LEGO‘s new Monkie Kid series has only been out for two weeks at this point and due to some favorable circumstances for once I was able to hop onto the bandwagon of just-in-time reviews, so here’s my take on Pigsy’s Food Truck (80009). Before we delve in, some more general thoughts on the series as a whole, though.
Monkie Kid who?
As should be now be widely known, Monkie Kid is a modern spin on the old Chinese Journey to the West tale that revolves around the adventures of a band of mythical creatures and heroes, including the Monkey King. That’s pretty much where my knowledge ends. I’ve never seen a movie, not one of the older animated series that apparently exist nor read any books or comics. feel free to call me totally culturally ignorant. 😉 This is not made better by LEGO’s own animated series tie-in not having come out yet, so the models can only be rated on their own merits out of context.
That being the case, I have to say I don’t like most of them. Not only had I hoped for a more traditional approach to this series to begin with, potentially giving us some interesting historically inspired stuff, but my real problem is that most sets look like a wild mix of Nexo Knights and poorly done Ninjago. That is they use way too many large, compound parts where one might have preferred to build up things from many smaller pieces, lots of exposed Technic elements and an overall aesthetic, that’s not necessarily appealing to adults with lots of intense colors like Dark Purple and glowy oranges.
The other major turn off is simply the crazy pricing. No way to dance around it, but it really seems with this series LEGO are reshaping their own reality and reaching new heights. It’s not per se bad that sets cost a certain amount of money, but keep in mind that this series is not a collector’s edition, but is genuinely meant o be used for playing. Funny enough it will serve the latter purpose just fine, as most builds in their own way appear to be done well enough to live up to that, but the insane cost will be prohibitive and put it out of reach for many.
On the positive side the series introduces a ton of new parts or parts in previously unreleased colors and brings back some legacy pieces even that haven’t been available for a while. That alone will be motivation enough for some potential buyers. I would in particular go so far and say that the Monkey King Mech (80012) will be extremely popular in the MOC-building communities just for its many Metallic Gold parts and similarly the Dark Green Technic parts in the Monkey Kid’s Team Secret HQ (80013) as long as they’re not available elsewhere.
Finally there’s of course some interesting new minifigures. Even if I don’t actually pro-actively collect them, you have to give props to some of the new designs. They look fresh and truly like they add something new with new color combinations, new hair pieces and overall rather elaborate designs and prints.
What the Pigsy…?!
Based on the factors mentioned in the previous paragraph and some additional ones I opted for Pigsy’s Food Truck (80009) for a hands-on look at at least one set from the series. The reasoning behind this is pretty straightforward.
First, my brother and I have this weird running gag of anything to do with pigs and piglets and as a consequence anything to do with certain shades of pink. That’s why I had to have this for the pig on the roof of the van and Pigsy‘s minifigure alone. On that same note, I’m of course also somewhat into LEGO Friends and thus already have a reasonably large collection of pieces in these colors which I’m always looking to expand and complete in the hopes of one day pulling off some gorgeous custom builds with them.
The other reason to get this set are the many white parts, in particular the arches used on the wheel wells and the large modified tiles constituting the upward-swinging doors on the sides. There’s quite a few of them and if nothing else, they may come in handy as snow-covered roof elements for Christmas-y builds when it’s that time of the year again…
With that in mind, the economics added up and I wouldn’t have to worry about a total write-off even if the model itself disappointed. Knowing that these sets will very likely be exclusive to LEGO stores for a while, I ordered it right away from their online shop. Lo and behold, despite all kinds of horror stories of packages getting stuck in distribution centers due too overwhelming demand in the current crisis, everything worked out just fine and one week later DPD dropped the box undamaged on my doorstep.
Unwrapping the Van
The set comes with a pretty sizable van, five minifigures and two motorbikes, which even despite my initial criticism makes for a good value. In fact I would argue that out of all the current Monkie Kid sets this is perhaps the one with the best price-to-value ratio overall. I’m not sure if 60 Euro is the best price it could have, but given how surprised I myself was at how large the food truck actually turned out, I feel that it’s still fair on some level. If it only cost 50 Euro it would of course be even better, yet I don’t feel I have paid too much, rare as this is these days.
