October Triangle – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, October 2020

Blue Ocean‘s release scheduling this year has really taken a hit, if not to say it sucks. they were still advertising September 12th as the release date in their other magazines when it was past that already and it became clear that the LEGO Star Wars magazine would be out only one week later.

Now these things happen – a print run may go wrong, distribution logistics may get stuck somewhere and all that – but this hasn’t been the first time. Worse yet, in a day and age where there’s Facebook and other social media and they have their own web site, too, they can’t manage to keep them updated in a timely fashion to inform customers. I certainly don’t need the unnecessary excitement and uncertainty of going to the news agent every other day and coming back empty-handed. Now that it’s here, though, let’s have a look at the October issue.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Cover

The main comic is weird. Aside from being utterly non-canonical, would anyone actually believe that Vader could not be recognized posing as an imperial officer? It’s not bad from a technical or stylistic viewpoint, mind you, just not a great story. The second, shorter comic is somehow of lesser quality and displays Luke‘s original X-Wing that isn’t even available as a LEGO model currently, while on another “info” page Poe Dameron‘s fighter is shown. Confuses me!

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Comic

There is extremely little in the mag in the way of activities and puzzles, with all of them being mazes/ labyrinths of sorts to find your way. It took me under three minutes to solve them in my head without even tracing the lines. Definitely underwhelming even if you account for a kid’s less developed spatial awareness and acuity.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Poster

The posters aren’t good, either. the one on the back has this weird Yoda silhouette with the characters peeking through and the front one, as displayed here, fails because someone went crazy with Photoshop‘s lightning filter. Kylo Ren‘s kintsugy-style repaired mask is of course iconic and I get what they were aiming for, but this once again looks like a sloppy intern job.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Extra LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Extra

The highlight of the issue and its saving grace is once more the buildable model, this time a Sith Eternal TIE Dagger. Fancy names aside, it is basically the TIE Fighter that never really was, because, as I wrote in my film review back then, it isn’t even that important or prominently featured in the The Rise of Skywalker movie. Further indication of its limited relevance is that there isn’t even a concept drawing/ cutaway in one of the The Art of Star Wars… books. It really feels like an afterthought with no rhyme or reason simply because they wanted something in their movie nobody had seen before, only to then relegate it to the background.

For comparison I took a snapshot of the small version with the bigger model from set 75272 that I won in this building contest a few months ago. The value of the small model lies in the new 4 x 2 and 6 x 4 wedge plates only recently introduced. I had the Medium Azure version of the smaller plates in this Speed Champion set already, but getting a bunch of black ones may turn out much more useful. I could see them being used as spires for towers or similar pointy, sharp stuff already.

Anyway, you get eight of the smaller plates (four left, four right) and two each of the larger ones, so this is a good basis and a simple way to obtain some examples just in case you might need them if like me you are not privy to having the big set (where there’s a ton of those plates, including the red versions of course).

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2020, Comparison

This issue is not great by any stretch of the imagination. It leaves a lot to be desired and even the model would be just the umpteenth micro scale TIE Fighter if it weren’t for the new parts. Perhaps I’m really getting too old and jaded, but it seems to me that they need to shake up the formula a little, even more so considering how many adults actually read the mag. The insistence on pretending this was primarily still for kids feels more and more out of alignment with reality to me…

Explorer-ing the Medieval – LEGO Explorer Magazine, October 2020

The Middle Ages are an integral part of our European history and castles and fortresses from all periods are scattered all across the landscape, so what could go wrong with a LEGO Explorer issue on the whole matter? As it turns out, quite a lot actually. So let’s dig into the October issue and have a look.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Cover

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: Given what I just said, this is of course going to rub quite a few people the wrong way. In an age where LEGO seems to have all but abandoned any knights or medieval theme, the whole notion of doing an entire mag on it, pretending there was plenty for people to dig in, just seems odd. You know, awakening hidden desires vs. the reality of the market. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envision the drama should your kid fall in love with one of the knight minifigures only to find out that the latest one was in the most recent Collectible Minifigures Series 20, sold out super fast and goes for 20 Euro or more on Bricklink. Not to speak of anything even older from the original Castle and Knights series. See what’s wrong with this picture?

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Poster

The content is pretty much all over the place in terms of geography and the different eras of the Dark Ages or for that matter even later times. This can only be forgiven under the assumption that little kids won’t care because they simply don’t understand the intricacies yet, but I feel a more focused effort would have helped. There’s no reason to throw in Schloss Neuschwanstein just because you have a good picture of it. It only adds to the confusion. It’s also utterly unnecessary, as it wouldn’t be difficult to draw up a very long list of castles in the area where I live alone or for that matter limited to Germany.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Heraldry

In the activities department there’s quite a few things to do. Aside from the typical knowledge quizzes and info pages there’s a noticeable emphasis on heraldry. Some of the symbolism and color usage is explained and then you are encouraged to design your own crest and flags. Still, I have ambiguous feelings about that as well, as some of that stuff doesn’t seem appropriate for the time period in question and on the other hand things like e.g. the Fleur de Lys that can be found as symbols on so many French flags and shields go mostly unmentioned. Sure, there are entire books about it and this is by no means meant to be comprehensive, but a broader approach to this wouldn’t have hurt.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Extras LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, October 2020, Extras

The included mini model is a piece of castle/ fortress with battlements and what could be the top section of a defense tower. There’s also a small finger-snap catapult to literally fling poop, rocks or fire at the castle to destroy it. It’s too finicky to have actual play value, but at least the poop piles/ sundae swirls in Reddish Brown are a nice addition. So far I only had White ones from the Disney sets I reviewed where they stand in for clam shells and that sort of thing. Generally the parts value in this little bag is excellent with the thirteen 1 x 1 slopes in Dark Tan, a number of 2 x 2 round bricks (macaroni) and some other parts, even more since they come in very usable “neutral” colors, i.e. mostly greys.

