Retro review time! While doing the review for 75136 Droid Escape Pod, I ran across a copy of 9490 Droid Escape and decided to review this one as well. I actually wrote this review first so I can get a better feel of how much better the newer set is. While the newer one kicks ass, this one ain’t too shabby either. 9490 Droid Escape is 137 pieces for a retail price of $19.99, falling way, way below the 10 cent per piece threshold. But that’s honestly the worst thing about this set. For that price you do get an oddly shaped escape pod, 4 nice minifigs, and quite possibly the world’s smallest speeder bike.
Let’s start with the escape pod itself. It’s not a bad build by any means. This version provides a place for C-3PO and R2-D2 to settle in instead of having them float around like the very first version, 7106 Droid Escape. Speaking of which, I think it’s important to see what that first version looked like in case you’ve forgotten:
I have very fond memories… of laughing at this thing. This set is hilarious! It was also cheap, around $10 I think, cheap enough for me to forgive the serious lack of an interior. I affectionately dubbed that set “Droids In A Can” because that is basically what it is and that’s what I’ve called every Droid Escape set since then. You build a can, throw the droids inside, and play back up maracas in a ranchero band. And when you’re done with that, you pop the top off and dump the droids out like a dice cup. Good times. Needless to say, 9490 Droid Escape came a loooong way from this first attempt.
That picture above is a model of the Escape Pod from A New Hope. It’s mostly cylindrical in shape with a gentle tapering towards the thrusters. The set designer at LEGO attempted to recreate this tapered hull by using the large half cone elements but it fails simply because the angle of the element is way too narrow. It was a terrible choice since it made the pod look nothing like the source material. Instead of escaping the Imperial Star Destroyer in a can, they’re escaping in an ice cream cone.
Other than the shape of the hull, the other exterior features have been upgraded slightly and downgraded at the same time. As far as improvements, the bottom thrusters are much more accurate as well as the top cap. One of the halves of the pod slides right off allowing access to the interior.
The stickers are where things take a step back. The original had two quarter cylinder elements that were printed that provided the exterior hull details. The stickers in this set barely add any details and cover such little surface area that you could not apply them and the set would look pretty much the same. I’m not sure why the half cone stickers aren’t larger, maybe because of the odd shape and the challenge of applying it to a conical surface? I don’t know but in the end after you apply them, there is more blank surface area than there is covered by the stickers; it should be the other way around.
Despite the changes to the outside, the designer did manage to construct a small interior. What it lacks in detail though it makes up for in functionality. Like I mentioned before, there is an actual place for the droid duo to sit. No more shake, rattle, and roll for these two, just them posing for a prom picture all the way to Tatooine. I mean, could they be sitting any closer to each other?
You gain access to the interior by lifting away half the shell. It kind of bugs me that the shell doesn’t really securely attach to the rest of the pod but I suppose if you’re swooshing it around you’ll pretty much have a grip around the entire pod anyway and the unsecured shell wouldn’t be that much of an issue. But still, it would have been nice.
The minifig selection is pretty robust and when you put everything together, the set provides somewhat of a complete scene, or at least a sequence of scenes. Starting with R2-D2, it is the least exciting minifig out of the bunch. It is the standard issue Artoo because this version has been pretty much widely available in a multitude of sets at the time.
C-3PO, though, is sporting a new, more detailed pattern. No more GIANT EYE BELLY. The increased level of detail is really nice to see. He has plain legs and arms though leaving room for improvement. And given the fact that this was a cheap $20 set means you wouldn’t have had to break the bank to get a nice version of a core character.
“Look, sir, droids.” The two Sandtroopers are identical save for their shoulder pauldrons and are unique to this set. Unlike Threepio, they have printed legs all the way down to their toes. They also have some pretty nice weathering details on the torso, legs, and helmet giving them a nice dirty look. They each also come with a backpack and sport a different weapon.
The last item to mention in this set is a small, cute speeder bike. It’s tiny. There’s only room for one though so you’re going to have to get creative to figure out how it will fit two. It’s not exactly canon but does add something to an otherwise sparse set.
And sparse it is. Again, you’re only getting 137 pieces for $20 bucks so the economic value isn’t there. You’ll be done building the entire set from start to finish in 15 minutes or less, which can be a good thing. It’ll allow you to start swooshing the Droid Escape set that much sooner. Quick build aside, it’s got a nice selection of minifigs with three out of the four being brand new. It’s unfortunate that the Sandtroopers were never offered in any other set though, making 9490 Droid Escape somewhat of a must-have set.
It’s nice to see how the certain sets have evolved over time. With nearly 3x the piece count, 9490 Droid Escape costs twice as much as 7106 and is a remarkable improvement over its predecessor. Had this set been priced at $15 it would have been an easy 5 out of 5 but I’ll have to knock it down a point for the paltry price per piece ratio. Oh, and that terrible half cone element choice. 4 out of 5 stars.
This set’s been out of production for awhile now, but it is available from third party sellers from Amazon: