297) is proof of that. With that in mind one would hope that Medium Brown will be used to similar effect as yet one more option for wood elements, facades, trees and so on or as a substitute e.g. in the Architecture series when Dark Brown might look too much like Black due to the scale effect. If LEGO are smart about it and commit to this, I can see a multitude of uses here.

Disclaimer: None of this is meant to be in any way racially or ethnically insensitive, so please let me know if I used poor wording or wrote something offensive while trying to explain my train of thought.


Concluding Thoughts

Unfortunately this is one more case where LEGO just didn’t get it right. You could argue about the subject and how they have infantilised something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but that’s not the point since the children won’t make much of it, anyway. However, you can question their design and business decisions and this is where for me things don’t really work. The smaller playground set is okay and could be used in conjunction with other sets as well, but the adoption caf√©? That’s why I feel it would have been a much better decision to merge these two packages into one, refine and change a few things and sell it for 40 Euro as a more wholesome set. Given how things are currently, you would have to spend that money, anyway, and that’s basically what you should plan for: If you want to get the caf√©, you can’t possibly avoid buying a complimentary set. The playground would be one of the more affordable options, though not necessarily the only one.

A whole New Price World – LEGO Disney, LEGO Disney, Jasmine and Mulan‚Äôs Adventure (43208)

As much as I try to restrain myself, I somehow always fall for the appeal of some of those Disney sets and that is no different here with Jasmine and Mulan‚Äôs Adventure (43208). I just couldn’t help it. The more I studied the images, the more I wanted the tiger and after a while there was no turning back because the thought had gotten such a hold over my brain.

LEGO Disney, Jasmine and Mulan’s Adventure (43208), Box

Contents and Pricing

Unfortunately this set once again proves that LEGO and Disney are no longer living on planet Earth and that their uneasy alliance is to the detriment of their customers. Yepp, this package is overpriced – hopelessly. There’s really no way around it and you can’t sugarcoat this as much as you may want to. Even if you account for the two large animals and some larger construction elements, the price to part ratio makes no sense. At a suggested price of 40 Euro for a measly 176 pieces it has been blown out of any reasonable proportion.

Now of course I’m “a man with a plan” and could justify a purchase to myself for the simple fact that this set contains a ton of useful parts (more on that near the end of the article), many of which are making their first appearance with this set. Still, even that does not justify the exorbitant pricing and if it wasn’t for some lucky circumstances we’d not even be here to discuss the set because I simply wouldn’t have bought it yet. The magic moment that made this feasible, after all, was once more Amazon matching the price of one of their competitors, so I could order this package for 25 Euro, equaling something like a 37 percent discount.

That still leaves a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth, as ultimately I feel I paid too much even under those conditions. More or less those 25 Euro (or 30 Euro for arguments sake) should have been what this costs from the outset and then we’re talking, especially once discounts come into play. Sadly, that’s the tragedy of it: This could have been a great set, but it was ruined by shameless greed on the part of those involved.

LEGO Disney, Jasmine and Mulan’s Adventure (43208), Overview

The Model

While both Mulan and Jasmine have had their share of standalone Disney Princess sets, this is the first time they’ve been thrown into a box together. This caused a bit of an uproar from some self-proclaimed “purists” because it doesn’t make sense, but then again in this particular corner of the universe what does? Disney can do with their characters whatever they want and sometimes these experiments turn out well and open surprising venues, other times the results are terrible. This one isn’t so bad and if you bend reality just enough, it could even be plausible they could actually have met some day despite being from different Asian/ Arabian regions.

LEGO Disney, Jasmine and Mulan‚Äôs Adventure (43208), TigerAs already mentioned, for me a big motivator for getting this set was Rajah, Jasmine‘s pet tiger. The interesting thing here is that it actually looks quite female here, though in the animated movies it’s clearly a male. I quite like this change, as the softer contours make it look even cuter. It’s also done really well with nice crisp prints and good coverage of same, including the two 1 x 2 curved bricks used for the insert on the back.

Mulan clearly gets sidelined in this set with her contents being limited to the horse and this small build of a shrine. It’s nice and all, but certainly there would not have been much harm in making it at least twice as big and adding a few more details like perhaps two more branches for the cherry tree and building it so that the shrine is an actual enclosure with a recess, i.e. add sidewalls.

The bulk of the set is dedicated to building a massively simplified version/ section of the Agrabah palace, residence of Jasmine and her father the sultan. This pretty much only would ever pass as one of the minor side entries into the palace, though apparently they included the balcony as a clear reference to the huge one where Aladdin is romancing Jasmine. It’s adequate for what it is supposed to convey, but my personal feeling is that perhaps they could have designed this more freely and been better off for it. A bit of garden around it and a less symmetrical layout would have looked more convincing, with the real point being that you cannot convey the enormity of the palace, anyway, unless you make it a 5000+ pieces set or something like that. Settling on a smaller segment might have been creatively liberating and had allowed to play around.

