Underwater Hero – LEGO Minecraft Magazine, May 2023

Another mag that suffered from me getting too strung up on my long article is the Minecraft one for May 2023, which in fact even came out on the same day as the Friends mag for that month. Playing catch-up is certainly not the best way to run a blog, but anyway, here we go.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, May 2023, Cover

The comic takes us back to the underwater temple, which means it is predominantly in greens and blues. this seriously limits the visual impact and gets tiring on the eyes quickly. On the bright side, though, they really try to work with shadow and light as well as throwing in some other colors where possible, so it’s not all as bad as it may sound. Some of those panels probably look better than the actual game already.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, May 2023, Comic

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, May 2023, Comic

The poster is a case of “Nice try, but you need to try again.”. I was reasonably satisfied when they used the same technique two issues ago, but here it just doesn’t work the same. The image composition as a whole is lacking and of course there’s also just not enough contrast overall. Still better than the reverse, which is an even bigger mess, but neither one of the two posters is great.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, May 2023, Poster

The extra is again very rich and well done, which is one of the reasons I really like this particular magazine. Even if I’m not that much into collecting minifigures, within the Minecraft world they make sense and I probably wouldn’t mind adding yet another zombie/ drowned character to a custom build swamp or such. This edition is further boosted in its awesomeness by including the blue version of the Axolotl from the The Guardian Battle (21180) package I reviewed last year. How time flies…! The zombie hunter is also a nice addition, as it’s apparently a relatively new figure from The Abandoned Village (21190). Since it’s exclusive to this set, buying this magazine would be a simple way of getting it if you don’t want to buy the full package. The skin-colored arms also oddly enough got me thinking about how there isn’t even a single “naked” minifigure in this color. Weird, I know, but oddly relevant with summer being around the corner and me getting ideas about doing a beach scene perhaps…

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, May 2023, Extra

As a whole this issue is just fine, with the extra being the highlight once again. If the poster was a little better this could have been even more of a thing. As it is it’s just okay.

Anvil Knight – LEGO Minecraft Magazine, February 2023

The LEGO Minecraft magazine is certainly shaping up to become one of the more favorable magazines in my little universe despite me having zero interest in the actual game. That’s not least of all due to the extras being useful, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and see what the February issue offers otherwise.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, February 2023, Cover

The comic is a bit of a mixed bag as usual. This time at least it offers some variety with regards to the coloring of the panels and there even are a few really good ones with the knight and lama, but of course the underlying problem remains that the underlying system of blocks is not necessarily very diverse and there’s only so many ways you can add interest to all those perpendicular angles and straight lines.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, February 2023, Comic

The comic is also spread thin with it being stretched across the entire magazine by inserting games, puzzles and quizzes and other activities on every other page. The two double spreads shown are literally the two only ones in the publication where the comic is covering two adjacent pages. This makes the alternate pages even more feel like stuffing.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, February 2023, Comic

The main poster is quite neat. As you know I like those clean, graphical designs and even though this is just a “comic” style filter thrown on top of a photo instead of everything being re-drawn in a graphics program, it looks the part. The alternative poster on the back features that scene with the underwater temple guardians again. This must now be the third time or so… Not that I don’t like puffer fish, but it’s getting a bit repetitive.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, February 2023, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, February 2023, ExtraI’ve complained about the ever same Steves and Alexs enough and thankfully we’re really getting something different this time. It’s a knight in a shiny armor, and you can take that at its word since the pieces are in Flat Silver indeed. If nothing else this stuff is always useful for kit-bashing together your own minifigures from different individual parts. The ingot/ bar elements in Dark Pearl Grey should also be interesting. The anvil and treasure chest are just standard stuff you find in every set. Throwing in the new mold for the lid with the flattened top would have made this more interesting and if it was in a metal color as well that would have been killer. Can’t have everything, I guess! 😉

In summary this is an okay issue which in particular benefits from the extra being very acceptable and useful. The comic didn’t really do it for me and there’s a lot of filler, so it’s not going to keep you or your kids busy for a long time, though.

Axolotl Fun – LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180)

As I’ve said a number of times here on this blog I’m totally not into Minecraft – I know that it exists, I get what the appeal may be and I acknowledge that millions of people play it, but personally I never got hooked. That is pretty much the same in the LEGO world, though as I mentioned in my blurb on the recently launched LEGO Minecraft comic magazine, I’m always keeping an eye out for interesting parts from that range. That’s how I ended up buying The Guardian Battle (21180), after all, so let’s see what it offers.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Box

Contents and Pricing

If you have been following these things more closely than I do and for much longer, then certainly the set will feel familiar to you. The building is sort of a spliced out segment from the original The Ocean Monument (21136) released in 2017, representing a gate or just some random ruin section, embedded in a bit of reef. Wiser minds more steeped in the lore will actually know what it is supposed to represent. The puffer fish on the other hand are an almost 1 : 1  recreation of the ones in the original set. The real difference is the minifigure, defined as a diver, and the little guys that come with it, so this could indeed be a scenario where the original temple long has been destroyed and only pieces of it are still there decades or centuries later.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Contents Overview

The set itself retails for 22 Euro and having literally bought it three days after its January 1st release, I did not get any discounts. If you do your math and take into account the usual 20 to 30 percent discounts this will get after a while you’ll arrive at around 15 Euro. That’s okay for a 255 pieces set, but regardless you have to keep in mind that you are paying a for a few standard bricks and lots of small elements. On the other hand that’s certainly much more affordable than the 120 Euro ocean monument and even people who have this older set may consider getting this one to have some extra stuff.

