Explorer-ing… Robots – LEGO Explorer Magazine, March 2022

We live in a world full of communication artificial intelligence and automation, so of course the LEGO Explorer magazine would have to tackle some of these topics. As so often, this could be a recurring topic filling entire books, but the March 2022 issue is at least a start.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Cover

The info pages highlight a few inventors and inventions that have set a few milestones with their ideas. As it is, you can only feature so many on those few pages while leaving so many others out, but at least there are some hints and clues to a few lesser known people and their impact on today’s technology.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Info Page

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Info Page

The comic still doesn’t do much for me and feels unnecessary in this particular magazine, but at least it doesn’t occupy too many pages and is drawn well enough. the more I look at it I also have the desire to get the crazy professor minifigure. It was in the Collectible Minifigures Series 14 before I even got into LEGO. It would be really cool if they did an issue with two or three minifigures one day and included him as a re-issue, slightly modified of course to not spoil the collector’s value of the original.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Comic

There is a poster, but aside from me genuinely having forgotten to snap a shot, it doesn’t provide anything interesting. It’s basically just an advertisement depicting mostly LEGO Mindstorms/ Boost robots, a subject which won’t be that interesting to most regular LEGO builders unless you really are into programming and robotics.

The extra is another version of the magazine’s mascot robot ED, who was also the extra for the first edition. They changed a few things around, but I still find him unattractive and unimaginative in the sense that this feels like one of those student lab robots whose capabilities are limited to driving around and making *beep* noises. It also seems that they threw in those random bits as filler because they quite didn’t know 

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, March 2022, Extra

All in all this is an okay issue, just not particularly exciting. It feels like they didn’t quite know what to do with the subject matter and they shunned away from the more complex stuff this admittedly also entails.

Lots-O-Yello’ – LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551)

Love them or hate them, but you have to admit that the Despicable Me movies and their so far single Minions spin-off have been huge successes, both commercially and to some extent also critically. Personally I still prefer the original first movie with its heart-warming and funny story, with the sequels losing some of that charm, but others may feel differently.

Now the thing is that the set discussed here is actually a tie-in for the latest movie that was supposed to have come out early last year but due to the pandemic has ultimately been postponed to July 2022 (assuming they don’t change it again), which is an eternity. In that time they could have produced yet another complete film just as well. That’s why we essentially know squat about the exact story at this point and will have to judge this just on how well it captures some generics from previous movies. So let’s see if the LEGO Minions Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551) would be worth your time and money.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Box

Contents, Pricing and Availability

The sets have been on the market for quite a while, meaning since March/ April 2020 in fact. That is of course down to the fact that you can’t time these things perfectly and production and distribution has considerable lead-in time before the products are physically available, so LEGO evidently had pretty much pre-produced large numbers of these sets. They therefore released them despite the movie being pushed to later dates again and again so they would not clog up their own storage and logistics.

The downside to that naturally is that there was no recognizable marketing for the movie to bolster sales and to people not following the latest movie news it may even have appeared like those sets appearing out of the blue with no rhyme or reason behind it. As it is, overall sales therefore have been somewhat slow, though the first wave of this particular set last year sold out relatively quickly, regardless. I guess there’s enough die-hard Minions fans that don’t care for a specific reason, after all.

Another unfortunate side effect of this whole kerfuffle is that some sets from this line already have been earmarked as end-of-life (EOL) by LEGO, which could lead to the paradox situation that when the movie finally rolls out in theaters next year, you may no longer be able to buy and collect them all. For the time being, this set, it also being the largest from the series is not affected by this, but you never know. Holding off a purchase for forever may not be a good idea.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Overview

That said, of course I’m just as guilty of exactly that, having waited for prices to drop for almost a year. My reasoning here always has been that the suggested retail price of 50 Euro just never seemed good enough. Granted, you get two full buildable figures and technically there are 876 pieces, but it just didn’t feel right.

This boils down to two things: Many of the elements used in the construction of the models are 1 x 1 or 2 x 2 plates and bricks. This can easily be deduced from just looking at photos and can also be verified when downloading the digital instructions. The other point is that also very recognizable the models would turn out kind of small-ish. They are larger than Brickheadz, given that they are built on an 8 x 8 base rather than 6 x 6, but they are still not that huge. Both of these factors made me feel that the volume of stuff just isn’t there. Add to that that in theory you would need to buy a second box to build all three characters at the same time and you know where this is heading.