The parts that are there are okay, but barely provide any challenge or deeper satisfaction during the construction process. It is what it is – a set aimed at young children – and as such it relies on simple stacking and plugging on of large elements. The downside to that is that a) it takes forever before everything stabilizes and b) alignment can be tricky. Even for me it was a bit tricky to plug on the magenta plate without pushing the golden columns away. You really have to be careful here and meticulously align everything before applying the pressure.

Once completed, the palace looks okay and is actually quite stable, so it can be handled without too much trouble. The golden domes and the palm occasionally still come off, however, due to really only being connected with a few studs. The insides look a bit barren since there are not that many details and contrary to what you may think, this time it isn’t even to blame on my refusal to use stickers. There simply are none except for the purple flying carpet!

The Pieces

As mentioned earlier, this set offers a wealth of new pieces and recolors of existing pieces plus for me also simply a number of elements I did not yet have in my collection. The most apparent new addition is the huge 10 x 10 plate with the rounded end, a fusion of the classic 4 x 4 plates and a rectangular plate combined into a single solid element for enhanced stability. For sets targeted at children of a certain age this makes perfect sense and I’ve been critical of LEGO‘s approach to fragmented plates with insufficient stabilization (i.e. additional layers of plates and bricks) in Friends sets and such many times, anyway. Of course it’s a bit of a two-fer as well, as it’s not just a simplification of the assembly, but also a cost saving measure by not having to include more pieces and in the long run the cost for a new mold will pay off easily. The other piece in a similar vein is the 4 x 4 plate with the cropped corners, whose novelty (to me, anyway) I only realized when I tried to sort it into my stock and didn’t find a matching companion.

LEGO Disney, Jasmine and Mulan’s Adventure (43208), Pieces, Plates

The rounded pieces will not necessarily be “new” to many of you, but most of them so far have only been included in sets I never bought like various Harry Potter offerings where they are often used to build all those towers and spires.

LEGO Disney, Jasmine and Mulan’s Adventure (43208), Pieces, Round Elements

There’s a slew of other items as well and I didn’t even include the 6 x 2 arch in the photo because I only realized later that it’s the first time it comes in Dark Turquoise with this set. The brown “dinosaur tail” pieces are interesting in that I would have assumed the thin tip has been on the market for forever, but no, 2022 is indeed the first time it has been done in this color. The tapered curved stem, an element introduced last year, has previously been only done in Medium Azure (Raya and Sisu Dragon [43184]) and Olive Green (Gargantos Showdown [76205]). The rest is mostly “nice to have” stuff. One can never have enough gold decorations and color options.

LEGO Disney, Jasmine and Mulan’s Adventure (43208), Pieces, OthersLEGO Disney, Jasmine and Mulan’s Adventure (43208), Pieces, New PinA literally tiny thing that stands out is the new Technic pin with the half stud end and a friction notch (I enhanced the image to make it better visible). The blue and grey frictionless counterparts have existed and been used for forever, but annoyingly of course pretty much everything you attached to it would swivel around or just not sit as tightly as you would have wanted it, making them less than ideal in some situations. With this small enhancement things should now be much better.


Concluding Thoughts

Regrettably I cannot really recommend this set and that is not because of its design or technical merits. While it feels a bit bland and lifeless in many areas, the construction and execution of the set and its components is just fine and you get a more than acceptable play set that doesn’t even look that bad, all things considered.

However, all those efforts go to waste once you begin considering the price point. That’s where all good intentions fall apart and this becomes a real headscratcher in the “What were they thinking?” sense. The problem really is that even if you get this package for a reduced price during a sale, you potentially still pay way too much. There just is not enough “bang for the buck” here. And it’s not that LEGO couldn’t have done something about it. Aside from lowering the price, they just as well could have gone the opposite way and bolstered the content. A bigger shrine would have been nice as would have been for instance an extra, more fully formed palm tree on a separate “island” (round plate).

If you can get this offering for around 20 Euro, it might still be worth picking up, but otherwise I feel that every penny you pay on top diminishes the enjoyment you get out of this to being utterly frustrating if you have paid the full price.

Island Architecture – LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057)

It’s been ages since I last reviewed a LEGO Architecture set, which is not least of all related how few there are overall and this severely limiting the scope of what I might even be interested in. That and of course the ridiculous pricing of these packages. Only now that the Singapore (21057) skyline has come out I got interested in it again.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Box

As far as that goes, my knowledge of the actual location is limited to what you can see during the annual Formula 1 broadcasts and some documentaries, but my impression that on some level I might actually like to visit it. At the same time I’m not too sure about that “golden cage” thing with their very, very regulated daily life and strict rules for everything plus the tropical climate is probably also another thing you would have to get used to. Either way, there’s certainly some intriguing aspects to that big city/ island/ state all rolled into one.

