Another Deep Dive – LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130)

As you well know from many of my posts I really have a soft spot for underwater creatures. The Deep Sea Creatures (31088) were one of my favorite sets back then – very affordable and well designed – and even compelled me to create my own octopus MOC. This year’s Dolphin and Turtle (31128) weren’t bad, either and in-between I’ve reviewed a number of submarines, a fish tank, you name it. Therefore it was an inevitable certainty that I would get the Sunken Treasure Mission (31130) one day as soon as I heard about it, which is the subject of this article.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Box

Contents and Pricing

LEGO‘s logic when it comes to their in-store exclusives completely eludes me and on a rational level just doesn’t make any sense beyond reeling in casual shoppers passing by in a mall. However, even that is not really the case, given that these small sets aren’t even displayed in the shop window. Anybody who has a LEGO store near them knows this. Worse yet, often these packages are simply not available and sold out because they’re not stocked sufficiently. You know, it’s this odd situation where you can buy a 400 Euro Star Wars spaceship, but not simple stuff like this. It frustrated me massively back then with the Crocodile (31121) an it’s no different here. Yes, it’s one of those friggin’ exclusives they keep to themselves, at least here in Germany and only on the third trip to the store was I able to score a purchase because you couldn’t even order it online at the time.

With that in mind there is of course zero room for price discussions, as you don’t get any discounts. The question therefore become whether 30 Euro for 522 pieces is a good price and the answer is a definite “Maybe!?”. Personally I’m inclined to give this a pass for once because I love the subject matter so much, but more objectively it is perhaps still a bit overpriced. While the size and volume are there, my main peeve are the man, many 1 x 1, 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 elements this is mostly built from. The larger parts just don’t compensate the amount of small, finicky items. Therefore seeing this at 25 Euro would have been better and 20 Euro after discounts would then make this a fantastic offering.

That also might have encouraged me to buy two packages instead of just one despite some of the parts not being that interesting for my potential future custom builds. Also one of those weird things about LEGO‘s policies. It’s as if they don’t want you to buy more even if the combined revenue could offset any discounts. As it stands, I only got a single package, after all, as I didn’t see myself investing 60 or 90 Euro only to end up with a ton of wedges and bubble canopies that I rarely ever will use.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Octopus, Overview

The Minifigures

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), MinifiguresThe minifigures aren’t anything special with a standard skeleton and an operator for the submarine(s)/ diver. Initially I was under the impression the torso print would be new, but no, it has been used in a Stuntz set already. So LEGO just combined what they already had, anyway. However, there’s a small treat here in that the helmet is the first time that the revised Classic Space helmet is available in Dark Bluish Grey. I’m sure nostalgic fans have set their sights on it and you could fetch a good price for it as long as it is this rare.

The Octopus

The main model or rather set of models are based around the octopus.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Octopus, SafeThe first of those three is the safe. It comes in a very classic Dark Green, a color traditionally associated with banking, communicating reliability and integrity. In fact so much that it has become sort of an insider joke in movies, including one of my childhood favorites the Danish Olsen Banden series. Anyway, it’s a very efficient small model that benefits from the 2 x 4 dual jumper plate introduced a while ago for a more compact appearance without an extra reinforcing plate on the top. The door is a new 2022 color for the 4 x 4 dish as oddly enough it has never before been done in Dark Green.

The submarine is a surprisingly realistic take on those deep sea exploration vehicles with this type typically being slaved to a long cable since it has limited buoyancy and storage capacity for fuel and ballast. It’s really a nice model in its own right and I genuinely did not expect it to be this good. The only thing I’m missing is perhaps some ropes and a net plus perhaps an emergency buoy in Coral.

The drive section makes use of the new steering wheel element to portray the protective cage around the propellers and again for the time being the Yellow variant is exclusive to this set.

The interior provides room in the aft section as well as the cockpit so you could even sneak in a second minifigure from your collection, e.g. a diver that egresses from the back hatch when needed to do his thing.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Octopus, Submarine, Cockpit open

The most obvious shortcoming of the octopus itself is exposed right away: Once again the arms are way, way too short. Even if you account for small species like the Blue-ringed Octopus, which I’m sure this isn’t even meant to represent, the ratio between head size and arm length just doesn’t match actual proportions. That being the case my first request to LEGO would have been to include at least two more segments per arm. That, however would have exacerbated another problem. The tentacles aren’t connected with ball joints except where they are attached to the main body and instead use simple clips, so posing them is severely limited. That means you can basically only sensibly pose it in the “umbrella” stance depicted here with its “cloak” (the skin between the arms’ roots) spread out evenly and only little variation.

The suction cups represented by the Bright Pink 1 x 1 studs to me feel superfluous. They’re a pain to plug on to the plates and hinges and since they aren’t the proper scale, anyway, just having some full coverage plates in their place might even have looked better.

The mantle, tubes and eyes are simply large wedges, slopes and round elements attached to a central SNOT block. It’s certainly sufficient, just not very detailed. I always prefer more granular builds using smaller elements that approximate the variations in surface curvature better. Overall it just looks a bit too symmetrical for my taste.

The Lobster

The second model is a red lobster with some more extra builds.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Lobster, Overview

The underwater ruins with the gate are a way or putting the many slopes to use that previously were used upside-down on the submarine plus there’s some pieces from the safe/ money vault as well as you can clearly see. Simple, yet effective.

The little submarine is another interesting spin on the subject. More to the point, I believe it’s actually an underwater scooter, meaning it’s mostly just a means of motorized transportation, not a fully isolated environment. You’d sit inside it with your diving gear and still get wet since it isn’t pressurized. I vaguely recall something like that popping up in one of the older James Bond movies. All the necessary details are there and one is willing to buy that this could actually work. Small side note: As you see the model is raised from the ground, which isn’t my doing to enhance the photos or anything of the sort. Indeed you are supposed to add two brackets as skids according to the manual. For “correct” play one would simply remove them.

