10270 Creator Expert Bookshop

By Rakesh Gosai (SAFOLs Brick Deputy)

Released on 01 January 2020, this is the last instalment of the LEGO® Creator Expert Modular Buildings. Do not be alarmed, LEGO® will still be making the Creator Expert Modular Buildings but I suspect that this range will change to be in line with the 18+ Range, aimed at us Adult Collectors. I am keen to see what the new designs would be! This set is slightly cheaper than previous modular buildings.

This is the 14th year of the modular buildings from the Creator Expert team and should be an exciting build. The set is split on two 16×32 baseplates and is split into 8 numbered bags. I like that with this Modular Building, you can build the two buildings separately but therein lies the catch. There is an extra wall in each building, with extra items to decorate the walls. These extras bring the part count higher.

They can be displayed separately or together and fits well within a city setup. I did find that this set was very detailed in front, but not much attention was given to the interior and back of them. The “Birch” Tree is awesomely designed in the Bookshop section and the Townhouse bricks are an amazing teal colour.

The Bookshop “Birch Books” occupies the left ground floor and mid-level. The apartment takes up the top left side. I found the interior to be lacking in both the bookshop and apartment. I built the Corner Garage last year and I was expecting similar detail but, was sadly disappointed.

On the right-hand side is the Townhouse. I enjoyed building the dining room because it has some great details like, a dinner table and fireplace. Upstairs is a small bedroom with access to the balcony. The Townhouse has some nice details but sadly it is incomplete, there is no kitchen and bathroom. I wish the designers paid more attention to the details that where included in the interior of this whole set.

The Bookshop comes with 5 minifigures, which is less than the previous sets in this range. Corner Garage came with 6 minifigures, Downtown Diner 6 and Assembly Square 8 minifigures. An Adult Collector would definitely add this to his collection despite the shortcomings, the high expectations where set by the previous Modular Buildings.

The building profile is lower and should you buy another set, you could increase the height. Should us Modular fans add this to our collection? YES, because the exterior has some really fun details, the colour scheme is on point and provides us with some interesting building techniques even though the Modular Building feels less substantial next to its predecessors.

Overall, this is a good build but falls short of its predecessors like the Corner Garage, and the Assembly Square. After building those, I expected the same detail in this set. I would rate this set 6/10 because of the interior lacking many details that we have become accustomed to.

60264 The Ocean Exploration Submarine

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.

Next, “Playability”

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.

6399 Airport Shuttle

Reviewed by Clive Crafford (SAFOLs Member, jhbLUG Member)

Suffice it to say I was jumping up and down like a five year old on Christmas morning when I received this set. When joining the LEGO® hobby, it doesn’t take long before you have a wish list of sets that your heart desires. And it is not every day that you get the opportunity to add one to your collection, so when I saw this, I could not let it go by. Advertised on Facebook for more than a month without selling it, I made the seller an offer nearly 35% less then what he was asking, and he was happy to take it. It was also far less than the cheapest one currently on Bricklink – and with the set in a good condition with the original box – a bargain!

The set was first released in 1990, with 767 pieces, 9 minifigures and a retail price of $140.00. The set I have unfortunately is missing one window, one minifigure and one 16 x 16 baseplate, but sure I will be able to replace those – the important (and expensive) parts are included – working motor and track. The box has some tears around the corners (as can be seen above – left bottom corner). It still holds up well though, and can be carried around with all parts inside. The box art is not faded, can still clearly see the image of the monorail car. The track layout is shown as well, and this is the smallest configuration space wise, that it can be set up in. The age range is given as 8 – 12 years, so I am a bit old for it – but the set itself is older than I am.

The box has a cover that you can lift up – revealing some images of a child enjoying the set, and instructions on how to operate the monorail. The bottom has windows so you can see the perfectly packed parts, or in my case, scattered parts in a few Ziploc bags.

The original price sticker of this set was also still visible, retailing for US $159.99 in New Jersey at Jamesway Discount Stores that unfortunately did not last as long. I bought this set from a guy that received this set from his parents back in 1990/1991. It was built and played with by him as a child, but was then boxed up and packed away for more than a decade, until he discovered it again and decided to sell it.