Overall the magazine simply feels overstuffed this time. It doesn’t really make sense trying to squeeze in so many topics spanning several centuries. Each of the different sub-genres could easily fill their own mag, be that medieval weapons, daily life, castles/ fortresses or heraldry. Don’t get me wrong – as far as keeping kids busy there’s enough here, it’s just that it feels too scattershot for a consistent experience. This diminishes its overall (educational) value and one would certainly hope they will revisit some of the subjects in the future with a more focused single-topic issue…

Boombox Mechanic – LEGO Hidden Side Magazine, September/ October 2020

With the death knell for LEGO Hidden Side not being that far off, I welcome every opportunity to explore the series while it lasts and the associated magazine, while certainly not the most attractive out of all the LEGO magazines, this month certainly has some welcome goodness.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, September/ October 2020, Cover

The September/ October 2020 issue comes with a very useful minifigure and an even more useful little extra and for once I was really looking forward to it, despite my not being much into collecting minifigs. The mechanic is a different version of the one also included in Jack’s Beach Buggy (70428) and by that I mean the body/ torso is the same and the head has been substituted for a simpler version. Since I bought two magazines this time, I was actually able to display the regular and the ghost version side by side in the same picture.

Now, why would I do such a thing? The answer is also already in the image – it’s all about the boombox. This particular version in Light Bluish Grey has only been included in a handful of sets, some of them pretty expensive ones, so it’s a bit elusive. Not in the crazy expensive and rare sense, just that it may not always be readily available in larger quantities. That’s why it’s nice to get it in such a straightforward manner. You never know when it might come in handy. After all, I outfitted my prize-winning MOC from last year with the orange version and it helps to bring across that beach vibe.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, September/ October 2020, Extras

With the mechanic and his boombox being front and center they of course have to be in the comic as well along with the already mentioned beach buggy and the Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000 (70423). that and then the buggy is featured on a separate product page as well. A bit too much promotion for such a small, unimportant set, if you ask me. Regardless, the comic is done well enough to derive some fun, even though it doesn’t introduce anything we haven’t seen before.

The posters are once more pretty terrible, with some fat ugly type having been overlaid on the already hyper-active, overstuffed Hidden Side art style. The puzzles/ mini-games follow the usual pattern of “Find person X!” and some random “Ghost Hunter Practice” stuff like pointing at some crosshairs with eyes closed, so nothing new there.

Overall the main reason for getting the magazine at this point is to complete your collection of minifigures from the series. The other stuff becomes less and less relevant for this “no future” magazine and who knows, the next issue for November/ December could already be the last.

Locked up Ghosts – LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435)

Regrettably, LEGO Hidden Side will come to an end later this here, so let’s have a look at some more sets from the second wave while there is still a chance. Today’s menu is the Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435).

Contents

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Box

This set is one of the few in my life and the series specifically where it didn’t need much of a second thought and that “Want! Want! Want!” urge was right there as soon as I saw some real photos of the set. I was immediately taken in by the fact that this would be a “realistic” model using naturalistic colors and, also somewhat unusual for Hidden Side, wasn’t plastered all over with those colored markers that the smartphone app latches on to.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Overview

The Minifigures

The minifigures aren’t that special. There’s of course for the millionth time Jack in his typical white sweater, only this time with an added separate hood piece for good measure. Similar to J.B., his smartphone also has a different screen print to further distinguish him from earlier editions. El Fuego is his standard skeletal from know from his stunt truck set and often depicted in the comic magazine.

That only leaves the prison guard and Rami as actual new figures. The guard is okay, but ultimately just feels like yet another LEGO City police officer, even more so since he doesn’t have any colleagues to support him. God forbid there’s ever a prison riot! Rami stands out the most with his Dark Cyan jacket and Blue T-shirt with the neon-style logo. As a bonus, he also comes with a Chihuahua dog. This little critter has only be rarely used at all in any sets and here it comes with a refined print for the eyes and nose to boot.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Minifigures

The Prison Building

Despite my wanting the set, one thing made me go “Not again!” and *facepalm* myself: Yupp, it’s easily apparent and one can’t dance around it, but this set, too, follows the flat facade/ triptych type overall layout not least of all dictated by the requirements for the Augmented Reality (AR) app and some ill-conceived notion of accessibility to the individual sections. The consolation here is,however, that for all intents and purposes a prison is an enclosed facility and the idea of the cell blocks framing the yard makes sense.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Front View, Closed

The center section very prominently features a big hunking door constructed from the same piece used on the Ninjago play cabinets earlier this year, just in a different color. I’m sure we’re going to see this part being used quite a bit in the future, as it would be useful for anything from thick, reinforced bank vault doors to serving as a loading trough on a truck.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Front View, Open