The crayfish is structurally much more simple than the octopus, but the build feels just as repetitive. Now some of that is inevitable, but if they could change anything in this set, it would be to add a bit more variety. Had they e.g. thrown in a few of the small 1 x 2 wedge slopes for making the octopus’ mantle look more refined, they could be re-used here for some of the feet, the clippers and even the mouth. Likewise, the sides of the body could have benefited from actually having SNOT studs onto which those curved slopes and wedges could be plugged for better vertical rounding. This would also have helped to disguise the grey ball joints.

 

Another change I would have loved would be the inclusion of Red fishing rods for the antennae instead of just regular bars. Those would then of course also need to be placed in matching Red clip holders, not Light Bluish Grey ones. This shouldn’t have been much of a stretch as those little buggers exist ever since they were introduced as a recolor for the Chinese New Year sets. Clearly, throwing in two of those little buggers wouldn’t have made the budget explode.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Lobster, Aft Left ViewThe fishing rods and additional slopes might have been a different story, but as you may have observed I’m not a friend of “half-assing” things. I’m more of the mindset that if you do such things and it doesn’t take too much effort you go the full mile and don’t stop halfway. All things considered, this is perhaps why this lobster doesn’t feel all this great. This point is also reinforced by the considerable amount of leftover pieces that aren’t even used. Those range from some larger parts originally required for the submarine and octopus to the numerous small plates, many of which were buried inside the models.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Lobster, Leftovers

The Manta Ray

The final model in the package is a Manta Ray with a side of a small section of reef.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Manta, Overview

I’ll admit I think the reef is a pain in the butt. It feels like the designers were actually forced at gunpoint to come up with something so there wouldn’t be to many unused or extraneous pieces. While I was building it it seemed like I was doing it for hours. It’s all piecemeal stuff – a 1 x 2 brick here, then a 1 x 2 plate on top of it and then another at an 90 degree angle to connect it with a neighboring element and so on. It was extremely tedious and just dragged on. There’s per se nothing wrong with this and if you don’t have that much LEGO you’d likely even build it this way yourself, but gosh, do I wish they’d just thrown in some 2 x 4 and 2 x 6 bricks to build up volume much quicker. only a few 2 x 4 bricks needed. It looks the part when finished, but the assembly wasn’t very enjoyable in my view.

The Manta itself is okay, though the proportions suggest that this is more a baby than an adult. The wingspan is not proportionately large enough and it appears too thick and compact, thus also making the mouth look too large and kind of cute. The wingtips feel a bit odd. I get what they were going for, but all things considered a Manta genuinely is just a large rhombus shape with sharp corners. Throwing in some Dark Red 2 x 4 wedge plates would have looked a bit more realistic.

In a similar vein there could have been more wedge plates to create the tapered transition zone for the tail. It’s not just plugged on as it appears. On that same not, of course it should have more segments and be slightly longer.

An interesting observation about this model is the use of some direction inversion techniques. This can be clearly seen with the mouth and its upside-down mudguard piece and continues to manifest itself on the underside with actual surface detail, including some hinted-at gills. The disadvantage here is that during the build process it is rather flimsy and really only begins to stabilize once all the layers of plates have been stacked. To me this is yet another situation where it clearly shows that LEGO’s refusal to introduce actual direction inversion plates gets in the way of building models more efficiently as already pointed out once.

For the leftover pieces there’s a lot of overlap with the ones on the lobster, but also a few notable substitutions. Once you veer away from the main model the parts usage really isn’t that economical.

LEGO Creator, Sunken Treasure Mission (31130), Manta, Leftovers


Concluding Thoughts

Yet again this is one of those sets that gets in the way of itself. That is, LEGO are making it hard to give this a perfect score with the circumstances surrounding it. People with more money to spend than I will easily get over the price, but the overall difficulty in actually finding this set to be able to buy it is a bit of a show stopper. It just seems unnecessarily complicated to the point that people not as engrossed in LEGO will simply miss out on it. They’ll either never notice it in the first place or just give up the chase.

The sad state of affairs aside, this is another pretty good Creator 3in1 set for this year. Seems like the LEGO designers are on a roll and made some good decisions what to pick and throw out among the crowds. If there’s the slightest chance for you to pick it up, I’d definitely recommend it. You should keep in mind, however, that this is a “builder’s set” and the models are not collectibles.

If you don’t plan on spicing up the default models or re-using the parts for your own builds it would be a costly investment compared to more refined actual collector models. Inevitably buying a second or third model would skew this even further with so many parts left over. That basically is also the only real shortcoming – the way the parts that are there are used is not always very efficient and at the same time I feel that there are a few bits missing that would have enhanced the experience.

Explorer-ing… The Deep (again) – LEGO Explorer Magazine, June 2022

The wait for the latest LEGO Explorer felt extremely long and the last week I wasn’t even sure if I hadn’t missed the date and it would come out at all. But here it finally is the June 2022 issue, so let’s have a look at it.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Cover

This edition once again focuses on exploring the depths of the oceans, which is a bit of a repeat already, since one of the first issues already had this as a subject. Not terrible, since this is a broad topic that could fill volumes and volumes of books and in turn have me nerd out about it, but regardless it illustrates to me how the publishers are just meandering about with no real long-term concept. Similar to the issue from way back then we get a rather random selection of deep sea animals like octopuses, starfish and various fish species.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Info Page

There’s a dedicated section on coral reefs, but that, too, in and of itself kind of reiterates my point: They could have done a whole mag about just that. I’m sure kids would have fun learning about different coral types and getting a buildable sea anemone as an extra…

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Info Page

As written in the previews reviews, I have no issues with the comic’s graphical style, it just lacks in substance and feels out of place. That also goes for the various puzzles, quizzes, coloring page and other activities, which feel too much like filler where more interesting editorial pages could have been instead.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Comic

The poster is more or less just a shameless advertisement for the expensive Ocean Exploration Ship (60266) set, which isn’t even available anymore. This feels like just another pointless exercise by the editors “just because they can” and doesn’t even make sense as a marketing gag.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, June 2022, Poster