Pricing and Contents

As already mentioned, I find the price point of the Architecture sets highly questionable. You pay a lot of money for a big pile of mostly 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 elements. Even if the result may turn out nice, after all, this always feels like LEGO are really milking it due to the adult target demographic for these sets. This is not much different for this outing with its 827 pieces at a whopping 60 Euro suggested retail price. It’s really no wonder they are breaking new revenue records every year.

Given this, it is even more advisable to look around for good discounts and this isn’t even my usual “I’m on a budget.” excuse. I really mean it when I say that you should really try and avoid paying full price. I got my package for 43 Euro during some Amazon promo, but even that still feels steep. Ideally this would sell for somewhere around 45 Euro MSRP, so it could come down to 35 Euro with discounts.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Overview, Front Side

One of the reasons why I’m so adamant about not paying too much here is the sheer audacity with which LEGO cheapened out here. For starters they didn’t use one of those nice foldable boxes with a lid as has been common for most Architecture sets, but rather a standard push-tab box as used in other series. This will of course limit the value of keeping it around, even more so if you damage it while attempting to crack it open.

The other thing why I’m more than slightly unforgiving of the hefty price is the rather generic nature of the content. Sure, there’s quite a few printed pieces, but except for the new 2 x 3 tile on the OCBC Centre they’re not exclusive to this set. The same goes for the recolored elements. In my opinion these items do not offset the cost enough to justify such a price, nice as their inclusion may be. Am I being to picky? Perhaps, yet I really feel the price/ value proposition is not the best, even if I got attracted by some of that in the first place.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Overview, Back Side

The Model

A glance at the model as a whole from a more human-sized eye level shows how crammed everything is. This is in a way true to the original, with space on an island being an expensive premium, but I feel it is not ideal to overstuff a smaller rendition of the same thing just as much. Everything looks rather distractingly noisy and is of course overshadowed by the behemoth that is the Marina Bay Sands hotel, not only a very large building in the general sense, but one of the world’s largest hotels indeed. Compared to it, most other buildings look tiny, including other skyscrapers and high-rises.

This becomes even more of an issue due to the base having been kept narrow to be in line with other models from this series. There’s no genuine depth here and especially the smaller elements don’t have much room to breathe. the geographical layout in the real world is apparently also quite different with individual buildings existing in different districts of the city quite a ways apart.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Overview, Ground Level Front View

With the Marina Bay Sands hotel dominating everything and drawing all the attention, we have to address the elephant in the room: The color of the windows/ glass front. This has caused quite some debate on the internet at large. Apparently at one point there was a predecessor to this set released as an exclusive only in Singapore that had them in the standard Trans Light Blue instead of Trans Dark Blue and it looked better. Was it correct, though? Probably not. This is a bit of a multi-layered problem, so here are my thoughts on it.

First you have to ask yourself how these windows look in reality. If you look up photos online, you can find a multitude of colors depending on the angle, time of day and other factors, making any interpretation as to what the actual color might be difficult. This is of course inevitable with the panels themselves being high-tech products sandwiched together from multiple layers of glass and foil and covered with special coatings to reflect UV and Infrared light to support rooms not getting too heated or their occupants suffering eye damage. In turn, the complex physical interactions cause huge shifts in how the color is perceived. A lot of that is also simply affected by the water surrounding the area reflecting in the windows.

The other problem is that the windows are directly built onto White bricks due to the constraints of the scale. This makes everything look shallow and lacking in depth. They would have to have chosen a completely approach to the construction of the model to put some dark plates underneath. Could they have done things differently beyond that? Yes and no. I tried to “fix” things by applying a few Satin Trans Black (Trans Black with the iridescent coating) tiles I had floating around in my stock, but it doesn’t really solve the problem, either. On the other hand I’m pretty confident that LEGO could have mitigated this somewhat by printing on additional fine horizontal lines in Silver or White. the point here would have been that this would have better represented the actual number of floors in the building and distracted from the studs underneath peeking through.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Marina Bay Sands, Front View

The back side of the hotel is covered in 1 x 2 modified grille tiles, which is an adequate representation of the window shades, balconies and protrusions, but similar to the front it looks rather flat due to being White on White. Apparently it’s less of an issue, though, since you’re not going to see it as often.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Marina Bay Sands, Back View

An interesting tidbit is hidden inside the hotel’s towers where some pistol handle pieces are creatively used to connect the front and back plates in order to reinforce the overall connection. To me this almost feels like an admission that in the end LEGO may need simple direction inverter pieces, after all. Most of their competitors have something along those lines and as e.g. the Mega Pok√©mon figures prove, it makes life so much easier and opens so much more options, especially in such tight and restricted spaces.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Marina Bay Sands, Insides

Moving on to the rest of the model, there is a selection of skyscrapers. I already mentioned the OCBC Centre and the tiles that come with it. These no doubt will be useful in the future to emulate all sorts of grates in situations where you can’t actually use other pieces to create them. Heck, this even could be used to simulate some basket weave on chairs and other furniture. There are also a ton of the newer 1 x 1 x 2 brackets, both in the up and down versions in this building along with some 1 x 1 x 1. They’re all in Tan, which is a new color for these pieces. They’re included out of sheer necessity or else it would be nearly impossible to build this just one brick thick overall.

