Premature Christmas Bakery

Christmas is quite a few weeks away, but apparently we are already getting the respectively themed LEGO Friends magazine with the November/ December issue barely a few days after Halloween.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, November 2019, Cover

As you would expect, it’s full of seasonal clichées and the Friends series being so gender stereotypical is getting more and moire cringe-worthy the more things progress on these matters in the real world. Perhaps a reimagining and restart of the series might be worth considering…

On the bright side, the CG renders are a little less creepy this time around, so it seems the artists responsible for this stuff are slowly getting a handle on their deformation rigs. It’s still far from great CGI, but knowing, as I do, that these things are whipped up on last-minute deadlines (always of course after the editorial staff have wasted months and months with being undecided which stories to actually publish) and minuscule budgets it’s okay.

Similarly the comics are compared to the other LEGO magazines still behind the times and just don’t look exciting or particularly enjoyable. This issue is also extremely scant on activities stuff, so if you were hoping to distract your kids for any thing longer than 5 minutes, that hope gets busted. The puzzles are really solvable by a three-year-old without much effort.

There’s a good volume of buildable parts at least, mostly owing to the inclusion of two “containers” for the cake fridge and a more regular storage box. Additionally there’s some related bits and bobs like cherries or the pretzels, so all around good stuff to have for detailing up a build. Even better yet, though probably total coincidence again, the next issue will focus on cake decoration and include even more decorations, so you could almost do your own version of The Great Bake Off

October Dèja-Vu?

As I keep on chewing through some of the Hidden Side sets, a new issue of the companion magazine has just arrived, so let’s have a look.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, November 2019, Cover

See something in the images below? Yepp, the cover is almost identical, a few minor differences notwithstanding. This had me confused at first until I checked the included minifigure. As hinted at last time it represents a version of the pizza guy also included in the Shrimp Shack Attack (70422) set. That’s good in that in its regular form it perfectly fits into an ordinary City scenario just as well. At the same time it’s a bit boring because it is way to unspecific and mundane for the ghostly world of Newbury.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, November 2019, Cover LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, October 2019, Cover

The rest of the magazine is very much in line with what you know from the other LEGO comics. What rubs me the wrong way, though, is that you can clearly see that a lot of effort has gone into some of the graphics. According to hearsay some illustrators labored over this for the last five years to prepare enough content for at least that long a publishing cycle as well, it seems. Yet it barely seems to pay off due to the individual panels being cropped and overlaid on top of each other in rather odd ways, obscuring large parts of some images.

Overall it is my impression that the mag has quite a way to go before reaching a certain level of quality. It likely doesn’t really help that for the next issue they are including the umpteenth Parker. L. Jackson figure. I really wish there was something a bit more exclusive as incentive to actually buy the mag regularly…

November TIE-Up

Nobody likes price hikes, so the November issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine now costing 4.20 Euro instead of the previous 3.99 was not a pleasant surprise at the newsstand. As long as there is some good value attached that 5 percent increase would acceptable, though, so let’s see if that does add up.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, November 2019, Cover

For me this is determined primarily by the parts included in the mini build and I have to say it’s pretty good this time around. There of course have been any number of small scale TIE Fighters already and one would think that this subject has been done to death, but the one included with the mag surprises with yet another novel approach. That is in particular how the large cooling panels (a.k.a. wings) are attached inverted by ways of the new T-style brackets. Logically then on a symmetrical model you get two of those. To somewhat cover up the now exposed undersides of the plates you also get four inverted tiles and it never hurts to have those, either, be it just to make your model undersides scratch-proof to prevent damage while the are standing on your table. all nice stuff to have from a builder’s perspective.

The comics don’t tie in with a specific story line from the movies and thus function independently, with clear references to The Force Awakens and The Empire Strike Back, however. They’re both drawn in the new, more dynamic style and here’s hoping that this will be the new norm. The posters are also pretty good and I’m almost tempted to put up the first order pilots one just for giggles. If you care remember there is a commercial, quite similar poster out there and it could be funny to have them side by side. The games and puzzles feel a bit light in this issue. I admittedly have no idea how long a simplistic dice-based strategy game with only a handful of planets to conquer can keep your kids distracted, though…

November Speed Trap

I don’t suppose that the LEGO City would be a multi-part series of fictional writing with a contiguous story, but as chance will have it, and that’s likely really just totally coincidental, one could see some greater story threads going on in the November issue.

LEGO Magazine, City, November 2019, Cover

If you care to remember, last month’s edition was all about fast pizza delivery and now imagine if that guy took things a bit too far and got caught in a traffic control. Yupp, the young police officer lady with her laser speed gun would sure have to say a thing or two to him. It could in its own way make for a brilliant play scenario and I think it would be fantastic if the magazine took that approach more often, unintended as this may have been. It would definitely be more attractive than just seemingly randomly firing out figures from the different sub-series.

Of course the female officer matches up with the rest of the ones we’ve gotten in the last few months, so at this point you could have about three or four of them to open up your own little police station without actually ever having bought a set. The buildable pieces don’t live up to that, though, and it seems we’re getting fewer and fewer with every issue. regrettably the various LEGO magazines are really becoming more minifigure packs with some extras than the other way around.

If donuts are your thing, then the comic is absolutely right for you as it’s built around the big sign from the Donut Shop Opening (60233) getting stolen. Funny enough I would in fact love to own the set for those special pieces since I have an idea floating in my head where such a large donut might come in handy. It’s just a bit on the expensive side only for that… Anyway, I digress. The rest of the magazine is okay and in particular the puzzles are a bit more demanding again this time, so those little brain teasers should give your kids something to do for a while on a bad weather fall afternoon.