The extra is a small submarine. Well, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be, but it mostly looks like a barrel. Of course the biggest issue is using a flat dish instead of a proper bubble canopy, but if you still have it floating around, you could try the one from the alien UFO a few issues ago at least or another 4 x 4 dome piece from your collection. It would also have been wonderful if the mid section would have been built from two of these cylinder pieces instead of just a turntable brick. It would have extended the length and made it look less stubby. Then again, though, I guess LEGO producing pieces in a new color just for a magazine freebie is too much to hope for…

Unfortunately this is just another rather mediocre issue and things just aren’t looking well for this magazine. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the year they announce the cancellation of the whole shebang due to insufficient sales. Cause and effect, you know…

Axolotl Fun – LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180)

As I’ve said a number of times here on this blog I’m totally not into Minecraft – I know that it exists, I get what the appeal may be and I acknowledge that millions of people play it, but personally I never got hooked. That is pretty much the same in the LEGO world, though as I mentioned in my blurb on the recently launched LEGO Minecraft comic magazine, I’m always keeping an eye out for interesting parts from that range. That’s how I ended up buying The Guardian Battle (21180), after all, so let’s see what it offers.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Box

Contents and Pricing

If you have been following these things more closely than I do and for much longer, then certainly the set will feel familiar to you. The building is sort of a spliced out segment from the original The Ocean Monument (21136) released in 2017, representing a gate or just some random ruin section, embedded in a bit of reef. Wiser minds more steeped in the lore will actually know what it is supposed to represent. The puffer fish on the other hand are an almost 1 : 1  recreation of the ones in the original set. The real difference is the minifigure, defined as a diver, and the little guys that come with it, so this could indeed be a scenario where the original temple long has been destroyed and only pieces of it are still there decades or centuries later.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Contents Overview

The set itself retails for 22 Euro and having literally bought it three days after its January 1st release, I did not get any discounts. If you do your math and take into account the usual 20 to 30 percent discounts this will get after a while you’ll arrive at around 15 Euro. That’s okay for a 255 pieces set, but regardless you have to keep in mind that you are paying a for a few standard bricks and lots of small elements. On the other hand that’s certainly much more affordable than the 120 Euro ocean monument and even people who have this older set may consider getting this one to have some extra stuff.

Minifigures and Animals

The single most important reason why we are even here reviewing the set are the Axolotls. I just couldn’t help myself from thinking “Oh, how cute!” when I first saw a picture of them. As far as I understand, they have special magical or healing powers in the game, so it seems one would take care to not lose them or gather as many of them as you can. Two of them are supposed to be attached to the minifigure as if they are swarming around him and protecting him, but I found that construction clunky and way to heavy, so the diver tips over backwards.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Minifigure and Animals

The little newts are a new mold, which can be attached onto a regular 1 x 2 plate from the underside. If they ever come out in more regular colors like Tan, they could make for nice decorative elements on buildings. LEGO have done that for some of the heads already to be used as lamp shades or stucco on facades of Modular Buildings (Police Station [10278] for instance), so I’m optimistic that this may happen one day. The heads are separately printed 1 x 1 plates and there’s a spare for each of them in the package.

The singular minifigure is a bit of a head-scratcher. Obviously there could and should have been two at least, even if they were the same, but I’m also concerned with how it looks. The Dark Bluish Grey and Olive Green just don’t pop enough on the Dark Orange body and at the same time the bright face looking through the round glass window stands out too much. It would likely have looked better with different colors. There’s also quality issues with the prints. No, for once not that they aren’t opaque enough but rather in a way the opposite. The paint here seems to have been a bit too pasty and the prints have notable ridges/ stamp marks. If I were collecting these figs, I’d likely request replacements.

The Temple

The temple fragments and reef parts are the simplest build you can imagine. It’s literally a case of “My 3-year-old could have come up with it!” with simple stacked bricks and plates with the only real bits of finesse being the vines/ plant stalks interwoven as extra supports. By that I don’t mean to imply it’s bad, just simple. It certainly could have been a bit more elaborate with perhaps some debris lying around or the reef parts being larger with more flowers and all that. The squid with only four very short “tentacles” perched on top of the archway is also odd, but not knowing better I have to accept that this is probably how it’s meant to be.

The Puffer Fish

The puffer fish are essentially simple cubes with a bunch of appendages and protrusions. The larger blue one is based on a 3 x 3 x 3 SNOT construction using the 1 x 2 clip plates as the basis. Regrettably LEGO did not recolor those clips in Dark Tan of Blue, as would have been desirable, so they stand out a bit despite their “neutral” grey. While the fish is pretty much a 1 : 1 re-creation of the one already used in the ocean monument, there is a small enhancement in that the tail uses the new 1 x 2 modified plates with a horizontal clip instead of the less directionally stable 1 x 1 version. More on that in the extra section on the notable pieces.

The smaller puffy is constructed around a 2 x 2 x 2 cube arrangement and for its spikes reverses the underlying principle with the hinge plates being on the body and the clips forming the appendages. Naturally, for any of it to look good you have to spend some time orienting the spikes on both models.

Piece Mania

For a set this small the selection of notable and new parts is amazing and of course this was part of the plan after having studied the digital PDF instructions. The orange clips aren’t new, but technically still sort of exclusive, as they have only been in the previous The Ocean Monument (21136) set and a Nexo Knights set. I’m sure MOC builders will appreciate their reappearance. The 1 x 2 plate with the horizontal clip is already appearing in many new sets released since last autumn and here you get two of them in Tan. Apparently at long last LEGO seem to have realized this gap in their parts portfolio since the 1 x 1 counterpart tends to slightly rotate on its single stud, even when butted against other plates around it. Having this available definitely should make some constructions more stable while at the same time reducing the number of elements needed. the fish tail is a good example for this, actually.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Special Pieces

LEGO have long been extremely reluctant to produce certain items as transparent pieces. Their rationale always has been that it’s not good for models due to friction and tension working differently and thus those pieces being more prone to damage. That and of course things like cracks, fogging and gilding being even more apparent than on opaque parts. It seems they are finally coming around and easing up on this strict stance, so we now get the 2 x 2 jumper plate in Trans Dark Blue and a Trans Clear 1 x 2 vertical clip plate. the latter is part of that clunky block you are supposed to attach to the minifigure’s back to hold the Axolotls. Insignificant as it may seem, there is also now a Blue 1 x 1 round flower plate/ stud. So far they have been mostly produced in greens, yellows and pastel tones and I’ve forever wondered if we’re going to get a few more colors. This is a good start, but how about browns and Black for withered and charred flowers?