Similarly a result of need are the new 1 x 4 x 1 rounded pieces on the edges, used here to connect the brackets and stabilize what otherwise would be a rather fragile stack of bricks. This piece will likely be very popular to simulate fake relief columns on facades and similar. The just released Real Madrid ‚Äď Santiago Bernab√©u Stadium (10299) also has 80 of them to simulate some exterior supports. On that note – this particular building is clipped onto the base at an angle only by ways of two actual clips, which makes it a rather wobbly connection. Most of the time it will look like it’s tipping in one direction or the other due to how thin it is nothing acting as a stopper.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Skyscrapers, Back View

The large white thing in the middle is supposed to represent One Raffles Place. This was easily the least satisfying build in the whole set as you essentially layer a ton of 1 x 2 and 1 x 1 plates in Trans Black for the windows which are then framed with a few white elements. It just felt tedious. Next to it is Lau Pa Sat, which if it wasn’t for the unique octagonal shape would be barely recognizable. This is clearly a case where LEGO would have needed to create a new piece to represent the spokes and roofs or just left it out. The Fullerton Hotel fares slightly better, though the similarities with the actual thing are not really recognizable, least of all by the uninitiated that never have seen it for real or researched it intensely. Again a case where they could just have done away with it.

Doing so would have freed up more space for the Gardens by the Bay, which thanks to their unique artificial trees and the way they are represented here adds some interest. With the other buildings out of the way they likely could have spread things out and even added some hint at the skywalk or added another building like the blossom-shaped ArtScience Museum.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Skyscrapers, Front View

The Boat Quay is represented by a bunch of tiny huts, which is okay, but if you didn’t look it up, you almost wouldn’t know what it’s supposed to be. The waterline is way too narrow and of course there is not a single boat or landing bridge to be seen anywhere. No doubt this is one of those quarters that would be bustling with activity throughout certain times of the day and might have deserved some more love. The nondescript building in the background is likely a reference to some of the living quarters outside downtown, but nobody really seems to know for certain. Anyway, be careful to pre-sort the printed bricks (also used on the Fullerton) to prevent things from looking crooked. There are ever so slight variations in each print that can disturb the pattern’s regularity.

LEGO Architecture, Singapore (21057), Boat Quay, Front View

On thing that has irked me are the “palms”. It’s just the same triple leaf piece we’ve seen so many times and at the very least I would have hoped for a color like Dark Green and perhaps a few more to really hint at the luscious tropical environment.


Concluding Thoughts

For fans and collectors of the series this set will be perfectly fine, but as an occasional buyer I feel somewhat unsatisfied. There’s just not much here that would compel me to keep the model around assembled, so I’m going to dismantle it and scalp it for parts. I’m not going to pretend that this wasn’t the plan, but I always leave room for sets to convince me otherwise. I still think the biggest issue is that they tried to cram in too much and in the process none of the elements present really shines, not least of all due to the Marina Bay Sands towering over everything. Perhaps they indeed should have just created a “Marina Bay Sands with Surroundings” package instead and foregone the other stuff…

Plant a Tree, Save the Planet? – LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707)

It’s been a minute since I last reviewed a LEGO Friends set and that has a lot to do with the rather atrocious “Magical Funfair” theme that just didn’t appeal to me both in terms of value for money and overall design aesthetic. The new early 2022 releases at least improve upon the latter, but not necessarily the former. It’s probably safe to say that unless it falls out of the sky for free, I won’t be reviewing a 150 Euro set like the Main Street Building (41704) and I’m not too certain about the Canal Houseboat (41702) and Friendship Tree House (41703), either, given that they have a lot of large compound parts like ship hulls and “tree” shells that I have no use for. Anyway, we’ll have top see how that goes, but for now let’s see what the Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707) does offer.

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Box

Price and Contents

Sadly, LEGO have become very greedy lately and the pandemic with its supply chain issues and high demand because everyone is at home has been playing into their hands. This is also manifest in this set.

A 30 Euro price tag for 336 pieces may not look that unusual at first, but you can tell just by looking at the official promo images or my overview shot that many of these are just either small 1 x 1 pieces or insignificant standard elements that can be had for cheap on Bricklink. Except for a few more special parts it could be scraped together from other sources relatively easy for almost the same price. Our German LEGO price comparison site Brickmerge states a part-out value of around 45 Euro and that pretty much can only be blamed on some parts exclusive to this set like the Medium Azure slopes and a few items only found in other expensive sets like the 3 x 3 cylinders used here for the flower pots from Bowser’s Airship (71391).

