Saturday, March 11, 2017

February 2017: My Pick-a-Brick Wall Experience

Back in October of 2015, I visited my first ever LEGO brand store.  As I am sure most of my readers already know, the LEGO brand stores are known (in part) for their Pick-a-Brick wall.  Basically, a wall full of various LEGO pieces (all sorted) that you can choose from as you fill up a single-price cup.

This past February, I was able to visit my second ever LEGO brand store (this time in Rochester, NY).  Once again, I made a beeline to the Pick-a-Brick wall and I filled up a cup.  As with the last time, I didn't do any "stacking" or other things that would have allowed me to maximize my cup space.  Instead, I simply kept adding pieces until no more would easily fit.

Before I show off what I was able to nab this time around, I should note that last time I ended up with a total of 298 pieces for $16 (or about 5 cents per piece).  That haul had a lot of plant pieces (which I loved...and which were sadly not present at this year's Pick-a-Brick wall).  All that said, let's see how I did this time around!

You'll probably notice somewhat of a theme with the pieces I was able to get this year.  While there were no plant pieces or square 2x2 flat tiles (both of which I wanted), I was able to nab a fair number of useful pieces...and in useful colors as well!  For example, I did quite well getting a lot of new sand green pieces for my collection.

In that batch alone, I managed to grab 95 sand green 1x2 bricks with two studs on the side and 70 sand green 1x1 bricks.  I would have liked to have the option of adding some slightly larger sand green bricks (1x2 and 1x4 would have been especially nice) but I'll take what I can get!

Next, I hit the white brick section pretty hard.

In this case, I grabbed 6 large white panels (this took up a lot of space in the cup but I didn't have many left so I needed them).  I also was able to grab 6 white seats, 17 clear 1x2 bricks, and 30 white grill pieces.  I have no idea how the 2 black cheese slopes also ended up in my cup but I'll take 'em.

Last time, I grabbed quite a few 2x4 bricks - and since it's been two years and I still haven't found a use for a lot of those, I mostly avoided the classic LEGO brick this time around (I couldn't help myself though and did grab 9 of the 2x4 bricks in tan).

There wasn't a big plate selection available either, but I was happy to add 7 of the 4x4 green plates.  I always seem to need those.  I also threw in a handful (14 in total) of the 2x4 tan plates and I grabbed enough pieces to complete 4 turntables.  Finally, I threw in 34 of the white 1x2 bricks (a piece that I am always running out of) and 24 of the white angle pieces with four studs on the side.

As you can see, I managed to pack in a lot of pieces without even trying all that hard - and I'm still not done with the cup!

Finishing off, I grabbed 53 gray bricks with 1 stud on the side, 56 of the green bricks that also have one stud on the side, and 68 sand green 1x2 plates (can you tell I love the sand green color yet)?!  Finally, I snuck in 44 of the white rounded pieces, 26 of the white tooth pieces, and 31 of the white angle/seat pieces.

All told, not a bad haul for $15.99 (plus tax).  In the end, I had a cup with 596 pieces (or about 2.6 cents per piece).  Based strictly on price-per-piece, I did much better this time around (but it should be noted that I didn't get a lot in the way of unique pieces, nor did I get any greenery or fence pieces).
Overall, I was happy with my cup of pieces.  Getting a large number of sand green pieces was the real highlight for me - and hopefully I'll come up with a neat use for that color at some point soon.  I was also happy landing a whole lot of pieces with studs on the side - my collection was woefully lacking in that department prior to the store visit.

I enjoyed my visit to the Rochester store, even if I was only there for about 15 minutes (I had a plane to catch that day)!  I do hope to make it back there sometime soon seeing as how it's the closest official LEGO store to where I live (and thanks to this purchase plus a few other sets I bought, I was even given a LEGO Batman movie poster and a LEGO Batman polybag as "free" gifts).  

Monday, March 6, 2017

My Custom Amusement Park is Taking Shape!

By now, you have probably seen my three reviews for various LEGO Friends Amusement Park related sets.  Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that I am now working on my custom amusement park.  My park isn't done yet (and to be fair, it'll be a mix of official sets and custom builds) - but I can give you a sneak peek.

I hope to have more done on this project soon!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

REVIEW: LEGO Friends 30399: Bowling Alley

This is the third LEGO Friends set that I have now reviewed in the Amusement Park subtheme (see here and here for the other two reviews).  While I definitely liked both of the other sets (I gave them a 10/10 and a 9.5/10), will this much smaller polybag live up to the same lofty standards as the rest of the subtheme?  Let's find out together.

For starters, this is a polybag with a very limited number of pieces (only 51).  For your money, you get a single minidoll of Stephanie and a bowling arcade game (calling the set a "bowling alley" seems a bit too generous/lofty on LEGO's part).
The extra hot dog piece is appreciated.

