As you well know from many of my posts I really have a soft spot for underwater creatures. The Deep Sea Creatures (31088) were one of my favorite sets back then – very affordable and well designed – and even compelled me to create my own octopus MOC. This year’s Dolphin and Turtle (31128) weren’t bad, either and in-between I’ve reviewed a number of submarines, a fish tank, you name it. Therefore it was an inevitable certainty that I would get the Sunken Treasure Mission (31130) one day as soon as I heard about it, which is the subject of this article.
Contents and Pricing
LEGO‘s logic when it comes to their in-store exclusives completely eludes me and on a rational level just doesn’t make any sense beyond reeling in casual shoppers passing by in a mall. However, even that is not really the case, given that these small sets aren’t even displayed in the shop window. Anybody who has a LEGO store near them knows this. Worse yet, often these packages are simply not available and sold out because they’re not stocked sufficiently. You know, it’s this odd situation where you can buy a 400 Euro Star Wars spaceship, but not simple stuff like this. It frustrated me massively back then with the Crocodile (31121) an it’s no different here. Yes, it’s one of those friggin’ exclusives they keep to themselves, at least here in Germany and only on the third trip to the store was I able to score a purchase because you couldn’t even order it online at the time.
With that in mind there is of course zero room for price discussions, as you don’t get any discounts. The question therefore become whether 30 Euro for 522 pieces is a good price and the answer is a definite “Maybe!?”. Personally I’m inclined to give this a pass for once because I love the subject matter so much, but more objectively it is perhaps still a bit overpriced. While the size and volume are there, my main peeve are the man, many 1 x 1, 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 elements this is mostly built from. The larger parts just don’t compensate the amount of small, finicky items. Therefore seeing this at 25 Euro would have been better and 20 Euro after discounts would then make this a fantastic offering.
That also might have encouraged me to buy two packages instead of just one despite some of the parts not being that interesting for my potential future custom builds. Also one of those weird things about LEGO‘s policies. It’s as if they don’t want you to buy more even if the combined revenue could offset any discounts. As it stands, I only got a single package, after all, as I didn’t see myself investing 60 or 90 Euro only to end up with a ton of wedges and bubble canopies that I rarely ever will use.
The minifigures aren’t anything special with a standard skeleton and an operator for the submarine(s)/ diver. Initially I was under the impression the torso print would be new, but no, it has been used in a Stuntz set already. So LEGO just combined what they already had, anyway. However, there’s a small treat here in that the helmet is the first time that the revised Classic Space helmet is available in Dark Bluish Grey. I’m sure nostalgic fans have set their sights on it and you could fetch a good price for it as long as it is this rare.
The main model or rather set of models are based around the octopus.
The first of those three is the safe. It comes in a very classic Dark Green, a color traditionally associated with banking, communicating reliability and integrity. In fact so much that it has become sort of an insider joke in movies, including one of my childhood favorites the Danish Olsen Banden series. Anyway, it’s a very efficient small model that benefits from the 2 x 4 dual jumper plate introduced a while ago for a more compact appearance without an extra reinforcing plate on the top. The door is a new 2022 color for the 4 x 4 dish as oddly enough it has never before been done in Dark Green.
The submarine is a surprisingly realistic take on those deep sea exploration vehicles with this type typically being slaved to a long cable since it has limited buoyancy and storage capacity for fuel and ballast. It’s really a nice model in its own right and I genuinely did not expect it to be this good. The only thing I’m missing is perhaps some ropes and a net plus perhaps an emergency buoy in Coral.
The drive section makes use of the new steering wheel element to portray the protective cage around the propellers and again for the time being the Yellow variant is exclusive to this set.
The interior provides room in the aft section as well as the cockpit so you could even sneak in a second minifigure from your collection, e.g. a diver that egresses from the back hatch when needed to do his thing.
The most obvious shortcoming of the octopus itself is exposed right away: Once again the arms are way, way too short. Even if you account for small species like the Blue-ringed Octopus, which I’m sure this isn’t even meant to represent, the ratio between head size and arm length just doesn’t match actual proportions. That being the case my first request to LEGO would have been to include at least two more segments per arm. That, however would have exacerbated another problem. The tentacles aren’t connected with ball joints except where they are attached to the main body and instead use simple clips, so posing them is severely limited. That means you can basically only sensibly pose it in the “umbrella” stance depicted here with its “cloak” (the skin between the arms’ roots) spread out evenly and only little variation.
The suction cups represented by the Bright Pink 1 x 1 studs to me feel superfluous. They’re a pain to plug on to the plates and hinges and since they aren’t the proper scale, anyway, just having some full coverage plates in their place might even have looked better.
The mantle, tubes and eyes are simply large wedges, slopes and round elements attached to a central SNOT block. It’s certainly sufficient, just not very detailed. I always prefer more granular builds using smaller elements that approximate the variations in surface curvature better. Overall it just looks a bit too symmetrical for my taste.
The second model is a red lobster with some more extra builds.
The underwater ruins with the gate are a way or putting the many slopes to use that previously were used upside-down on the submarine plus there’s some pieces from the safe/ money vault as well as you can clearly see. Simple, yet effective.