With that said, of course the whole package thankfully can be had much cheaper at your favorite retailer. I got mine for 20 Euro, representing a 30 % discount, but lately it has dropped as far as 17 Euro for a 43 % price cut. As usual I would definitely recommend to get it as cheaply as possible, but I don’t feel bad about what I spent. While it may not offer a large number of pieces, it builds into two reasonably large models

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Overview

The Glasshouse

The first build in the set is a glasshouse/ greenhouse in which the sprouts and saplings are grown until they can be planted in the wilderness. My problem here is that while it captures the feeling of such a building, the model is way, way, way too small to count as a professional operation. In fact this looks more like one of those greenhouses a hobbyist gardener would bash together from used doors and windows of dilapidated houses, something I remember well from my youth growing up in Eastern Germany where building supplies were always in short supply and people had to make do with what they could find.

The whole situation isn’t helped by how the plants are represented – a few vines and lots of large leaf-based builds just don’t give that sense of actual trees, but rather cabbage and flowers being pre-grown. That said, the greenhouse is nice in its own right, but for all intents and purposes this is more a conventional garden house than anything seriously to do with growing trees. On the bright side, this is the first time in a long while where the triple-split large window elements have become available in White again and the angled roof windows come with transparent glassing, not Trans Light Blue, so there’s that. If you need multiples of those, buying this set more than once certainly could be an option with the right discounts.

As they say “The lady comes apart” and the individual sub-assemblies can be placed separately for play such as they are. It doesn’t necessarily make that much sense, but is always a good option for the kids. That being said, the feeling that there should be more definitely lingers, in particular in terms of actual trees. There easily could have been another bit of soil with some tree stalks on it. This becomes even more apparent once you actually start to play with the two potted bushes/ trees to place them on the truck or elsewhere. This goes so far as the underlying plate assembly breaking up since the pots are also used as a structural element to hold the round plate and an extra 2 x 6 plate together. This is genuinely a major design flaw!

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Glasshouse, Separated Parts

The Truck

We’re seeing trucks a plenty across all of LEGO‘s series and this therefore could easily be just another one of them. However, no matter how tired this trope may be, this little truck feels fresh enough to be interesting. I in particular like the compact, short design which makes it look cute. It’s a bit too large in scale to truly count as one of those small utility trucks such companies or public service providers maintaining parks and such often have. This is even more obvious since this is supposed to be an electrical car and the engineering metrics don’t make sense then. Still, not the worst LEGO truck I’ve seen.

Despite its other qualities, the color scheme of the truck slightly bugs me. I get it – with Olivia being the main protagonist they had to have her color scheme somewhere in this set, but clearly there is an over-abundance of Medium Azure in Heartlake City due to this color being used by multiple girls and I feel that they could have changed up the formula here in the interest of presenting something fresh. In keeping with the ecological subject I think this would have been a wonderful opportunity to give us a Yellowish Green vehicle. My reasoning here is that many electrical cars have very fashionable colors to distinguish themselves from conventional fuel cars, anyway, plus the color would help to communicate what it is all about. Alternatively Bright Green would also have been nice, as many such companies and agencies purposely use it.

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Truck, Cockpit

One advantage of the oversized car is that both figures fit in it, further adding play value. The roof can easily be removed for full access. Now of course the short car has to have one disadvantage and that is that despite there being provision for two attachment points, not both flower pots can be loaded onto the cargo bed without getting in the way of each other or the small hydraulic crane interfering. The latter is also rather awkward to use and cannot be extended far enough for actual loading, so you may want to consider just leaving it off. Removing the crane would free up the one extra row of studs you’d need to move the jumper plate forward and then finally you could plug on both pots. This may have more play value for your child than clinging to the crane.

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Truck, Cargo Bed


Concluding Thoughts

The elephant in the room is of course a simple question: What does this set actually have to do with tree-planting? It seems LEGO intentionally mislabeled this set to cater for the zeitgeist of presenting an eco-friendly image. Only too bad that things aren’t that simple even if the package actually resembled what it promises. We can plant trees all we want, but it won’t save the planet without other measures alongside! This really kind of riles me up…

My personal peeves aside this is certainly a pretty decent set if you take it for what it is – an interesting spin on (professional) gardening and green keeping that just can’t quite decide what it wants to be. A larger greenhouse would have improved this massively and if you have the cash, I would definitely recommend to at least try and buy a second set to bash something together that has a little more space. Otherwise it’s just fine and has enough play value for the intended demographic.

Similarly, the truck is good, but still could have been better with minor changes and a different color scheme might even have attracted people that don’t buy Friends sets otherwise. It really feels like a missed opportunity to bring something new to the Heartlake community. So for better or worse this set is “just fine”, when it could have been really great…

Yellow Warning – A quick Analysis of LEGO’s new 2022 Color

It’s been a minute since I had an excuse to nerd out about LEGO colors, but with them just adding Neon Yellow to their line-up it’s time to talk. It’s not going to be an ultra deep exploration of everything and I’m just going to share a few thoughts, so don’t expect too much.

