Monday, October 5, 2015

The Scooby Doo Mystery Machine LEGO Set Has So. Many. Stickers.

I had the opportunity for the first time in my life to visit an actual honest-to-goodness LEGO store recently.  While there, one of the things that I picked up was the Mystery Machine (set #75902).  Before I built it, I was struck by one thing....the overwhelming number of stickers used in the set.

That's an amazing amount of stickers for a $30 set.  In fact, it's almost one sticker per dollar (23 stickers in total).  Even more amazing, there are actual printed pieces in the set as well - 4 small hubcaps, one front piece, the newspaper, and the classic video tape piece.

I'll eventually get my full review of the set up here Playing With Bricks - but for now I couldn't help but comment on the staggering number of stickers in the set!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Super Mario Maker: Three of My Levels to Try!

Although this is a LEGO themed blog, I also want to use this space to showcase some of my other related hobbies and games.  One such game that is taking up a lot of my free time right now is Super Mario Maker for the WiiU.  Since that is a game that relies on building (Mario levels in this case), it still fits in with my "playing with bricks" theme of the blog!

Anyhow, I have created a bunch of levels - and I thought it'd be fun to showcase a couple of those (complete with the course ID in case you want to try them).

My first course to show off is called Secret Sunny Stroll with course ID 948F-0000-005A-CB1D.

This level is a Super Mario World themed level complete with .  As of 9/26, people had awarded this course a grand total of two stars (boo) with only 1 clear in 58 attempts.  I don't actually think this level is nearly as hard as those totals would suggest however!

When I made the Secret Sunny Stroll level, I wanted to have a course with multiple paths to the finish.  Immediately upon starting the level, you are faced with a choice - do you go up or down.  I'm not a fan of courses where one choice automatically kills you - so in my level you can successfully complete the level going in either direction!

Once you choose a route, you'll be "gated" into that route so that you can't backtrack (so choose wisely)!  Of course, if you die you can always start over and try the alternate route.  Either way, this course will eventually lead you to an airship - and then back to the finish after a tussle with a number of bad guys!  Lots of fun platforming with some minor puzzle elements should make for a pretty fun level.

My second course for today's post is called Secret Caverns with course ID 1401-0000-0022-00C6.

This level is a Super Mario Bros U style underground course.  This has been one of my more popular levels - 21 clears in 199 attempts which is good for a 10.55% clear rate (fairly high).

And finally, a level I called Five Boss Fire Brawl with course ID 8F24-0000-005F-4CCA.

I always enjoyed "boss battle" levels in games when I was a kid - so this level is an homage to that spirit.  There are, as you can guess, five boss battles to complete in this level.  As of the time I wrote this post, this course has been cleared once in 26 attempts (good for a 3.84% clear rate).  I find this course pretty fun to play - you get to battle Bowser (of course) but also some bad guys in clown cards, some Magikoopas, and even a room full of pipes of never ending turtles an spinys (use the turtle shells to your advantage).

The bomb and little tunnel on the right serve as the gate to the next boss battle.  You need to stay alive long enough for the bombs to clear the way for you!  You can also see that this room is boss battle #4 - I like using coins to label things sometimes!

If you try any of my levels, please let me know what you think of them!  And, if you have created some of your own levels - let me know about them in the comments.  Feel free to leave your course ID (and a brief description of your level) and I'll try it out!

Monday, September 7, 2015

LEGO 21020: Trevi Fountain - REVIEW

Last week, I teased my newest purchase - the LEGO 21020 Trevi Fountain set.  I bought the set because I have had the good fortune of actually seeing Trevi Fountain in person and so I thought it's be a fun addition to my collection.

Before I begin the review, I must be honest.  Until seeing the Trevi Fountain set, I had very little interest in the LEGO Architecture line.  The entire line seemed to be mostly devoid of color - and building in micro scale has never appealed to me.  That said, I decided to give the Trevi Fountain set a try since the set does have at least a little color (thanks to the water of the fountain) and I was able to get the set for about half of what it costs in retail thanks to eBay.

As I feared, the vast majority of the set was indeed plain white (or plain grey) bricks - but there was enough blue to keep things somewhat interesting.  Also that orange thing is the brick separator.  I'm getting quite a collection of those little tools!

Moving on to the actual build, you begin by placing the lone printed piece in the set (the one that says Trevi Fountain) and then continue to build the outside frame.  I was happy that the nameplate was printed and not a sticker!  The blue 1x1 bricks in the back are actually only going to be visible from the back of the model (which you'll see in a bit).

The next step is to place all the trans blue "water" pieces.  As you can see, there is a LOT of water to place...and in a few steps there will be even more water for the fountain portion!

By this point in the build, the water is mostly complete (save for a couple of trans blue bricks on some of the not-yet-built rock structures.  You can see the waterfall of the fountain is also built - and so is the back of the structure.  Notice that LEGO did use one big piece (the hollow back white wall piece) in the set.  The main statue of the fountain will actually sit in front of that hollowed out spot which gives the model a nice sense of depth when all is said and done.

At this point, the model is almost totally done - only the detailing on the roof remains to be completed.  You can see a lot of jumper tiles - the roof actually uses jumpers on jumpers which results in something that looks good but ends up being not nearly as sturdy as the average LEGO set.

And finally, 731 pieces later we get the completed model!  It's a nice looking structure that I think does a good job at mimicking the source material (especially given the small scale of the model).  The two horse statues in the fountain area both look nice but are extremely fragile.  I think I knocked each one off at least once during the taking of this photograph!

From the back, you can see that there isn't actually much to see with the model.  The trans blue pieces allow some light to pass through the model to the front but otherwise it's pretty dull back there.  That's ok though as the real Trevi Fountain has a full building "behind" it - something that wouldn't really make sense to build in the same LEGO set unless you were trying to recreate all of Rome!

The extra pieces in the set are minimal - basically your usual 1x1 tiles (square and round) plus the brick separator.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  1
Play Value:  1
Kid Value:  2
Adult Value:  5
Overall:  8

In the case of the Trevi Fountain set, it's safe to say that the whole is worth way more than the sum of the parts.  There are very few rare or unique pieces in the set - and those that are (the all white shield for instance) are totally boring and wouldn't have a lot of uses outside something like this set anyhow.  There is virtually no play value in the set so I wouldn't recommend buying this set for a child unless that kid has some sort of fascination with fountains...or Rome.  For adults, I wouldn't recommend this set at full retail price - the majority of the pieces are really small so the price-per-piece idea isn't a good gauge.  Instead, if you can get this set on sale, go for it - it does look quite nice when it's complete.  If not, you could probably use Brick Link or even eBay and create your own Trevi Fountain and save some money along the way!

I still gave the set an 8 overall because it does a great job of doing what it is supposed to be doing.  It's a pretty good replica of Trevi Fountain in LEGO form - and yes, the lack of color is boring but it's true to the source material (which is the important part).

One more note - if you do ever find yourself in Rome and at the Trevi Fountain make sure you are aware of pickpockets.  The area around the fountain is PACKED with people (it's a very small square to stand in) and pickpockets have the run of the place.  I was with a tour group and we had one lady who did get pickpocketed!

Monday, August 31, 2015

A New Line of LEGO for My Collection!

Once in awhile, I fall victim to an impulse buy - and today's latest LEGO set for my collection is definitely one such purchase!

That's right - I bought my first ever LEGO Architecture set.  I actually bought this psuedo-used off of an eBay seller.  The seller said that the box was opened but all the pieces were factory sealed.  You can tell from the above picture that the box has seen better days...but since I prefer to actually open my LEGO sets and build them, I didn't mind getting a busted box if it meant saving a healthy chunk of change on the set itself!

I was a bit apprehensive that everything would be there - but when the box arrived I was pleasantly surprised - not only was everything present (at least I think so) but the manual itself was in pretty good shape.

Speaking of the manual, did you know that the Trevi Fountain manual is super thick?!  Seriously, look at this:

That's a massive manual.  And it's really nice too - there's the usual step-by-step instructions but there are also a bunch of high quality photographs of the subject at hand, namely the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy!

I plan to build this set in the very near future - and when I do I'll be sure to have my actual review.  I simply couldn't wait to take some photos of the box/manual since it just arrived in the mail this week!

And if you are wondering why I made this impulse buy - let's just say I was pining for a return to Italy!  My wife and I visited Italy a few years ago (here's a couple of our photos of Trevi Fountain).

Italy was a wonderful place - albeit crowded!  I would return in a heartbeat if I could...but for now, I'll have to reminisce by building a LEGO replica of one of Italy's most famous cites (now if only there were a LEGO Colosseum to build)!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

LEGO 60077: Space Starter Set - REVIEW

It's been awhile since I've had time to post anything new here at Playing With Bricks.  Not coincidentally, it has also been awhile since I've acquired any new LEGO sets!  Happily, both events occurred this week thanks to a quick grocery trip to Wal-Mart.  My local big box store finally had the new City summer sets (space and underwater)!  I didn't have a lot of extra money to spend, but I did manage to pick up one of the smallest new sets from the LEGO City Space line - set 60077:  Space Starter Set.

The Space Starter Set comes with 107 for about $10 which is right about on point for the usual 10 cents per piece count that many people use to judge a set's value.  Of course, it's already been mentioned many times on other blogs and websites that much of the LEGO City space sets are not good values using that 10 cent metric...the biggest set, in fact, is a horrible value if that's how you judge a set.

Luckily for LEGO (and for my readers), I don't judge a set solely on it's price-per-piece.  Instead, I try to take into account a variety of factors (including price of course).  The best way to judge a set though is to build the thing - so let's get to it!

The front of the box shows off the entire set fairly well - as you can see you get a variety of figures (including a female scientist which is nice).  There is also a small car and a few other odds and ends.

The back of the box tries to emphasize the play value of the set - but ultimately that's probably a bit of a hard sell since there really isn't a lot in the box!  No matter, you don't judge a set on its box any more than you should solely judge it on its price-per-piece.  Let's rip it open and get building!

Opening the box up, you instantly find a pair of plastic bags full of pieces (unnumbered bags) plus the instruction manual.  I was pleased to see that there are exactly ZERO stickers in the set!  Yes!

One of the big questions many people have when trying to decide which new set to buy is "will this set provide any new, unique, or special pieces for my collection?"  For me and the Space Starter Set, that answer is yes.  In fact, there were a few cool or new pieces for me...

The brown piece in the upper left of the above photo was particularly interesting to me - especially since that piece is basically only used to drive over by the included buggy in the set.  I also like the space uniforms and helmets - both of which were new to my collection.  The keyboard tile (printed), wrench, and camera weren't new pieces for me but they were all appreciated since they are such useful pieces to have!

Now that we've taken a closer look at some of the elements, let's put the actual set together!  We begin with the four minifigures.

As I said before, I like the minfigs in the set - a nice variety for a $10 set!  There are two astronauts (same torso) but the one astronaut gets a jet pack and a camera.  The weird thing about the jet pack is that the astronaut has to hold onto the handles - it's not actually attached in any other way to the figure.  The construction worker and the female scientist are also both nice (and useful) figures to have (though I sort of wish the female's torso didn't have the space logo on the back of it).

The little moon rover is fairly nice - a surprising amount of functionality is packed into the small frame!

You get a trans-blue scanner on the front (along with a single red light).  The back has a place to store the astronaut's helmet (though why you'd take your helmet off on the moon is beyond me).  There is also a small satellite dish attached to the vehicle, presumably to send and receive data from the computer terminal.

Speaking of the computer terminal, I guess the idea here is that the computer terminal is attached to a moon-landing training ground - hence the large rocks to drive the buggy over.  I do like the computer itself - and all three of those tiles are printed (the computer monitor, keyboard, and the 1x2 tile next to the computer).

The final two bits to build are super simple - but their inclusion in the set is still appreciated by me.  You get a light stand and a camera - perhaps to fake a moon landing?  There is also a small pile of extra pieces - including a small white bar which I always find useful!

That concludes set #60077:  Space Starter Set.  Overall, I give the set the following scores:

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

You really can't go wrong with this one.  A great selection of pieces, plus four minifigures for slightly under $10 - pretty much perfect.  The buggy is probably the worst part of the set (even if it's the main "draw" on the package)...and even the buggy serves its purpose.  I think this is a great little set for pieces - and personally I cannot wait to get going on my own city MOC and include a space port!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Minifigure Museum: Gladiator (Series 5)

Gladiator:  LEGO Series 5 Minifigure
The Gladiator is a Series 5 minifigure that comes with a helmet, shield, and sword.

I am always a sucker for historically based minifigures so the Gladiator is right up my alley.  Even better, I've actually been to Rome (and the Colosseum) once before - so the Gladiator is even cooler to me than it might otherwise have been!

The gladiator comes with a gold helmet (used by the murmillo class of gladiator according to my research (wikipedia)).  The helmet has lots of small, circular openings in it - it's an odd design for sure!  The gladiator also has a small sword and a plain shield - neither are anything special...clearly the helmet is the main draw of the minifigure!

As for printing, the gladiator has a lot of nice printing on his front (both torso and legs).  He also has some gold armor printing on his right arm (but not his left arm).  There is no printing on the back of the figure however.

Overall, I like the Gladiator quite a bit - though I will admit that I don't see a lot of uses for the helmet pieces outside of a ancient Roman scene.  Even so, I actually like it when LEGO makes some specialized pieces for the Collectible Minifigure line!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Minifigure Museum: Lizard Man (Series 5)

Lizard Man:  LEGO Series 5 Minifigure
The Lizard Man is a Series 5 minifigure that comes with a mask/helmet and a tail piece.

Using the labeling on the figure sheet that comes with each minifigure, the Lizard Man is #6 in the series.  All things considered, I found Series 5 to be a fairly strong entrant in the Collectible Minifigure line - and the Lizard Man is definitely one of the top figures of this particular set!

For me, I've always loved dinosaurs - I had tons of toy dinos when I was a kid, Jurassic Park came out when I was a teenager, and then this year we had a reboot of both the Jurassic Park movie series AND dinosaur sets within LEGO.  That's pretty cool - and it definitely adds to the appeal of the Lizard Man figure.

After all, if you were to build your very own LEGO Jurassic Park MOC, surely you'd want some mascots running around said park...and who better for the job than Lizard Man?!

Although I do love the figure a lot, it must be said that you don't actually get much with this particular figure.  In fact, you get a tail piece (that attaches at the neck) and a face mask piece...and that's it.  There is no printing at all on the legs of the figure nor on the back of the figure.  The front of the torso does get some scaly stomach and abs printing but that's it!

All told, sometimes simple is still pretty cool - and in the case of the Lizard Man, I'd say simple works well!