The actual cells for the inmates open by ways of a custom-built sliding mechanism. Since they are based on the four studs wide fence element, there is ample room to move your minifigures through the opening when slid back. Those fence elements are done in Dark Pearl Grey for the first time here, by the way, which makes them super useful and highly desirable for custom builds. The same goes for the horizontal O-type bars used on the roof. Even better, you get eight and ten of each element, respectively, so even if you only buy one set, you have quite some good start count to work with.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Front View, Monster Transformation

The monster transformation is okay, I guess, but nothing to write home about. As always I didn’t use the stickers, so the eyes are missing, but I feel even if they were there they wouldn’t add much. It’s just not scary and the space in the surveillance towers could probably have been used better for adding some more small details. They also at the very least could have thrown in a bunch of chains in Trans Neon Green to put up as decoration.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Left Watch Tower, Front View LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Left Watch Tower, Back View

The towers are kept quite simple, being based on the old octagonal castle pieces. The left section has a basketball hoop and someone even left the ball laying on the ground, which makes for a lovely touch. It begs the question, though, how long ago the prison was actually abandoned. If kids are still playing there, it again can’t be that scary.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Right Watch Tower, Front View LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Right Watch Tower, Back View

The right tower is your typical elevated platform with a roof on it, but otherwise feels a bit barebones. They could easily have added some details like a loudspeaker/ megaphone and if the monster claws weren’t there, there would be room for a weapons locker with stun guns and a ladder or something to that effect.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Center Section, Back View

The center section is either the guards’ holding area or a community room/ shared facilities for the inmates. I couldn’t quite figure out which it is supposed to be, but either would be appropriate. The toilet even has a small gag in that a transparent yellow 1 x 1 tile hints that someone forgot to flush after taking a pee. I’m not sure, though, if Lavender toilet paper would be appropriate. 😉


Concluding Thoughts

All things considered, I like this set very much. It looks the part and I thoroughly enjoyed building it. The parts are very, very useful for custom builds, so despite being very cost-aware it isn’t really worth opening a discussion about it. Getting it for 30 Euro sure made things easier, but I’d have bought it for its full prize at 40 Euro eventually as well. This is in fact one of the few sets where I’m seriously considering getting it more than once and might rebuild it as a bigger version one day. In any case, if you have similar thoughts, you should definitely hurry up securing your copy before it’s going to disappear from the market. I highly recommend it.

September Rabbit Escape!

In these weird times it is even more regrettable that the LEGO Friends magazine only comes out every other month here in Germany, so it feels like a small eternity since when the last one arrived end of June now that the September issue is here.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Cover

This one weirdly enough is centered around the literal “rabbit out of your hat” theme, with cylinders and rabbits being front and center everywhere such as a quiz on rabbits, the comic and even one of the posters. That doesn’t change the fact that the Friends magazine is seriously falling behind in graphical fidelity compared to the other magazines. Next to those it really looks like it’s from the 1990s.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Rabbits Quiz

On a positive note, in addition to the now standard coloring page in the mag they also make good use of the back cover and include a cut & glue template for a magical cylinder. This certainly adds some value in the activities department and could make for a lovely afternoon with your little ones.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Back Page LEGO Magazine, Friends, September/ October 2020, Buildable Extra

The buildable extra represents a small magician stage also appearing in the comic. It’s nothing too fancy, but done well enough. Interestingly, while I figured the 1 x 2 x 2 slopes in Dark Purple would have been abundantly used in Friends sets, this isn’t actually the case. They are currently only part of two official sets, with all other uses dating much further back. They are not exactly rare, though, but it’s nice to get them this way without much ado. You never know when you might need them.

Despite the unusual subject, this feels like an acceptable issue and offers good enough value overall with the cutout cylinder taking the cake. Perhaps that’s even worth an excursion to the crafts shop to pick up some glittery stuff and build a bigger version and a magic wand from a wooden spoon to boot…

Yellow Deep Dive – LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264)

From what it looks like, this is going to be the last day of the heat wave that has been making my life miserable those last three weeks, so it’s time to sit down and finally write this little review for the LEGO City Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264).

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Box

This is one of those “Maybe/ perhaps/ possibly some day” sets, that had me pondering a purchasing decision back and forth for quite a while. The reason is of course that that are some interesting things in this set, but I’ve never been greatly into City to begin with and, let me spell that out right away, the set overall looks somewhat bland despite being actually reasonably filled with stuff.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Overview

A major contributing factor for my hesitance was the price. We all know that LEGO has this weird piece count x 10 Cent logic and I can acknowledge that there are a few large pieces in here that may cost a tiny bit more to produce, but overall 30 Euro just didn’t feel right. It’s too mundane and ordinary to make me go “I’m going to accept a small surcharge for the coolness factor.”. So ultimately I once more waited for the price to drop below that magic 20 Euro threshold and only then jumped on to it.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Minifigures

The minifigures aren’t much to write home about. For a play-centric series like City they are okay, but have very little collector’s value. It’s not that they’re bad, just not in any way outstanding. The Sand Blue and Dark Red combo for the regular guys is pretty common and even the divers literally feel like what they appear – astronauts that took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up underwater. As they say, this is neither here nor there, as for a genuine diving expedition at the depths presented here they would have to be hard shell pressurized suits, not those semi-dry industrial diving suits.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Grotto, Front Left View Moving on, the reason for this becomes easily apparent: The species of Angler Fish depicted in this set typically live way beyond the 200 meter deep ranges any mainstream diving suit would withstand, hence you likely wouldn’t encounter them on a normal expedition, let alone a casual scuba dive. So basically the set gets this aspect completely wrong.