Getting the good Stuff – Set 60319

In order to even be able to talk about this new color of course I had to procure a set. It’s still early in the year 2022 and the pieces in these colors have not proliferated enough yet to be easily available on Bricklink or from LEGO‘s own Bricks & Pieces service. Therefore I ordered the Fire Rescue & Police Chase (60319) from the City line of products. It was cheap on Amazon and while certainly not the most exciting set out there, it looked okay for what I had in mind plus some potential for re-using its parts later.

LEGO City, Fire Rescue & Police Chase (60319), Box

The set is pretty much your run-off-the-mill variety and you have seen everything in it done a million times in as many combinations. That doesn’t mean that’s bad and for a theme aimed at being played with by younger kids there is certainly only so much you can experiment with, but it sure isn’t the most glorious aspect of LEGO.

The main attraction is the large fire truck, which is solid enough for some intensive play. The drone on its cargo bed feels a bit pointless in the sense that it just stinks of corporate-mandated “We need to have a drone because it’s hip!”. I’m sure even most kids would have preferred a utility rack or water tank in its place. the smaller black car is the escape vehicle used by the crook lady and while serviceable is still kind of terrible. It has large open areas and gaps, in particular around the mudguards and uses the bare minimum of parts to even hold together. I really thought I had forgotten to add some pieces underneath to cover the gaping holes, but no, there’s really nothing supposed to be there.

LEGO City, Fire Rescue & Police Chase (60319), Overview

In addition to the two cars there is of course a police motorbike. Thankfully it’s printed, so despite being otherwise just a standard model it doesn’t look that bland. The small building represents an electrical power conversion station as you would find it in many areas to branch distribution lines and convert high voltage into household electricity. The front shutter can be opened and there is a “fire” element on a swiveling hinge on the roof that you are supposed to “extinguish” by firing water splotches from the drone and tip it over. There#s also very conveniently a water hydrant nearby. the traffic light is mounted on a ratcheted hinge as well and can be “run over” if you so desire while playing out your gangster chase.

LEGO City, Fire Rescue & Police Chase (60319), Notable Elements

The set does not contain too many fancy parts aside from the obvious Neon Yellow recolors, but there are a few interesting highlights. There’s the already mentioned “splat/ splotch” pieces, basically a round 2 x 2 tile with some protrusions and here you get two in Trans Light Blue to simulate water. In a static setup you would use them as puddles most likely. Then there’s also a new cat mold, actually a kitten/ young cat version of the regular one. It’s super cute and actually more appropriate to minifigure scale in terms of size since the normal cats often more feel like lynxes or small mountain lions. Colored hair pieces are also nice to have and then of course inevitably there has to be a new fire helmet in the new color.

For the 20 Euro I paid for this set this feels okay and now two weeks later you can get it even cheaper, but you could definitely find other models that are more attractive. If I wasn’t in such a hurry to satiate my own curiosity I’d definitely have looked into other options, but at least I got a cute kitty out of it…

Analyzing the Color

The set mentioned above contains exactly three (!) 1 x 2 plates in the Neon Yellow color and I used one of them for my little analysis simply because it would be easy to use other such plates for comparisons. It’s pretty much the only LEGO piece that at one point or another was available in any color they ever did and thus lends itself for these types of articles.

The color in question is of course pretty much on everybody’s mind, given that it’s widely used on all manner of rescue and emergency vehicles. Technically it’s RAL 1026 Tageslichtgelb (Daylight Yellow) and its matching counterparts from other color standardization systems. It was unavoidable that one day it would make an appearance in LEGO‘s portfolio, it was just a question of when. Competing toy makers such as Playmobil have had it since forever. Now the real question in a versatile system such as LEGO bricks becomes how useful it would potentially be for other applications outside serving as a primary warning color.

Despite being called Neon Yellow this color has a slightly green-ish tinge which in the real world has something to do with how it is supposed to reflect light in specific ranges of the spectrum. A quick side-by-side comparison with the existing greens and yellows shows that it doesn’t really fit that well with the more regular colors and always sticks out. If at all, it looks the least obtrusive next to the pastel-y Bright Light Yellow and Yellowish Green.The foregone conclusion therefore would have to be that it will be extremely difficult to integrate elements into things like buildings or non-rescue cars unless they are intentionally supposed to be very bright and flamboyant. It’s more likely we’ll see this sprinkled in as the occasional decoration and highlight.

My lousy camera doesn’t do a good job of capturing the colors correctly due to its limited dynamic range, but the intensity of the color is affected massively by the light situation. Under intense light it really pops or even stings the eyes whereas under dusky/ overcast light it exposes a slightly translucent quality where it gets toned down quite a bit. This is also important to keep in mind in context with other colors and can be seen to some degree on the firetruck already. It’s shadowy side makes the color appear slightly duller and the Red seems to bleed into the other bricks. These perceptional phenomena need to be considered carefully similar to when I wrote my article about the Coral back then.