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Double Plate Piece

The element that will no doubt cause the biggest sigh of relief by many is the 2/3rds or two plates tall 1 x 1 brick, depending how you want to see it. This is not an essential element by any stretch of the imagination, but a) other manufacturers have had it since forever and b) it solves one big annoyance, that being having to stack 1 x 1 plates to get uneven heights. This can be particularly frustrating on areas where they need to be aligned perfectly to give the illusion of a solid surface, so this new element should indeed facilitate such builds considerably. In this set it’s included in Olive Green, but it can already be found in some others in Medium Nougat and Dark Orange. It will be pretty standard in no time and should be available in a wide range of colors then.


Concluding Thoughts

This is a lovely little set and in a way I’m surprised myself how much I like it. There is soem decent value here and unlike many other Minecraft sets it has a certain elegance about it and doesn’t look too crude and blocky. The only real complaint would have be the skewed value. A second minifigure certainly would have provided a better balance as would have some extra bits and bobs on the reef. Overall one can’t complain, though.

The No-Quarium – LEGO Creator 3in1, Fish Tank (31122)

From my many articles here on this blog it’s easy enough to gather that I love underwater life of all types and one of those dreams I have would be to own a huge, custom-build tropical aquarium like they do on those TV shows. Since these things are expensive to make and due to the fish’s very specific requirements also a costly hobby to maintain even at smaller sizes (replacing a fish that died is quite an investment when you’re in the middle of continental Europe) for the time being I have to settle on alternatives until I become a millionaire. 🙂

The funny coincidence here is that I’ve long been pondering on whether to get my lazy ass up and build my own coral reef. I always admire those detailed builds bustling with life that some people create and while I do not always agree with the interpretation, you have to give props to them for creatively using parts and most importantly scrounging together 500 green Ninjago swords as sea grass blades and similar. I’ve gotten into that a bit myself and it’s really quite a feat. Anyway, I guess for the time being the LEGO Creator 3in1 Fish Tank (31122) is as good as it gets for me on that front and a not unwelcome excuse to delay my own ventures, so let’s see how it turns out.

LEGO Creator, Fish Tank (31122), Box

Contents and Pricing

Unfortunately for being a mundane Creator 3in1 set, this one is rather elusive, at least here on the German market. Only very few retailers actually have it in limited numbers and when they do, the set is usually sold out quickly. Me being able to buy it at all is merely a lucky coincidence during a random visit at one of our drugstore chains’ outlets. As you may figure, this scarcity bears influence on the price and even getting a minimum discount is rare. This may of course change if and when it becomes available more widely, but that isn’t on the horizon yet.

The original retail price is 30 Euro, which for 352 pieces is actually normal and not that terrible. However, and you will see this as a recurring theme running through this article, the whole set simply does not feel like you actually get that much stuff. This is of course due to almost half the parts already being used in the construction of the frame which contributes very little to the perceived overall value. Basically my feeling is that it doesn’t even count. That being the case, I would really love if this set did not exceed 20 Euro. Maybe this becomes feasible once noticeable discounts are possible due to better supply, but for the time being I guess there is little one can do about it.

LEGO Creator, Fish Tank (31122), Front View

The Model

Let’s cut to the chase and address the elephant in the room right away: The tank itself or specifically the way it is represented here as a black frame. This to me feels wrong on so many levels.

For one I never actually needed to have a visual representation of an aquariums boundary to imagine it’s volume and extent. This to me is a case of “Either you see it (in your mind) or you don’t!”. It can help to put things in context, yes, but at the same time, and that’s the case in this set, it can also be extremely disturbing and distracting. The straight front-on shot is a good example for why: The thick and way too tight frame makes the fish tank look tiny and uncomfortable for its inhabitants.

The second and for me actually worse issue is how many pieces go in the construction of the frame alone. If I didn’t miscount too much, that accounts for around 140 elements already and what makes this so frustrating is that their majority is actually larger than the many 1 x 1 parts that go into the fish themselves. Point in case: The frame is way to elaborate and bulky and massively skews the perception of the value of this set, and not in a good way.

LEGO Creator, Fish Tank (31122), Front View

The dilemma here is of course that they had to include some constructionally relevant extra parts for the alternate B and C models, but to be blunt about it I couldn’t be bothered. This too literally feels like they had to come up with something to justify releasing it in this series when the outcome isn’t really that great. Neither the treasure chest nor the painting on the easel look that good and this forced diversification is to the detriment of the primary model in my opinion.

LEGO Creator, Fish Tank (31122), Top View

The thing is that there would easily have been a way to insinuate the “box” with a bunch of 12 units long black Technic axles for the vertical edges and then perhaps they could have included the newer 32 long axles in Black as well or plugged together suitable shorter versions for the horizontal top edges. This would have required what? Twenty parts perhaps? It would have been much more efficient and done the trick for most people plus it would have freed up a ton of parts that could have been used for additional fish, plants or detailing the sea floor.

LEGO Creator, Fish Tank (31122), Back Left View

Speaking of which: The “sand” is 100 percent just flat Tan plates. that’s the first thing anyone would avoid who is trying to build his own version of this. I wouldn’t expect them to go out of there way here, but a bunch of semi-circular and round plates of all sizes would have gone a long way to shape a small mound in the middle and perhaps there would even have been a way to accommodate a small rock formation in a different color. as a major fan of octopuses I also could have totally gone for a shattered amphora, stereotypical as that may sound.