The fish itself is of course one of the main attractions of the set. I was surprised how large it actually is – almost the height of a minifigure. The overall proportions and anatomy are recognizable, but the lantern whip is kind of in the wrong place. It should be above the mouth/ on the forehead and point backward.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Grotto, Front Right View

As much as I wanted the fish, I always had serious doubts about the coloration and those weren’t alleviated now that I have the set. I do get why they opted for a “glow in the dark” effect along with the Lime Green, but ultimately the result is to limited to really warrant that choice. Therefore it seems more conventional colors would have been better. Since this is dual molded, it may not have been possible to make it fully transparent (Trans Black) like many of the real deep sea fish are without exposing the mold edges, but I could have totally gone for Dark Bluish Grey with Trans Neon Orange or Trans Neon Green teeth, fins and eyes.

The cove/ cave/ grotto or whatever may be the correct term is just a run-off-the mill small rock build with nothing specific to it. It looks nice enough, but clearly could have benefited from some more love. Most disappointingly it would and should have been easy to include a pack of the mini fish and creatures introduced for the animal rescue Friends sets one year ago. This would have enlivened the whole scene, small as it may be and having this pack of extra in another color would just have been cool.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Grotto, Back View Another shortcoming that tickles the engineering half of my brain in all the wrong ways is the flimsy mechanism meant to pull the fish back and forth. It’s not so much that it exists at all, but seriously, just locking in the transparent liftarm with only a single plate? It just wobbles around and is more or less useless. If you hand this to your kids, I would recommend you just leave it off and let them hold the fish directly.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Submarine, Aft Left View

The bulk of the set, not in terms of the number of pieces, but overall volume, goes into the exploration submarine. The build captures the typical overall structure and appearance of these vehicles quite nicely – ballast tanks that could also double as skids to sit on the ocean floor, the actual pressure cell, the large float/ stabilization tank(s) on the top (filled with fluids so they don’t collapse under the exterior pressure), the omnidirectional propellers, the robotic manipulator arms, the large bubble window. They even included a small underwater sled for the drivers to hold on to. It’s just that it looks all way too perfect and smooth.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Submarine, Aft Left View with Diver Sled LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Diver Sled Ultimately that is the biggest failing of this set: everything looks so pristine like it has never actually been used. Now of course this is a play set for kids and considerations for simplicity, stability, ease of assembly and so on may take precedence, but it honestly shouldn’t have been too difficult to integrate some greebly stuff.

Those vehicles get repaired all the time and modified on the spot to optimize them for a given task, so they show some wear, have extra rails and ropes bolted on, may carry additional exterior air supplies, lighting rigs or specialized sensor buoys. There’s just so much they could have added. Even something simple like replacing one of the Yellow window frames with a Dark Orange one to indicate a replaced segment that simply wasn’t painted yet along with boarding up the window with an opaque insert might have added just that bit of interest and still would be perfectly safe.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Submarine, Aft Right View

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Submarine, Front View

The lack of details unfortunately also extends to the interior. The cockpit doesn’t even have a single printed panel, only the secondary radar operator has something to show for. Again, this is another case of where it would have been easy to add a few SNOT bricks or brackets and plug on some printed tiles at least.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Submarine, Top View Open

On a more positive note, this set has one good thing going for it: It brings back the Yellow 1 x 6 x 2 arch, which until not so long ago was quite rare. I mentioned this in the review for the Winter Village Station (10259). So if you were ever keen on building just the yellow bus or for that matter a school bus or here in Germany an old-fashioned postal truck this set would be a good basis, even more so since it also includes the two large hood pieces and also two of the roof wedge pieces.

LEGO City, Ocean Exploration Submarine (60264), Submarine, Roof Insert

As should have become clear, I’m far from in love with this set. It is okay as a play set for your kids and I certainly got my value out of it from the parts, but at the end of the day this is a very sub-par set. The irony here is that it would be just fine if LEGO had concocted this as a 20 Euro set of their own, but it is unworthy of a NatGEO collaboration. It literally reeks of those cheap licensing deals where nobody cares beyond just slapping on the logo. Simply disappointing.

The First Avenger(s)

Full disclosure: I honestly don’t care much for comic hero movies or for that matter the original comics themselves for a million reasons, so take everything I’m going to say about the first issue of the LEGO Marvel Avengers magazine with a grain of salt.

LEGO Magazine, Avengers, September 2020, Cover

Being blissfully ignorant of most of the Marvel movies of course I cannot say much about the merits of the story and lore in this one. I literally just bought it out of curiosity because it’s fresh on the market and I wanted to see how it holds up. The comic seems to be drawn well enough and allegedly it’s a unique story, but I’m totally clueless as to whether there’s any truth to that claim.

Outside that this one follows the same pattern as the other LEGO magazines from Blue Ocean. There’s some puzzles, some “hero profile” pages and a few other little tidbits to keep kids occupied. The posters are at best mediocre, with the Spiderman vs. Venom one being at least bearable. The Avengers one is a complete fail, though, in my view. I still don’t understand why they go through all the trouble of drawing those comics and then don’t use all that graphical fidelity to their advantage on the posters as well.