Basically my gut feeling has always been that this should have cost 35 Euro MSRP. That would have made it more feasible to buy those two packages right away and it would have felt better. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be and so my dream pricing is only available via discounts. Still, even that is not as easy as it sounds as due to circumstances prices are relatively high. My time to strike came when an unexpected Amazon voucher dropped into my lap, bringing their discounted 40 Euro price down to 30 Euro. It’s not the ultimate irresistible temptation, but was good enough.

In summary this set feels expensive, a lot more expensive than it should, but factually you as the costumer can’t do much about it. It’s not that easy to come by at all and when you spot it somewhere, you may have to pay more than you might like.

The Figures

The Minions of course have a very distinct pill/ capsule shape, which in and of itself is part of the appeal and quite ingenious even from the viewpoint of a 3D animator. It’s one of those “Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” things that feel so obvious once you realize the awesome potential. That by all means also includes how these little annoying creatures would translate to LEGO – you almost expect that they would just use a few existing round bricks, put some prints on them and then call it a day. This is however not the case and indeed they produced some new custom parts which indeed may have the advantage of working in reverse just as well should one day they decide to produce them in other colors without prints.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Figures

This set only contains characters based on the 2 x 2 round elements with them being  Stuart, Kevin and Bob, but there is a 3 x 3 version representing Otto in two of the other sets. It is also worth pointing out that in those other sets the recurring characters have different prints, so if you want to collect them all you may have to spend quite a bit of money one way or the other even if the general design is always similar. This even extends to the 1 x 1 tiles used for the eyes with different irises and eyelids in the sets. Building an entire army and customizing each individual could become quite a challenge. The basics are al lthere, though, and aside from the opacity of some prints leaving a bit to be desired they are executed well enough.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Figures

Of course I’m not revealing anything new when telling you that at one point Mega Construx had a license when the Minions movie was released some years ago. In fact that’s one of the reasons why I was rather skeptical about whether this theme would even be mildly successful when it was announced. It felt like everything already had been said and done and there was little room for anything to add to that. That is in a way true, given how few sets LEGO actually designed, but of course in light of the movie being unreleased we don’t know anything about future plans.

Anyway, given the overall design approach for the Minions it would be inevitable that their minifigures would turn out similar and that can easily be proven with a direct comparison. I had some of the Mega figures from two or three sets I bought back then so this was easy enough to do. Objectively the Mega versions do have more sculpted details and overall look more “realistic” with LEGO taking a more simplified approach more in line with regular minifigures or for that matter for instance the buildable Super Mario characters that also make use of the pin-based arms.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Figures Comparison with Mega


The first of the big characters is Stuart, representing the most prototypical Minions type in terms of size and proportions. Only his singular big eye makes him stand out. As you can see, the shape of the cross section is not actually round but rather an elongated rounded corner block. One could of course make up any number of rationalizations as to why they have opted for this approach and yes, some of it is necessary in order to actually be able to build something and get in some details, but for the most part it likely boils down to the simple truth that LEGO just doesn’t have enough rounded parts beyond the usual 2 x 2 quarter “macaroni” bricks and shells, the matching 4 x 4 cylinders, round plates and the large 5 x 5 bits. They have begun to address this with a handful of newer 3 x 3 elements, but there are still notable gaps in the portfolio.

Personally I don’t mind it too much though, as it has the advantage of making the characters look a bit stocky and clumsy like they do in the actual movies and just as well it also prevents too many large gaps appearing where elements are plugged on externally like the big eye. It’s also strangely enough much more presentation-friendly as you have a clear orientation for each model and don’t need to fiddle that much with getting them lined up nicely as you would with genuine cylindrical builds.

The interior has a functional area, i.e. “lair” but again without the context of the film we do not know if a) it’s real and b) what function it serves or c) if the LEGO designers have made it up entirely to add interest to models that otherwise would just be static hollow shells. For me it doesn’t do that much due to the restrictions of the limited space and how things can be put together, but I guess it’s okay. Regrettably this is also once more a case where you are supposed to use a lot of stickers, which I never do, so it looks a bit barren. It would have helped if they had decided on using a few different colors here and there to add interest. also the large knob in the middle to rotate the eye feels a bit superfluous, given that you can rotate it manually by grabbing it just fine.