October Jedi Fighter

October is the time of year where the leaves on trees turn yellow, so it seems a fitting coincidence that the LEGO Star Wars magazine has some prominent use of this color on its cover this month. In fact even the insides could be called autumn-ish with lots of browns, ocres and similar colors featured in the comics.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2019, Cover

One of the comics revolves around a desert-based adventure, though, so there’s no direct relation. On the other hand the second comic hammers this home even more by being a direct tie-in to the little Jedi Interceptor model that comes by ways of the buildable parts.

Personally I don’t care much about any of the Jedi fighters because they always look kinda ineffective in the movies and series and probably really don’t stand much of a chance in a larger battle. The model is an adequate representation of Anakin‘s vehicle from Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, though, at least at this tiny scale. No particularly extraordinary or rare parts to skim for your collection, but Yellow and Dark Bluish Grey pieces are at least pretty universally usable for different types of projects, so no complaints there.

The magazine itself feels a bit light with only two relatively simple puzzles to keep your kids busy and the already mentioned comics. Not much there to distract the kids for too long, unfortunately.

Ghostly October Apparition

As I was writing just a few days ago, I quite like LEGO‘s new Hidden Side series (minus the interactive features, of course), so I was wondering whether it would at least get some special issues in magazine form. Lo and behold, it looks like it’s even going to get a regular bi-monthly publishing cycle for the next two years at least. So let’s see what the first issue has in store.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, October 2019, Cover

First, let me be clear about one thing: While the main protagonists are supposed in their early teenage years, i.e. early puberty, I don’t think the magazines will do anything for this target demographic or appeal to them specifically. To me this whole concept seems like some people in their mid-forties decided to be zeitgeist-y and in a corporate meeting came up with something that they think younger people might consider hip. It always feels a bit embarrassing and ingratiating.

Why is this important? Well of course the magazine can’t stay away from giving everyone a short biography. I’d rather they would not and left it open to everyone’s imagination what specific age the figures are. It’s already bad enough that they all are explicitly named. You know, LEGO are always beating about the bush on fostering creativity like e.g. with this week’s launch of their Rebuild the World campaign, but at the end of they day they way too often try to lock people into specific play scenarios. Arguably, with this being also being tied into their digital games some of that is inevitable, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

With all that said, the magazine isn’t half bad. It comes with a version of the Jack Davids figure that also is included in pretty much almost every single one of the buyable sets. I couldn’t say that I needed the umpteenth iteration to stash away in my boxes, but if e.g. you only got the Newbury Juice Bar (40336) as a freebie while buying other stuff at the LEGO store, this is a good complementary figure to get you started. The rest of the magazine follows very much the same pattern familiar from the Star Wars and City versions.

The comic is drawn nicely, but not least of all due to that odd age thing doesn’t quite click with me. But perhaps I’m really getting too old and stay away from all this new-fangled social media stuff too much. The poster has the artworks of the commercial sets all munched together on one side and while this provides a clearer look at some of the pieces, I still wish they’d tackle this one at a time. It seems a bit of a waste to come up with the designs and then print them so barely recognizable over and over again.

Overall it’s okay for a first issue, though I hope they will amp it up quite a bit in future mags. The next one due in November is going to include the pizza shirt dude from the Shrimp Shack Attack (70422) set with an alternate “possessed” head and hair piece, so that’s at least a tiny step up already. In the long run I would like to see something a bit more exclusive, however.

Speedy October Pizza

Full disclosure: I don’t particularly like pizza. This likely has a lot to do with my general dislike for anything with cheese and my disdain for “ordering-in”, but suffice it to say that the occasions where I have been eating a slice are few and far between. That’s why a good chunk of the appeal of the October issue of the LEGO City magazine may be lost on me, so bear with me if I just don’t “get” what it’s all about as apparently the whole things is built exactly around these subjects this time.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2019, Cover

The included model struck me as odd at first, as such a sport bike would barely make sense for a regular delivery service. Within the context of the magazine’s comic it begins to fall into place, though. In any case, not having had such a particular type of motorcycle in my collection yet I’m not going to complain. The only thing that is very obvious are the large empty areas on the windshield/ aerodynamic covers. They really beg for a print, but I guess that was too much to hope for on a freebie.

Funny enough I have even less reason to be miffed because my little bag actually contained two of the black support frames. It’s certainly puzzling to see, considering how large a part this is. You would only expect this on smaller items. On the other hand, having to request replacement parts from LEGO‘s service on what seems every second set I buy lately it’s not that surprising, after all. Something is seriously awry with their sorting and packaging.

The minifigure is quite generic and if you have a spare hair piece somewhere to replace the helmet, you can easily integrate it in every scenario in your little city. Beyond that there’s only the printed tile with the rather uninspired generic “Pizza” print and two white 2 x 2 jumper plates to create a small stack of delivery boxes. You know what would have been cool? If they had included said tile with an exclusive print like e.g. the “City Pizza” logo from their xtra (853129) signage sticker set. that would have been ace and made this a coveted item.

The comic itself, barring my brain being unattuned this kind of eating habits and everything that goes with them, seems okay and is nicely drawn. It just doesn’t really click with me. The posters, despite being CG-based are also acceptable this time around. All things considered this is a pretty solid issue.