LEGO Creator, Fish Tank (31122), Back Right View

I think it’s not much of a surprise and literally everybody would have expected it that the selection of fish species is a direct riff on the Finding NemoFinding Dory movies with the three largest examples being a Blue Tang/ Surgeon Fish, a Clown Fish and a Yellow Butterfly Fish. There’s some pink and black fringe-tailed fish thrown in for good measure, though I’m not clear about the exact species. Additionally there’s a small submarine or remotely controlled underwater drone as a bit of a gag item.

The fish are mostly represented by their contours and color scheme, but have very little in the way of actual three-dimensional shaping. That is okay for what this set represents and tries to achieve, but of course more details would have been preferable. Many of these reef-dwellers aren’t that flat and a lot larger than it often appears in documentaries on TV. Bulking up their cross sections and refining their silhouettes is certainly something I would strife for if I were to do my own version of this.

On the bright side, due to this limitation they couldn’t avoid recoloring some parts because they would be visible and thus we are getting the 1 x 1 brick with opposing studs on side in Dark Pink and its bigger 1 x 2 brother in Orange at last.


Concluding Thoughts

This set stirs up a whole lot of conflicting emotions because I really want to like it, but ultimately I’m also too disappointed and miffed by its shortcomings. Not to sound like a disappointed kid that didn’t get the right present on its birthday, but this is once more a case of where the potential has not been used at all. This could have been totally awesome, however it only turned out as a rather average affair. Too many things feel not thought through or are not fleshed out, so this comes across as rather half-baked.

Assuming the prices drop into that sensible 20 Euro range in foreseeable time the set may be worth your time, regardless, but to really turn it into something outstanding you will have to invest some extra effort, buy a second set perhaps or resort to your own parts supply to fancy things up. At full price this seems a bit of a stretch, as I really feel that you’re not getting enough in return, but as usual this is up to personal interpretation.

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.

Explorer-ing the Deep

It’s currently so hot outside, I sure wish I would live somewhere by the sea or underwater even, so it’s not at all that bad the latest LEGO Explorer magazine deals with the creatures of the deep and the exploration of same.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Cover

The overall structure of the mag still feels a bit too random for my taste with an “everything and the kitchen sink” vibe being prevalent. It feels like they are simply trying to stuff in too much and in this particular case couldn’t make up their mind whether to focus on the actual real creatures, their brick-modeled counter parts or the exploration vehicles. Dialing things down a bit sure would help and might actually be beneficial to the overall learning effect for the kids.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Sample Pages

Again several commercial LEGO sets make an appearance, including my beloved Deep Sea Creatures (31088). this makes things a bit more palatable to me, but overall I’m still not friends with this sort of over-commercialization, especially since it’s not bolstered by extra content like comics or a genuinely nice dedicated custom poster. If you will, it feels a bit too cheap and obvious.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Poster

The included model is an octopus – of sorts. If you know my Octopus MOC you know that I’m a bit obsessive about those creatures and thus very critical of any rendition. On the positive side, this one truly has eight tentacles at least. on the other hand it at best looks like a baby calamari or sepia to me. The pointed tube just doesn’t look right for an actual octopus. I also wish they had gone with a different color than Black. Keeping everything Red would have been a good start, but Dark Tan for everything would probably have been the best option. I also gladly would have traded the 32 White single studs for the suction rings for longer tentacles.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Squid Model LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Squid Model

Again this issue shows that they still need to work quite a bit on formulating the actual value of the mag and having a consistent style. Most disappointing is the fact that there is just not enough exclusive content. Everything feels like it was chopped together from the LEGO archives and the usual stock content libraries. One can only hope that this improves over time…

When I’m on my Downeaster Alexa – Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419)

Borrowing that famous line from Billy Joel‘s song, it’s time we have a look at what is indeed a fishing boat – of sorts – the Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419) from LEGO‘s new Hidden Side series.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Box

I have no specific relation or affiliation to fishing other than enjoying being near the sea and in particular remembering those small fishing boats during my rehab at the Baltic Sea a few years ago. I’m totally intolerant/ allergic to seafood even and could throw up at the mere thought of the smell, but as you well know, I like oceanic creatures and some of the things relating to it. That’s why this set pushed a few buttons with me in a good way and I just had to get it eventually.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Overview

I also liked that the set represents a fresh idea overall, not just specifically to Hidden Side, but also in the broader sense in the overall LEGO portfolio. There have been any number of “fishing boats” over the years, but most of them were bigger trawlers or yachts. Getting a small cutter therefore seems like a missing piece of the puzzle is finally filled.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Figures

The minifigures are pretty much your standard fare (within Hidden Side) with Jack Davids and Parker L. Jackson making an appearance again as well as Spencer, the ghostly dog. The emphasis therefore has to be on Captain Jonas and Jonas Jr. and what can I say? They are some of the most interesting figures I’ve seen included in a set in a while. It’s not so much that they are super-special, but they are nicely done and have a generic appeal for anything to do with ships or the goings-on in a harbor or ship yard.

The key to this is of course the Bright Light Orange color representing the oilskin/ vinyl clothing or as we call it here in Germany “Friesennerz” as an in-joke to this being a fisherman’s finest everyday Sunday gown. The figures also come with the typical hat with the large rolled up rim hat and the knit wool cap, respectively, so in my world this counts as capturing the essence of these brave seafarers to the point, if in a stereotypical way. My only regret is the lack of opacity on Jonas Jr.‘s printed flap, which kinda ruins the illusion of the bib overalls.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Captain Jonas possessed LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Captain Jonas regular

Captain Jonas can be built in both a possessed and a regular form. Once possessed he turns into some sort of pirate ghost with tentacles coming out of his back and a glowing green sword. It doesn’t really add much for me, given that you can’t really do much with the boat itself to transform it accordingly. more on that further down. I suppose it’s okay, though.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Crocodile

Interestingly, the set comes with an albino crocodile. For a high seas them that is a bit of an odd choice even if in the play fiction the boat is thrown ashore/ stranded on a reef. The alligator would have kinda made more sense in the Riverside Houseboat (31093) from earlier this year. Still, nice to have one, regardless, given that there haven’t been that many crocodiles/ gators using this mold in recent years no matter the color.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Boat, Left Front View

Rather than relying on dedicated ship hull parts, the boat is built from more generalized standard pieces. This makes it easier to re-use them in other projects. You can of course argue endlessly whether using a large airplane underside part for the ship’s bow is really that much different, but in my opinion for such a shell in Dark Blue it’s easier to find alternate uses than say for a Coral colored large hull piece like on the LEGO Friends Rescue Mission Boat (41381). Your mileage may vary, naturally.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Boat, Left Aft View

It’s particularly noteworthy that, while it is part of a series aimed at kids and teenagers, the color choices are very restrained and even conservative. No wacky Orange or Dark Pink, it’s all in subdued natural colors like Reddish Brown, Dark  Brown and so on, nicely complemented by some bits in White, Black and Sand Green. The latter is always good to have and maybe one day even that bonnet piece used for the roof might come in handy.