Kevin is the tall guy of the gang and also the smartest, which is sort of visible by his less crazy behavior and somewhat nerdy overall look. The build is in large parts the same as for Stuart, only with some additional rows of bricks inserted and of course the conventional “goggle” style pair of eyes.

The interior plays on the nerdiness by representing a large control room with lots of computer screens and that’s why it looks particularly dreary without stickers. With there being eight screens it is slightly disappointing that LEGO couldn’t be bothered to at least print some tiles with a TV static/ noise, a “No Signal” message or a generic test pattern. This would have been useful and in fact those prints could have been re-used in the future for many similar scenarios. This is one of those small, repeating aggravations where I really don’t understand why they haven’t sat down a designer creating these tiles a decade ago already and could have had them in stock now…

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Kevin, Interior


When you’re done building the original two main models you’re left with a bunch of extra parts that are meant for a conversion of Kevin into Bob. initially I was loathe to the idea and really didn’t want to do it, but then I got over myself and spent an evening transforming the model.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Extra Parts

The reason why I was so teed off is the way you are supposed to do it. You are meant to basically rebuild the whole figure from scratch, which makes this even more repetitive than the whole process already is. I kind of hacked it, trying to keep large sections intact and only exchanging bits as needed and removing what would no longer be needed, but it was still time-consuming and frustrating. This is not very well thought through and not good engineering, even if you allow for the designers having to compromise due to lack of space and the specifics of the shape.

Point in case: It should have been as simple as lifting off the top section at some pre-determined separation line, removing the extraneous bricks and clipping in a new “module” for the interior decoration, give or take a few extra steps like replacing the tile for the differently colored eye. A more straightforward way of doing this would also facilitate and encourage people to build other variations of them little critters.

Bob‘s interior is apparently some martial arts dojo/ training gym and overall rather simplistic. It might have benefited from a pinch of extra gold by ways of throwing in some Ninjago stuff or some golden tiles on the floor.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Bob, Interior

Build Observations and Special Pieces

One of the things that became a bit annoying and literally also the reason why I built each character on a different evening is the tediousness of the actual build. As mentioned earlier there are tons of 1 x 1 elements and I really mean it. There’s around 70 1 x 1 plates in Black, Blue and Yellow alone for instance and they need to carefully be placed into some gaps left by other elements.

Another point that makes the build process a bit of a chore is the lack of vertical stability. Since you are essentially stacking elements directly on top of each other like a toddler with not many of them overlapping there is always the risk you may inadvertently crush your model when holding it too tight or grabbing it at the wrong position. This is all manageable, but you have to pay attention all the time. The construction just isn’t flowing along as nicely as with some other sets, even more so since some of the techniques and the order in which to build some sub-assemblies also feel odd. Also, even after you have finished the model you have to be careful to not push to hard or some stuff will warp out of alignment and expose some larger gaps.

Upon its initial release last year this set was the first to feature some notable new parts and recolored elements. One of those is the 3 x 3 rounded skinny plate without which these models probably would not even have been possible. At the same time they are not used as much as you may think or as I would have liked. I also think the new 8 x 8 rounded plates as found in the VIDIYO sets might have come in handy to mitigate some of those problems, but it did not (officially) exist in 2020 or only as internal prototypes, of course.

The recolors almost all relate to the pants/ dungarees as apparently there was not much of a chance to hide alternate colors underneath when you only have walls that are one brick thick and thin plates and they had to be consistently Blue. That includes the inverted curved slopes as used for the bottom, both in 2 x 2 and 1 x 2 flavors, the tall 1 x 1 x 2/3 brick modified and the 1 x 1 bracket.

The eyes are new parts in both versions with the 4 x 4 round brick and the 5 x 5 wheel only having appeared in a handful of sets at all so far. Of course those and the mouth panels are also the only areas where we get actual exclusive prints.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Underside

Concluding Thoughts

While the outcome is satisfying enough, I found the way to get there unexpectedly difficulty and riddled with small hurdles. This seems really a case of “The ends justify the means”, but it wouldn’t have hurt had it been a a bit more fun. The build process feels rather convoluted and involved for something that looks so simple and the much-touted conversion from one character to another leaves a lot to be desired in terms of user friendliness not to speak of the fact that in doing so LEGO missed the opportunity to create a  “Build any Minion you want” kit.