LEGO Magazine, Avengers, September 2020, Comic

The real value of this magazine is the minifigure. Well, strike that. The actual value are the extra web parts. I don’t have any of them yet and they even included the new angled posing stud. Yippee! This all will sure come in handy if and when I should ever build some old house covered in cob webs or similar. Other than that I guess the Spiderman figure is okay, though it appears the most basic one that they probably have used in a ton of sets.

LEGO Magazine, Avengers, September 2020, Minifigure

With all that said, I don’t quite know whether I’ll be buying this regularly. I suppose it will depend on the extra value I get out of the minifigures and the parts that come with them or whatever they plan on including in the future. It seems an almost sure bet, though, that this will be hugely popular with little superhero nerd kids, which at the end of the day all of them are on some level. So I guess it’s okay to buy this then.

Is it a Dream or a Nightmare? – Trolls World Tour Pop Village Celebration (41255)

I’ll admit that when I first heard about the Trolls World Tour sets I was quick to dismiss them as a cheap marketing ploy based on yet another average animated movie. I make no bones about it, because of course on some level always true. One of the primary reasons for most such movies even existing is to cash in with toys, printed T-shirts and other merchandise. However, despite considering myself mostly resilient to such cheap and obvious schemes, the inclusion of LEGO adds another level and after long pondering I gave in to my own curiosity and bought the Pop Village Celebration (41255) set when it was cheap.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Box

Aside from the trailer I have zero understanding of the movie. Apparently the planned release here in Germany fully coincided with the height of the first Corona virus wave and the ensuing lockdown, so it never got released theatrically. Unlike in the US it also never developed into a secret sleeper hit on streaming services, meaning there’s really little information on it everywhere. And I don’t have Netflix, also, so forgive me if I’m flying a bit blind on this.

The one advantage that the relative obscurity of the movie offers is that the sets themselves are realtively cheap to have because they otherwise would barely even sell. Don’t get me wrong – I think they were seriously overpriced to begin with and might not have sold this great even if the movie had seen its proper marketing push. This particular set isn’t even the worst offender with its suggested price of 50 Euro, but regardless, despite getting a relatively large model out of it, paying 35 Euro or less for what ultimately amounts to a very simplistic build feels much better.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Overview

The content of the box is what I would cautiously call adequate, but it’s not great value. true, there are a few larger parts, some printed parts, some very unique figures and the new exclusive bubble pods, but at the end of the day you get limited LEGO value out of it. A lot of these items created exclusively for this series feel more like they belong in the hands of other toy manufacturers. You know, like some of the things LEGO did in the early 2000s and late 1990 where you end up wondering “What? They really did that?”.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Minifigures

The figures in these sets are quite removed from the traditional minifigure designs with especially the Trolls type heads and associated hair pieces sticking out. It would be quite tricky to get them affixed to regular figures. However, I’m pretty sure that in particular some of the hair pieces will make a reappearance in other sets as regular parts for the simple reason that they fit on what equates a 2 x 2 round brick or plate.

The Medium Lavender and White pieces shown in the picture would be fantastic tree stumps or small volcanos when done in other colors and similarly Poppy’s hair (the Magenta one) could serve as a basis for all sorts of plants. Hopefully LEGO realize that potential. Aside from that, some of the figure parts could be interesting for people who are into creating custom figures. Some of the colors used here are extremely rare and hard to find elsewhere.

On that note: Bricklink prices for these figs are insane. It seems not too many people have bought the sets or they are in short supply for other reasons. Should you have a genuine interest in these figures as a collector or your kids bug you about them, seriously consider just buying the sets. It would be a lot cheaper and selling off the parts could rake in some additional cash.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Extras

There are two super, super simple extra builds in the set with one being a baking oven and the other a cart/ mobile DJ booth for Tiny Diamond, the baby-sized transparent little dude in from the figures. The latter, like the figures themselves, is decorated with elements from a dedicated set specifically developed for this series. This includes the musical notes, some baking utensils and hair add-ons and comes in different colors across different sets. I’m pretty sure, though, that now that it exists it will be used prominently elsewhere as well.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Front View with Bubble Pods

The main build is some sort of house, which could also be a hollowed out tree stem or plant. Not having seen the movie I honestly can’t say. It comes with two pear-shaped bubble pods that no doubt have some specific role in the film, but otherwise are probably just part of the normal living homes. The first image also exposes one major design flaw right away – the darker pod is drooping way too much and almost falling off its stalk.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Front Left View

The answer to this issue is easily apparent – everything is just attached with a single pin hole which inevitably will cause the dino tail element and the trunk piece to follow the simple laws of physics, meaning the sheer weight of the pod and gravity will exert forces that turn the whole affair in the pin hole and then everything begins to slump. If you are careful you can stop the pod just shy off the end of the trunk part, but it still falls off at the slightest touch.