The first item out of the box is the manual – there are a lot of pages with creases, and also some loose pages as can be expected from a set belonging to a child that just wanted to have fun. Despite that, it is still well preserved. The majority was clear though, and I used it to build the model. LEGO instruction manuals have come far though compared to this nearly 30 years old manual, and big improvements have been made by the LEGO Group. There are times where you really have to check what parts are needed, as they aren’t always listed, or check where they go, and the page cuts them off without you being able to identify which piece it is.

The next parts are the baseplates that come with the set. There are also two 8 x 16 green baseplates, just not pictured here. The grey parts are quite discoloured here, but the green baseplates is still in an excellent condition. There is another 16 x 16 grey baseplate for this set that I did not receive, but was able to use one from my parts. Both the shuttle stations are built on these, one being a raised platform, and the other being on ground level.

Also included are the track supports, 8 tall ones, and 2 half the height, for the middle of the ramps. They slot into the monorail track easily, but still with enough gripping power to not fall out when you lift the track. They also have plates at the bottom that can be stuck onto other plates or bricks, however is preferred.

The most expensive pieces in the set are of course the track itself. With this set comes 8 quarter curves, 6 quarter straights, 5 straight pieces, 4 straight ramp pieces, 2 half straight pieces that allow you to control the monorail train and 1 half straight. Unfortunately one of the track control pieces was broken in my set, so although it works for the train to go across, it doesn’t allow you to control the train. The ratio of straight to curved sections of track was a lot better back in the day, as you got more straight pieces, which are the hard to come by and always in demand pieces.

The monorail train itself is a good size, has a sturdy design, and is similar to other train sets of the time. There is certainly room for MOC’s here, especially using pieces that are available today for a much more modern take. The motor still works perfectly, and I hope it will for a long time to come. There is space at each end of both cabs for a driver. The one on the left above only has space for two passengers as opposed to four in the other side, because of the space being taken up by the battery pack. The more recent city sets with a monorail or tram car don’t have space for more minifigures either. The sides and windshields of both cars also flip open for easy access to place minifigures inside. The on/off switch for the battery is on the battery itself, and access is gained by lifting the side cover up.

The first station you get to build is the one on ground floor. (There is one tan plate instead of a white plate.) The station itself is very simple, just a platform with a small roof overhang, and seating for two people. The cross walk extends over the road, to a bus stop, also with two seats and a phone booth. A nice touch, remembering that this set came out long before cell phones became popular. There are some flowers decorating the sidewalk – made from pieces with the same moulding we can find today.

The second station is raised about 10 bricks high. The platform has seating for two minifigures, with a staircase leading up. The stairs are completely brick built, and parts intensive, so I understand why they have the single stair piece now. There is also a hot dog stand underneath. The newer sets contain a few more details then this set, but still nice to have it included. On the opposite side has a bus stop with two seats for waiting minifigures, some flowers and two lamp posts. (One missing above.)

The set assembled completely. It is an impressive set, and takes up quite a large area, 120cm x 140cm. In comparison to train set today, it takes up more space, mostly due to the two stations that are included. I think it would be great if LEGO could do something similar again with its current train sets, including bigger stations, or at least have proper stations for sale separately. The market for trains and related products is definitely big enough world-wide to encourage this. The stickers are all intact, and still well stuck one, with just one exception.

Overall I am very pleased with this set, and feel the lack of monorail sets today. It was a great theme that LEGO surely can continue. I will be playing with it all weekend, and planning on how to incorporate it into my yet to be built city. I hope to add to my monorail track collection in the near future, and incorporate this set along with that on a much larger scale.

21324 Ideas 123 Sesame Street – 1367 pcs

By Barry Kay (SAFOLs Brick Boss, CapeLUG EXCO, Batman … Ssshhhh!)

One could not describe this set better that how it has been in the official LEGO® press release.

Voted for by LEGO brick lovers all over the world, a wonderfully nostalgic new LEGO® Ideas set has been brought to life after being envisioned by an avid builder. The brand-new LEGO® Ideas 123 Sesame Street set is the latest product from the LEGO® Ideas collection, which conceptualises and produces the creative wonders imagined and voted for by LEGO® brick fans themselves.

Created with all the delightful elements of 123 Sesame Street, the new set is packed with authentic details from the famous New York City neighbourhood. From Bert and Ernie’s apartment, in which Bert famously pleaded with Ernie to remove a banana from his ear so he could hear better, to Big Bird’s nest, where the grown-ups finally met Mr. Snuffleupagus in person – builders will marvel in Sesame Street’s most memorable moments.

