Explorer-ing the New

There’s definitely no shortage on LEGO magazines, but at the same time one can never have enough. Personally I had always hoped for something more scientifically oriented and not just tie-ins to existing product lines, so maybe there’s a chance to get my wish fulfilled with the new LEGO Explorer?

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2020, Cover

Unlike the other magazines this one is not published by Blue Ocean, but rather something really fresh and independent from Egmont publishing, a company who more than just coincidentally has its origin in Denmark just like LEGO themselves. The differences become readily apparent once you hold the magazine in your hands in terms of subject matter, layout or even the paper used. This comes in handy for the door hanger you can create from the back cover, which is made from slightly heavier print stock.

The publication purports to be based around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and thus covers a wide variety of subjects with the emphasis of this first issue being robotics. As a Sci-Fi nerd and someone who had a strong interest in physics, astronomy, construction and many other things ever since his earliest childhood (I think I got my first construction kit at the age of three) that’s pretty much my territory. However, this is of course at the level of eight-year-old school kids, so there’s not much for adults to learn here, at least not for me.

There are some puzzles and the magazine cites realworld examples for its models by ways of including reference photos of machines, animals and so on. Unfortunately it reeks too obviously of commercial stock photos you can license for a few bucks from respective sites, so not much effort went into that part.

Similarly the LEGO product placement is a bit too “in your face” with several models being presented from commercial sets, supposed interviews with official LEGO designers (which is kind of pointless, as average people have no way of verifying any of it, even if it’s legit) and even the central poster being the robot from LEGO Boost (17101). They seriously need to dial it back.

On the other hand there are no genuine building tips as in explaining some of the more obscure things about LEGO parts usage or how to apply some basic physical principles to your models, which is weird and wasted potential, given the alleged direct connection to the designers. This also shows in the included pieces that allow to build the robot depicted on the front page, which looks pretty naff overall.

For the time being, as much as I would want it to be a different conclusion, this is not the magazine I was hoping for. They need to seriously step up their game with better models, better explanations and more emphasis on really having educational value. It’s early and they need to find their footing still, so I’m gonna watch this for a while at least, but if it doesn’t improve, I’m not going to hang on to it forever.

Space September

As a science fiction fan of sorts and a nerd with a general interest in exotic scientific subjects like quantum physics, astral dynamics and so on of course I love myself some space-y stuff even in LEGO form. This month’s issue of the LEGO City magazine caters just for that.

LEGO Magazine, City, September 2019, Cover

The content is derived from the current space exploration theme. Unfortunately for my taste it’s a bit too simplified with many large and specific parts and kind of crude looking models, so my interest in buying some of those sets is a bit limited to say the least. That’s why I’m all the more pleased to get some of the stuff that is contained in those sets on the cheap, in a manner of speaking, by ways of the mag.

Most notably that covers the new 2019 geode-type piece, i.e. a rock with a crystalline transparent mineral inside. I have to say it really looks nice and interesting when the light refracts through the sharp edges and facets when the rock is backlit. The magazine comes with the Dark Orange and Trans Light Blue version with some other combinations being found only in the commercial sets for the time being. The second piece of mention is the printed 1×1 round tile for the robot face which due to its generic look should find some creative uses.

The minifigure is just the generic astronaut and unlike the cover image may make you think, it neither comes with a special face or an alternate hair piece so you could present it with the helmet off. It’s adequate for basic play scenarios, but not much more than that. Similarly the comics and games this time around can’t disguise that they are more of a marketing pitch for the new sets than really deep content. Therefore the real value of this issue will genuinely depend on whether you are into any of this space stuff and can overlook the shortcomings or are a regular buyer, anyway.

Starry November

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a bit of a Sci-Fi nerd, which as a fan of not just Star Trek almost inevitably means that you also turn into a bit of a geek on astronomy, cosmology, quantum physics and other obscure stuff average people may not care about. That’s why I was both a bit excited and skeptical at the same time about the November issue of the LEGO Friends magazine. Sadly, it didn’t fail to disappoint. The whole mag is a story of a missed opportunity to bring some education to the masses.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, November 2018, Cover

The model parts, grandiosely called Olivia’s Observatory, aren’t really that great. It’s like they couldn’t decide what to include and then settled for a minimum solution that seems to cover all bases. I feel the answer to doing it a lot better would have been to either

  • include parts to build a larger telescope or
  • include a larger plate and enough stars to arrange them in actual star sign patterns.

You could then have explained how the telescope works or encouraged the kids to re-create the stellar formations and try to find them in the sky.

This would have meant they would have had to include some kind of poster and instructions for that stuff, and this unfortunately isn’t the case at all, so the mag fails a second time. In fact there is barely any mention of this astronomy stuff except for a few simple games on two pages. Instead we get the umpteenth variation on those terrible posters with those awful CG girl faces that nobody really likes.

Overall this is a pretty bad issue and unless your little ones really insist on their monthly dose of the comics you can simply skip it this time.