Instead of a full alley, you get a single bowling "lane" complete with a bowling ball and six pins (which you can set up in a 3-2-1 triangle formation much like real 10-pin bowling).  You also get a hot dog with the new hot dog bun piece (and I believe this is the cheapest set in which that piece is available, so that's something to consider if you are after the hot dog bun piece).
Three pins down, better eat a hot dog...(ew)

The play feature of this set is basically that you can try to roll the ball down the (very short) alley and knock over the pins.  I suppose the action works well enough - but the real problem is that the pins themselves slide all over (and constantly fall down) with even the slightest movement of the set itself.  I'm not sure what sort of alternative design LEGO could have done...but even if all they did was add in some "gutters" to catch the falling pins, I think this would have been a much better design for kids.
It should be noted that there are no stickers in this set (nor are there any printed elements besides the minidoll).

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  2
Play Value:  3
Kid Value:  2
Adult Value:  1
Overall:  2

Quite honestly, the best thing about this set is the hot dog bun...and since that piece isn't nearly as new or exciting anymore, there isn't much else to go after in this set.  Even worse, who actually eats a hot dog while bowling - that sounds disgusting for so many reasons!  I think that this set is sorely lacking either gutters, a proper ten pins, or both...and a sticker (or better yet, a printed piece) showing a bowling "box score" would have been a nice addition as well.  I do appreciate that continued use of the same color scheme, but in the end, you could probably build a better version of this polybag out of pieces that you already have sitting around in your own collection.  This one is hard to recommend.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Custom City: Custom Arcade Games

I mentioned a few days ago that I was planning on updating my custom LEGO City with a full-fledged amusement park area.  I figured what good is an amusement park if it doesn't have at least a couple of arcade games?  I don't have a lot of space in my "man cave" where I hold my LEGO City, so my arcade won't be all that big - but I think it will work out fine with what I've done.

I ended up making two of my own arcade game consoles.  The first is a green game that's a treasure hunt of sorts.

I should probably come up with a proper name for each of my two arcade games, but as of now I haven't given that much thought.  I do know that this game requires a single joy stick and a large button for "action" commands.

And the second is a heart themed game, probably aimed (stereotypically) at girls though I'm sure LEGO boys will like it too.

As you can (hopefully) see, I tried to make both arcade cabinets similar, yet distinct.  They are the same height though, and close to the same width which means they look natural sitting side-by-side.
This was a poorly taken photo, the console doesn't "tip" like it appears to here.  Sorry.

The heart game requires a pair of joysticks - and it's housed in a slightly slimmer cabinet.

When building these, I was severely limited by the pieces that I currently own.  In fact, I only had two 2x2 tiles with a design on them (hence the two games that I made).  I would have liked to have the "siding" be a little more seemless, but otherwise I think the two arcade games came out alright for my first attempt!

Monday, January 23, 2017

REVIEW: LEGO Friends 41127: Amusement Park Arcade

The LEGO Friends 41127:  Amusement Park Arcade set is my third set from the LEGO Friends line (and my second set from the Amusement Park subtheme).  I've already opened, built, and reviewed the Bumper Cars set from the Friends' Amusement Park line (see here if you are interested).

Based on the the first two Friends sets that I've reviewed, I must say that I've come away impressed with both sets.  In fact, I've scored the first two sets a 9/10 and the second set a rare 10/10.

Now the question is:  Was it a stroke of luck that I happened to get two of the better Friends sets?  Or, is the Friends line really that good?!

Let's find out together as we take a look at LEGO 41127:  Amusement Park Arcade.

The Amusement Park Arcade set comes with 174 pieces and a single minidoll (Mia).  In total the set contains three different arcade games, which is fairly impressive for the relatively light piece count.

The three games are a hammer the frog game (sort of a poor man's whack-a-mole I guess), a water target shooting game, and a basketball game.  All three games appear to be based on similar "real life" arcade games which is nice.

Of the three, the worst game is clearly the whack-a-frog game because you only get a single frog to whack!  I will say that the hammer build, though simple, is really nice.  I also like the stickers used on the frog game (but the sticker shows multiple lily pads with frogs to whack).  For me, I'm not sure how I can expand upon this game easily because it uses golden frogs (a piece that isn't common at all)!

Next up, the water shooting game.  This one uses a stud launcher (with transparent blue studs to indicate water).  You can actually swivel the gun around in order to hit each of the three targets (and each target will fall down on its own when hit).  Once again, it's a simple build but I think it works really well (though the stud launcher may be a bit too strong since when you hit the target the blue stud will go flying backwards)!  Luckily, there is a "water bucket" full of extra blue studs for when you inevitably lose the first one!  I should also note that the targets are all printed (the rest of the signs in the set use stickers however).

The final game is the basketball shooting game.  The over-sized basketball hoop is a bit off-putting to me...but the game itself works.  You can smash down on a gray "knob" to launch the ball into the hoop.  The only downside to the game itself is that the orange ball actually has a "soccer" design to it (hexagonal patches) rather than the typical lines of a basketball.  Still, that's nitpicking (and at least the ball itself is orange as it should be).

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  10
Play Value:  10
Kid Value:  10
Adult Value:  8
Overall:  9.5
5 stickers and a small assortment of extra pieces in the end.

