Fiery October – LEGO City Magazine, October 2020

The CoViD-19 pandemic is unfortunately reigniting everywhere and the world certainly needs some committed medical firefighters to combat that. Therefore it’s kind of fitting (along with the fact that there’s actual massive bush fires in some countries currently) that the current LEGO City magazine brings us one of those helpful dudes.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2020, Cover

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2020, Extras The minifigure is the same you will find in the Forest Fire (60247) set, which incidentally I had bought earlier this year just for the unique owl it contains. The red slopes also came in handy for my lightsaber sharpening facility MOC, of course. Sometimes things work out in mysterious ways indeed. The little buggy is virtually just another variation on the same build found in the Jurassic World magazine where I already mentioned this. They only use different wheels and a few details deviate, but overall it’s nearly identical. Naturally there’s only so many ways to skin a cat when you have such a limited number of pieces. To my eyes the color scheme looks the wrong way round. I would have preferred red mudguards and only Bright Light Yellow accents.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2020, Poster

The comic is pretty nice this time and overall there’s tons of puzzles and activities, which is always a good thing to keep your kids occupied. They sneaked in some animal rescue stuff as well, which makes it regrettable that none of the depicted pumas and panthers is actually in the foil pack. I know, those animals are expensive, but it would be ace to one day get them this way. One of the posters, the “No time for panic” shown above, is also pretty good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jet-Skiing into September

In the middle of the first (and hopefully only) extreme summer heat wave for this year yet another issue of the LEGO City magazine has dropped. In normal times its subject would have been nothing special, but these aren’t normal times thanks to the CoViD-19 pandemic, of course. That’s why things are beginning to feel a bit weird even to me.

LEGO Magazine, City, September 2020, Cover

Point in case: Somehow the pretend “normal” summer activities seem so out of touch and alignment with what’s going on in the real world with people required to follow specific rules, beaches being closed off, large gatherings such as concerts being forbidden or only possible with reduced crowds and so on. Not that it should matter to kids, but to me the disparity between the fantasy world of these magazines and everyday life is just odd.

Anyway, the theme being yet again water-based activities just like last month’s diver, this time we’re getting everything based around jet skis. Sadly it seems LEGO have given up and the models included in the mags are getting rudimentary to the point of being ridiculously over-simplified. The jet ski is literally built at the level of a three-year-old with no fancies. It doesn’t even pretend to be more than an excuse so they can still print “X pieces included” on the cover. It’s simply terrible. The minifigure is also not particularly original, with the surfer shirt torso having been used a million times in different sets. So not much valuable here.

The puzzles and activities department is filled reasonably well this time. I’m still surprised how uneven this is across different issues with some mags being okay and others barely having any such content. The comic is acceptable, but I have to scoff at some really bad typography for some signage used in it. It really feels like what is in the media industry called an “intern job”. I get that the comics are drawn blank and then translated, but c’mon, clearly there must be an established procedure to integrate the type naturally rather than having it look like your mom plastered it on with PowerPoint

So overall this is pretty disappointing on many levels and it doesn’t look like the next edition is going to be much better. I’m again pretty close to just not buying this one anymore and I’m pretty sure the day where I’ll genuinely stop spending my money for it is not that far off.

July Jack

Know what? Jack is really getting a bit on my nerves. Not only is he once again front and center in the new LEGO Hidden Side magazine for July, but he also makes an appearance as a minifigure yet again.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, July/ August 2020, Cover

The point here is of course that per se there’s nothing wrong with Jack, but the figures are simply booooring as hell. It’s like he only owns two sweaters and always has the same grin. Including Spencer makes things a bit more attractive, but only ever so slightly. So from where I sit this is a total miss and I’m looking much more forward to the next issue which for once will include a truly unique minifigure.

The comic in this issue is interesting, as it depicts the Newbury Zoo. This has been rumored as a set ever since Hidden Side was first announced, but given how the series is on a steady decline, I doubt that we will ever get to see those ghostly tigers and elephants for real. It’s highly unlikely that LEGO would invest the money in those potentially poorly selling sets at this point. That is, of course, unless they are already released the budget in the process of preparing actual production.

Interestingly enough, now Hidden Side joins the other LEGO magazines by including images for coloring. It seems someone realized that kids actually love to doodle around with this. That’s quite adequate because you can say what you will, but the artworks show that a lot of effort went into them. Would be a shame not to use them. The rest is the usual mix of obscure puzzles and rather unimpressive posters that I certainly would not put up anywhere.

Summer Double

The ongoing Corona pandemic is still messing up the release dates of the various LEGO magazines and it’s a bit of a jumble. That’s why today I’m rolling two of them into one review, the slightly late Friends magazine that was supposed to come out a week earlier and the current City issue.

