Monday, October 12, 2020

Ocean Mini-Submarine - LEGO 60263 - REVIEW

The Ocean Mini-Submarine set is a set that is ostensible marketed to the youngest of the LEGO system crowd, those aged 4+ (as shown by the giant 4+ on the box front).  That being said, the box packaging also touts the connection to National Geographic Explorers which is something that I imagine is only of interest to older children (and/or their parents). 

The set comes with a bright yellow mini submarine, a shark, and a treasure chest in the sand.

The set contains only 41 pieces and retails for about $10.  When you open up the box, you are greeted with a single plastic bag of pieces, some loose pieces, plus an instruction book and a small ad for LEGOland.  There are no stickers in this set (which is great for a set marketed to 4-year-olds)!

As you can see from the above photograph, the bulk of the yellow submarine build is actually done via a single, large hull piece.  That said, there are still a few details that you get to build for the submarine including an opening and closing bubble hatch and (somewhat) posable arms with clips for grabbing oceanic treasures.

The set comes with a single minifigure who is wearing a baseball cap and has some nice printing on the torso.  The legs have a couple of pockets printed on them which kind of makes the diver look like he is wearing blue jeans (which seems like an odd choice to wear in a submarine but maybe I'm wrong about that).  

I'd be remiss if I didn't also show off the included shark in the set.  

Heck, the reason I bought this set in the first place was for that Hammerhead beauty!  

In addition to the submarine and shark, you also get a super simple treasure build - basically a sand plate, a single treasure chest, and the most minimal of ocean plants to "hide" the treasure chest behind.  The treasure chest holds a couple of gems but I can't help but wish that LEGO reverted back to including the chrome gold coins for treasure chests, that seems much more likely for a chest found at the bottom of the sea! 

Overall, this is a set that I can heartily recommend buying as an impulse buy if you fancy the (awesome looking) shark.  The submarine is perfectly fine for what it is (my two-year-old loved playing with it and the submarine build was strong enough to withstand his play, though truth-be-told my son is incredibly gentle with things despite being a toddler)!  The small treasure build is a nice inclusion for the set but you can't really manipulate the two submarine arms in a way to easily grab things inside the chest (claws would have been preferred over the simple black clips).  

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  9
Play Value:  8
Kid Value:  8
Adult Value:  5
Overall:  7

This is a solid set in the 4+ range.  The build isn't inspiring to adult collectors but the set is fun for kids to play with (I've tested that aspect)!  The shark is the real highlight and I believe that this is the cheapest set that you can buy in order to acquire an official LEGO hammerhead shark.  For $10, this one's an easy one to recommend without hesitation if you are a fan of the nautical theme and an easy one to skip if you don't care about the shark!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Kitchen Mantle #08: Summertime Vibes at the Beach!

For the past several weeks, our kitchen mantle has celebrated summer with our latest LEGO set-up:  a full beach scene complete with a boardwalk, beach, lighthouse, and a couple of places to get food and/or beverages.  

Personally, I think this was one of my favorite set-ups of the year but if I'm being honest my two-year-old son didn't dig it quite as much as he did the previous set-up which involved plenty of space shuttles.

For the summertime beach scene, I used a bunch of spare pieces (plus a couple of smaller builds from other sets) and combined those with a trio of rather wonderful Hidden Side sets.  I think LEGO had a great product line going with the Hidden Side brand but I fear the packaging turned off too many people (to me at least, it was never clear at a glance what the heck each set actually was all about based on the box art).  That's neither here nor there for today's post other than it allowed me to get the Hidden Side Lighthouse, Shrimp Shack, and Shrimp Boat all at a nice discount.

Speaking of the Lighthouse, let's start there.  I took the Hidden side set and completely reworked the rock portion to fit better with my mantle space.  I also added in a white picket fence and a small garden for the lighthouse keeper (I also eliminated most of the ghost elements that are included in all Hidden Side sets).  Finally, at my son's request, I added a light brick to the lighthouse so that he could actually turn it on and off.

You can probably see that I also added in a nicer dock for the lighthouse.  The dock is also nice for the couple of boats that I put in the scene (the already mentioned Shrimp Boat plus the speedboat shown in the above photos).

For me though, the real highlight of this particular scene was my beach set-up.

I knew I wanted to try and create a small boardwalk of sorts that would sit up above a beach area.  I'm limited on the kitchen mantle to a depth of about a single 32x32 base plate so it was a bit of a tight squeeze to fit everything that I wanted in to a pair of side-by-side base plates.