Minifigures and Animals

The single most important reason why we are even here reviewing the set are the Axolotls. I just couldn’t help myself from thinking “Oh, how cute!” when I first saw a picture of them. As far as I understand, they have special magical or healing powers in the game, so it seems one would take care to not lose them or gather as many of them as you can. Two of them are supposed to be attached to the minifigure as if they are swarming around him and protecting him, but I found that construction clunky and way to heavy, so the diver tips over backwards.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Minifigure and Animals

The little newts are a new mold, which can be attached onto a regular 1 x 2 plate from the underside. If they ever come out in more regular colors like Tan, they could make for nice decorative elements on buildings. LEGO have done that for some of the heads already to be used as lamp shades or stucco on facades of Modular Buildings (Police Station [10278] for instance), so I’m optimistic that this may happen one day. The heads are separately printed 1 x 1 plates and there’s a spare for each of them in the package.

The singular minifigure is a bit of a head-scratcher. Obviously there could and should have been two at least, even if they were the same, but I’m also concerned with how it looks. The Dark Bluish Grey and Olive Green just don’t pop enough on the Dark Orange body and at the same time the bright face looking through the round glass window stands out too much. It would likely have looked better with different colors. There’s also quality issues with the prints. No, for once not that they aren’t opaque enough but rather in a way the opposite. The paint here seems to have been a bit too pasty and the prints have notable ridges/ stamp marks. If I were collecting these figs, I’d likely request replacements.

The Temple

The temple fragments and reef parts are the simplest build you can imagine. It’s literally a case of “My 3-year-old could have come up with it!” with simple stacked bricks and plates with the only real bits of finesse being the vines/ plant stalks interwoven as extra supports. By that I don’t mean to imply it’s bad, just simple. It certainly could have been a bit more elaborate with perhaps some debris lying around or the reef parts being larger with more flowers and all that. The squid with only four very short “tentacles” perched on top of the archway is also odd, but not knowing better I have to accept that this is probably how it’s meant to be.

The Puffer Fish

The puffer fish are essentially simple cubes with a bunch of appendages and protrusions. The larger blue one is based on a 3 x 3 x 3 SNOT construction using the 1 x 2 clip plates as the basis. Regrettably LEGO did not recolor those clips in Dark Tan of Blue, as would have been desirable, so they stand out a bit despite their “neutral” grey. While the fish is pretty much a 1 : 1 re-creation of the one already used in the ocean monument, there is a small enhancement in that the tail uses the new 1 x 2 modified plates with a horizontal clip instead of the less directionally stable 1 x 1 version. More on that in the extra section on the notable pieces.

The smaller puffy is constructed around a 2 x 2 x 2 cube arrangement and for its spikes reverses the underlying principle with the hinge plates being on the body and the clips forming the appendages. Naturally, for any of it to look good you have to spend some time orienting the spikes on both models.

Piece Mania

For a set this small the selection of notable and new parts is amazing and of course this was part of the plan after having studied the digital PDF instructions. The orange clips aren’t new, but technically still sort of exclusive, as they have only been in the previous The Ocean Monument (21136) set and a Nexo Knights set. I’m sure MOC builders will appreciate their reappearance. The 1 x 2 plate with the horizontal clip is already appearing in many new sets released since last autumn and here you get two of them in Tan. Apparently at long last LEGO seem to have realized this gap in their parts portfolio since the 1 x 1 counterpart tends to slightly rotate on its single stud, even when butted against other plates around it. Having this available definitely should make some constructions more stable while at the same time reducing the number of elements needed. the fish tail is a good example for this, actually.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Special Pieces

LEGO have long been extremely reluctant to produce certain items as transparent pieces. Their rationale always has been that it’s not good for models due to friction and tension working differently and thus those pieces being more prone to damage. That and of course things like cracks, fogging and gilding being even more apparent than on opaque parts. It seems they are finally coming around and easing up on this strict stance, so we now get the 2 x 2 jumper plate in Trans Dark Blue and a Trans Clear 1 x 2 vertical clip plate. the latter is part of that clunky block you are supposed to attach to the minifigure’s back to hold the Axolotls. Insignificant as it may seem, there is also now a Blue 1 x 1 round flower plate/ stud. So far they have been mostly produced in greens, yellows and pastel tones and I’ve forever wondered if we’re going to get a few more colors. This is a good start, but how about browns and Black for withered and charred flowers?