LEGO Magazine, City, August 2020, Cover

As has become a bit of a tradition, the summer editions of these magazines are themed around matching activities such as swimming and diving, and lo and behold – we do indeed get another diver. I hinted at this of course already in my last review. The minifigure is from the “old” city series, not this year’s collaboration effort with National Geographic, so except for the colors of the swimming fins and the air tank it matches with the one from last year.

The shark is a nice addition, but also just the classic mold that has been around for forever. Nothing wrong with that. They just could spice things up every now and then. I would love to have this in Sand Blue (Blue Shark) or in Dark Tan (Sand Shark/ Bull Shark) or maybe they could have added some flair with Black or White fin tips (Black Tip/ White Tip Reef Shark). So many ways! Well, maybe we get lucky next year! 😉

The comic is called “Day of the Tentacle”, which sounds very familiar if you have ever heard of the game of the same name. It deals – of course – with a giant squid and the action surrounding a photo hunt for it. Some of the panels are drawn scarily realistically, so if you (or your kids) are sensitive to that sort of thing don’t read it before bedtime! That could apply to other stuff as well, as for all intents and purposes the creatures of the deep just look weird sometimes and are not for everyone. I happen to like them, so this month’s City magazine is quite nice for me.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, July/ August 2020, Cover

Elsewhere, in Heartlake City to be precise, things are a bit more harmless with a cutesy baby dolphin being rescued from an oh so evil shark. There’s really not much more to say about the comic than this tired trope. Most activities are picture-based with trying to find flaws or matching shapes, which i guess might be appropriate for five-year-old girls or something like that. There’s also a coloring image and this time you can assemble a larger panoramic poster from two double-page folds showing the girls’ faces.

The buildable parts come with a small raised lifeguard/ beach watcher seat and the Light Aqua baby dolphin found in last year’s sea animal rescue series, which unfortunately wasn’t continued this year and had to make way for the NatGeo collab around land-based animals as well just like in City. As usual nothing earth-shattering, but still nice to have a few extra parts for the collection.

Construction July

The months keep slogging on in these weird times and I’m still always surprised how quickly those weeks inbetween pass, yet here we go with another issue of the LEGO City magazine, this time for July.

LEGO Magazine, City, July 2020, Cover

The City theme has become kind of stale in the sense that they are walking on trodden paths all the time with the current subjects of the commercial sets being all too dominant, so I for one at least am glad that instead we every now and then get some diversity. Construction workers are a trope unto themselves, of course, but at least it’s not the umpteenth police officer.

This one comes with a ground compactor and some extra mobile fencing. Lovely stuff for an actual play scene. I also realized that until now I didn’t have a single of the 2 x 2 pillar-stile round bricks in Dark Bluish Grey in my collections. The wonders of incidental LEGO purchases! The name of the little guy is weird, though. Harl? SRSLY? Neither Harley nor Harlow or any derivations thereof are common names in German and it just doesn’t work for me. It certainly feels forced to squeeze the alliteration of the letter H in the name.

The rest of the magazine is pretty well-rounded. There’s lots of activities and while the puzzles, games and coloring image are not overly complex, they will keep your kids busy for at least an afternoon. I even like one of the posters. not that I would necessarily put it up on my wall, but as a graphics artist I have to say that its composition and execution are up to a certain standard that makes it perfectly acceptable. The comic doesn’t do much for me, but I guess that’s due to my general lack of interest and knowledge about soccer/ football.

The next issue will be a kind of dèja-vu, as it gives us another of the divers we already had in last year’s summer issue, just with variations on the accessories. It will also include a shark, but the old standard mold. Would have been nice to get the hammerhead from the just released new underwater series  instead… 😉

Saturday Triple

I’ve distracted myself with way too much other stuff this week, so I didn’t get around to catching you up on the latest LEGO magazines and thus I’m rolling three of them into this single article.

LEGO Magazine, City, June 2020, Cover

The June issue of the City mag this time is themed around the new racing/ car workshop sets from this year’s spring releases and consequently therefore we are getting a small kart as buildable parts. It’s nothing too special, but at least it uses the same base plate as they did in the failed Friends kart racing series, so building your little vehicle is super simple and at the same time super robust. The minifigure is also nice in that it’s plain and generic enough to fit many scenarios. Even the red helmet is a welcome change from the usual, as lately I seem to have only come across black and white ones in most sets.

The aforementioned figure is also featured on one of the posters and this, too, benefits from the somewhat unspecific, unbranded nature. If you will, it’s not as obtrusive as some other figures that are plastered all over with advertising, be that made up or real. The comics seem to now have fully transitioned to the newer, more dynamic style in all magazines, so it’s pretty acceptable and, which is a bonus, can also almost be followed without reading the speech bubbles.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, June 2020, Cover

The Friends magazine is giving me a lot of grief, not just because they reduced its publishing frequency to only every two months. It’s just done so poorly from the lackluster comic to the ugly CG figures. The only reason I still buy it are indeed the extra buildable pieces. With the puppy training theme being the latest weird trend in the commercial sets it was inevitable that it would show up here one day as well. The good thing about it is that this way I’m getting a white little doggy without ever having to buy one of those sets, as indeed Bello with the grey dotted eye patch is completely new print variant of this molding.