The beach portion of the scene features a sand castle, a lifeguard, a few lounging minifigures, plus both a hot dog vendor and an ice cream vendor.  Add that to the coffee shop on the boardwalk and the Seafood Diner and no minifig should go hungry!  

I had a lot of fun putting this particular scene together, it's definitely the one where I did the most custom work for a single scene.  I ended up taking the summer scene down last night and put up a more appropriate scene for the month of October!  My son woke up this morning excited to see what I had set up for him and when he saw it he was super excited (always a fun moment for me as the dad)!  I'll be sure to show off that set-up at a later date...especially since I did an online LEGO shop order earlier today in order to get a few more little bits of things to add to our newest layout.  See, fun for me and for my son!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Finishing Off a LEGO Collectible Minifigure Series (finally!)

It's been a long, long time coming but I finally acquired the last remaining missing minifigure from my Series 13 set!

That's the Egyptian Warrior and she's the last remaining holdout that was keeping from being able to knock Series 13 off of my want list.

The Egyptian Warrior comes with a nifty pearl gold curved sword along with a shield with a design invoking both the sun and the pyramids of Egypt.  She also comes with a toga wrap of sorts for an outfit - complete with printing on the back (no alternate face however).

For me, it's a tie between the shield and the headpiece for my favorite part of this particular figure.  

Overall, I must say that Series 13 was quite strong - I mean, just look at this checklist:

There's hardly a dud figure on there!  In fact, there isn't a single figure that I actively dislike...and only one or two that I wouldn't mind have more than a single copy of for my personal collection!

With Series 13 officially complete, I've now managed to collect 11 different series of collectible minifigures (Series 5, 7, 8, 13, 15 - 19, as well as Disney Series 1, and LEGO Batman Series 1).  As for the other sets I'm still working on?  Well, my full want list is here if you have any figs for trade (or sale).  Let me know!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Hitting Up eBay for Some New (to Me) Collectible Minifigures

 Earlier this month, I decided to take a quick gander at eBay in the hopes of finding one (or more) Collectible LEGO Minifigures that I needed for some of the many, many sets that I'm trying to complete.  One of my standard searches over the past several weeks has been to look for the Series 6 Roman Soldier.  For whatever reason, that particular minifig goes for crazy expensive prices compared to most in the set...and of course, it's one of two minifigs from Series 6 that I still need (the other being the Clockwork Robot).

As luck would have it though, I did find a seller with the Roman Soldier listed and while it wasn't cheap it was about as good of a price as I had seen lately so I pounced.

And now, I'm the proud owner of the Roman Soldier!  I have to admit, this is definitely a cool little minifig and I'm super happy to be able to add it to my collection.  It's even more special to me since I have a particular affinity for Italy and Greece (and Rome in particular in Italy) thanks to my History of Math travel class that I teach!

I think the Roman Soldier ended up going for a bit less than sometimes simply because the seller listed it with a second figure - the Series 6 Highland Battler.  

I already owned the Highland Battler so I've put it up for trade on my Swapfig page, though that poor website doesn't seem to have nearly the traffic that it used to which is a shame!  I love their checklist feature and how easy they make it for me to keep track of what I own, need, and have available for trading purposes!

Finally, like any good eBayer, I checked out the seller's other auctions since he promised combined shipping.  As luck would have it, he did have one more minfigure that I needed - this time from Series 4.

That's the Muskateer and by acquiring him I'm now only missing one more from Series 4 as well (the Viking).  

Speaking of missing minifigs, if you want to take a look at the entire list of what I'm still hunting for, you can find my want list here.  Obviously, I'm happy to chip away slowly at the list...after all, half of the fun is the hunt - that's why I don't buy complete series to begin with!  I do wish there was a more active place to trade minifigures though, that'd help me out quite a bit since I do have a number of extras from older series that I'd like to try and flip into older minfigs that I still need.  

For now though, I'll be content with the two new additions (though I have a third new minifigure that should be on its way to me by now - I'll be sure to show that one off as well once it arrives).

Friday, August 7, 2020

The Kitchen Mantle #07: To Infinity and Beyond!

The previous kitchen mantle set-up was a big hit with my son so I knew I had to do something else kind of neat to capture his attention for the next time around.  Like many two-year-olds, his interests are all over the place and seem to vary day-to-day so it wasn't hard to come up with a new theme for him to enjoy:  Space shuttles!

My son is big into space shuttles lately.  We've watched YouTube videos of shuttle launches, he has a toy shuttle he loves to play with, and he even has a t-shirt with a space shuttle on it that he loves.  With the latest kitchen mantle set-up, he also has not one, not two, but three shuttles to play with!