As written earlier, the figures are pretty nice. Monkie Kid himself (center) stands out the most with not only a unique torso print (apparently he’s employed at Pigsy‘s, if only as a disguise), but also the most elaborate legs I have seen myself to date. They are dual molded wit ha red upper section and black shoes and printed from three sides. Technically this is nothing new, but figures with such complex leg prints aren’t found in every set and i never had one before. My only criticism would be the slight lack of opacity on the white portions.
Pigsy uses a new unique head mold and looks just fine as a comical interpretation of a pig. The single customer is a bit run-off-the-mill and the Red shirt/ Sand Blue pants combo feels a bit overused. Simply too many figures in City and Creator sets use it. The evil guys, called Grunt and Snort in this set, are just clones in the truest sense of the meaning. they all look the same and are contained in every set, so similar to Star Wars you may indeed be able to build a clone army once you have bought enough of them.
The motorcycle/ bike is a completely new mold and is reminiscent of certain older types like wartime messenger bikes or the somewhat rustic-looking generations after that until the 1970s mostly. What makes them great, aside from having another alternate design, is the fact that LEGO had the good sense to do them in decent, realistic colors. They are a combo of Pearl Dark Grey , Pearl Grey and Black, making them unoffensive and integrate well into any scenario. even the spoked wheel hubs have that nice metallic sheen.
It’s an ordinary World (very ordinary)
Moving on to the truck itself, you’re kind of immediately taken out of the Monkie Kid world again as – with all respect – it looks very, very mundane and ordinary, give or take the few extras. That is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. It’s good because of course this would allow you to use the model in other scenarios easily with only minor modifications. It’s bad because somehow it just doesn’t seem to fit the slightly more crazy other sets from the series.
Most notably the lack of any variation in the overall White color scheme makes it just look boring. Yes, you can insert the same platitudes about me just not using stickers, but I still feel that this could easily have been mitigated somewhat even without those. Had e.g. the large 6 x 12 tile been substituted with multiple smaller ones and some colored items been sprinkled in to imitate patched or rusty spots, it could have looked more interesting to begin with.
And make no mistake – even if you were to apply the large stickers it would not necessarily look better. Both Bright Pink and Dark Cyan are “cold”, not very vibrant colors that do little to enliven the model. The lack of contrast can be extended to the mudguards or the rounded sections of the roof as well. Would have making the roof Light Bluish Grey been boring, too? Admittedly yes, but it would at least have given some contrast and a nice demarcation line.
I feel that the the mudguards likewise could have been grey or in the Bright Light Orange/ Flame Orange Yellow as the middle strip on top of the roof. On the bright side, though, they are constructed from the new 3 x 3 rounded bricks first introduced in the latest Star Wars – Rise of the Skywalker Resistance X-Wing (75273) for the jet intakes. That opens up potential for using them in a million different ways on other builds as opposed of having more single-mold pieces with limited alternate uses floating about in your stock.
The various appendages, i.e. the red horns, bull catcher and lights to me merely feel like a half-baked, uninspired attempt to make the vehicle look even a tiny bit menacing, but ultimately it does not. In terms of “branding” this seems weird, anyway. Wouldn’t those pieces by Dark Cyan or one of the pink colors, anyway? This also wreaks havoc with the red sausages/ hot dogs. They just don’t stand out enough. I also wish for once we’d get those Wieners in a different color. would it have been too much to ask for veggie spinach sausages in Dark Green?
Don’t be so tense!
When inspecting the driver’s cabin/ cockpit, we have to talk about one fundamental problem with this model. There is a lot of overall tension/ friction and by that I really mean a lot.