As with the other two Friends sets that I've built, this one doesn't disappoint!  The fun and play value is as high as it can be since all three games are "working" games to varying degrees.  I think kids would have a lot of fun with this set (and as with the other amusement park sets, this one doesn't scream stereotypical "girl" either).  For adult collectors, I think this set offers a lot of good parts to start building your own custom arcade.  I do wish it had another golden frog or two, that's a bit of a bummer (especially with the sticker showing multiple lily pads) but otherwise it's a good base for a nice arcade.

I must say, I enjoyed the first two Friends Amusement Park sets so much (these were both Christmas gifts to me) that I found one more set on sale at my local Wal*Mart that I picked up for myself.  I haven't built it yet (I try not to build a new set before I write a review of the last set built).  All that said, I must admit that I have high hopes for that set too...even if it is smaller than this one!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

REVIEW: LEGO Friends 41133: Amusement Park Bumper Cars

My Custom LEGO City in my "man cave" has a portion of the city dedicated to an amusement park.  In that park, I currently have the Ferris Wheel set and the Fairground Mixer...but unfortunately I wasn't collecting LEGO when the Merry Go Round was released (and I'll never be able to afford that set now).  Thus, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that LEGO Friends would have an entire amusement park subtheme last year!

I now own three different LEGO Friends sets from the Amusement Park subtheme.  This is the first of the three (and the largest) that I own:  the Amusement Park Bumper Cars (LEGO 41133).

The Amusement Park Bumper Cars name is a bit of a misnomer because this set really involves two different rides, the aforementioned bumper cars and a swing ride (that has a bit of an action mechanism).  As a whole, the set contains 424 pieces and two minidolls.

To begin the build, you start by assembling the small bits (which happen to use up all six of the stickers in the set as well).

In the first bag, you get both of the minidolls (Olivia and Ben).  I have to admit, all of the small builds are quite nice.  The cotton candy cart is particularly nice (the flag is a sticker, but you get two stickers so the decoration is on both sides of the flag).  The ticket booth has a sticker for the bumper cars sign and there are two other stickers representing a radio and music for inside the booth (those stickers aren't really necessary but I built the set as designed to begin with).  The final two stickers are the "1" and "2" on the two bumper cars (which are otherwise identical builds except for some color variations).

Next, you build the bumper car "arena."

This build wasn't nearly as interesting - though the large purple plates with studs along only three edges are new to me.  The speaker builds are alright, though I think it makes this look more like a dance really need to add the bumper cars to make it look "right."

There, that's better.

Finally, you get to the final bag of pieces - and the second amusement ride of the set, the swing.

This build was certainly more interesting - and there is even a Technic-lite aspect to the build with the gears along the left (as you see it in the photograph).  There is a knob that you can use to rotate the swing around 360 degrees - and while you do so the swing itself also rotates (making for a nauseating ride I'm sure)!  I will say that this is the only part of the build that felt overly "girly."  There are way too many unnecessary flowers along the base of the ride.  I don't mind the two "potted" plants on the corners but the red flowers scattered about the rest of the base plate are out of place (they'd be trampled by the guests)!

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  10
Play Value:  10
Kid Value:  10
Adult Value:  9
Overall:  10

This is one of those sets that really knocks it out of the park for me.  You get two rides which are both very nice (honestly the swing might even be better than the bumper cars for which the set is named).  You also get a ticket stand and a nice little cotton candy cart...  Even if you don't own any other amusement park sets, this one by itself will give you a nice little park area.  The ticket stand can easily be used for the park at large (just remove the bumper cars sign at the top).  As with most (?) Friends sets, this one does have some "girly" elements to it - but it's not overdone (and the bright color scheme that Friends is known for works well for amusement park sets anyhow).

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A New Project is (about to be) Underway!

Last November, I decided on the next "big" step that I wanted to take for my custom LEGO city.  At that time, I had the Ferris Wheel set (which is amazing) and the Fairground Mixer set (also amazing) set up in a small "amusement park" of sorts.  I decided that I ought to try and flesh out my park a bit more with a proper base plate and some more details.  To do so, I knew for sure that I would need a bunch of gray 2x2 tiles for the walkway that I envisioned building and so I bought a big bag full of the tiles.
This was a present from 2015...and to this day it remains one of (if not the) favorite sets of mine!

By the time the tiles arrived, I no longer had any time to work on my LEGO project (or really anything else "fun" thanks to the busyness of my work and the end of the semester).  To be honest, I didn't give the amusement park idea any more thought and the bag of tiles that arrived in the mail just sat on my desk.

Then, at Christmas my brother and his wife gifted me a whole bunch of awesome LEGO sets including a pair of LEGO friends amusement park sets (he must have had the same idea for me and my amusement park).  They got me the bumper cars set and the amusement games set with the target practice.

I ended up grabbing one of those giant gray base plates at Target...and I found a cheap polybag with another amusement park mini game at Wal-Mart last night.  And so, after months of (sort of) planning, plus some awesome gifts, I'm now ready to start working on my amusement park properly!

It is my hope that I'll be able to make some actual, real progress on this new project in the next few days (weeks?).  My first order of business will be to build the three Friends sets though...and then I'll probably mix and match those parts/builds with pieces from my own collection to hopefully create a vibrant amusement park square for my LEGO citizens.