As they embark on their immersive build journey of LEGO® Ideas 123 Sesame Street, seasoned LEGO® fans and younger builders alike can take a trip down memory lane, passing by Hooper’s Store, Oscar the Grouch’s trash can, and many more quintessential Sesame Street locations, making it the perfect set to enjoy on your own or together as a family. Fans can even bring their favourite characters and show moments to life with the brand new and exclusive buildable minifigures which have been moulded specifically for the set, including characters such as Cookie Monster, Elmo and Big Bird.

The Box, Inside and Outside

The box presentation is the new 18+ black box with the set images brightly printed to jump out and catch your eye.

The instruction manual is also all black with the well-loved character minifigures in a row on the front and just the Sesame Street sign logo on the back. Inside has some detail about Sesame Street, the original designer and LEGO® designers.

We get 2 16×16 Light Bluish-Grey plates and 11 bags of parts.

There is also a sticker sheet with 22 wonderful Sesame Street designs, which also bring in some of the well-loved characters that were not made into minifigures.

The Build

We begin the build with the base (the street block) and then see the building emerge from the ground up.

The building has been cleverly thought out and with excellent part use in the finer details and the features of the building. There are also some hidden “easter eggs”, such as the spider on its web in the basement.

Most of the image detail come from the sticker sheet, but we have been given some nice new printed parts as well.

Once each part of the building structure is put together, we start to furnish the rooms. It is a great learning experience to see how the furniture and fittings are put together and what parts are used which one would not necessarily think of.

As the build progresses and the set comes to life, the memories start flooding back from the time spent watching these loveable teachers.

The set has been built in the standard LEGO® “Dolls House” design so that you can display or play with the minifigures in the various different rooms and outside areas.

The Minifigures

Each bag set contains one of the iconic characters supplied in the set.

Starting from first to last, we have Big Bird, Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster and lastly Oscar the Grouch in his trash can.

Elmo, Oscar, Bert, Ernie, Cookie

Conclusion

Although the set is very much reduced in size to the original Ideas submission, it is a real joy to build. There are no big complexities in the build, but there is a lot of fun and learning involved, which I would say is the essence of Sesame Street. I highly recommend this set to build either for yourself or your kids to have fun playtime with.

Reviewer Pictures

Press Release Pictures

80012 Monkie Kid™ Monkey King Warrior Mech – 1629 pcs

By Barry Kay (SAFOLs Brick Boss, CapeLUG EXCO, Batman … Ssshhhh!)

Monkie Kid™ – The Story (excerpt from LEGO.com)

Centuries ago, the beloved Chinese Monkey King used his magical staff to capture and trap the evil Demon Bull King deep inside a mountain. Flash-forward to modern-day China, when fate leads MK (aka Monkie Kid), a young noodle shop delivery boy, to find the long-lost staff. Soon, MK and his best friends find themselves entangled in adventures packed full of action, mystery, imagination, and magic.

Being a LEGO® Mech fan, I had to get this set to build as it looked so awesome.

The set comes with 12 bags of goodness, a sticker sheet with 47 stickers in 31 unique and eye-catching designs, a plastic sheet with foil printed cut outs as well as a fabric cape to dress and decorate the mech.

Apart from the great mech build, this set comes with a number of mini-builds to set a fun scene for playing with.

The Minifigures

Jia, An, Monkey King, Monkie Kid, General Ironclad & Growl with some nice new parts, such as the headphones around MK’s neck, the Bull Helmets and more…

The Mini-Builds

Bag 1: Contains the parts for a small Bull Mech. A quick and fun little build that fits Growl the Ironclad Henchman minifigure who is also in this bag.

Bag 2 & 3: We build the Monkey King and his flying Cloud. There is also a nicely detailed Noodle Shop with some interior design. There is also a side attachment with a power pole and arcade game. The An minifigure is also found in these bags.

Bag 4 has the parts for the start of the mech torso and the final mini-build. The iconic Flower Fruit Mountain that is said to be where the Monkey King imprisoned the Demon Bull King. The tree built on the top of the mountain has some nice 1×1 pink heart tiles with peaches printed on them.

The Warrior Mech Build

Bags 4 – 12 have the rest of the parts to build the mech.

It is a nice surprise to see the return of metallic gold parts and so many of them.