The cause of this is easy to pin down – the model uses some very long plates and equally 1 stud wide long bricks on top of a chassis frame that derives its main stability from several 6 x 8 plates on top of a Technic brick frame wit ha few pins. To me it’s all too obvious why this can’t work out. The cumulative shear forces will eventually get so great, you struggle to plug on another row of bricks. This is particularly bad with the yellow decorative strip running down the middle of the roof. Here the issue is exacerbated by the strip being build from 1 x 6 bricks that just won’t fit right due to too much lateral friction. Adding the turntable for the pig figure was a battle. This is definitely not for kids and you may need to have a wood hammer handy.
The roof of the driver’s cabin is not completely as bad, but still not really good. I guess the most fitting description would be that it’s a case of “It will jiggle itself into the right position”. You literally have to bend and twist the model ever so slightly at the step where you’re supposed to insert the roof and once the bricks have loosened themselves again and released some tension things will work. regardless, it’s just not ideal having to work this way.
The boring-ness of the design continues with the interior. One can’t help but feel that you’ve seen this a million times in every Friends or City van of similar ilk already. There’s some boxes, the usual mustard/ ketchup/ salt & pepper dispensers and a workbench. The only real highlights are a fridge and an extra overhead storage cabinet in the roof which admittedly uses a cleaver on-the-side building technique, but even those feel like they merely fill too much space that otherwise would not be used.
Don’t get me wrong – those elements are just fine for what they represent and even the “sterile” grey colors make sense, it’s just not what this model would have needed. If I had anything to say about it, this would be some insane stuff where once you open up the upward-swinging side panels/ doors you’d see a completely different kind of shop, be that some Chinese pharmacy or mystery items outlet or a full weapons store/ armory. At least the latter thought seems to have crossed the designers’ minds for a minute, as there’s a hidden weapons compartment in the freezer.
The mechanism for the roof swing doors kind of works, but occasionally it does not. More to the point you need to be pretty careful when to push it up and when to swivel it around. This is again an issue with the panels being rather flimsily constructed from only a few larger tiles with some 2 x 3 plates bridging the gaps on the backside. In addition, the actual hinge mechanism doesn’t use any of the inverted curved slopes usually associated with creating a strong connection, further complicating matters.
The matter isn’t helped by once again severe tension problems in the roof. There’s simply too many bulky bricks up there like the big slopes in the middle. Funny enough, though personally I consider it sloppy, it may actually help that those pieces along with some of the arches have their ends loosely hanging in the air. Were they fully counter-locked with extra plates underneath, the friction issues would probably multiply even more.
As mentioned in the introduction, one of the contributing factors I wanted this set is all that pig stuff and the advertising figure on the roof is part of that scheme. It’s reasonably well put together, though again I wish it would have been a bit bigger and more elaborate. It would have been nice if e.g. the ears had been actually pointed by building them from symmetrical pointed curved slopes. Given how the model is designed in that area already, it seems it would have been easy enough.
The stud shooter forming the snout is okay, but I’d preferred some more realistic shaping over functionality still. it might even have been funnier to build the pig as a container and have a separate gun inside or at least hide the gun behind a panel on a hinge. Farting out bullets from the opened butt has its own weird appeal, if you get my drift…
Overall the set is perfectly okay as a traditional/ conservative van. It’s quite large and there are enough play features and accessibility to keep kids busy. It’s also a pretty good source for some unique and useful parts if like me you disassemble your models again after a while and use the pieces elsewhere. On the other hand there’s a lot of amateurish, bad construction used, which makes the assembly a bit of a pain at times and would have me worried about long-term damage to some of the elements. All that creaking can only mean something is going to budge one day.
With regards to the Monkie Kid series this doesn’t do much to spike my interest. It squanders its potential by being way too conservative and it just doesn’t feel crazy enough. For all intents and purposes this could just as well be a Creator 3in1 model and you wouldn’t notice much of a difference. So ultimately how worth buying this is depends on some very specific details. It’s still good value for money, though, just perhaps not in the same way for everyone…