People have said that this model would be perfect to go with the Old Fishing Store (21310) in the LEGO Ideas series from a few years ago. I well remember how I wished this set actually had a boat and would have rejoiced at the inclusion of what we have here, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not that easy, though not impossible, either. The truth is that in terms of scale even this relatively small boat would still be too large next to the building. There are comparison photos on the web that confirm this, should you care to look yourself. You will have to put in some work to make it more suitable, most notably cutting down the height of the wheel house at the cost of no longer being able to fit a minifigure in there.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Boat, Right View

Overall, though, the boat holds up nicely and includes everything you would expect with the exception of a hoist. That would really be more only serious concern, as even those small boats usually have some sort of crane to assist with reeling in the fishing nets or help with offloading the cargo at the port. Also notice the blank white discs. They are of course meant to be live saver rings where I just didn’t use the stickers. Thinking about it, if you don’t use those, it would be probably better to just leave them off entirely and replace the bricks with sideways studs they are attached to with smooth ones.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Rocks regular

Since it is meant to be a wrecked/ stranded boat there inevitably has to be something it actually crashes on and to that end the set contains parts to build a bit of rock face with some greenery tacked on. Once again I’m pleased by the color choices with lot’s of Dark Brown, Dark Green and Olive elements in addition to the ones in grey tones.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Rocks possessed

Now for a bit of a disappointment: Eagle-eyed viewers (or even your myopic granny) will clearly notice some pink/ magenta tentacles emanating from the waters surrounding the rocky island, which I interpret as some sort of octopus tentacles ripping the boat in half. You guessed it – they are nowhere to be found or even hinted at in the actual set. Respect to the graphics artist’s imagination going wild, but in this particular case it really feels like cheating and embellishing the packaging a bit too much. True, nowhere does it actually show those tentacles even on the photos on the back side of the box, but I was still hoping. It would have been quite cool and added another level of gameplay possibilities outside of the AR app.

LEGO Hidden Side, Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419), Rocks with Boat

On the whole there is a lot to like and since it’s basically sold around 20 Euro everywhere (despite an MSRP of 30 Euro) there is little reason to hold back on a purchase. Even if you don’t particularly like the subject, you can make good use of some of the parts and get at least one or two nice minifigures out of it plus with a little bit of effort it could still become a nice model on the shelf next to that Old Fishing Store

Under the Sea – Deep Sea Creatures (31088)

WhaleTurtoiseI love all kinds of underwater creatures. It’s a subject that keeps following me around and from watching documentaries to it being a recurring theme in my artistic work, be that computer graphics or traditional drawings, it’s something that simply massively interests and inspires me a lot. To give you an idea I’ve included those three little preview images for some stuff I had on one of my old web sites and I still have stacks of unfinished sketches and scribbles of even more creatures.
Sharky

All that being the case, it seemed an almost inevitable, natural development and foregone conclusion that I would buy the Deep Sea Creatures (31088) set one day. In a way I was pretty excited and really looking forward to its release as part of this years first wave of new sets. Oddly enough, while LEGO seemed to have no issue rolling out their The LEGO Movie 2 sets even before Christmas last year, this one took quite some time to even appear in online shops and on store shelves. I was only able to order it around the end of January.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Box

Now I don’t buy the basic Creator sets a lot. If you are a reasonably seasoned LEGO user, there’s not much you can gain from them. Most of these sets fall basically in one of three categories:

  • Cars and other vehicles, many times extremely simplified and stylized.
  • Simplified and often quite small houses and buildings.
  • Animals and robots based on hinge and joint armatures with some cover pieces.

To make a point: It’s quite repetitive to a degree and quickly becomes a matter of “Seen one, seen all.”.  There’s not much incentive to revisit this series once you have built a small number of similar sets, if you wanna put it that way. It’s also usually a very short-lived bit of fun with the build process being (by necessity and intentionally) quite simplistic and quick. Finally, also inherently a limitation of who those sets are designed for, you won’t find that many valuable special parts in there, so they aren’t the best way to bolster your repository, either.

There are of course exceptions and the Deep Sea Creatures set is one of them. Basically in the aforementioned scheme it would fall into the mechanical puppet category, but from the outset I had a much different feeling about it in that it clearly aimed at a bit more realism and more complex design. I immediately took a liking to it and therefore right from the start decided I would get at least two sets on the chance I might want to keep the assembled models around permanently. At some point I then decided to go full on crazy (and incidentally make it simple to compare all models for this article) and got myself another two of those boxes, bringing it to a full four.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Lineup

The four models in question are the actual main build from the set, the Great White shark and the secondary builds for the squid and the angler fish. The sperm whale is a bonus build based on a digital instruction you can download for free from LEGO‘s building instructions archive.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Lineup with leftover Parts

Having four sets at hand allowed me to lay out the models and what pieces are left over with each build, which kinda reveals that I may have gone a bit too crazy on the whole matter. Except for the shark that apparently was used as the foundation, the other sets do not even come close to using all items in the box. If you plan to pursue the same strategy, be prepared to end up with a ton of extra hinges, small plates and also some larger parts for the spares box, not all of which may be that useful. Personally for me I would likely have preferred it the other way around – some more parts in the set and the models built to a slightly larger scale, thus using up more of those extraneous parts – but I’m not complaining. All of this stuff will find its use eventually.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Overview