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Double Plate Piece

The element that will no doubt cause the biggest sigh of relief by many is the 2/3rds or two plates tall 1 x 1 brick, depending how you want to see it. This is not an essential element by any stretch of the imagination, but a) other manufacturers have had it since forever and b) it solves one big annoyance, that being having to stack 1 x 1 plates to get uneven heights. This can be particularly frustrating on areas where they need to be aligned perfectly to give the illusion of a solid surface, so this new element should indeed facilitate such builds considerably. In this set it’s included in Olive Green, but it can already be found in some others in Medium Nougat and Dark Orange. It will be pretty standard in no time and should be available in a wide range of colors then.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a lovely little set and in a way I’m surprised myself how much I like it. There is soem decent value here and unlike many other Minecraft sets it has a certain elegance about it and doesn’t look too crude and blocky. The only real complaint would have be the skewed value. A second minifigure certainly would have provided a better balance as would have some extra bits and bobs on the reef. Overall one can’t complain, though.

Breaking Falls – 70608 – Master Falls

While I’m long past the age where I would bug my parents about the latest Ninjago set, this particular series of LEGO products still has an odd fascination. It quite successfully manages to combine several tropes like Steampunk-ish vehicles, Asian-inspired culture and design, old myths and traditions, modern technology and so on. Basically everything you can imagine as a wild remix and analogy to our own world. It’s therefore also not much of a stretch to understand why it’s so hugely popular and commercially successful.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Master Falls (70608), Box

Aside from occasionally popping into an episode of the Ninjago TV series while zapping my knowledge of the finer story points boils down to almost being non-existent. The same could be said for The LEGO Ninjago Movie, which to date I haven’t even seen in full. So where that is concerned, my review of the Master Falls set (70608) comes down to how it looks and feels on its own merits, not so much its role and importance in the movie.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Master Falls (70608), Overview

The reason I got the set in the first place is that I somehow like those little vignettes/ dioramas. They are kind of reminiscent of how a painter would possibly paint some moody scenery or you could really imagine them being part of a bigger scene. That’s not the case with most Ninjago sets, them being so over the top at times, but it certainly works for me here. Still, I feel that the model could have been a lot better. More on that later, however.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Master Falls (70608), Minifigures

The minifigures are nothing to tell your mom about, especially if you are a longtime Ninjago connoisseur and collector. I would imagine that many a user’s boxes are overflowing with different versions of Garmadon, Master Wu and Kay already. They’re really not that special beyond incidentally being part of the scene and required to reenact it in its full glory.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Master Falls (70608), Front View

The overall composition of the vignette totally triggers my artist taste buds, especially when viewed from certain angles. It has a nice overall balance and you seemingly can’t place it wrongly in your scene. This could of course be totally incidental, too, and even a byproduct of the set being designed somewhat sparingly, which brings us to the real issue I have with this model.

First, there’s the design of the actual cliff sides/ ridges. It amazes me how the designers seem to have gone out of their way to create the convoluted angled structure in order to use as few parts as possible, when they could just have stacked bricks. Mind you, it’s stable and all, but it really doesn’t make much of a difference in terms of the appearance. I’d even bet that it doesn’t do anything for the price, either.

The second thing is the bridge. I get that using Technic track links may be the most stable solution, but would it really have much of a difference to just throw in a supply of hinge plates and cover them up with wood plank printed tiles? Those hinges are always snappy enough for me and I doubt that kids at the targeted age would have been able to destroy those connections all that easily.

You can’t even pull the “small parts” excuse, as the railings are supposed to be outfitted with T-shaped elements for the posts, anyway. I simply left them out because this looked weird to me.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Master Falls (70608), Bridge Detail

At any rate, neither of those two points is what I would call an actual failure, as they are entirely subject to view. What I can’t ignore, however, is the flimsy construction of the “river”. Being plugged together from a bunch of wedge and straight plates with barely any overlap, this construction is extremely easy to crack accidentally, and what makes it even worse to me, you can’t grab the somewhat top-heavy model in this area without at least risking it breaking apart.

What makes this so ridiculous naturally is that the fix is screaming you in the face just by looking at the photos – more “rock” slopes and/ or more “water surface” tiles placed strategically over the seams could have provided a much stronger connection. And even if they had gone down the lazy route and just plugged some additional strips underneath it would definitely have been much better.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Master Falls (70608), Reverse View

As it is, this is a superb idea for a small diorama squandered by sloppy execution. I really like the concept with the temple ruins being hinted at, the jungle-y bits and the hanging cage, but everything literally falls apart due to the inadequate structural work. You have to be way too careful just sliding the model across the floor, much less actually lift it and I have a hard time seeing how that goes together with this being based on a series for children (that will handle it rough during their playtime).

Point in case: If you are looking for a nice deco model and are perhaps willing to refine the construction then that is a good place to start, but as a way of truly re-playing the film’s scenes it’s probably safe to say that it doesn’t deliver on that front and is more a case of keeping it away from children than letting them play with it…