The rest is really not worth mentioning, though at least it seems they have adjusted their target demographic’s age a little and the activities and some other things at least make sense in that context.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, June 2020, Cover

Finally there’s Hidden Side. The graphical fidelity of the series still impresses me and shows that a lot of labor was poured into it, the actual story and content not so much. At least the J.B. figure is pretty decent and they even were smart enough to include the ghost-hunting gun. That’s cool because it’s based on the newer 1×1 pistol piece, which due to its compact size and strategically placed studs opens up lots of possibilities to build custom weapons, household appliances etc. or even integrate is as a brick/ bracket of sorts into regular builds.

The poster with the different ghosts would actually be okay if it wasn’t so overstuffed, but Jack? SRSLY? Isn’t it bad enough that we’re getting yet another boring figure of him in the next issue? I’m sorry, but I’m literally facepalming myself over this…

May Gangster Chase

While hunting down the more exotic flavors of the LEGO magazines like Disney Princess isn’t easy, at least the more regular versions like the one for City make it to my local newsstand without a hitch every month.

LEGO Magazine, City, May 2020, Cover

The May issue comes with a double minifigure pack this time, but at the cost of not much else in the parts & pieces department, understandably. Rooted in the police theme this allows you to play out your favorite chase scenes, being that you get a police officer and an actual gangster/ bandit/ criminal/ prison escapee or however you like to call it.

This could even be based on the comic since it deals with that exact scenario or could be your own freely invented story, of course. The dynamic pair relationship is also retained in the posters, with either side of them having one of the characters in the foreground and the other in the back. This allows you to choose your favorite version.

Overall this edition is quite nice for the simple fact that it’s designed around a singular theme consistently and that makes it quite enjoyable even if the subject matter has been done to death, admittedly.

April what…?!

As indicated last time, we’re getting yet another LEGO Hidden Side magazine issue with Jack all too prominently featured on the cover and while I would be glad that him receding into the background might hint at something better, that is far from the truth. Yupp, I thought my eyes were cheating on me, but the El Fuego skeleton is already visible in the exact same pose in the preview for the next edition in May.

Talk about over-re-using stock art! That’s like when you find the same stock photo being used in totally unrelated adverts for different products. This couldn’t be *facepalm*-ier and is a poor testament to the designers, given how much new artwork has actually been created for the series.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, April 2020, Cover

The minifigure of the bicycle gang member for me is a win, because I still haven’t bought the El Fuego’s Stunt Truck (70421) set where it was originally featured. the prints are nice and if you manage to buy a couple of those figs, vary their heads and other details and have some ideas for bikes an Easy Rider like formation is not impossible.

The magazine itself is oddly overblown and yet incoherent, trying to cram in a million story beats into the comic. This is just plain confusing and to me does only confirm how directionless Hidden Side is overall. It’s just jumping from subject to subject to crank out sets and that will be its undoing. The puzzles are only mildly challenging and the posters are as awful as the cover. Aside from the figure there’s not much of interest here, unfortunately.

Yellow April

Just another month, just another LEGO City magazine one might say. Yes, the April issue is already here.

LEGO Magazine, City, April 2020, Cover

First thing to note: Blue Ocean seem to be using a different glue for the tacked on bag with the buildable elements (and also in this case a free sample pack of Ninjago collectible cards). It appears to be a bit less elastic and thus sticks to the paper more. Being unaware of this and following my usual method i therefore managed to shred the cover and rip of bits of the top layer of the paper, hence the white areas. I need to be more careful next time.

The parts included are touted as being for a bulldozer, but honestly words begin to fail me. It’s quickly becoming pointless to even include these elements if the supposed vehicle is barely even recognizable. They are clearly taking the reductions too far. The pieces are not without merit for me, though. Funny enough in all those years I never had come across this particular wheel hub type in yellow nor did I have the shield element in Dark Blueish Grey yet. So at least it’s a minor addition to my parts stock. The yellow hubs might come in handy if I ever decide to build a DHL/ Deutsche Post (German postal services) vehicle at least.

The comic is pretty wild and colorful, which I guess is natural when it’s about a rainbow-colored theme park being built. The activities, i.e. puzzles and so on also tie in quite well with this subject. And for once there’s even a pretty good poster (the one with the construction worker standing on the steel bar in mid-air). While certainly not essential, this is overall a good enough issue.