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Crab As already mentioned, the hero model is a Great White shark which is not only proven by it using all the parts, but on balance it also being the largest item and in my view also the one with the most emphasis on overall design. It’s just looking damned good! This model also perhaps has the best little companion creature by ways of a crab. That’s not only a neat way of sneaking in the surplus parts needed for the other models, but in this case also gives you a sizeable second creature to play with while at the same time totally being something simple enough you could have thrown together from your own parts collection. On the other hand the “treasure chest” with the sea weed doesn’t feel that useful, even less so since it’s literally not used for the other variations, either. I guess one way of looking at it would be that I now at least have four of those elements in Bright Green when I only had them in other colors before.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Left

The shark’s body is made up of three segments that are assembled individually and then connected using small ball joints. This allows for some poseability, but not that much in the end. However, it apparently was enough to inspire JK Brick Works to create their own custom moving version of it with the necessary modifications for more flexibility and less friction and the video dropped just a few days ago just in time for this article. It produces a nice swimming motion, which however would be more in line with smaller shark species. If you check out videos, Great Whites move actually rather slowly and rigidly, with the main drive coming from the tail fin, not the overall undulating motion of the body. That is to say for ultimate realism you would need to change the motion pattern or redesign the model to represent a different variety of shark.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Right

The building techniques in this model are quite varied and use anything from large wedge elements to represent the head’s top to a bunch of perpendicular/ studs on sides construction to attach curved slopes to the sides and capture the curvature of the body. Regrettably, LEGO opted to not design some custom fin parts or include suitable re-issues from their back catalog (this wing element in a different color and with less prominent texture looks nice for instance), so all the vertical fins are made from 1 x wide bricks and slopes, making them rather thick. The smaller fins are represented by flag pieces and wedge plates, which preserves at least some semblance elegance.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Bottom

Looking at the underside reveals that the model is made sturdy by some large parts such as the inverted curved slopes on the tail and the straight symmetrical slopes in the middle section. On the other hand from that angle you also see the lack of coverage on the jaw, indicating that this model is really not meant to be viewed from this position and ideally would just sit flat on the table/ floor. Not a biggy, but I would argue that they could have thrown in those two or three extra slopes.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Mouth

How aggressive and convincing the shark looks is of course all in the facial features and thankfully the LEGO designers were able to capture this perfectly. The head looks strong and bullish while retaining its sleek, dynamic overall appearance. Somehow even the teeth look convincing, though the genuine article naturally has a lot more of them and they are smaller. regardless, the proportions are pretty well-balanced and it just works.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Mouth

The eyes are an interesting construction with a transparent neon yellowish green bar being inserted into a black Technic pin and the eye being further enlarged by a bushing on the pin. This makes the eye stand out and contributes to the fierce look because otherwise it would be barely noticeable – in nature those eyes are quite large, but buried deeply in the skull, so typically only a small dot can be seen. I quite like how the were able to resolve this dilemma without making it look too ridiculous.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Left, Mantle closed

The second model you can build from this set is a squid and I mean that in the broadest possible sense as a squid just being some underwater creature with tentacles. The funny thing with this critter is that the model represents all of these species, subspecies and variata, but at the same time not a specific one. It encapsulates typical features from calamari, sepia and octopi, more hinting at them than explicitly re-creating individual bits 100 percent in perfect detail.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid Left, Mantle closed

That’s amazing, yet also massively confusing as the interpretation as to what it may be entirely depends on how you view it. Are the tentacles at the front or rear end? Is it swimming forward or in reverse? Is it idle and waiting for prey or already attacking? You literally can waste an afternoon speculating on the details and then further complicate things by doing your own modifications. A simple change of pose or reversing the direction of a slope can totally change your story. My preferred interpretation is that this is some infant or adolescent calamari that could happily be swimming in the more shallow regions of the Caribbean before its big enough to venture out further.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Left, Mantle open

No matter which view you adopt as your own, one point is very obvious: There are only six arms. To boot, they are pretty much way too short for octopi and calamari, yet also not a good match for sepia. If one were serious about this, this would need to be changed from the ground up. Since I now have four of those sets and some extra Dark Blue parts in my collection, I have it on my agenda to create a more correct looking squid one of these days.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Right, Mantle open

It’s not all bad, though, as you can see that quite some thought was spent and the limitations most likely stemming from the lack of more parts. After all, this is just derived from the first model and needed to fit in its part allotment and financial budget. The hinge on the mantle is a nice touch, though admittedly in the open position it looks way too much like someone chopped into the creature. If at all it would have to be the other way around with the open sack being at the bottom, so for your own build you might consider using a fixed position or padding out the interior with some extra bricks to make it look more solid.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Right, Arms expanded

Due to the absence of two arms, posing the tentacles and finding a nice position can be a bit tricky. The main hiccup lies in the lack of volume on the blue arms in this case. It also doesn’t help much that they are mounted at the center when in reality they would be attached to the outer hull. Another point that would need improvements in a potential reworking of this set.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Bottom, Arms expanded

The underside is in principle pretty much the same as on the shark, so no big surprises here. In terms of the tentacles to me it almost looks better than from the top, though.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Angler Fish, Overview

Moving on to the third model in the set, the angler fish is a really ugly mofo just like its counterpart in nature. It’s my least favorite of all the options and in this case the problem is exacerbated by some clunky construction techniques. Once more you very much feel that it could have been done differently, but there was no room in the budget for the extra parts that would have been needed and the designers had to settle on less.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Angler Fish, Right

Out of these issues, the inadequate rendition of the actual lure is the thing that stands out most. It really looks like an odd street lamp. A better way to emulate its appearance would naturally have been the inclusion of one of those dinosaur tail pieces that LEGO so often uses elsewhere. Conversely, the teeth would of course look a lot more “correct” if the had been made up from claw/ barb elements as they are commonly used for spikes and thorns on dragons and such. It’s in a way even ironic that they added multiple rows of teeth when that would have been more adequate for the shark.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Angler Fish, Mouth, Right