Should that deter you from buying the set? No, not by any means. If you are even remotely a fan of those small, obnoxious yellow creatures and you can get over the slightly too high price this can be a nice addition to your collection and would look good on the shelf even next to some “real” collectible Minions figures. You just have to be aware that building them may not be a walk in the park and would also not be the easiest activity for children. In that regard the 8+ denomination on the package is almost a bit too optimistic even…

Pimp my Ride! – LEGO VIDIYO, Robo HipHop Car (43112)

As I promised in my generic overview of LEGO VIDIYO I wanted to try to get some of the proper sets and so here we are with the first of them, the Robo HipHop Car (43112).

LEGO VIDIYO, Robo HipHop Car (43112), Box

As you recognize right away, the packaging shares the same issues laid out in my article with the overly emphasized mobile phone and virtual environment making it hard to even decipher what you get in the package. Really not worth any further discussion and the less said about this terrible artwork, the better.

Pricing and Contents

I was reluctant to even get this set, as even by just looking at the promotional photos it became clear that it wouldn’t be the most attractive, but I kind of wanted the minifigures to add to my line-up of VIDIYO characters (Maybe this will be the first minifigure series ever where I collect them all and get a complete set?) and one has to start somewhere, as it was the cheapest offering at the time. The other sets had not yet dropped enough in price to fall into my affordable range.

This set comes with 387 pieces that build into a sizable model, but one mustn’t be fooled. There isn’t that much bulk, after all, with a lot of small and thin parts being used. This is in part out of necessity due to the car requiring thin side walls in order to allow for room in the interior, in part it’s down to how some things are designed. That is to say that even once completed the model feels relatively light when you expect its weight to be higher.

LEGO VIDIYO, Robo HipHop Car (43112), Overview

I got my set for 23 Euro, but as I’m writing this it already has dropped to 20 Euro on some outlets. That means it is pretty okay in terms of price, even more so when you consider what a single BeatBox costs. I feel that you get a decent return value even if this may not build into the greatest brick-built car model on the planet.

The Minifigures

The set comes with only two minifigures, which is adequate enough for such a small and relatively cheap model. Stylistically they match the theme with silver and gold tones making things look robotic, though that also makes them look a bit bland and cold. The prints are done nicely, though. It’s just that perhaps a hint of red or orange here and there would have made them look more lively. If you feel like it, you can of course complement the crew with the minifig from the HipHop Robot BeatBox (43107) or for that matter a similar looking dude from the upcoming series 2 of the BandMates.

The set comes with two exclusive BeatBits (bottom left and top right corner on the stand in the respective image) and 14 other random ones to add to your collection of these tiles. Based on my analysis of their functionality in my article I’d say that one merely adds some robotic noises and the other an overlay sticker that looks like a spray tag, so nothing special there.

A Color Conundrum

Before we move on to the actual review of the car, allow me to get one thing out of the way: The color. Yes, it may appear nitpicky, but to me it’s clear that this whole car should be in a different livery. The specific point I’m trying to make is that this is a “pimp ride”, i.e. a highly modified and customized car meant tot impress people as it passes by and clearly that would also include the coating. Therefore this model just seems completely backwards as Black is way too mundane. This is not saved by the various golden accents, as in fact they amplify my impression that the situation should be inverted.

Yes, for what it’s worth, the car itself should be all gold and have black details (or any other fitting color for that matter like Dark Red for instance) and my gut feeling tells me that this may have been the way it was originally envisioned by the designers. Naturally, things then inevitably fell apart when everyone came to realize that this would mean that a ton of parts needed to be produced in Pearl Gold extra for this set and there was no budget for doing that. They probably would have needed to team up with the Ninjago team to make it worthwhile and get the permission and funds, as lately they already have been doing a lot of pieces in gold over there already.

In light of that limitation this set already gets lesser grades from me. I’m not even getting hung up on the gold aspect. I just feel that any color other than black would have been better from Bright Green to Dark Azure, including bits of other colors sprinkled in to create patterns. This would also have brought it more in line with the craziness of the rest of the VIDIYO sets.

The Car

As mentioned earlier, this is meant to represent a type of car that wouldn’t even be allowed on the roads in most countries of the world over safety concerns. That being the case, it’s probably fair to say that this is as US-American to the bone as it gets. Still, even there it would be hard to imagine something like this with its large protruding speaker boxes and robot head sculpture driving around without requiring some super special permit and exception rule which you then have to have ready at all times because you so easily catch the attention of police and they check you all the time…

The mentioned big elements are mounted on turntables and have two presentable sides, so you can change their orientation as you prefer. The speaker boxes also serve as part of an imaginary stage, with another such spot being on the car’s front hood. I’m sure this is also more specifically used in the app, but since I don’t have it, I can’t enlighten you on that part.

