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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Nick Martin | March 5th, 2014 | LEGO Super Heroes, Marvel Comics, Reviews

Review: 76018 Hulk Lab Smash

76018 - Full Set

Playsets are always seen as a risky choice in the development of Lego stuff. They often underperform, because they’re not swooshable, and apparently kids only like buildings that can also turn into a robot (even if Tom Hanks doesn’t think so). I’m pretty far removed from doing anything as a kid, so I know that my opinions are colored by being an adult, and worse, an AFOL, but I’d hazard a guess that kids just don’t like playing with bad toys. Playsets, especially Lego playsets, are often just bad toys.

Sure, everyone likes vehicles, and they are rightfully the core of toys about doing stuff. My favorite toy as a kid was G.I. Joe, which has a whole mess of vehicles (including some spectacularly terribad ones), vehicles that were buildings (often with jets for some reason), and just straight up buildings (The Command Center was awesome). What was important with the stuff that was successful is that it made sense with the other stuff. I could put figures in the command center or park vehicles, things like that.

Lego has a tougher time with stuff like that, because sets aren’t really designed to “work” together most of the time. This is especially true for the Super Heroes line… where a lot of the stuff is thematically similar, but mostly just sits there. The Quinjet isn’t going to pick up the SHIELD truck, and no one wants to put Spider-man in any of those terrible vehicles. So how does Hulk Lab Smash, the Avengers Assemble set in the Marvel Super Heroes lineup measure up to the whole mix like that? At $50, four (or five) minifigs and only 398 pieces, there probably needs to be a whole lot of playset to make it work…

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Nick Martin | March 4th, 2014 | LEGO Super Heroes, Marvel Comics, Reviews

Review: 76017 Captain America vs. Hydra

76017 - Full Set

Take a read through Ken’s review of Thor: The Dark World, and his biggest beef with that movie and it’s lack of tie-ins to Lego sets, and you’ll get one of the big problems with the Marvel lineup this year. There are some sets coming out for Guardians of the Galaxy, but that’s pretty much it for movie tie-ins. Which means that Lego has ignored two big releases, Thor and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, opting instead for Avengers Assemble, the Disney Channel cartoon.

From the point-of-view for Marvel and Lego, that makes sense… Avengers Assemble is one of their popular shows and it has a bigger exposure over time than the movies do. But it really looks out of place in toy aisles full of figures from the movies (and the cartoon) to keep ignoring the big releases. That’s not to say that this set (and it’s cousin, Hulk Lab Smash), are bad sets. Far from it… this is an interesting set that gives us a new Captain America and his greatest nemesis, Red Skull (along with a Marvel henchmen that’s not Chitauri). It’s also a chance to put captain on a proper motorcycle at last, and give us some nice Hydra stickers to decorate our MOCs with. That and I bet there’s more than a few classic army type builders that will get this set just for those number stickers on the side.

At $20, the set seems like a great value, but at only 172 parts, you’re left wondering if it comes up being a little bit short. It’s price point is replacing two stand-out sets as well, Wolverine’s Chopper Showdown and Loki’s Cosmic Cube Escape, which means that the bar is set up pretty high for this little set right out of the gate. Given that there are only two sets in the early Marvel Lineup that don’t feature the same Spider-man figure (and that trike set is just absolutely awful), is this one worth some of that hard-earned money?

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Nick Martin | March 3rd, 2014 | LEGO Star Wars, Reviews

Review: 75043 AT-AP

75043 - Full Set

When we first started to divvy up the review schedule for this year, I volunteered for the AT-AP on a whim. I owned the original (even though it was parted out… and then un-parted for this review), and remembered it somewhat fondly. My love affair with walkers is fairly well known, but to be honest, I didn’t think all that much of this particular set. It didn’t strike me as all that different from the original, which wasn’t exactly spectacular, and the price was considerably higher ($60 for the new one while the old one only ran $40).

