After I’ve been a bit under the weather in the last two weeks and didn’t really get much done it’s time to pick up pace again on this here blog and what could be more fitting for the Halloween weekend than to have a look at another LEGO Hidden Side set with the Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436).
Package and Contents
I got this set only very recently. I always kind of wanted it, but at the same time I never thought it would actually be worth a 70 Euro investment. I only jumped on to it when it dropped below 50 Euro. Aside from my overall cost-conscious approach to LEGO this simply had to do with the fact that it never felt essential within the Hidden Side series itself and in addition also didn’t look like it could hold up on its own as a standard fire truck to be used elsewhere. More on the specifics of that later on.
The other thing that I noticed when looking at the official marketing photos is that this model looked somehow oddly small next to the minifigures. You can even see this in my own overview shot. This also contributed to my reluctance and was confirmed once I had the model. The box it comes in is a rather pretentious affair in that it is being very wide and tall, but very flat, which always makes me suspicious. It’s the old gag of “Size does matter!” and I don’t like being lured into a false sense of scale by oversized boxes.
By comparison the model is indeed a bit on the tiny end. This is in particular disappointing as it doesn’t even match in scale with the Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000 (70423). At the very least this will impact play value should you or your kids decide to use both vehicles next to each other. I have no way of verifying any of this, but I would wager that you’d have similar issues with the ghost train, the school or other buildings. It may even look weird next to the Graveyard Mystery (70420) or the Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419). So no matter what – something is wonky with the scale they chose.
The figures are your run-off-the-mill standard Hidden Side crew – Jack, Parker, J.B. – complemented by a robot called TeeVee and on the opposing side a Shadow Walker. The robot doesn’t have a real torso but rather uses a 1 x 2 x 2 brick with studs on the side for the upper section and it’s face is created with two exchangeable printed 2 x 2 tiles. Sadly they are designed so unimaginatively, I was ready to throw them out immediately. They are pretty garbage and at this point I can’t imagine ever using them for anything.
For once this set comes with a genuine monster by ways of Nehmaar Reem – The Harbinger, constructed from buildable parts. This, however, is yet another only half successful effort at best in my opinion.
I do understand the concept – some tentacles or strands of smoke/ some oily liquid form the limbs and then converge to form the torso – and it might even look pretty cool when animated in 3D inside a game or a movie with everything wobbling around and constantly re-forming itself, but as a physical object it looks utterly boring. Most notably there should be a lot of additional half-formed tentacles coming out of the ground and the main character be engulfed in them as well as having other little stuff on their ends like bats or lumps of “mud” that the creature tries to fling at the ghost hunters.
The biggest shortfall is however the head and I’m not even criticizing the color choice. A plain 2 x 2 round brick in Light Aqua doesn’t bother me. It just looks way too tiny and not the least bit scary here and I guess that is the point: It would have made a lot more sense if they had dug out an old Bionicle face mask like this one for instance. It looks positively alien-ish and creepy. Re-done in Black and Yellowish Green and combined with some glowy transparent color for the underlying head piece that apparently go with those masks this could have been pretty rad.
The main item is recognizably modeled after an older General Motors fire truck from the 1970s and early 1980s. In theory that should be a good thing, as there’s a certain charme to those old rustic vehicles, but of course it is sort of ruined by all the add-ons.
The vehicle itself (minus the blue parts) represents some sort of mix between a ladder truck and an equipment truck with a large box/ container section. I’m not an expert on this stuff, but as far as I can tell such a hybrid could exist somewhere as some sort of specialized version e.g. with a big rigid float for water rescue operations covering up the rear deck and the equipment lockers therefore having to be shorter in order for the vehicle to not exceed height limits for driving under bridges and the like. It’s just one possible explanation, of course, and you can always craft your own story around that. Either way, in that regard the model is highly plausible.
As far as it remains visible, the shaping is done nicely all the way round, be that the driver’s cabin or the rounded edges at the top not least of all thanks to the 1 x 2 rounded bricks introduced two years ago.
The rear bumper, or for that matter the entire rear, loses quite a bit of its magic due to being split in the middle. As you may already have guessed, this has to do with these areas actually being parts of the mech folded onto the back of the chassis in a Transformers-like attempt to disguise themselves as normal sections of the car. Inherently the limitations in precision with plastic-based joints prevent the alignment from ever being truly one-hundred percent perfect and the crack can be easily seen most of the time, no matter how meticulously you push things into place. This could have benefited from a solution where the two halves actually interlock to stay straight.