The rear trunk has been converted into a pool/ Jacuzzi, which is actually a mod you get to see every now, and then and from what I gather it is popular to rent cars that have been converted like this for certain types of parties. Driving around must be a nightmare, though, given how the dynamics of the water would affect stability. By comparison the pool presented here feels tiny, however, as it would barely allow a single person to fit in and stay covered in water if it were real.

More or less this is where the big head sculpture gets in the way and this also somehow prevents the cockpit from looking better. There is no real seat, no steering and no back wall. While the large robot head is kind of cool, perhaps they simply crammed in too much and a “Less is more!” approach might have resulted in something more elegant and believable.

The front view is also spoiled by the model looking overstuffed and the many add-ons distracting too much. If at least the front stage spot was hidden under a smooth bonnet…

Concluding Thoughts

This is an okay car, just not the smash hit that VIDIYO would have needed. At the end of the day this feels more like an oversized Speed Champions model of an old American convertible and as such would likely get passing grades, but it more or less completely fails to convey the bonkers nature of VIDIYO or for that matter even the insanity of those custom cars driving around in the sunny states of the US.

The most disappointing and frustrating fact remains that one can actually see that the potential is there, but that it was thwarted by the practicalities of LEGO being LEGO, meaning general corporate policies and cost consideration very likely prevented  the designers from carrying out their original design idea. The way it turned out unfortunately isn’t even on par with some better designed Creator 3in1 cars and since they opted for the most boring color choice, there aren’t any parts to scalp in exotic and rare colors, either.

As such therefore this model has only very limited value both in the VIDIYO series as well as a generic car and I would only recommend this to people who have a very specific rationale like eyeing the minifigures or wanting to modify it into a proper convertible.

Small, but good – LEGO Creator 3in1, Cyber Drone (31111) and Tuk Tuk (40469)

Finding happiness in the LEGO world often depends on the size and complexity of a model determining how it ultimately will look. While that certainly implies that bigger, more detailed models are usually better, sometimes small models still manage to surprise positively and that certainly is the case with the Creator 3in1 Cyber Drone (31111) and the Tuk Tuk (40469), which I’ve rolled into a single article.

Contents and Pricing

Both sets sell for 10 Euro, with the drone having 113 parts vs. 155 on the Tuk Tuk, which is pretty much in the usual range for these sets. With the Tuk Tuk being a LEGO exclusive set only available from them directly you have no real options to get it cheaper, anyway, but thankfully for once I don’t consider this too much of a problem with the model turning out reasonably sizable and looking good. The drone is available via normal retailers and due to its relatively small size definitely worth looking for discounts, even if it’s only the typical 20 or 30 percent. Those two or three Euro really make a difference, even more so if you plan on getting multiple sets to build the alternate models that use significantly less pieces compared to the primary build.

The Cyber Drone

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Box

The cyber drone represents a bit of an odd paradox in that it is a drone (plane) being flown by another drone (humanoid robot). In a real world scenario that probably wouldn’t make too much sense. The flying drone would already have all its own autonomous systems in place and not require anyone to control it, while the robot itself would then merely be a passenger. In a way this feels like those old sci-fi movies from the 1980s and early 1990s where everyone assumed that because computers were so expensive, you’d only have one and move it around in to plug it into dumb devices rather than those devices having their own intelligence. Of course today things are much, much different.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Overview

The minifigure, while not exactly a foreign concept in the 3in1 sets at large, is certainly unique for such a small set. Most of the time you only find them in sets for houses or larger vehicles that offer play features. What makes this even better is the fact that this figure is quite unique and elaborate. It has an overall Flat Silver body with a detailed multi-color print on the upper torso. The latter features the classic LEGO Space logo and in fact the whole harness design may be derived from an older astronaut figure, but i was too lazy to really investigate this. Similarly the head has some nice metallic printing stenciled out with Black and Medium Azure “glowy stuff”, making it indeed looking like exposed internal circuitry. for such an inexpensive set it’s really a great minifig.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Minifigure, Front View  LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Minifigure, Back View