Funny enough, the issue doesn’t appear on the right-hand side of the model, where a different type of tail piece has been used, which by it’s nature isn’t as prone to rotating on its own even under weight. in any case, I feel that both are still not ideal. They are simply delicate and not ideal for a kids toy. A more conventional construction using e.g. arch elements might have been more robust and less troublesome.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Front Right View

At first I was rather skeptical about the build using those large quarter cylinder pieces in Dark Cyan for the main construction. However, once finished, it’s surprisingly sturdy. Getting there on the other hand is a different story. I found the build extremely tedious and unsatisfying. In their raw state many sections of the model are pretty unstable until you cap them off with plates, arches and long bricks. This in itself is always a challenge as you have to connect the correct studs and exerting too much pressure has the risk of breaking things apart again. It’s definitely not my preferred way of building.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Back Left View

The other thing that makes the assembly process kinda boring is that there is essentially only two types of pieces: Very large ones and then in the opposite, very small ones like the 1 x 1 elements used to decorate the stage or fasten the leaves and ropes/ vines. You never find a good flow. Had I applied the stickers, the interruptions would have bothered me even more.

Thankfully there are at least a few printed elements and those look interesting in their own right with their funny faces and big mouths. I’m just wondering why LEGO didn’t go the full mile and printed everything. This set is aimed at relatively young children and while it’s not labeled as a 4+ model, it sure feels this way. As you know, in that series everything is printed from smallest details to big building walls, so why not do it here? Especially the big “weather wheel” should have been easy enough as a perfectly smooth flat piece. Who knows, had they printed it, they could even have used a more elaborate design?

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Back Right View

I’m also puzzled by the odd felt elements. This to me feels neither here nor there. Why introduce a new material when you’re only using it so sparingly? Even just by watching the trailer you realize that those fuzzy and furry materials are used massively in the movie. Point in case: Probably every plant and flower should be made from a textile material or in reverse, not a single one of them and it’s all plastic. To put it bluntly: It feels half-assed.

This is even more the case since it’s cheap industrial synthetic material. There may be safety, hygiene and manufacturing considerations at play here, but using natural wool would at least have had a warmer touch and communicated a different message. And it’s not that this would have made the set unaffordably expensive…

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Bubble Pods

The bubble pods are actually very limited. They look nice, but there’s just not enough to do with them. Originally I thought they were meant as some sort of storage for the kids to take their figures with them on trips, but there’s no specific provision for any of that. You would have to throw out the few details built into them and use the studs on the new 2 x 6 brackets at the bottom to plug your figures on.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Bubble Pod A

One of the pods has a musical jukebox and some accessories whereas the other serves as a sleeping room with a bed for Guy Diamond and the throne-like mini stage for Tiny Diamond. At least that’s what i figured it is supposed to represent.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Bubble Pod B

Since I typically dismantle my models after a short while because I simply don’t have enough room to keep them around forever, I didn’t quite know what to do with the pods. They are bulky and can’t be used for much else, but lucky enough, inspiration struck and I turned one of them into a “glow worm swarm” type of light for my nightstand using a simply battery-based LED light chain as you can find them in many crafting/ home decoration stores. It works quite well and gives just off the right amount of light when you wake up in the middle of the night and need just that bit of light, but not too much to hurt your eyes.

LEGO Trolls World Tour, Pop Village Celebration (41255), Bubble Pod Lamp

So what’s the overall verdict? If you or your little ones are a fan of the movie, then there is certainly some value in the figures and overall model. As a generic play set for kids who haven’t seen the film I can’t see the value, however. Even the main house is ultimately just another storage option for the creatures and beyond that there is little to play with. It looks nice and is stable, but that’s where it ends.

I’m in fact pretty sure you could get an even better deal from another toy manufacturer who is also a licensee for Trolls at much lower cost. Aside from the special figures there’s just not enough here to warrant an investment. For adults this is even more useless as there is little to gain here in terms of valuable rare parts or any such thing that occasionally might want you to consider some off-beat set.

I satisfied my own curiosity with this set, but there is no reason to take this any further. It’s kind of sad, as I could see the potential for such a colorful, sprawling world and I’d likely love it, but overall it’s pretty lackluster and would need a lot more attention to detail to really turn this into something. Disappointing as it may be, ultimately Trolls World Tour can’t break out of this license dump corner, so my initial fears weren’t entirely unwarranted.

Baby Alarm – Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421) and Dr. Wu’s Laboratory – Baby Dinosaurs Breakout (75939)

One of my more specific obsessions with LEGO is that I try to get my hands on as many of the molded animals as I possibly can. Unfortunately the company has the bad habit of putting many of the coolest creatures, be that mammoths, dinosaurs, sharks, polar bears or whatever in rather expensive sets. It’s of course just a sales tactic, but it’s not particularly nice of them, even more so since it means that those animals remain costly even on the secondary market such as Bricklink. So I have to make do with what I can afford and lucky enough, there’s some interesting sets this year with the LEGO Friends Jungle Rescue series and also some new molds for LEGO Jurassic World.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Box

First let’s have a look at the Friends Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421). This is the first set I was actually able to procure because due to the Corona virus crisis product availability for these new releases still isn’t that great, especially when you need to keep an eye on the price. At a regular price of 20 Euro it’s not entirely out of reach, but the typical discounts make this effectively a 15 Euro set, which is even better. For that it’s pretty good, actually. I can tell you that beforehand.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Overview

The main attraction is of course the little blue baby elephant. Some people have complained about it not being grey, but hey, it’s Friends we’re talking about! The Bright Light Blue isn’t that bad, especially when you consider that the mother and sister elephant in the Jungle Rescue Base (41424) are Medium Blue and Lavender, respectively. There’s really no reason to get wound up over this. For me it’s also a bit of a funny coincidence in that it reminds me of some elephants in video games I used to play in the 1990s that similarly used such colors, not “realistic” greys.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Baby Elephant

In the play fantasy of the set the little unlucky elephant is supposed to be caught in a mud puddle somewhere in the jungle under a tree. This is displayed in the main scenery piece. Rather untypical for Friends sets it’s actually executed reasonably well and very usable. It’s also looking nice enough.