The build progresses in the following stages.

  • Bag  4 – Torso & Monkie Kid Minifigure
  • Bag  5 – Shoulders and Torso Details
  • Bag  6 – Upper Legs and General Ironclad Minifigure
  • Bag  7 – Lower Legs
  • Bag  8 – Feet
  • Bag  9 – Upper Arms and Jia Minifigure
  • Bag 10 – Forearms and Hands
  • Bag 11 – Head
  • Bag 12 – Staff, Banners and Dressing

The mech is very well designed with a sturdy skeleton of Technic parts, gears, ratchet, and ball joints. The arms move on rotation gears at the shoulders to give them some good manoeuvrability. We have seen this technique in other sets as it works well.

The colours of red, yellow, turquoise and metaling gold are very eye catching and stand out, giving the mech a powerful look.

There is some excellent part usage to add little details all over, such as Utensil Zip Line Handles as the control levers in the torso cockpit and Weapon Hilts as metal bars at the knee joint.

Instead of printed parts which would have raised the cost of the whole set two-fold, they have included the sticker sheet with small stickers to really bring out the detail in the whole build.

We finish off with the large staff that can be set in place between the hands, held in one hand as a full staff and even shortened into a smaller staff.

The last bit of detail is the plastic foil printed Samurai dressing and fabric cape, all attached at cleverly well positioned pins and small ball joints.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed building this set and feel it is one of the sturdiest of the large LEGO® mechs to be released. The Ideas Voltron set was a fun build but only a display piece in my opinion. This build has a lot more playability and can be placed in a variety of different poses. There are a few fiddly bits that can fall off if and if not balanced correctly it will fall over due to the size. The added mini builds give some extra playable features to the whole set.

The LEGO® designers have done an excellent job in making a solid, sturdy mech that looks like the Monkey King and I definitely recommend this set if it falls within your budget.

60262 City Passenger Airplane

Reviewed by Clive Crafford (SAFOLs Member, jhbLUG Member)

As a collector of LEGO® Planes, I was eagerly awaiting the new arrival when it was announced. I was pleasantly surprised with the new set once the first images were released, and enjoyed the building experience a lot.

Officially titled Passenger Airplane, set number 60262 comes with 669 pieces, 9 minifigures (includes a baby figure) and a retail price of R1 699.99 (before the November 1st price increases). Not differentiating too much from previous sets, this set comes with the plane, the airport terminal and control tower, along with a ground vehicle. The only addition to this is the passenger car belonging to Poppy Starr.

The red convertible is a pretty standard LEGO® vehicle measuring just 4 studs wide. The ground vehicle is also 4 studs wide, and comes with the standard steps to access the plane, the only difference to previous sets being the car lift. It works well to lift the car to the same height as the plane.

Although it is dubbed a passenger plane, it is actually the first multi-purpose plane with dedicated areas for both passengers and cargo. The build itself goes quite quickly, the larger components make this set feel bigger then what it is, with the small part count it has. There are some new elements made for the plane, the nose cone being the most noticeable. I like the new look, and reminds me of the shape of the A380, although this is a much smaller plane. The other parts are in the tail, and both work well. The look maintains similar colours to the previous passenger plane, and no dramatic changes has been made to the colour scheme. The larger blue area being exchanged for white and vice versa. The empennage (vertical tail) is a printed part, which will be welcomed by most, as positioning the stickers correctly on both sides has always been difficult and frustrating. The plane has 2 engines, and both are constructed with 3 major pieces, instead of a single piece as in previous iterations. The wing is still the same large, moulded piece, and seems unlikely that LEGO® will move away from this any time soon. The finished build is stable and as Brickman from LEGO® Masters Australia would say, has a lot of swooshability.

The interior of the plane is quite spacious. The car that comes with fits snuggly into the cargo hold, but it is big enough for all sorts of cargo you may need to fly around. The passenger area has just 5 seats, indicating that this is much more of a luxury private jet, and not to be used for commercial flying. The minifigures fit well with no struggle to get everyone seated. There is also a shared entertainment system. The sticker does contain a tease for fans of Bionicle, so will be interesting to see if this hints to future plans LEGO® have.  The passenger area is connected to a service area, containing a small bathroom for the occupants as well as a service trolley, and baggage area. The plane can be piloted by two pilots, however only one is included in the set. The cockpit is one of the most detailed areas, and the designers recreated it very well.