The shuttle on the green base plate was my shuttle when I was a kid.  What can I say?  I also was obsessed with space shuttles for quite some time!  Like father, like son I guess.  The large shuttle on the left was one that I bought for myself a number of years ago when I first started getting back into LEGO and finally, the shuttle on the right is one that I bought for my son.  That will be his first shuttle once he gets a bit older and can play with it without me watching him like a hawk!

In addition to the shuttles, we have a nice selection of moon rovers to play with.  Like most little boys, my son loves trucks and the rovers were particularly fun since two of the three had articulating claws to use as well.

Most of what you see in the above shot belonged to a LEGO City Space Figures pack.  For the most part, it's full of pieces that are too loose (and too small) for a two-year-old to play with but it helped to fill out the display so I put them out.

A special photo for this little mini scene since I love the astronaut laughing his head off at his own joke using an alien head on a stick.

My son loved the space set-up but I have to admit that I tired of it since it was a lot of little bits without being overly tied together visually.  My hope is that the next kitchen mantle will have a much better presence - and yet hopefully be something that my son will really enjoy!

I'll have more on that set-up soon...right now I'm in the process of building some stuff for it.  Definitely have plans for it to be my most ambitious mantle project to date!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Finally! Some New LEGO Minifigures for My Collection! (Series 20)

I finally found some new LEGO Series 20 Collectible Minifigures at my local Wal-Mart.  For months, I've been avoiding going into the physical building and instead relying on the mobile ordering from the app (with outdoor pickup).  However, I had to grab some stuff for a meal I was cooking later that day so there wasn't time for a mobile order and thus I found myself in the store.  And when one is in the store, one must check out the LEGO aisle, right?!

I can't speak for other Wal-Mart locations but my Wal-Mart was almost completely out of LEGO sets.  I don't think I've ever seen the shelves as empty as they were when I was in there.  One thing's for certain, you can easily pick out which sets the masses consider the "worst" when those are the only ones remaining on store shelves during a pandemic!  The one thing that wasn't empty though was the basket where they throw the polybags and minifigure packs.  

I grabbed myself seven packs figuring that the chances of most of them being needed was quite high since I didn't own any Series 20 at that point.  

So, the real question is:  How did I do with my random grabbing of packs?  

Answer:  Not bad at all.  I ended up with six new minifigures and only one duplicate.  I'll take that for a series that only has 16 total minifigs in it.

Looking at the set checklist, I think Series 20 is a solid set indeed.  I love the most of the minifigures and I like that there are a number of themes and ideas included (plus most of the figures have at least one unique or useful part or accessory).  

So, what did I end up with you ask?  

#4:  Tournament Knight

I am a huge, HUGE fan of the old castle sets.  The castle theme was one of my favorites as a kid and so any time LEGO introduces another retro castle minifig in their line of Collectible Minifigures you know I'm going to be all over it.  The Tournament Knight is one of the most common figures in the box (and he happens to be the one I pulled a duplicate of) but that's not a bad thing since many people might want to "army build" with the Knight.  His shield is the star of the show for me but I also love his bucket helmet design - and the return of the feather plume!

#5:  Pirate Girl

LEGO has been doing a much, much better job of including females in their sets and minifigure line-ups...and even more importantly, including women doing things that were once stereotypically considered male-centric.  The Pirate Girl is one such figure - she's a baddie with a sword and I approve!  Also, another feather plume!  The Pirate Girl is in the second tier of rarity within the box.

#6:  Space Fan

Another female figure and this one is even better than the last!  The Space Fan comes with a smorgusboard of fun accessories.  The rocket with the NASA printed brick is awesome but I equally love the 2x3 printed schematics for the rocket.  The Space Fan's shirt features a classic space ship from LEGO's past which makes it particularly awesome for people my age!  Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't also complement LEGO on the design of the Space Fan's hat/hair piece - love it, love it, love it.  The Space Fan is also in the second tier of rarity so she shouldn't be too hard to find for those of you who like her as much as I do!

#7:  Llama Costume Girl

LEGO likes to have costumed figures in the Collectible Minifigure line-up and for my money, this is probably the best of the three costumed figures in this particular series.  The only bad thing about the Llama Costume Girl is that she has a boring accessory - a simple carrot.  Otherwise, it's adorable (and though not so easy-to-find - the llama is in the least common rarity tier).

#10:  Martial Arts Boy

I've never been a huge fan (or practicer) of martial arts so this figure clearly wasn't made for me.  I like the accessory but otherwise this is one of my least favorite figures in the series.  The Martial Arts Boy comes 4 to a box putting him in the second rarity tier.

#13:  Green Brick Costume Guy

Following the footsteps of the Red Brick and Blue Brick costumed people from earlier Minifigure Series, the Green Brick Costume Guy is actually a bit better since he also has a printed tile accessory.  I'm sure people more creative than me will come up with all sorts of interesting uses for that #10 tile.  The Green Brick Costume Guy is another one of the middle tier rarity figures.

And that does it for the purchase.  Six out of seven bags were new figures which is good - and most of them fell in the middle tier of rarity.  I do hope to eventually finish this set since there are still a number of other minifigures that I want in it (Pinata Boy, Viking, Athlete, Drone Boy, Peapod Costume Girl, and Sea Rescuer for sure)!  I've updated my SwapFig account to show the newest additions to my collection so if you happen to be on there maybe we can work out some sort of trade!

For my own reference if nothing else:

Series 20 Rarity Guide

Common (5 per box):
Tournament Knight
Super Warrior 
Sea Turtle Rescuer

Uncommon (4 per box):
Pea Pod Girl
Pirate Girl
Space Fan
Martial Arts Boy
Green Brick Costume Guy
Drone Boy

Rare (3 per box):
Pinata Boy
Llama Costume Girl
80s Musician
Pyjama Girl

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Mars Research Shuttle - LEGO 60226 - REVIEW

  The LEGO 60226:  Mars Research Shuttle set is a LEGO City set with 273 pieces.  I picked this one up off of a Target online order during the pandemic mostly because my toddler has been really into space and space shuttles lately (more on that in a future post)!  

The box art for the set showcases the shuttle front and set (which makes sense) but I didn't even realize that the set also comes with a number of other space exploration accessories.  Speaking bluntly, I think LEGO's box design undersold this set!

Opening up the box, we find three instruction booklets along with three corresponding bags of pieces plus a sticker sheet.  The instructions were packed loosely in the box but as you can see from the above photo, my set at least didn't have any bending or damage to the instruction booklets.

Bag #1 is used to build the little moon rover plus the collection drone (as well as the female astronaut who is in full uniform).

A surprising feature to me was the little red "reader" that was attached to the drone.  If you hover the drone over the moon rock base, you can see a blue design.  I'm not exactly sure what the design is supposed to be...nor why a moon rock would have such a design but it's a fun enough play feature (and for older LEGO collectors such as myself it was a nice throwback to the Explorien line of space sets).

The second bag of pieces is used to simply build the bottom half of the space shuttle as well as the second (of two) minifigs - a male pilot.  

The shuttle gets finished off with the third and final bag of pieces.

I get that LEGO wants the City line to be easy enough to build for kids so I have no problem with the two numbered bags for the shuttle build.  My only issue is why are there two different instruction manuals for the build as well?  It's not like you could give manual #3 and bag #3 to a different child and have them build their own portion of the shuttle.  Maybe LEGO didn't want the manual to be too thick?  You can also see the used up sheet of stickers.  The amount of stickers felt "average" to me for this set and I'd say the majority of the stickers do add to the look of the finished model.  None of them were overly difficult to apply, even for someone like me who hates applying stickers!

Looking more closely at the shuttle itself, I love the fact that you can fit both included astronauts inside.  The front cockpit is for the pilot and he gets a nice looking, rather large blue chair to relax in.  

The second astronaut sits in the back of the shuttle (you need to open up the swinging cargo doors).  There's also room for the rock collection unit without making everything too cramped.  

In the end, this is a great little set though the suggested retail price of $39.99 is definitely more than I'd be comfortable spending.  I was able to get this set for about $31 which is still a bit high in price but definitely closer to a "fair" price (at least as far as LEGO pricing is concerned).  The shuttle is a nice finished model and having dedicated seating for two minifigures is much appreciated.  I actually like the moon rover a lot as well.  The only "miss" as far as I'm concerned is the drone, it doesn't add much play value and the red "reader" seems to have no real purpose.  That's too bad though since it's actually the drone that is advertised on the box as being inspired by NASA.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  10
Play Value:  10
Kid Value:  5
Adult Value:  4
Overall:  6

This is a tough set to review because if you ignore price then it's a lovely set.  You get a fun shuttle and an equally fun second vehicle plus a pair of minifigures and a few other odds and ends (drone, space rock).  On the other hand, a suggested retail price of basically $40 for only 273 pieces and two minifigures is a terrible deal.  If you can find this for closer to $30, I'd recommend it and give it an 8 overall but since I try to go by the suggested LEGO retail price, I have to knock the overall score down a few notches.