The drone itself is recognizably based on the “drop ship” designs found in many classic science-fiction movies such as Alien, Terminator and a few others with a chunky section holding the cockpit or cargo bay and an extended tail boom with V-shaped control surfaces. there’s also the typical massively oversized jet engines that make the vehicle look imposing and threatening.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Front Left View

In terms of construction the set doesn’t go out of its way to do anything all too fancy or revolutionary. For me personally the only real novelty is the use of the 3 x 3 square Technic connector since I did’t have it yet in my collection. It is however not used as an essential structural element and more of a way to quickly bulk things up without having to use more extra pieces. You could totally build the relevant sections with other parts. You’d just have to do it differently and use extra bits to fill gaps.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Aft Left View

One thing I definitely don’t like is the reliance on so many hinge-style connections. Aside from the double ratcheted plates used to attach the tail boom acting as a stiff connection all the other hinges are single axis/ single point connections, meaning the parts attached to them can easily be brought out of alignment. This begins with the engine pods themselves and continues with the various flaps. The point here is not so much my own nerdy obsession about engineering stuff, but this minimizes stability for play and could become a bit annoying if kids need to realign things over and over again.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Aft Right View

The weakest area on this model is easily the aft section on the fuselage just behind the cockpit. The main issue here is the many large gaps and overall openness of the space that exposes too much of the construction details. This really feels like adding two or three more slopes would have gone a long way toward making it look better. 

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Front Right View

As explained previously, the set seems to assume that the pilot drone would connect directly with the onboard systems and thus there are no real details in the cockpit. the only concession are the grip knobs on the sides, which is more or less only a sneaky way to find a use for the ball joint plates that are needed for the alternate mech build. Regardless of this it would just have been nice to have some dials for the cockpit or for that matter an actual connection wire/ hose for the data link between the two machines.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Cockpit

The Tuk Tuk

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Box

The Tuk Tuk essentially fell out of the blue and surprised many people, including myself. Who could have thought that LEGO even were capable of coming up with something this simple, yet highly original? It’s not entirely unexpected, given that they are expanding in Asian markets, but at the same time not very typical of them. I’m also pretty sure their competitors in those regional markets already have covered the subject of these various Rickshaw-like vehicles quite sufficiently, making this even more unusual.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Front Left View

While I’m usually more for a harmonious color scheme, the Tuk Tuk appealed to me because very much like the original it is just the opposite. With many of these vehicles being under constant repair and being heavily customized by their owners in terms of colors and decorations, pretty much any and every combination of shapes and colors is fair game, not to speak of the ones that have been built from scratch using old motorbikes and random spare parts. Therefore this particular model more or less may only represent one exact real counterpart that is driving around somewhere.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Aft Left View

The overall build is simple, yet efficient and pretty stable, given that the whole cabin is mostly a hollow box with relatively thin walls. This makes handling the finished article quite easy and it also doesn’t break apart immediately when it topples over sideways due to the small wheels and the high center of gravity. It does this quite a bit on surfaces that are not perfectly level, but it’s not entirely unexpected.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Aft Right View

One thing I’d definitely wouldn’t have minded is simply more of this craziness. This is one of the few cases where in fact I might even have plastered the model with stickers, if it came with any. The more wacky these things look, the better. I think it would also have been nice if the vehicle had an extra external stowage box at the rear end.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Right View LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Front Right View

One of the questions on everyone’s mind has been whether this will fit your custom LEGO city layout and streets and the answer here is “Kind of it may, but then again it may not.” The point here is that this model is not only notably wider than the regular 4 studs (even if you were to remove the little step protrusions), but it is also quite tall. A direct comparison with a minifigure seated inside reveals that it would actually be undriveable for this little guy.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Size Comparison, Driver seated

Things do look a little better if you are playing on some optical illusions and your perception. In the image below the figure is placed just about 5 cm away from the model, yet due to the short focal length of my camera and resulting strong perspective distortion it looks much more to scale. That could mean that if you place the vehicle strategically in your scene without some other object near to it as size reference, it could still work out short of giving the model an actual work-over based on its original design.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Size Comparison, Driver standing

Concluding Thoughts

Both sets turned out unexpectedly well. The most important takeaway here is that not only do they look good, but also have some actual play value, meaning you can’t do much wrong regardless whether you want them as display items for yourself or as toys for your kids. There are of course some limitations that are more or less inherent in the limited number of pieces and the resulting building style, but they are perfectly acceptable. There’s some good value here no matter how you spin things and that is something you cannot always say about this type of sets. I definitely can recommend a purchase for both items, assuming they suit your overall preferences and tastes.

