Reviewed by Chris McGee (SAFOLs Member, jhbLUG Member)
Something wicked this way comes…
For starters, I think we can all agree that LEGO® has clearly taken a different direction with licensing this particular theme. Stranger Things is a Netflix original television series, but in the same breath, it is also a horror / sci-fi show, currently rated 16 in South Africa. Not exactly a kid-friendly set made from toy blocks, but being a fan of the show myself, I loved the idea of having this as a set. Monsters; a dangerous, hidden world; the 1980’s; Dungeons & Dragons… I don’t think I could ask for more.
So the set is sorted with characters from the show, 8 to be exact, with the 5 main kids (Mike Wheeler, Will Byers, Dustin Henderson, Lucas Sinclair and Eleven) as well as Joyce Byers (Will’s mother), Chief Jim Hopper and the main antagonist of the first season, the Demogorgon.
Each of the kids is detailed brilliantly based on their clothes from keys scenes from the first season, including Eleven’s dress and blond wig. A new hair and hat combo is in place for both Dustin and Lucas, with Dustin’s being right on point. The faces though are just great with how they have captured the kids expressions, especially Dustin whose minifigure really hits home. Mike’s face is probably the least accurate (from my perspective at least). The alternate faces are coming through nicely as well, although Eleven doesn’t get an alternate. The characters each get at least one accessory with Eleven’s being my favourite with the waffle printed 1×1 round tile (representing her favourite food “Eggo Waffles”). Each of the kids also comes with the recent new mold of the three quarter legs (medium legs) each of a different colour.
The Joyce and Jim minifigures also have a great likeness to their show counterparts and Joyce a great printed 2×2 tile showing off one of Will’s drawings of his D&D character, “Will the Wise”. I also appreciate that the characters have different builds of flashlights, as well as something that shows key points from the show. Mike with his Walkie Talkie, Dustin with the compass and Lucas with his “wrist rocket” (slingshot).
Hopper got himself a coffee mug, which is not wrong given all the coffee he is seen drinking, to go with his police car, a Chevy Blazer from the 80s. Last but not least is the Demogorgon, which is the show’s primary source of danger and scare moments, definitely got the full treatment here. With some uniquely printed faun legs and a well printed minifigure head showing the closed mouth without eyes, having the added piece to fit over the head with the opened mouth and array of teeth is just.
Seeing what a good job they did with the figures, I really wish we could have gotten some of the other main characters (Jonathan, Nancy and Steve), but I guess this would have raised the price point too far.
To say a lot about the build for the Byer’s house would be to say too much towards spoilers and other components, but for what it’s worth I hope to give some valuable feedback and avoid any spoilers.
The techniques used in the build are not necessarily the most complex but there is some simplicity in areas where you may have thought that some crazy building would happen, which was greatly enlightening and surprising. As an example, the trees are effectively one row of technic bricks, strengthened with some plates and technic pins. Also the upside down component is dealt with through the use of ball joints holding together a house horizontally stacked above the other.
And then comes the detail placed all over the build: Easter eggs and references to the show, references to some iconic scenes such as the alphabet on the wall with the light brick excellently placed for sprinkling some light thereon. Season 1 is definitely the main focus point here, and a season 2 reference in there for good measure. Will’s room has some nice sticker detail along with the many lamps, a bear trap in the entrance hall and continued references to some of the inspirations the show took (such as Jaws and Dungeons and Dragons). It even looks the same as the house of the show and uses the muted colour palette well to give a realistic setting.
The upside down is a fantastic contrast of colour and creepiness. Mirrored exactly across the Byer’s house, with the necessary blemishes, creepy vines and some slime droplets to distinguish it. The colours used also provide a nice darkness to the scene and gives it an incredibly unique look and ability to see the detail, avoiding the dark on dark problem that can arise using similar toned colours. But this also causes the problem mentioned above where if the light is not good makes it difficult to avoid picking out the wrong dark colour. Even some of the windows, blocked out by newspaper prints, have a more tattered look in the upside down.
The trees are also mirrored with that “realm of shadows” look, and provide an amazingly stable support structure, holding steady even when being slightly rocked. The build can therefore also be turned upside down and back over again with ease (although probably too heavy for a small child). Both tree structures are an identical build, but look different attached to the main build as the connection to the houses needs the trees to be turned around. Although it repeats, the mechanic of the build is interesting enough to give it a second look.
The one set of trees also has a nod to one of the side but important characters, Barbara through the use of two “missing person” stickers. The trees also have some cool re-colours of parts (dark blue plant leaves, black hot dog sausage, and trans-black antennae) which are provided in good quantity for those who would seek to get multiples of the set.
Honestly, watching season 1 over when building this really showed me just how much they packed into the build and decorative details. As a fan I was not disappointed. But the build and design are so unique and entertaining, I feel that even if you are not a fan or have not watched the show, it would still engage and provide challenge.
At 2287 pieces, the price point of R3,499.99 is reasonable given it is a licensed theme and that the similarly priced Star Wars Tantive IV only has just around 1800 pieces. Added to this, are a full set of unique and well produced minifigures, and an array of newly coloured parts. So from a value and experience side I am happy with the purchase. Also to note that with some minor adjustments and removal of the trees and ball joint connections, you end up with two very cool house builds.
It is a very different direction for LEGO®, and this will come with criticism and praise alike. But given the audience target market being adults, I like that the set is not beyond a child’s enjoyment of the set. (My son loves the upside down idea with no context from the show).
In summary, it is one of my most favourite builds in the past couple of years and I really hope we get to see more of the theme and characters being produced into sets.