Portal to Nowhere – Hidden Side Portal (70427)

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

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Box

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

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Overview

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

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Figures

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

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

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Front View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Back View

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

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

Christmas Double Double – Brickheadz Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274) and Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353)

Christmas is only four weeks away at this point and if you’re anything like my mum you’re perhaps also already decorating your home. Around here we like to keep things traditional with wood carved stuff from the Erzgebirge, glass baubles and similar, but who’s to say that putting up some LEGO couldn’t be part of the mix as well. The seasonally themed Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274) and Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353) Brickheadz cater for just that.

LEGO Brickheadz, Christmas Sets Family Shot

A family shot of the sets from two consecutive years shows that there is a bit of underlying deeper logic and the sets mix and match quite well. The only thing that is missing is of course a suitably sized sleigh model stuffed with gifts.

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Box

Somehow I missed out on Mr. & Mrs. Claus last year, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that LEGO had re-issued the set this year. That’s always a good indication that the sets are in popular demand and sell well, in turn making good prospects for more sets of the same ilk in the future, whatever those might be.

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Overview

In terms of construction there aren’t that many surprises or more or less none at all, with the two figures being essentially based on the v1 Brickheadz standard (I totally made that up, but it’s perhaps helpful for understanding some of the differences). This means that there aren’t any fancy building techniques involved and it follows the pattern of most others of these figures. If you have that drill worked out to a T, you could likely build Mr. Claus from your head and figure things out without even looking at the instructions, give or take a few specifics like the tip of the cap.

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mr. Claus, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mr. Claus, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mr. Claus, Back Right View

Mrs. Claus is slightly different in that she extensively uses curved slopes to make her look rounded. This naturally adds a bit of complication in that there are extra plates here and there to account for the step/ offset of the slopes. It would be more difficult to re-create without any guidance. It also makes her look adorable and cuddly and that’s why of the figures discussed in this article she’s my favorite. I really can’t fathom why I skipped over this set last year. Perhaps i just wasn’t able to make it to the LEGO store in time…

LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mrs. Claus, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mrs. Claus, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Mr. & Mrs. Claus (40274), Mrs. Claus, Back Right View

This year’s Christmas set takes a slightly different approach and only contains one full-sized Brickheadz figure, but makes up for it by including two of the smaller elves.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Box LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Overview

Out of the three, the the reindeer itself is perhaps the least attractive. Don’t misunderstand me – it hits all the marks and looks okay, yet it doesn’t stand out particularly. In my view this is owed to its simple, mostly symmetrical construction. The model would clearly have benefited from a bit more variation, be that just a hint of its furriness by ways of using some angled slopes for bangs on the forehead.

I also wished they had come up with something a bit more impressive and elaborate for the antlers. The small ancillaries feel a bit out of place, too, in particular since they are not further contextualized by something else to go with them. Admittedly it doesn’t help that I didn’t apply the stickers to the way sign, but then again for all intents and purposes those should always be printed in a Brickheadz set.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Deer, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Deer, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Deer, Back Right View

The elves, tentatively called just Elf and Elfie use a new building style with just 3 studs wide/ deep main bodies and reduced height to make them appear smaller compared to the “adults”, of course. That puts them at around three-quarters size, which isn’t that much when you come to think of it, but sufficient to make them look different enough.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elfie, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elfie, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elfie, Back Right View

That said, the smaller size comes with a bit of a caveat that you must not underestimate. Since currently there are no dedicated 3 x 1 bricks with studs on the side in the LEGO portfolio, the models have to make do with 1 x 1 and 2 x 1 versions. In some cases that means that where they converge at the edges only one side can have studs and the other has a smooth surface. This in turn affects how the tiles and plates on the exterior can be fixated and here is where it gets a bit dicy.

You have to be extra careful to use the right SNOT bricks in the right places and keep an eye on their orientation or you may end up wondering forever, how the heck you are supposed to attach some parts without a stud looking at you. That is even more crucial insofar some of the tiles really rely on just hanging on to a single stud with their ability to move merely being restrained by the neighboring elements. It’s a bit delicate, but works surprisingly well if you don’t completely mess up this sort of alternating pattern of forces and counter forces.

LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elf, Front Left View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elf, Front Right View LEGO Brickheadz, Reindeer, Elf & Elfie (40353), Elf, Back Right View

On the whole both sets are worth their money, the simple fact notwithstanding that they are only available from LEGO directly, anyway, and thus any discussion about prices would be kinda pointless. If you’re on a budget, regardless, I’d go with Mr. & Mrs. Claus for the time being. not only might you regret not being able to purchase the set in the future, but overall it feels like you’re getting a better value.

The reindeer set on the other hand could have needed that extra little kick by including perhaps a bunch of buildable gift packages, the already mentioned sleigh, a food tray with some carrots and hay or whatever else. Just something to provide a little something that puts a satisfied grin on your face…

Blue Turtoise – Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191)

As should be abundantly clear from previous Friends-related articles, I kinda love LEGO‘s somewhat weird girl-ish series. LEGO Elves falls into that category as well. Unfortunately it never really took off because it is stuck in a very specific corner (which is entirely LEGO‘s own fault), so there’s only a handful of sets every year. While half of them are probably not worth mentioning, the other half is actually quite interesting once you allow your mind to attune to the subject and Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191) is one of those latter sets.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Box

Compared to other LEGO series, Elves sets are extremely pricey (despite most dealers having massive discounts on them), which is probably one of the reasons why they may not sell that well and are not as popular. This set is no exception and typically comes in at around 18 Euros. Considering the slightly bonkers MSRP of 25 Euros that’s okay, but still expensive for only a handful of actual pieces once you subtract the custom items for the turtle head, the figures and a few other parts.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Overview

The most significant item is of course the large turtle itself, which is put together from a bunch of simple parts for the body and shell and uses a large custom head. The limbs are attached using mini ball joints and are poseable, though it’s questionable how useful this may actually be, given the limited range of motion a turtle has in general. It doesn’t really add much here and once more to me this is a case of where it would have made more sense to focus on a better design with a few more pieces even if they were rigid. Making the creature larger as a whole also would have helped to allow for more details.

More or less the proportions only are applicable to a baby turtle, anyway. On an adult turtle the shell would look considerably larger compared to the head and the legs would be farther apart and taller. Arguably that’s within what you can do with a sets for kids, though it makes the inclusion of the mini turtle a bit odd, even in terms of the story. If you get my drift – it’s difficult to differentiate them and one can’t shake the feeling that there should be some mother turtle big as a mountain somewhere, with these two examples only being her middle and smallest offspring.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Turtle

The second major part is the little island with the “trap”. Considering most turtle species are vegetarian and couldn’t be lured in with fish, the orange critter is really a strange detail in this context. The element in the middle is a disc shooter which also doesn’t make much sense beyond perhaps knocking whoever is riding the turtle off its back. It would probably have made more sense to build it larger, forego the shooter, deck it out with water lilies galore and have a little island on it for the little goblin to sit on. Something like that would have made more sense to me. Then they also could have done away with the ridiculous tiny boat.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Island

As should have become clear, this set is extremely specific. LEGO missed the mark on playability by miles on that one, but if you like turtles in any form and shape, this could be a cute little display item for your showcase, even more so if you invest building a little diorama around it. I’d even wager that for people who collect turtles in all forms and shapes (I happen two know at least two) this could make a nice gift with a slightly humorous undertone…