The mud is represented by some Dark Tan bricks of different types forming a tray in which a panel is sliding upon some tiles. You’re meant to put the elephant on this contraption and then literally pull it out. The one weak spot here is that the panel itself isn’t locked into place by rails or similar and thus falls out of its position easily. This gets a bit annoying over time and would have been easily avoidable with some extra elements.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Tree, Front Left View

On that same not, a few bricks more would have helped to avoid this feeling of things only being half finished. The many exposed studs on the mud and the tree give the impression that they had to stop to not stretch the brick allotment budget at the cost of things being not fixated as firmly as they possibly might have been. E.g. the Lime Green bamboo stalk element is easy to break of accidentally. It seems to obvious me that they could have clamped it into place with another curved slope on top.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Tree, Front Right View

As I said, the tree is small, but fleshed out enough to convey that idea. Still, I feel that that one extra branch could have been added on top with an arch element. that might also have allowed to add a web for the spider or include a second one. Another idea might have been to include a parrot, a small bird or a nest to cover the top.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Tree, Back Side View

While the front is structured reasonably, the back side is rather plain. The Dark Orange studs are alternate positions for the spider, by the way, but sure enough could have been used for something else.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Vehicle, Front Left View

The rescue vehicle is your standard run-off-the-mill Friends car with the necessary modifications and variations to fit this particular set. It literally has been done a million times and at this point is nothing special. For me it would have made more sense if they had created a somewhat larger pick-up truck with a sufficiently large platform and an actual hoist.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Vehicle, Aft Left View LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Vehicle, Aft Right View LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Vehicle, Front Right View

Moving on, the other set is Dr. Wu’s Laboratory – Baby Dinosaurs Breakout (75939). It’s in the same price range as the Friends set, so no extra comments on that. The same rules apply.

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Box

In addition to the two bay dinosaurs the set comes with two minifigures – Dr. Wu and Owen Grady – plus a sizable chunk of lab equipment. The latter often feels like thrown on after the fact, that is it gives the impression of having been constructed around the dinosaurs to bulk up the content of the box, not organically create an environment for the little tykes. It seems they wanted to do the baby dinos, but didn’t quite know what to do with them once the decision was made to create the new molds.

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Overview

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Baby Dinos, Left View

You heard that right, both of the creatures are completely new creations just for this set. I’m pretty sure, though, that we’ll get them in different  colors in other sets down from here on.

 

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Baby Dinos, Right View

The baby Triceratops would of course mix well with its “parent” in Triceratops Rampage (75937).The Ankylosaurus isn’t an orphan child, either and finds its mom or dad in House of Gyrospheres (75941). This is insofar remarkable as the big version is also a completely new mold debuting in this particular set.

 

As a small side build there’s a lab table, which to me is actually a bit macabre. With its inverted slopes on the underside and the white “ceramic” tiles on top it more looks like a section table in a pathology lab. On the bright side, they included the transparent orange brick with the mosquito amber print, which is a new item and highly desirable as a decoration piece, not just for this dinosaur stuff.

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Table, Right View LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Table, Left View

As I wrote already, the lab itself looks kinda *meh*. In my case it looks even more bland because I never use the stickers, yet the set relies heavily on them to represent large computer/ video screens. That’s perhaps my biggest peeve here – they could at least have included one of the screens as an actual print to spice things up. More generally speaking, that’s also the one thing I feel is missing – just one more small extra. I could for instance also have gone for eggs in Light Bluish Grey with brown speckles. that would have been pretty awesome!

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Lab, Front View

Things don’t look much better from the back side, further seemingly reinforcing my point of this being mostly an afterthought.

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Lab, Back Side View

Overall both sets are what they are – meant to sell the animals with everything around them being just a “free” extra. The Friends one surprisingly manages to fare much, much better in terms of actual usefulness and play value. The Jurassic World set on the other set would be rather disposable if it wasn’t the only way to get the new dino babies. It’s very forgettable, but hey, at least some new Dark Blue parts for my collection….! The consolation here is that the animals are executed superbly, so I don’t mind the rest being mediocre.

Green Goblin Speeder – LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434)

For someone who doesn’t know much about cars I sure do write a lot about this type of sets here on my blog, so here we go again with the Supernatural Race Car (70434) from this year’s summer wave of Hidden Side sets.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Box

In my view Hidden Side as a series has more or less tanked and is doomed to be cancelled/ not extended pretty soon. The reasons for this are glaringly obvious, but suffice it to say that the lack of advancement in the world-building and a lot of pretty lackluster sets haven’t helped. It’s still being sold with massive discounts left and right, which of course is nice for me, but speaks volumes about how little consumer adoption and demand there may be. So I’m mostly enjoying it while it lasts and I’m raisin-picking the sets I think will benefit me, or more specifically my parts stock, the most.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Overview

Choosing this particular model was primarily driven by the Dark Green parts and I also thought the the faux white-wall tires looked kind of cool, with another contributing factor being that oddly enough I never even had the narrower rim type used for the front wheels in the first place, regardless in which color. There are some other, less visible useful details, but more on that later. Unusually for me I also liked the minifigures, well, some of them, which is unfortunately yet another point LEGO don’t seem to understand and exploit to their advantage.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Figures

Specifically I liked the leftmost character called Vaughn Geist, an all too apparent word play on van Geist. It’s color scheme with the different brown tones and the overall apparel style would wonderfully fit into a Steampunk inspired setting once you replace the head, a quality shared by several of the “ghost” figures across the Hidden Side sets.