The most disappointing part of the build is the terminal building that feels lacking in all aspects, just as most previous sets. It would be great if this can be released as a separate, dedicated set, with more attention to detail and overall impression. This is aimed at younger fans, so is understandable that they do not require much in this regard, it is only adult fans that would like to see more here. The roller coaster track for the roof is clever, and gives the building a smooth look from the outside. The control tower is there just for the sake of, without adding too much to the set in terms of looks and playability.

Overall I am pleased with the look of the plane itself, and it makes for a decent companion to the other sets in the range. The only improvement would be on the airport terminal and control tower. I also like all the minifigures you get with the set, which makes the price feel better when looking at the piece count. It is definitely a fun set to play with and will be welcomed as a Christmas gift.

71360 Super Mario -Adventures with Mario

Reviewed by Chris McGee (SAFOLs Member, jhbLUG Member)

The world is changing

Initial thoughts:

So, the partnership between LEGO® and Nintendo® has become a highlight for many during an altogether rough 2020. Just the news alone brought with its thoughts and wishes of set integrations with favourite games, minifigures of our favourite characters and possibly even LEGO® themed Nintendo games.

What we got was the announcement of a 4-year development and design process which yielded this starter course with its unusual figurine star. I was intrigued more than upset but I will not lie… I saw my minifigure dream collapse into a million studs. After a few days, more insights started to come to mind and after a few viewings of the videos, I decided not to write the concept off just yet.

A couple of months later the internet reviewers started receiving early sets for building and reviews (a great idea for this new concept I believe as it allowed for many different opinions to be available). I managed to see the potential of something I thought I could get into through these and taking the chance, pre-ordered my starter course. And, in late August, it arrived a bit earlier and I have now had about a week with the set.

The technology and the figure:

So, LEGO has produced something entirely unique with this figure, making great use of the technology available and packed into a reasonably small and (thankfully) sturdy package. The main point of focus is on the screen behind the eyes, mouth, and chest, which has some great expressions and bring Mario to life in a fun way. There is also a speaker which projects Mario’s voice with notable quotes and reacts to various movements with nostalgic sound effects. Internally the figure comes equipped with an accelerometer and gyroscope which perform well in understanding the movement of the figure and gives precise integration with the sounds and expressions. The scanner is also spot on and interacts almost seamlessly with the different bar codes and colour plates.

The concept:

It is a really simple concept… build a course, laying out various pieces provided, start using the start tile provided through scanning it with your new LEGO Mario, finish using another tile, and during the run, collect as many coins as you can.

Though a simple concept like this may seem arbitrary and uninteresting, it allows for an imagination to take flight and basically go anywhere it wants to. My son started changing up the course, adding plates to extend the trail, and within a few hours we had played around 10 different courses and he still had more ideas. I am pleased to say that I gave it a good go and only narrowly lost in the coin count.

The build:

So the build is not complex and it is a bit annoying that there are only digital instructions (there is a short booklet that explains Mario himself, but from there you would need the app which is available for your smart devices) or download the instructions from lego.com. As an adult, I didn’t enjoy the app giving me not only build instructions, but these are also in pieces and with some videos in between. I do understand the need though as the videos act as tutorials which show kids how to use Mario and interact with the different elements, and for a 6+ set, this is needed. The tutorials will definitely help kids during their first couple of runs with Mario.

The new parts are appreciated and do aid in connecting the different sections with ease needed just simple 2x something plates to help structure your course layout. They even include a few extra plates to help get more combinations.

The game:

So as noted, the premise is to collect as many coins as possible in 60 seconds. Now many will ask, “Why bother with the route, line up all the barcoded tiles, stomp Mario down thereon and end it?”, and they may have a point. But I could ask the same of other games such as snakes and ladders. Why not just make the snakes pointless and just go through the game without any hindrance? Well, it is because it is a board game and with any game, there are rules whereby the players would decide on which to follow or how to engage.

This new LEGO® theme pushes the same idea, although imposes far fewer rules, with it pretty much being for you to start and finish before time runs out. Fewer rules will allow kids to create their own games with different challenges or mechanics. One course which I made was that the end was at the other side of our lounge and you needed to travel by the provided “cloud” to fly there, collecting coins along the way (but again, you need to time your other actions to be able to make it). You can put all the elements in or shorten the course, thereby also maximising or limiting the amount of coins possible.