A lot of the sides is covered up with the “junk” equipment used for ghost hunting and the bumper bars/ cages around the wheel wells. Those would be the first elements I’d remove to turn the car back into a regular fire truck, but then you would also have to replace the black wheel hubs with grey or metallic ones. If you will, there’s a bit of illusion painting going on here which only works with the bumpers in place.
The cockpit exterior is nice and the front believably looks like it could have originated in the 1980s. In fact in addition to the GM trucks this also reminds me of the similar Skoda fire trucks that I saw in my youth. The horns/ sirens are extremely exaggerated, but i think that this is appropriate and looks cool.
Splitting Up Together
As mentioned earlier, “the lady comes in two parts”, as they say with one being the truck undercarriage and the other the mech huddled together. once you remove it, a few things come to light or become accessible.
The first of those is the cockpit interior. It’s not impossible to remove the roof with the mech saddled up, but the big cannons tend to get in the way if you’re not careful. It’s much easier this way, even more so as I found the fit to be very tight and removal of the roof requiring some force and technique. The layout inside is pretty much identical to what you get in the yellow school bus from this series, with the area behind the driver’s seats occupied by a big computer workstation to track the ghosts. Unimaginative, but okay.
The rear section of the plain truck has some nice details indicating some sort of docking mechanism as you also would find it on cargo trucks. There is also some pretty elaborate tubing to hint at exhaust pipes and power ducts, but a lot of it is hidden behind the equipment shelves and beneath the color dial used for the interactive app. That way the two silver goblets used to hold the cones barely get their due.
Speaking of color dials, the big one behind the cockpit is pretty much Hidden Side 1:1 standard fare, but in a neat twist there are also additional markers on the sides that use the new cut-in-half round bricks I already was so fond of with the Supernatural Race Car (70434), only this time in Yellow.
Finally, the doors can be opened, of course, but again with the “cannons” in the way access to the interior might be finicky at best. Better to remove the roof entirely. On that note, the Red doors and train window panels likely should prove popular with train enthusiasts to some degree. The ones in this set even have actual glass elements in Trans Black already, making for excellent port hole windows e.g on the engine sections of some diesel locomotives.
The worst part of the set, and I have to be honest here, is indeed the half-concocted mech. It literally has “We ran out of ideas, so let’s just do the umpteenth mech!” written all over it. Now perhaps I need to blame myself for having bought too many Ninjago mechs, but it’s getting a bit tiring – not so much the subject itself, but seeing the ever same interpretations and techniques being used in the LEGO world.
This particular model is reminiscent of the smaller tactical mechs found in some older Mechwarrior games and similar – open cockpit areas, ridiculously oversized guns (or rocket launchers) and overall rather barebones with critical parts like hinges hopelessly exposed to enemy fire.
In its folded up posture this constitutes the whole rear section of the fire truck and basically just looks like one big gun. It’s held in place by the few exposed studs you saw further above on the truck’s chassis frame. This works okay if you press things down neatly and don’t mess around too much, but for my taste the mech comes off too easily, not to speak of the symmetry alignment issues I also already mentioned earlier.
Posing the mech is far from easy and essentially the pose you see in the images is the maximum of how you can spread the legs to appear somewhat dynamic without the whole shebang tipping over. Sadly the model copies the “stiff knee” approach LEGO have adapted for Ninjago et al, meaning the knee joint is missing and instead there’s a fixed ninety degree angle, and as a result due to the shortness of the legs there is very limited freedom of movement to get this balanced nicely.
One good thing, and ultimately one of the reasons I took the plunge to get this set, after all, is the plethora of parts in Dark Azure. That also includes parts of the large joints, which in my book counts as an extraordinary event. Usually LEGO doesn’t bother to color them consistently with the model and will opt to go the standard route by using the stock Dark Bluish Grey, Light Bluish Grey and Black versions, so this is indeed something worth pointing out specifically.
As I wrote in the introduction, this is in no way essential to have, well-executed as some parts of it may be. It doesn’t do much for Hidden Side and converting it to a more regular fire truck for a city scenario, while not impossible, would require some not so minor effort to replace the mech sections and convert them into standard superstructures. Ultimately that’s perhaps the point: A more conventional design with a ladder or just a large tank and water guns would have been more useful from the outset and looked the better for it. The mech somehow doesn’t cut it at all and only disturbs what otherwise could have been a nice fire fighting vehicle to hose down them ghost’s…