The bright green eyes distract a lot and assuming they are supposed to large bulgy ones would be more appropriate for one of those fish that bury themselves in the sand near shores and reefs. Seems to me a black 1 x 1 tile or plate would have sufficed, as the eyes are really tiny, beady things on real angler fish.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Angler Fish, Mouth, Front

The fourth and final model, the sperm whale, is a kind of stylized, comical version of the beast. That’s fine by me as with the shortened, stubby body it really looks like a baby whale having fun. In my opinion it’s better than the squid or angler fish and perhaps should have been in the set right away in place of one of the two even if it is stylistically very different.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Whale, Overview

The construction is quite similar to the shark with only some parts having been switched from front to back and the middle segment apparently removed, yet at the same time it also borrows some techniques from the squid’s mantle for the shaping of the upper mouth/ head. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they trimmed away the fat, but the simplifications make an already accessible build even simpler. This could be a good model even for smaller children that they can finish quickly. It also is the least scary-looking of them all and even cute, so you might want to consider starting at the end and building this first.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Whale, Right

Returning to the anatomical correctness of features one last time, it should be little surprise that they don’t hold up. Aside from the overall body length being too short, the fins and fluke are also way too small. There are large specimen of whales out there where a single ventral fin is three meters long! They literally could smack you to death without taking any note of it.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Whale, Mouth

If you disregard my nerdy obsessing about some details simply because I love this stuff so much and those tidbits of info I’ve seen in hundreds documentaries keep popping into my mind, this is an overall excellent set. The models are well thought out and fun to build. Even better – while not the most exotic and rare parts, all of them are actually pretty useful. I must admit that hadn’t there been so much Dark Blue, I probably would have been reluctant to get four sets, but the way it is they can be used for roofs on buildings, nice looking cars or even just generic, unobtrusive details on other models and that can never be bad.

On the subject of color there is of course any number of ways to skin this. make no mistake – the Dark Blue is not “realistic” by any stretch of the imagination nor are the white bellies. This is unfortunately something that strikes me as an unresolvable conundrum – many sharks are all sorts of grey, so anything from Sand Blue to Dark Bluish Grey would work. The same goes for whales while on the other hand squids can be anything from pale White to Dark Orange or Dark Red, including all sand and earth colors inbetween as well as greys. Conversely angler fish can even be transparent. They couldn’t have accommodated all the options and you have to be fair about it.

I at least could try that Sand Blue shark thanks to garmadon, Garmadon, GARMADON (70656) and the other The LEGO Ninjago Movie sets I bought and whose parts I therefore have in my collection. It should also be relatively simple and cost efficient to rebuild the models in Dark and Light Bluish Grey if you can spare a dime on Bricklink. And if you don’t, the original set is still a superb little purchase for around 11 Euros or even the MSRP of 15 Euros and gives you some nice items to put on your shelf.

News & Masters

This week has been full of news with LEGO rolling out imagery for the soon to come wave of new sets for early 2019. While 2018 will certainly go down in history as a not so great year for many of the regular product lines, things seem to improve quite a bit next year. Check the official photos on whatever is your favorite LEGO news site such as this one for instance.

I don’t care much for a Porsche being a Porsche, but what gets me pumped is that at long last we will be getting white mudguard and curved rectangular panels with Technic set 42096. This would finally allow to rebuild some older sets in consistent colors. The other Technic sets look quite okay, too, though with my drawers being filled to the brim with parts it’s unlikely I’ll get the Corvette (42093) or Tracked Loader (42094).

The new Stunt Racer (42095) somehow has the crowd divided with most criticizing the increased price while the model contains a few less parts and is smaller. While people accuse me of being overly negative at times, this time it seems the situation is reversed. If I didn’t already own the old Tracked Racer (42065), I’d be totally up for this model.

The point here is of course that nobody forces you to buy on day one at full price and I’d bet that just like the old set you can get the new one for 45 Euros one day if only you wait patiently for the right opportunity. That and of course you simply don’t buy these kits for design, you buy them to play. It’s a simple “Use it or don’t.” situation. My only peeve is that they are not using the new Powered Up! stuff, which I take as a bad sign that there are technical issues and the cost is too high. Likely another technological dead end LEGO created for themselves.

Elsewhere the The LEGO Movie 2 sets made waves. Personally I can’t get behind the retro-looking stuff, since I never had any interest in LEGO until a few years ago, but other people love it, so I guess those Benny the Spaceman (and his crew) minifigure sets will sell like crazy. For me the Systar-themed sets are much more interesting, which should come as no surprise if you read this blog regularly and know my inclinations towards Friends sets and the like.I really like those rounded shapes in White, Dark Turquoise and Magenta and the new Salmon color is the icing on the cake. Lots to love there for me.

The rest of the new releases (so far) are of limited relevance. I’ve never been much into City, so I’m not getting particularly giddy over the reintroduction of light and sound bricks, but of course it is a step in the right direction and should at least catch up a tiny bit to Playmobil et al. Star Wars is definitely showing signs of fatigue with most sets once again just being rehashes of older ones with the necessary adaptations and improvements. I kinda love the Microfighters set with the Sand Green Dewback, though, so it may be worth a look.

Overall I’m pretty pleased, even though of course on a highly selective basis. This most definitely gives me a much better gut feeling than many of the half-baked releases this year, especially when it comes to sets that are within my typical range of what I might be able to afford. Of course not all sets have been revealed yet and there’s still room for super-expensive disappointments, but at least there’s some options to fall back to. I’m ending this week with a good vibe after it started out rather icky with the German version of LEGO Master.

Yepp, I indeed wasted an hour of my life on Sunday watching it and I just found it plain awful. To me it’s typical low-brow private TV fare. Everything was hopelessly exaggerated and schmalzed up, but in the end it was just as boring as those cooking and baking shows following the same pattern and dragged on for way too long. Most disappointingly, though, it didn’t seem to be anything about the mastery of LEGO techniques. Lumping something together that halfway works seemed to be enough and that’s simply not interesting to watch when it should be all about finesse and sophistication….