Skeletons Galore – LEGO Minecraft Magazine, November 2022

Minecraft somehow isn’t my thing and as much as I want to, I just can’t get myself to even play it once. There’s some value in LEGO Minecraft, though, as I often enough find myself buying some sets just for the bricks. Out of necessity (because all the bricks are exposed and visible) they keep introducing interesting recolors and new elements. That said, of course the corresponding magazine is another way to sometimes snatch up the goods.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, November 2022, Cover

The November edition of the LEGO Minecraft magazine doesn’t offer too much that would get me excited, though. The comic is one of those uninteresting ones with lots of empty sky and endless green planes.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, November 2022, Comic

The poster is quite acceptable in that it is colorful and lightens the mood. On the other hand the one on the back with a Creeper head and informing you “When you see this, it’s already too late” sucks up this positive energy.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, November 2022, Poster

The extra is interesting in that we get a skeleton horse built from plates and bricks  plus of course one can never have enough skeleton minifigures, Minecraft or otherwise. The Alex figure is nothings special, on the other hand.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, November 2022, Extra

This edition is not really anything special, but serviceable. The little bone horse is fun to build and looks the part. The rest of the magazine can’t really hold a candle to that, unfortunately. It’s definitely not a must-have issue.

Explosive Block – LEGO Minecraft Magazine, March 2022

The LEGO Minecraft magazine is relatively fresh, but seems to do surprisingly well. At least the initial issue was quickly sold out on my local newsstand, something which barely ever happens with most of those other LEGO comic magazines. We’ll see if the second outing can repeat this and will be just as popular.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, March 2022, Cover

I still have my doubts about the subject being suitable to be turned into a comic and the one in this issue seems to confirm these reservations. some panels look pretty decent, others extremely flat and uninteresting and there’s any number of degrees of variation inbetween.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, March 2022, Comic

The inclusion of a puzzle page is not an accident, as frustratingly this edition literally has only two double-spread pages for the comic with all the others being single spreads with the opposing page having a puzzle, quiz or info bit on them. This further interrupts the flow of the story and I find it rather confusing plus it makes things unnecessarily look more ugly.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, March 2022, Comic

Speaking of ugly – the posters are just terrible. I never had much faith in whoever is “Mr. Graphics Guy” at Blue Ocean, but man, is this just a crappy piece of work. They didn’t even pay attention to draw straight paths for their fake shadow overlays and of course the whole composition is just bad, bad, bad to begin with. Someone teach them Photoshop, please! The alternate poster on the back is better, but not an achievement of artfulness, either.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, March 2022, Poster

The buildable extra is nice. Skeletons are always a good thing to have and the bricks are useful, too.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, March 2022, ExtraWhile it’s too early to truly judge the quality of this magazine series after just two publications, this one certainly is a misfire and disappointment. I sure hope the next one will be better again…

Explorer-ing Humans – LEGO Explorer Magazine, April 2021

Closing off the “LEGO magazine race” in the first week of this month we of course have the LEGO Explorer magazine to look at, this time for April 2021. This time it deals with humans in the broader sense and, unlike the front page suggests, only partially with the human body as such.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2021, Cover

This edition feels a bit all over the place as it’s my impression that they didn’t quite know what to do with the subject of human anatomy. Understandably they may have wanted to spare kids some more grueling imagery, but the issue feels a bit superficial therefore. There’s only a double spread explaining some facts about the skeletal system and that’s pretty much it. Only the poster picks up on the subject again. It’s done nicely enough and if your kid is at the right age could serve as a simple primer for basic biology lessons in school even.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2021, Poster

The rest of the mag is stuffed with other activities such as this minifigure head coloring exercise, some trivia quizzes and some puzzles. There’s also a few more informative pages, including one on optical illusions that should provide some distraction as your kids squint their eyes while they hold the magazine in front of their faces or build stuff with their bricks.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2021, Coloring Page

One of the articles deals with some special people that have made some special human achievements. The selection is rather random and arbitrary, but at least eclectic and diverse enough to be reasonably representative.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2021, Info Page

The extra is a skull to be built from bricks. It has, however, very little to do with a human skull. It looks more like that of a small primate due to the upper and rear sections being proportionately way too small for a human brain. People always underestimate how big that thing is, something I also had to learn the hard way in my drawing and painting endeavors. For the limited number of pieces in these sets it’s adequate, but of course a little more detail would have been nice. It might also have helped had they actually included a page explaining the anatomy of the skull a bit to make it easier for the kids to recognize the features.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2021, Extra  LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, April 2021, Extra

As it is, this edition is just fine, but somehow this doesn’t live up to the quality of previous issues. It’s just not as much fun and the skull model ultimately is underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong – still more value in here than the comic-based LEGO mags, but if they’re not careful, their quality will decline and then the mag might become uninteresting rather quickly.