The little submarine is another interesting spin on the subject. More to the point, I believe it’s actually an underwater scooter, meaning it’s mostly just a means of motorized transportation, not a fully isolated environment. You’d sit inside it with your diving gear and still get wet since it isn’t pressurized. I vaguely recall something like that popping up in one of the older James Bond movies. All the necessary details are there and one is willing to buy that this could actually work. Small side note: As you see the model is raised from the ground, which isn’t my doing to enhance the photos or anything of the sort. Indeed you are supposed to add two brackets as skids according to the manual. For “correct” play one would simply remove them.
The crayfish is structurally much more simple than the octopus, but the build feels just as repetitive. Now some of that is inevitable, but if they could change anything in this set, it would be to add a bit more variety. Had they e.g. thrown in a few of the small 1 x 2 wedge slopes for making the octopus’ mantle look more refined, they could be re-used here for some of the feet, the clippers and even the mouth. Likewise, the sides of the body could have benefited from actually having SNOT studs onto which those curved slopes and wedges could be plugged for better vertical rounding. This would also have helped to disguise the grey ball joints.
Another change I would have loved would be the inclusion of Red fishing rods for the antennae instead of just regular bars. Those would then of course also need to be placed in matching Red clip holders, not Light Bluish Grey ones. This shouldn’t have been much of a stretch as those little buggers exist ever since they were introduced as a recolor for the Chinese New Year sets. Clearly, throwing in two of those little buggers wouldn’t have made the budget explode.
The fishing rods and additional slopes might have been a different story, but as you may have observed I’m not a friend of “half-assing” things. I’m more of the mindset that if you do such things and it doesn’t take too much effort you go the full mile and don’t stop halfway. All things considered, this is perhaps why this lobster doesn’t feel all this great. This point is also reinforced by the considerable amount of leftover pieces that aren’t even used. Those range from some larger parts originally required for the submarine and octopus to the numerous small plates, many of which were buried inside the models.
The Manta Ray
The final model in the package is a Manta Ray with a side of a small section of reef.
I’ll admit I think the reef is a pain in the butt. It feels like the designers were actually forced at gunpoint to come up with something so there wouldn’t be to many unused or extraneous pieces. While I was building it it seemed like I was doing it for hours. It’s all piecemeal stuff – a 1 x 2 brick here, then a 1 x 2 plate on top of it and then another at an 90 degree angle to connect it with a neighboring element and so on. It was extremely tedious and just dragged on. There’s per se nothing wrong with this and if you don’t have that much LEGO you’d likely even build it this way yourself, but gosh, do I wish they’d just thrown in some 2 x 4 and 2 x 6 bricks to build up volume much quicker. only a few 2 x 4 bricks needed. It looks the part when finished, but the assembly wasn’t very enjoyable in my view.
The Manta itself is okay, though the proportions suggest that this is more a baby than an adult. The wingspan is not proportionately large enough and it appears too thick and compact, thus also making the mouth look too large and kind of cute. The wingtips feel a bit odd. I get what they were going for, but all things considered a Manta genuinely is just a large rhombus shape with sharp corners. Throwing in some Dark Red 2 x 4 wedge plates would have looked a bit more realistic.
In a similar vein there could have been more wedge plates to create the tapered transition zone for the tail. It’s not just plugged on as it appears. On that same not, of course it should have more segments and be slightly longer.
An interesting observation about this model is the use of some direction inversion techniques. This can be clearly seen with the mouth and its upside-down mudguard piece and continues to manifest itself on the underside with actual surface detail, including some hinted-at gills. The disadvantage here is that during the build process it is rather flimsy and really only begins to stabilize once all the layers of plates have been stacked. To me this is yet another situation where it clearly shows that LEGO’s refusal to introduce actual direction inversion plates gets in the way of building models more efficiently as already pointed out once.
For the leftover pieces there’s a lot of overlap with the ones on the lobster, but also a few notable substitutions. Once you veer away from the main model the parts usage really isn’t that economical.
Yet again this is one of those sets that gets in the way of itself. That is, LEGO are making it hard to give this a perfect score with the circumstances surrounding it. People with more money to spend than I will easily get over the price, but the overall difficulty in actually finding this set to be able to buy it is a bit of a show stopper. It just seems unnecessarily complicated to the point that people not as engrossed in LEGO will simply miss out on it. They’ll either never notice it in the first place or just give up the chase.
The sad state of affairs aside, this is another pretty good Creator 3in1 set for this year. Seems like the LEGO designers are on a roll and made some good decisions what to pick and throw out among the crowds. If there’s the slightest chance for you to pick it up, I’d definitely recommend it. You should keep in mind, however, that this is a “builder’s set” and the models are not collectibles.
If you don’t plan on spicing up the default models or re-using the parts for your own builds it would be a costly investment compared to more refined actual collector models. Inevitably buying a second or third model would skew this even further with so many parts left over. That basically is also the only real shortcoming – the way the parts that are there are used is not always very efficient and at the same time I feel that there are a few bits missing that would have enhanced the experience.