I actually have a process when I build sets like this for review along with the older version. I always build the new model first, make some observations, and then go build the old one (or ones, in the case of the Jedi Interceptor). I got the added fun with this one of digging through hundreds of thousands of parts and old sets to get the things I needed, which was… something. Everytime I do that, I swear I’m never parting out another set (and then do it anyway when I run out of storage room for sets), and then jump to doing some comparisons.

Most of my notes for this set consisted of stuff like this…

“12 steps of nothing but technic stuff”
“Is this really all that different?”
“Legs seem a lot nicer looking in this one with the bricks”

Usually, I have a good idea of the old vs. new comparison during the new build… my memory isn’t quite that bad, but it does occasionally fail me. This was one of those situations, where I was obviously remembering the old set in a far better light than it deserved. It wasn’t a bad set, exactly, but it wasn’t a good one either. It looked okay standing there next to an AT-TE, because as much as I harp on the PT as movies, I really like making displays of clones and jedi cutting through battle droids. What can I say, a toaster wronged me years ago, so I want to cut down some robots! Anyway, I built the new one, jotted some notes, wasn’t really blown away, and shelved it to go start getting the old stuff going.

It was putting together the old one that really started to reveal just how much of an upgrade this new set was. Without putting them side-by-side, you won’t realize that there is a size difference on the legs (and a bit on the body). Without holding them both you won’t realize that the old one was light and flimsy and the new one is built like a rock. Having over 300 more parts did wonders for this model, and not just on looks. This is probably the first review where I had to go back and review the new set after building the old one, because my initial notes obviously didn’t do it any justice.

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Nick Martin | February 28th, 2014 | LEGO Star Wars, Reviews

Review: 75037 Battle on Saleucami

75037 - Full Set

When is a battle pack not a battle pack? The obvious joke answer is “whenever it’s one of the crazy minifigure assortments in all the other sets,” but that’s too easy. Maybe when a set is focused on a few figures of the same type that can be used to build an army, and more than that, battle? Nah, can’t be that obvious.

Battle on Saleucami is an odd set. It’s battle pack sized, but marketed as a regular set. At $15, it’s the first set at that price point since 2005′s Tri-Droid fighter (or 2006′s $16 A-Wing), and sort of sits in a strange place between LEGO’s $12 battle packs and $25 base sets. 183 pieces is certainly nothing to sneeze at in a small set like this, even if it’s heavy on battle droids over regular minifigs (you get one, a Clone ARC trooper).

At first, I figured this was kind of a throwaway set in the lineup because Lego didn’t want three different battle packs for Clone Troopers. After building it though, I’m thinking that this should be the benchmark for all Lego Battle packs. It combines some very interesting and unique play features with some good builds and decent army builder figures (assuming you’re building a droid army, that is).

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Nick Martin | February 27th, 2014 | LEGO Star Wars, Reviews

Review: 75038 Jedi Interceptor

75038 - Full Set

Quick, what’s yellow, flies, and is a totally unneeded re-release? Okay, I’m sure there are more than a few smart… um, alecks… that probably yelled “Naboo Starfighter!” at their monitor (and at least one who had to be different and said something about a lemon catapult), but for the rest of us, it’s Anakin’s Jedi Starfighter, I mean, Interceptor. I suppose that’s technically correct (the best kind of correct), as these ships are based on the Eta-2 Interceptor, but it makes finding them difficult when searching because all of them except this one and the green one before it are called Jedi Starfighters.

That green one is really the big problem with this particular release, though, as you can still find them on a few shelves and it was just retired a couple of months ago. It was a Target Exclusive, which made it a little harder to find, but wasn’t exactly a knockout set by itself. To be fair, this version is nine years past when the original was made, and the Eta-2 fighters haven’t been the weeds that the Delta varieties have been, but still, it feels like they could do something else (like that Obi-Wan’s version, or maybe make the Hyperspace ring again).

At $25 and 223 parts, this is basically the new “budget” level set. It’s also a crowded price-point in the early releases, with Grievous’ Wheel Bike, the V-Wing Starfighter, and the Droid Fighter all in the lineup and running the same amount. I guess $25 is the new $20. The original included a Droid Fighter and Anakin’s fighter in just 202 parts, so obviously there have been some updates done. So the real question is how does this live up as a re-release of that set?

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Nick Martin | February 26th, 2014 | LEGO Star Wars, Reviews

Review: 75035 Kashyyyk Troopers

75035 - Full Set

 

Is it possible to get battle pack fatigue? Maybe that’s why Lego keeps playing with the $10 range with stuff like Planets (which were awesome) and the Microfighters (not as much). Or maybe it’s just that a lot of the recent battle packs have been somewhat underwhelming, with mixes for the type of figures in them or not enough generic troopers to help build up an army. 

That was my chief complaint with the Death Star Troopers pack, where the Royal Guard figures really detracted from the overall value of the set. The Utapau Troopers set did a better job of some more generic troop types, assuming you wanted to build up an army of troopers that would be able to blend in very well at a Texas Longhorns home game (which, as a ‘horns fan, I can totally get). They weren’t bad troopers, but we’ve had other Sherbet clones recently so it’s good to see a change.

Enter the Kashyyk Troopers battle pack, the third pack we’re getting this year. These are obviously not a very “generic” figure, being dressed up for a Duck Dynasty / Star Wars crossover convention (I’m not sure I want to know what that looks like, but I bet TLC will have it on the air within a year or two), but they all look pretty good. If you were going to build up an army of Clone Troopers, I’m willing to bet you’d rather have them capable of hiding in a jungle than at an AT&T store.

At 99 pieces, this one comes in slightly under the Death Star battle pack and well above the Utapau Troopers. The real question is does it justify your money any better than the other two battle packs (or the existing two you can still get)?

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Ken Robichaud | February 25th, 2014 | LEGO Super Heroes, Marvel Comics, Reviews

Review: Thor: The Dark World

Lego Thor Poster

It’s been a while since I’ve done a movie review. Part of that reason is that I didn’t feel the movies I considered reviewing warranted wasting any more of my time beyond the two plus hours lost watching them. Sure Iron Man 3 had it’s moments and we all like the flashy suits, but my patience for Tony Stark’s growth as a character has worn thin. Man of Steel had a lot of potential, but just fell too short of the characters core for me to care. Then the god of thunder came crashing onto the big screen for the third time, mixing in the more mythologically “magical” side of Marvel’s canon and the response was generally positive if a bit mixed. Thor has long been a character that has straddled the concept in comics of magic in an ever increasing world of technology and so, the magical aspect has in many ways been peeled back to a reveal character more in line with science fiction then fantasy. This is exactly the type of peanut butter I like in my chocolate. Even though I’ve been reading Thor in comics for over 30+ years, I still prefer sci-fi over fantasy.

Now, a few critics were hard on the film and in some cases with good reason. Thor suffers from the same drawbacks of trying to put Superman on screen and give him a challenge worthy of a god, but I felt the story was entertaining and it was easily the best sequel in the MCU up until this point. The score on Rotten Tomatoes is a decent (if not uncommon) indicator of the divide between the critics at 65% and the general audience who scored it at an average of 82%. It solidified the character as a Marvel tentpole, locking in a third outing outside of the Avengers franchise and even spun off two episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the second bringing Sif back to Midgard for the first time since Thor. I’m not really going to review the movie here in full, as most who were interested have probably already seen it. I was going to do this when the film first came out, but I didn’t get to see it until it had been out for a couple weeks and then with the holiday season approaching, things got very busy, on site and off. It seemed to make sense to do it with the DVD release, which just happens to be today. I want to take the opportunity to address my one true disappointment with the film, which actually doesn’t really have to do with the film at all.
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Nick Martin | February 25th, 2014 | LEGO Star Wars, Reviews

Review: 75034 Death Star Troopers

75034 - Full Set

When the first leaks showed up with pictures of a proper Death Star Gunner, I think the general reaction for fans was “It’s about time!” I mean, we’ve had two Death Stars, including the huge Death Star Playset that included a big ‘ole gun like this set seems to be based on. There are also a couple of Royal Guards, which get a nice “New” label on the box thanks to different arms and capes. It’s notable that there isn’t an Emperor for them to guard, and there isn’t an Emperor coming out in any of the sets this year, so I guess they’re guarding the gun?

I’ve always maintained that Battle Packs are hard to rate, but this year, there are three varieties to go with the two from last year, Republic Troopers vs. Sith Troopers and Clone Troopers vs. Droidekas, giving us five battle packs currently. This one, however, is the only OT set we have to choose from, and the only OT set in the early-2014 wave that isn’t a Microfighter. The summer sets are packed with OT stuff, so the dark days are almost over, but will this set tide everyone over with these four figures, a couple of new blasters, and the 100 pieces?

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Nick Martin | February 24th, 2014 | LEGO Star Wars, Reviews

Review: 75036 Utapau Troopers

75036 - Full Set

Did you realize that battle packs have been around for seven years now?  I’m actually kind of scared to count how many of the things I’ve bought, because they’re just easy. Even when a pack isn’t all that great, sometimes it’s just fun to crack open a set and build something (like that Assassin Droid battle pack from a few years ago). Of course, one of the biggest problems is that it’s just been years since the promise of those original battle packs, with their regular rank-and-file Stormtroopers and Rebel Troopers, were the kind of thing you could buy a bunch of to build an army. 

This has been especially problematic with clone troopers and battle droids. Yes, there are some special colors and commanders, but in the movies, even in Episode III, it was all of the regular troops that were there to blast things and get shot. Sadly, we’re still waiting, as both of the Episode III battle packs this year only include special troopers, Utapau 212th Clone Legion and the Kashyyyk Troopers under Gree and Yoda. So, orange and green, but no plain white in anything other than the Microfighters Clone Turbo Tank.

I wouldn’t normally get (as) hung up on that fact if there wasn’t a brand new Clone Trooper Phase 2 helmet, and suddenly, my colored troopers look different from everything else. I’ve mixed/matched before, but it’d be nice to have a better source of regular clones. Instead, we get the guys that tried to off one of the few competent Jedis (Obi-Wan), and not even the commander. But hey, it’s a $13 set that gives us four troops and a droid, so it can’t be all bad… right?

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Nick Martin | February 20th, 2014 | LEGO Super Heroes, Marvel Comics, Reviews

Review: 76014 Spider-Trike vs. Electro

76015 - Full Set

Sometimes, your first impressions are very wrong on a set. Like when I built the most recent Republic Gunship and was very impressed with the updates and overall feel of the ship. Or how nice The Lego Movie sets turned out, despite me not being impressed on the initial scenes. Just saying, sometimes a set can surprise you. Then again, sometimes your first impressions are spot on. I still think the most recent Sail Barge was a let-down that was only made worse by play features that made no sense (it was like buying a Superman action figure that comes with special battle armor and a sword… why does he need any of those things?).

This set, Spider-Trike vs. Electro, manages to do both. My first impression of the set was that it looked dumb and a bit too small, but wow, that transparent head on Electro looks slick. After purchasing it, and building it, I can say that I was wrong. It is way too small, exceedingly dumb, and perhaps one of the worst sets for the value that I’ve ever built. Somehow, I managed to overestimate a set that I already had low expectations before.

I’ll just warn you now, this set will be rough on this glorified polybag. I’m going to scrounge for some good things that don’t involve Electro or getting 5 force lightning bolts… but it won’t be easy.

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