In effect, I equate this system to something akin to a board game, just with some impressive technology and almost boundless potential.

The application:

Thankfully, Mario will work without the application and will play just fine on the course itself, but to note that he does get firmware updates through the application which may provide added functionality later on. The application works just fine and also provides access to building instructions and ways to share courses and scores with others. One nice feature of the app is that it will give you a breakdown of where you earned coins if you connect the figure to the app before starting a course run, which is very handy to try and develop strategies towards maximising your coin haul.

The expansions:

The starter course comes in at R999 retail price, which I feel is warranted given the quality tech and workmanship within the Mario figure and the elements provided give added value to a full experience within the game itself. With that being said, there are also expansions available to lengthen and add to the experience. Currently I do see these as being over-priced though, even if I were to liken them to video game or board game expansions. Having had limited time with the set so far, it would be unfair of me to say that the expansions are not needed, but for now the starter course really does provide a solid experience.

The experience:

So it isn’t an attention seeking item that requires a lot of your time but I have thoroughly enjoyed walking up to a course during a break and giving it a go and 60 seconds later I have sometimes bettered my prior score or found myself annoyed and wanting to try again. For me it has given a nice breakaway from work and a nice interlude with my son when we just need to do something. So, I am quite impressed with this.

I think a lot of my interaction comes from me being into board games already and a fan of the Mario games. I can say then for adults without the fanfare or who do not have kids, may find this set and the premise difficult to digest. Nintendo has always been geared towards innovation and providing a unique experience, and with LEGO® I believe that they have brought something that truly follows this pattern and brings us an entirely new and authentic experience.

The verdict:

Simply put, this is great for families, great for kids. Adults who can see past the standard “LEGO® sets” will gain a lot from this experience with the fun that can be had here, but I can say that it probably isn’t for everyone.

71374 Nintendo Entertainment SystemTM

Reviewed by Chris McGee (SAFOLs Member, jhbLUG Member)

Nostalgia in spades

So… 2020 has been an interesting year so far, and the world of LEGO® is no exception. In fact, we have seen the campaign of adult targeted sets dramatically increase and almost take away from the standard children’s set dominance. Walking through our local LEGO® Certified Store these days (with mask on and sanitiser at the ready) now looks like something altogether different with a quarter (at least) of the store’s shelf space being dedicated to the sets aimed at 16+ (includes Technic® and the Architecture themes), the Ideas theme and the new line of 18+ sets. Including not having space for other themed sets released only 6 months prior. It’s a bold move for a company in the “toy” business, and the set in this review is very much targeting the nostalgia factor of us big kids.

In the most positive form of critique from the release notes and set description, the 71374 LEGO® Nintendo Entertainment SystemTM (NES) is a set that will “trigger nostalgic memories”, and as a fan of video games of old and fond memories of those many hours (too many from my parents perspective), I really wanted to project myself back and experience the magic. Although I had the “Family Computer” variant of the console growing up and am not sure if we got this version of the NES into SA, I wanted to see if it still strikes home on the nostalgia front.

The beginning:

The set contains 2646 pieces across numbered bags (thank goodness), with the instructions split into two separate booklets, one for the NES console and controller and the other for the retro TV, so can be a build for a couple of family members. The instructions also have some handy facts about the history of the console, the games thereon, and some facts about the set design and the team behind it. I can really appreciate this focus on the designers and set design as it adds more to the effort and love given towards the development process.

The console:

So, the partnership with NintendoTM has apparently been on the go for the past 4 years, which makes me wonder if this was originally on the cards or something that came later. But one thing is for sure, they really went to town on getting the accuracy factor there. The shaping and details around the outer casing is near identical to the original console, including printed parts for the specific written components. I love that they even bothered to make the plug receivers for the controllers and the connections through to the television (and with some nice techniques to boot). The consistent finishing using tiling for the edges and some nice building of the cartridge loading cover make for a product that brings the device to be the blocky heart of the set.

The console is accompanied by a single built up game cartridge, obviously using the Super Mario Bros sticker of the first 8 bit game variant as it’s label. This in itself would have been a great extra, but the cartridge loader on the console actually works, including a locking in feature of the loading which is amazing in how it is built. There is even a hidden easter egg built into the side of the console for those who dared venture into the warp zones. The simplicity and effectiveness of the mechanism is fantastic and a highlight of the set.