Neon Yellow, Color Comparison

While the Neon Yellow would be a strong contrast color to most others, there are a few where it is “harmonious” in terms of saturation and perceived brightness. Those are of course Coral and then also Bright Green, Dark Azure and Dark Pink. Dark Turquoise might also qualify to some degree, despite its own caveats and how it responds to different light situations. This is a rather abstract theoretical statement, naturally, as the practical integration would still be hugely affected by the ratio in which these colors are actually used. If you get into trouble, though, you should keep these colors in mind as they could be used to soften otherwise very harsh contrasts and can make things look more pleasant.

Availability

It would be an exaggeration to say that LEGO go out of their way to make the new color available, but they are introducing it on a rather broad basis with a good variety of pieces. There is a considerable number of City and Friends sets where bits and pieces are done in Neon Yellow. The problem however is that many of these new parts are not necessarily the most useful with many of them being wedge plates, brackets, lesser used brick types or large compound elements like a helicopter hull. On top of it the more regular elements are often only used very sparingly, with some sets only containing two of e.g. a 1 x 4 plate to barely cover what’s needed to represent pin stripes on a car. This is in particular limiting for MOC builders who at this point may not be able to find that particular piece they may need. This will of course improve rather quickly as more and more sets come out, but in the short term it could be difficult to source what you need.


Concluding Thoughts

New colors are always a good thing, but truth be told, despite it being sort of an inevitability based on the market, LEGO‘s competitors and the color being everywhere Neon Yellow would not have been my top priority. Using Bright Light Yellow as a stand-in substitute worked well enough and seemed to work well enough and kids couldn’t have cared less most likely. Most “serious” fans would simply have preferred other colors to be introduced or revived like the much-coveted Sand Red for architectural models or one of my personal pet peeves, a decent realistic plant green.

In the meantime we’ll most definitely be seeing the new color a lot, even when it’s only used on invisible elements inside the models for visual distinction in the building instructions. That’s all well, but I’m really hoping that we’ll be over that soon and LEGO have plans to give us other colors.

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. ūüôā 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.

Double the C – LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903)

I’m certainly not a completist when it comes to the Speed Champions set, but they continue to offer interesting build experiences, often unique parts and a rewarding result even if you are not a car aficionado per se such as is the case with me. So that’s why we’ll have a look at the LEGO Speed Champions Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), and yes that’s quite a mouthful. I’ll therefore keep referring to the cars in abbreviated form in this article.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), Box

Contents and Pricing

As I wrote in my most recent Speed Champions review, I’m rather fond of the single-pack editions for their good value-to-price ratio. The dual packs are another matter with them consisting of two sub-types, one being the equally cost-efficient regular version and the other some sort of ill-conceived “premium” package where you’re mostly paying for the licensed name such as the Lamborghini two pack. Thankfully this one here is in the first category where two models have been packed together for convenience and ease of distribution, not to milk the costumer, despite being an officially licensed GM product. It even has a fancy extra sticker with a holographic silver strip and a QR code on the box for verification.

This being a “goodness x 2” offering, the price is exactly in line with what you would pay for two single packages. At 40 Euro this starts out as very reasonable and even the discounts follow that logic with this set being widely available at around 30 Euro from many vendors. I got mine for 27 Euro on one of those evening flash sales on Amazon you cannot plan for and that you would just miss if you don’t happen to browse their pages or your favorite price guide exactly at those times. That really is a very satisfactory price and one cannot complain even a tiny bit about it for 512 pieces.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), Overview

The Minifigures

The minifigures for Speed Champions are usually not worth writing something specifically about, but the grumpy C8.R driver made me giggle, so I had to include an image here. Who knows what technical issue ruined his day?

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), Minifigures

Sticker Conundrum

I’m generally not great on stickers and even less so when they are not used sensibly. This is the case here, in particular for the classic 1968 Corvette for which the transparent sheet on the left is meant. I’m particularly irked by the two large tiles with the flag symbol because aside from the nonsense of having to paper over a large tile with an equally large sticker these two tiny car logos clearly would look better printed on directly and, which also is sort of a point, would have given the model a bit more of a “collectible” aura. The even larger sheet for the C8.R is more tolerable, with the only real cardinal sin being that they once again expect you to represent the headlights with two stickers split across two elements, but of course the fact remains that there should simply generally be more printed parts in these sets.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), Stickers

C8.R Race Car

The C8.R Corvette could be most recently seen in the 2021 Le Mans 24h race, though it had to give up only a few hours in due to technical difficulties. So my memory is still somewhat fresh and while I was aware of some of the flaws in the model beforehand, now these shortcomings and omissions feel even more painful.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Front Left View