Walking under the Sea – Underwater Robot (31090)

As I’ve written a number of times I’m not the biggest fan of mech/ robot style sets due to the large joints and hinges always somehow floating about uselessly (mostly). Naturally I still can’t escape buying one of these models every now and then and the Underwater Robot (31090) from the Creator 3in1 series is one of those rare exceptions.

LEGO Creator, Underwater Robot (31090), Box

The reason I got this set in the first place is of course that I’m sort of on a roll with the subject ever since the Deep Sea Creatures (31088). It’s not that I wanted to be complete or build a diorama, I was just in the mood. This set boasting a few parts that I didn’t have yet in my repository plus the large transparent bubble canopy made the decision easier, too. With the underwater-themed new Friends sets coming out now there sure is going to be a use for substituting the tinted counterparts with the clear version e.g. on the Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378) once I get it.

Price considerations with this set should be closer to your heart even than for other sets, given the nature of its content. Literally half the volume and weight is made up of the hinge/ joint parts, not leaving much room for other parts that perhaps might be more useful later. The suggested retail price of about 20 Euro therefore doesn’t seem like a good value proposition. Getting the set at 15 Euro or below would be more acceptable. Lucky for us street prices are already reflecting this, so it’s mostly good.

LEGO Creator, Underwater Robot (31090), Overview

Aside from the main build of the mech itself there are some very minor extra items by ways of a see weed with some gold lumps and a little stingray. The latter follows the color scheme from the Deep Sea Creatures and would therefore match. The limitation would be that actually only the shark and perhaps the whale then would fit in terms of scale. For the squid and angler fish it would be more like a tiny baby.

LEGO Creator, Underwater Robot (31090), Stingray

One of the reasons I’m so reluctant to buy these robotic sets is the fact that LEGO usually don’t bother to include the joints and hinges in custom colors equal to the rest of the set. If at least that was a thing, there would be more incentive to bolster one’s parts arsenal with differently colored variations. In this set this becomes even more apparent as the robot is actually pretty tiny and on top of it not much of an effort is made to shim over the exposed grey areas with more yellow bricks.

I’m not opposed to the Dark Bluish Grey and Yellow scheme per se, but I think it would have looked better if there was more of the yellow. My reasoning here is that there would be a pressure-resistant, watertight shell all the way around leaving no internal parts exposed. It would be even more so if this was a manned mech and not a remotely operated/ autonomous unit as depicted. This lapse of consistent functional logic applies to the alternate models as well, with their open cockpits and exposed parts perhaps not making the most sense 300 ft under the sea.

LEGO Creator, Underwater Robot (31090), Front

The mechanics of this model are as simple as it gets, with the structure more or less consisting of immediate, direct connections of the joint elements plugged into one another and held together by a minimum of plates and tiles. the only area that involves some actual building is the main trunk. It’s not super-advanced, but at least uses a bit of perpendicular/ sideway construction. Once more the “air hose” system perhaps doesn’t do much logically, but adds a nice visual touch. They could likely have expanded on this by including some more tubes/ hoses (the soft pneumatic ones) to simulate electrical wires and pressure lines for the actuators.

The model is fully poseable, but naturally there is a big caveat here: With the joints connected so directly there is not full freedom of movement for each of them  and in addition there is not enough leverage due to each segment being short. this makes it somewhat difficult to actually get the limbs where you want them. As an adult you can get there, but smaller kids will struggle. This limits the play value unnecessarily. the secondary models are more forgiving in this regard, as they do not require so many joints to be adjusted.

LEGO Creator, Underwater Robot (31090), Pose

As a quick snack I enjoyed this set in an odd way, but ultimately its value for “serious” users is somewhat limited. There’s not enough “real” parts to keep you busy with the assembly for long and as display items the different models don’t hold up to scrutiny. More or less this is really a play set, though even in that case there are limitations. At the end of the day i tend to think that you would need two or three of those sets to really turn this into something by refining and expanding upon the ideas in the set – making the models larger or detailing them up.

It might also have helped had the set included parts to build a sled to drag behind the mech on the sea floor or a crate/ cage to hoist up samples and machinery to the (imaginary) research ship. there’s some ideas how this could be spun, but you definitely would need to invest a bit of extra time and money to get the best experience…