Scary times two? – Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150)

Spontaneous impulse buys can be a dangerous thing and despite my tight budget I’m not completely immune to making those spur-of-the moment decisions, especially when the vividly colored shelf labels in a store prominently announce a discount on LEGO stuff. Of course I’m still being quite rational on some level, as I spend a minute or two almost every day checking prices and weighing my options on what to get next, so my purchase of the LEGO Minecraft Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150) set wasn’t entirely unprepared.

LEGO Minecraft, Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150), Box

One of the main considerations is of course the price and while the value for money ratio in the Minecraft sets is quite terrible in general, I figured I would be a bit forgiving this time. I definitely wanted to check out the set because it uses a different building technique than the one with Alex and the chicken and even if it wouldn’t turn out super-exciting, at least the parts would be useful.

For instance the Light Bluish Grey 3 x 2 tiles aren’t used as widely as one tends to think when looking at the tons of Star Wars vehicles and other technically-oriented sets out there, so having a bunch of them along with their 4 x 2 counterparts in a single set isn’t really that bad a thing. Similar observations can be made for other parts – they are and will be useful in custom builds, but really not that special on their own, though i would argue that somehow one can never have enough 2 x 1 tiles in Dark Medium Flesh.

What really got me jazzed even more were the Dark Brown 2 x 1 plates used in the Magma Cube along with the Dark Red tiles. It surprises me again and again how LEGO use them in such mundane sets as filler, often completely invisible, while at the same time aggravating people with extremely colorful similar elements used for the same purpose even in expensive sets where you would expect consistent color usage. Go, figure!

LEGO Minecraft, Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150), Front

The skeleton itself is constructed in the simplest way imaginable – white plates and tiles, some joints a few brackets and it’s all stacked together in the most straightforward manner. Once again of “Your kid could have invented it, would it have had the parts at hand.” That’s in itself not a bad thing, but it kinda furthers my point about those Minecraft sets perhaps being a bit all too obviously overpriced to begin with. They could at least have made the joint parts all white, to provide some unique incentive for getting this set.

Arguably the latter point at least applies to the bow element. Similar to the sword in the Alex set it has studs on both sides, which shows that LEGO know how to do that stuff, they just refuse to give us regular two-sided adapter plates for bi-directional building, however they may rationalize that decision. Anyway, the bow also is in Dark Brown and has a more or less obtuse triangular form, which makes me think you could very successfully use this creatively for e.g. building roofs on little country houses and the like.

The spring-loaded shooter arrows coming in Reddish Brown is also nice and could likely be exploited as extra long bar elements when needed like with all sorts of high-stem bushes and young, small trees, a flag pole or just as a long faux “axle”.

LEGO Minecraft, Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150), Back

Looking at the backside doesn’t really reveal any surprises. There is some minimal effort to cover the calves by ways of the Unikitty style 3 x 1 inverted tiles and I sure do not object to having the new T-style brackets in white, but other than that there’s really nothing exciting to see. Unfortunately the model once again doesn’t take the opportunity of expanding and refining the original Minecraft in-game creature design with additional joints, so you can’t really pose anything – at least not without it looking rather ridiculous for a “collectible figure”.

LEGO Minecraft, Skeleton with Magma Cube (21150), Lava Monster

As written further up, the Magma Cube/ Lava Monster keeps most of its secrets hidden inside, which in addition to the cool Dark Brown plates is a simple mechanism with a Technic axle that allows the upper half to be lifted and dropped back as if the creature was chomping onto someone. There’s no friction and it can’t be fixated in a (semi-)open position, so it’s ultimately not that useful, after all. It’s a nice touch, regardless.

Overall this is an okay set, but really not much more than that. Somehow the Minecraft theme just doesn’t click with me despite my best intentions and everything feels somehow a tad off. The figures are really too small to impress and can be built so quickly, it’s just unsatisfying. It seems I really would much prefer a more liberal, slightly more realworld-ish interpretation with much more pieces instead of just re-creating the in-game items so simply. Perhaps I should simply focus on my other stuff.

That said, if you are a fan of the game or the characters, this set represents them faithfully as far as I can judge. Then you actually might appreciate the quick and simple build, too.