The helmet of the Shadow Hunter in the middle will please knights fans, no doubt, as it was last used in some Nexo Knights sets. Similarly, the Uruk-hai sword has only recently seen a renaissance in Ninjago and as a Knights of Ren sword in Star Wars, so it’s definitely a nice addition. If nothing else, it could mean that prices on Bricklink will drop and you can complete your old Lord of the Rings sets more cost-efficiently.

Jack is pretty much his old self, but at least they gave him a new screen design for the smartphone tile.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Front Left View

The main model itself draws inspiration from an American Hot Rod/ custom car not quite unlike my own humble attempt. It’s designed as one of those compressed, very low suspension type of cars hugging the race track. It manages to convey the idea well enough, but falls short in execution. I’m particularly disappointed that not more effort was put in in actually covering the rear section.

The thing is that I know such cars with their innards exposed exist to show off that expensive carbon fiber undercarriage for instance, it just doesn’t look convincing here. You guessed it – LEGO are essentially screwing themselves by leaving all those grey and brown bits exposed, making for a rather unattractive posterior. If at least they had matched up the colors…

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Aft Left View

The rear section also falls short in terms of construction in what I consider a critical area. The wheels are supposed to double as some kind of anti-gravity hover pads as seen in some science fiction movies and thus are attached on a hinge mechanism. So far, so good. Where things fall apart, however, is the way it’s implemented. Instead of using a proper double-beam suspension it’s built in a way that the stoppers of the axles on which the wheels are affixed simply butt against the car’s body.

In the front this isn’t as critical because there’s a pretend drive shaft poking out of the motor and it fits perfectly, but in the aft it makes me go *grmpf*. You could argue that “Whatever works, works!” and clearly kids won’t mind, but I see trouble. In the long run the areas where the two parts are in contact will show a white circle/ dot on the green shield due to the  microfractures from the pressure and eventually the pieces may crack completely or at least fall off because they have lost their clutch power. Point in case: It’s only clever as a quick, immediate solution, but the designer didn’t consider the repercussions for later.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Aft Right View

As usual the set ties in with the Hidden Side Augmented Reality (AR) game on mobile devices and to that effect features a bunch of colored markers that trigger the various ghost and Gloom interactions. The selector wheel on the back is commonplace and exists in the cylindrical form shown here or its flat, disc-shaped pendant on pretty much every model, but in addition there’s a Magenta marker on the inside of the roof. there’s also additional Medium Azure markers on the sides.

These got me excited a bit. As you well know I never use stickers on my models and in the before times this is exactly how LEGO would have done it – a sticker wrapped around a round 2 x 2 brick. This would have sort of worked, of course, but here it would also have been somewhat critical because there’s not much room. The edges of the sticker might have gotten snagged on the edge of the car body, peeling it off in the long run.

That’s why instead we get a new part, which is what you already thought it would be – yes, a 2 x 2 round brick cut in half. It solves the issue perfectly and personally I’m hoping LEGO will include this part in many more sets from here on. It solves a ton of problems and opens up new design options not just for rotating parts, but also protruding faux “columns” on buildings and the like that just need to blend in smoothly. It’s literally one of those “This piece should have existed for forever already!” cases where you wonder why it took them so long…

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Game Markers

The rest of the car is very ordinary in every way. It’s built around a double Technic brick center beam, with most of the other parts being plugged on using SNOT techniques and conventional stacking without any sophisticated tricks. The overall slender style doesn’t really allow much more than that, anyway. There’s just not enough space.

A final small little highlight is hidden in the guns on the hood. They are constructed from standard double-barrel blasters and extended in length with Black binocular pieces. Why is that even worth a mention you wonder? Well, those pieces surprisingly haven’t been done in Black like forever. I hardly couldn’t believe it myself at first, knowing that I have tons of the min Dark Bluish Grey and Orange from various Friends, City and Star Wars sets, but yes, the mighty Bricklink says it has now been almost ten years since last they were used and LEGO have only re-introduced them late last year. Go, figure!

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Front View

Overall this is an okay model for what it is and it had some positive surprises. However, it isn’t anything you’d miss if you didn’t buy it. It will work just fine as a play set for the intended age range of kids if you don’t mind the shortcomings that will eventually break it. It’s definitely not a collectible, though. Some major work would be required to improve the details and make them withstand the degradation that comes with time like the “white dot” issue I mentioned.

As most of the time, I had my sights set on the parts for use later and I might actually buy a second set at some point to get a complete set of four identical white tires and use the pieces for other projects (including the revelation of now owning one more large green tile modified in addition to the one from the A-Wing (75248)) . Still, there’s no rush and I’m waiting until prices drop further. 24 Euro isn’t that terribly expensive (MSRP 30 Euro), but I feel the value isn’t really there. This by all means would be a 20 Euro set in my world.