Reviewed by Xavier Cordeiro (SAFOLs Member)
When my sisters and I really started playing with themed LEGO® 12-13 years ago, we collected City sets exclusively, but as the years passed we slowly moved on, and by 2011 we had almost stopped buying them completely. As a result, this is the first City set I’ve built since 2011, so it’s interesting for me to see how far the theme has come in nine years. This set, along with a small handful of City sets in The LEGO® Group’s partnership with National Geographic, marks a return to the Ocean Exploration sub-theme. This has always been part of the City theme, but hasn’t had much going on for the last 5 years. When looking at a set, I like to approach it using a score system for each main aspect, so I’ll do the same here.
Firstly, the Minifigures
This set comes with 4 Minifigures, which I think is the perfect number for a set of this size. There are two Deep Sea Divers, one Explorer, and lastly, Jessica Sharpe, who is featured in the LEGO® City Adventures show, and is exclusive to this set. Many of the Minifigure pieces in this set are exclusive to the Ocean Exploration theme. The level of detail on the figures is pretty good, and what I like about two of them is that they could easily be used in other contexts. The Deep Sea Divers have dual-sided heads, showing some happy, and some more alarmed expressions. They also have rather large diving suits, with large lights, and a handful of accessories. Overall, the Minifigures are of high quality, with some nice new prints and good accessories, and I think they deserve a nifty 9/10.
Now, onto the build
The three main builds in this set are quite simple, and something you’d expect from a relatively inexpensive City set. However, they were still quite fun to build, and I appreciate the size of the Submarine, and the sea-bed cave. I particularly appreciate the different colours used. The Sub has more classic, bright colours, whereas the cave uses some more muted, natural tones. The Submarine is a simple design which looks nice all-round. I only have two small complaints with it, being that there are no studs to hold the Explorer who sits in the back half of the Sub, and the fact that the vehicle isn’t entirely enclosed. Admittedly this is difficult for a small vehicle, but it does bother me somewhat. Otherwise it’s a solid build, designed for play, but still nice for those who wish to display it. It serves its purpose well, with some minor faults, and I think 8/10 is a fair rating.
What I like about this set is that it isn’t loaded with play features. While I think it’s a lot of fun for kids, (and sometimes adults) to have designed features, sometimes less is more, and I believe that this set shows that. A major feature is the way the glow in the dark Angler fish can pop out of the crevice in its cave, which is effective, but isn’t perfect in my mind. My problem with it is just how the clear Technic beam that holds the fish protrudes quite far out and makes it a bit difficult if you want to keep the build against the wall. The Submarine’s claws can quite easily clasp the gems which is something I really like. Its super simple, but still very satisfying, and they are quite poseable. The small vehicle clips onto the Sub when not in use, which makes it look more enclosed, and serves to prevent the Explorer from falling out through the back. The Angler Fish really does glow in the dark quite well and is more menacing than I had anticipated.
I think this set has good playability, with the only blemish being the Technic beam. I believe a solid 8/10 is justified.
A small point, but one I usually consider is packaging. The box is nice, but there’s not really much to it aside from the National Geographic label. The set comes with three instruction booklets, which I think is too much. It’s not a serious point, but two booklets are more than sufficient, although I suspect it’s to enable several builders to tackle the set at the same time. The instructions were easy to follow, and there are some images of what the real-life counterparts of the builds look like. In the end LEGO® seems to always do a good job when it comes to packaging. 8/10 is a fair score in my opinion.
Last up is the question of value
So, I thought some stats might be helpful to provide some context to this set’s value. This set retails for R550, with 286 pieces. In comparison, the Ninjago set, Jay and Lloyd’s Velocity Racers (71709) goes for the same price, with a more generous 322 pieces. The recent Star Wars Jedi Interceptor (75281) is also the same price, with a somewhat underwhelming 248 pieces. Going by this we can see that while it’s not the cheapest set out there, it’s worthwhile, and I feel that for what you get, it’s not bad at all. If it were rounded down to R500 then I’d be perfectly happy. One last point to consider is that this set uses quite a few large pieces, and some that are new for 2020, such as the sea plant piece, and of course the Angler fish. Given these points, I feel that 8/10 is an accurate judgement of this set’s value.
Overall, this set earns a favourable 41/50 in my opinion. It has a few minor faults, but it does what it needs to. The Minifigures are all great, and the Submarine is nice. The sea-cave provides some texture and colour, and everybody likes the adorable LEGO® crabs, two of which are included. I really like how LEGO® has used its extensive inventory to give the four Minifigures a lot of character, which was something that was more limited back in 2011. At the end of the day it’s an enjoyable, inexpensive set that I imagine most children, and even older fans will like very much.