The first thing that immediately springs to the eye is the car not being wide enough in the rear. Yes, this lady has a fat booty. This is not helped by the aft upper air intake being to flat, either. The LEGO model makes you believe that at best it is a small slit, but in actuality it’s quite bulged out. This is also an area where I feel the stickers won’t help to create the illusion, either. It really is a situation where the designers would have needed to add that half stud or even a full one in extra width on each side.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Aft Left View

Since doing so likely would have involved quite some jumper-based construction to transition between odd and even numbered stud layouts it potentially might also have resulted in a better representation of the fastback.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Aft Right View

The lower rear section with the exhaust pipe and the reinforced underside of the chassis looks quite odd in that it appears to stick out and stands off the main car body way too much, but according to images one can find on the Internet is pretty accurate. I guess it’s one of those aerodynamics things you really have to be a nerd about to fully appreciate the details.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Front Right View

The other critical detail they unfortunately got pretty much wrong is of course the pointed shark nose hood. It’s very distinct and impossible to miss, but totally absent here. Now the thing is that this may be yet another case where LEGO would have had to invent/ design a new piece because basically they do not have anything close to “a 15 degree angle with a bit of rounding”, but given that this is a scenario that actually comes up regularly not just with cars but also for instance aircraft and their wing leading edges it might have been worth to put in the resources. I bet such a piece would be quite popular for all sorts of MOCs if only it existed.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Front View

The cockpit is a very sparse affair, but then so it is on the real thing and once you add the tinted glass piece even less can be seen of the interior, so this is sufficient.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), C8.R, Detail Cockpit

Classic 1968 Corvette

The 1968 Corvette has become an icon and a classic in its own right and has long deserved its due, but I feel that this model more or less completely fails to re-create the magic. For its time the original had quite some complex curves and in my opinion the designers have been largely unsuccessful translating them into miniature form. On first sight you can kind of get away if you squint your eyes a bit, but once you delve into the details, you begin to realize more and more how wrong some things are.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Front Left View

Naturally, the thing that stands out the most is the completely wrong windshield. it has the wrong inclination, no curvature, not the typical tapering toward the roof and to cap it of (literally) LEGO did a very lazy job here by slapping on two 2 x 6 tiles with not a bit of corner rounding. The back window is also not great with the real point being that since they already use a 1 x 4 transparent brick as a structural element, the ramps could likely have been much better represented with this wedge plate mounted vertically.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Aft Left View

By now we all have gotten used to the sad reality the LEGO never (or no longer anymore, to be precise) does real chrome on their pieces, rarely ever metallic silver and even only for some elements Pearl Silver, and without endlessly debating the whys and hows I can accept that, but with this model I felt that hot needle in my head stinging me again with one tiny details: Yes, the rear lights really, really, really could have used that small ring of chrome to make them stand out from the rest of the car. Unlike my more specific gripes with other parts this should have been a no-brainer.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Aft Right View

On that note – and not trying to bore anyone – someone on Facebook showed a picture with custom chrome wheel hubs and it looked pretty rad, regardless. Just sayin’! ūüėČ The printed dishes are perfectly acceptable, though the probably should concave, not convex, i.e. mounted the other way around, to further the illusion of depth.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Front Right View

The cockpit interior is again full Black and while that may be correct and true to the original, I wish they had gone with a brighter color as you can see on some restored vintage cars with custom colors. Some Tan or Dark Tan for the covers and fake seats would have gone a long way to make this look a bit more friendly.

LEGO Speed Champions, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Race Car and 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (76903), 1968, Detail Cockpit


Concluding Thoughts

Both car models are serviceable, but regrettably not very accurate representations of their real counterparts. Especially the 1968 Corvette leaves a lot to be desired with many tiny flaws adding up and spoiling the look of the whole model. The C8.R fares slightly better, but overall ends up feeling very generic and too similar to other super cars in the series. It just as well could be a Ferrari, McLaren or even just a souped-up Audi or whatever you prefer. You would only be able to guess what it is supposed to be based on the stickers or when the differences become more apparent in a full line-up next to other Speed Champion models.

On a broader level they are just fine if you’re not obsessing too much about the details. It just feels to me that this is a bit of a missed opportunity. Had they gotten it right the 1968 Corvette alone would have compelled many people to buy the set and they could have re-issued it in a different color in two or three years and sold it just as often. In the current form people will be more hesitant and they’ll likely need to give it a major work-over should they want to bring it out again in the future.

As a way of killing some time and learning a few interesting building techniques I got something out of it and of course in particular the Dark Red pieces will come in handy one day. Many of them are new for this year, but not exclusive for this set, as we are kind of living in “The Year of Dark Red” with many pieces having been recolored in this shade for some Star Wars and Super Heroes sets already. For the right price there’s nothing wrong with that, but serious car fanatics will probably feel let down by this set and the lack of ultimate realism.