Moving on, you get the controller, which is also heavily decorated with printed parts giving that added grace to a device where your fingers begin to get some muscle memory thereon with the A and B, and directional buttons in place. This controller would drive forward generations to come for home gaming consoles, after the older consoles focusses on controllers like the arcade joysticks. The controller comes with a pneumatic pipe as its wired cable, and actually slots into the console port, and the connection friction is just right for easy removal and placing for a firm hold.

The television:

I can only guess, but my thought is that the console was the first point of focus for the team since it is more directly linked with the new Super MarioTM theme, so this makes the retro TV the “gravy”. So much so that it could easily be seen as the star of the dish, giving the flavour and energy needed for the set.

Built into it is a lovely screen rotation of a section of the first level of the Super Mario Bros 8-bit game. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on this level growing up, but I think it is the right choice for all, being recognisable to all who have any knowledge of the game. The actual method used in scrolling the level, is done using the larger track pieces in 2 levels connected through long plates and then finished with tiles and some plates. There is a lever to the right of the television which is used to rotate the tracks. The special prints stand on different 1×1 shaped parts on top and provide character to the environment in the form of the gumba, koopa shell, star, question mark block and coin. You also get an extra of each of the printed elements.

Then comes the specialised Mario modified plate. This is a unique part both in the print and it’s construction, able to connect on an anti-stud to the bar and trans-clear dish piece which helps guide Mario in navigating the level as the screen scrolls across. A key to this is the use of a microphone piece just providing less friction for easy movement. Handy hint: don’t push the dish piece too close to the tiles as it tends to get stuck easily on the plates on the screen.

All this in an amazingly detailed adaptation of an older television, complete will stand. The channel changing dial, volume and display settings all represented with prints and the channel dial having a cool mechanism to add a resistance and clicking noise to the experience. Even the panel to the left of the screen comes with some building for the speaker cover with the receiving studs showing to lovely effect.

To the back of the television and we get only our third sticker for a neat and tidy finish for the back of the television providing the actual specifications. A fun little easter egg comes through now as the specifications thereon are actually for the set build itself. Considering that this section would normally not be seen on display, it is great that they finished it so well, giving the right shape and smooth design. To top it off, a small arial can be clipped down or set up to display.

The other function:

So once finished building, scrolling and admiring the set, there is another option available, although a critical component does not come with the set itself, and that is interaction with the LEGO®  MarioTM from the upcoming Starter Course set (71360). It allows you to play the famous music and sound effects triggered by coloured tiles within the colour sensor of the Mario figure. All this comes from simply scanning the provided coded tile. Now initially when I received the set, I didn’t have the LEGO®  MarioTM but I was still able to get what I wanted from the interaction of scrolling the screen around and watching the jumping and general interaction (all the while having the music play through my head).

I did receive my pre-order a bit earlier than expected and so then tried out the new Mario figure and the interaction it provides, and yes, having the music and sound effects did add to the experience.

I do feel that this is more of an enhanced inclusion rather than a necessity, but can understand why people would be upset at not having a “complete” set when this inclusion is offered but you need to have a key device to effectively use it. That and the set would cost you an extra thousand rand over and above the current price tag for this set.

The final product:

This set is perhaps a great indicator of what can expect from LEGO® going forward – sets targeting a growing market of adults wanting a combination of build and display value. And what a way to do it.

It rings all the right bells for me with regards to nostalgia, build quality and experience, and really does look phenomenal when displayed. A must I would say for big Nintendo fans, a great display piece for those wanting that point of focus. The mechanisms used for the play features are well thought out and well-built to give an experienced builder some fun and these are a fair accompaniment to the set.

On a price point, at R3,799.99 (recommended retail), the set may be bordering the higher price point, and we can probably get an actual NES for half the price, and play it (didn’t check but I doubt it would scale up to this price). But honestly, this is meant to be built and compared with LEGO sets, and in that, I feel that the price is fair for what comes out and the experience with the building, considering the new moulds and great prints we also get.

The added feature with the integration of the starter course set is nice to have and add some pep but is not necessary if you would rather not get the starter course (price or otherwise), and I don’t believe have added to the price point given that the price to part ratio is still quite low.

Overall, a great set, and I hope the partnership with Nintendo does continue as I know many are looking for those elusive minifigure based sets.

Official Images

10269 – Harley Davidson® Fat Boy®

By Bianca Preusker (SAFOLs Memeber. CapeLUG Member)

An unexpected delight

I am no motorbike fan. So, I admit a certain amount of surprise at just how much fun I had with this build. I particularly enjoyed the mix of Technic and system techniques. The high reliance on system bricks made the start a little fiddly, and bits seemed to keep coming apart from a hard stare to start with. After a while everything came together in the most surprising ways and the final product was sturdy and robust. It is not only an iconic display piece, but also delightfully playable. The word swooshable springs to mind.

LEGO® designer Mike Priaki made magic happen, with mostly conventional parts put together in some innovative ways to create the unique and instantly recognisable shape of the Harley. I like the simple design, not too cluttered with unneeded greebling and, being a bike, a lot of the beautiful engine design is visible in the final product.  

As an AFOL I was especially interested in the instruction booklet, which contained an interview with Mike Priaki. It is fantastic to read a little more about the process of making a design like this one. The timeline of the company also made for interesting reading.

One of my favourite aspects of the build was the use of the light blueish grey barrels in the exhaust. Brilliant! And the wheels… The tyres and the rims were especially designed for this set, and really look great.

Pros

  • Creative parts use
  • Beautiful eye-catching design
  • Interesting Instruction Book

Cons

  • Bit fiddly in some stages
  • “only” 1023pc – I would have enjoyed a slightly longer build

In summary: I really enjoyed building the Harley. The techniques were interesting and varied and the final result is a beautiful rendition of an absolute icon. I highly recommend it.

Images from the official press release.

70705 Galaxy Squad Bug Obliterator

By James Burnett (SAFOLs Member, CapeLUG Member)

After building my first Galaxy Squad set (70702 – Warp Stinger), I immediately went looking for my second (and third and fourth…) sets. I managed to find the Bug Obliterator (70705) released in 2013. For those unfamiliar with the theme, it is centered on humans and robotic sidekicks that are protecting worlds against an invasion by an alien insect-like race. The humans are divided into four teams, each with a unique colour (red, blue, green and orange) and speciality. The humans have various vehicles designed to survive in outer space. The vehicles of the aliens look like animal hybrids.

The set’s name is derived from the large human vehicle which makes up the bulk of the set and belongs to the Orange Team. The main strength of the Orange Team is their fire power and this is certainly the case with this vehicle. The aliens have a small vehicle, who in all honesty will be completely obliterated should they go head to head with the aptly named Bug Obliterator.

The Build

The build starts with the alien vehicle. Even though it is a relatively small build, the use of parts is creative and the trans-neon green, trans-purple, lime and dark red colours make for a very interesting and appealing colour combination. The trans-purple cocoon attaches to the back of the alien vehicle and is used to trap members of the human teams.

Figure 1: The Alien Vehicle

The human vehicle is made up of two parts, a land vehicle and a space vehicle, which combines into one larger vehicle. It is a fun build that makes use of a lot of interesting building techniques.

Figure 2: Combined Human Vehicle
Figure 3: Separation of the Land Vehicle from the Space Craft
Figure 4: Land Vehicle using the Missile Torrent

The Minifigures

The set comes with four minifigures. The first is Jack Fireblade. He comes with a nice torso print (front and back). I appreciated that all the human figures have an alternate face with what looks like an oxygen mask.

The second minifigure is Ashlee Starstrider. I am glad to see a female member of the Orange Team and she is exclusive to this set. I am however disappointed that she has the same torso and legs and that she did not get a unique print. Although I understand this was either a cost saving decision or it was decided that all space suits would look the same as in real life, irrespective of gender. She does have a nice blue lip print.

The third minifigure is a orange robot sidekick. The minifigure does not have a traditional face, but rather the helmet serves as the head. The head of the robot sidekick is different to each team, giving some variety to the look and feel of the sidekick.

The fourth and last minifigure is the winged mosquitoid. The mosquitoid is dark red and olive green. The trans-bright green wing accessory creates the look and feel of real wings. The dark red antenna is separate to the head and requires fine motor skills to insert as it is extremely fine.

Conclusion

What stands out for me about this set (and other sets in this theme) is the attention to detail and the interlocking design of the various elements and vehicles to create larger vehicles. This is something I have not seen in any other theme. Overall it is a fun and interesting build.