Monday, August 29, 2016

REVIEW: LEGO 41118: Heartlake Supermarket

As any LEGO fan will tell you (male or female), the LEGO Friends line has a lot of neat pieces and colors for use in custom creations.  For my part, I had never purchased one of the bright purple Friends boxes until I saw set #41118:  Heartlake Supermarket.  I'm always a sucker for food pieces - and I've had an idea of doing a grocery store (or maybe Farmer's market) for my custom city at some point - so I figured this was a good choice for my introduction to the Friends line.

Upon opening the box, I was greeted with the usual plastic bags full of pieces (all numbered) along with two instruction books and a sheet of stickers (the set has 15 stickers in total)!  According to the box, the set contains 313 pieces - but mine happened to be packed with a bunch of extra pieces as well (including some nice extras like a printed sushi piece, printed cookie, and a printed coin).

The first part of the build has you construct the two minidolls (more on those in a moment) along with a shopping cart, cart stall, and small newspaper stand.

Looking at the small builds first, I have to say that I generally like all three builds.  The shopping card has a lot of stickers - but it probably could have used two more small stickers for the sides of the front gray piece in order to really make the entire cart look like it's made of wire.  The cart stand isn't anything special but it gets the job done I guess (I would have liked to see the "base" be tiled rather than studded but otherwise it's ok.  I did find the use of the pink flowers in the middle of the stand to be a bit extraneous (and perhaps bordering on sexist)...LEGO friends (based on this set alone) sure seem to have a lot of flowery pieces.  And speaking of flowers, you can see a big bouquet of them next to the newspaper stand (which actually makes sense for a grocery store)!

Looking a bit closer at the minidolls, I can honestly say that I don't care for them at all.  The hair pieces will fit on "regular" minifigure heads, but that is it in terms of compatibility.  The minidolls' heads are connected via a peg system (like the small bars in some sets) rather than the usual minifigure neck connector.  I also didn't previously realize that the minidolls have a sort of oval shape to their heads with pronounced chins.  It's weird and definitely feels more doll-like than I would prefer.

Although I don't care for the dolls, the reason I bought the set was for the building structure (and all the food pieces) so let's take a look at that.  The next part of the build has you construct the front of the grocery store.

As you can see, there is an nice awning and the small sticker on the one door makes for a more "authentic" look as well.  The base plate that you build the majority of the supermarket on is a light purple - and I think that's my first such purple plate of that size in my collection!

The main part of the supermarket is then connected to the smaller "wing" via a single hinge piece.

For my money, I actually like the stuff on the "wing" more - plenty of printed pieces (though it should be noted that the watermelon is actually a sticker).  The pineapple is printed at least, though not quite all the way around (it's a minifigure head piece).  Inside the cooler is a single milk container which might be hard to see in the photograph.

After that, all that is needed to finish up is the interior of the main portion of the supermarket.

Here, we see a small vegetable stand, a seafood counter (with sushi pieces and a single fish) and a make-up stand.  There is also a checkout lane with a single basket for all the groceries (though it should be noted that the fish, carrot, and certainly the watermelon wouldn't really fit in the basket well at all).

You can swing the side of the store so that it has a larger "front" footprint (such as above) or so that it forms the back of the store (sort of - it looks weird that way in my opinion).  I much prefer to keep the supermarket in the form of the above photo.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  8 (is grocery shopping actually fun, your score might vary here?)
Play Value:  9
Kid Value:  9
Adult Value:  10
Overall:  9

Overall, for a $30 MSRP, you get a bit over 300 pieces which puts it on par for the usual 10 cents/piece average that people judge sets by.  However, I would say that this set is actually better than that - the printed pieces are fantastic, and the stickers (mostly) add value to the set as well.  I'm actually tempted to grab another one of the Heartlake Supermarket sets simply to be able to have bigger, better food stands (i.e. two watermelons rather than one)!  For my money, this set is highly recommended - even if you don't get any useful minifigures out of it!

Monday, August 22, 2016

REVIEW: LEGO 60051: High-Speed Passenger Train (and a Peek at my Custom City)

It's been awhile since I've done a proper review of a LEGO set - so let's jump right back into the thick of things with a look at one of the last trains to be released by LEGO - the High-Speed Passenger Train (set #60051).

The High-Speed Passenger train comes with 610 pieces, plus enough track to make a decent sized oval (and the power functions necessary to make the train move).  You also get three minifigures to go with the train (which basically consists of one engine, one fake engine, and a single passenger car).  The only other accessories of note is a small (very small) waiting area for the passengers, along with a road crossing and red bicycle.

Upon opening the box, you are greeted with the usual assortment of numbered bags, plus four instruction booklets.  And, because it is a City set, you also get a big ol' sheet of stickers.

Seriously, you better like stickers if you intend to build this set!  And, frankly, the stickers are necessary if you want your train to look good at all.

Moving on to the builds, you begin with the smallest booklet and the easiest build - the train crossing and waiting platform.

Honestly, this feels like an afterthought to the set.  I would have liked to have seen a small station included (with at least a ticket booth).  I was happy to get some more train crossing signs (stickers) and the LEGO City train map sticker is a nice thing to have for my own personal city.

Next, we build one of the two engines of the train (only one side has the actual motor, the other side is just for looks).

As you can see from the "in progress" photograph, there are a bunch of transparent window pieces included in this set...but otherwise it's a fairly simple exercise in brick stacking in order to build the engine.  The front looks a bit odd in the above photograph but that's because the nose piece for the engine is all one giant mold (with stickers).

Next, the passenger car...

The passenger car was a nice surprise in that there are more seats included than there are minifigures in the set.  Of course, other than the tables and chairs, there isn't anything else of note in the car...no food or drink service, no newspapers, no nothing!  It should, however, be noted that the top of the passenger car pops off quite easily (notice the relatively small number of studs) allowing access to the inside of the car.

Another view of the almost-completed passenger car.  Notice that there is a bit of a "step" in the front of the car - you actually can't add in any more seats given the way the car is constructed (a bit disappointing if you are a fan of modifying your LEGO sets).

And finally, the back engine.

The back engine looks pretty much like the front one, except it's empty inside rather than holding the battery pack and power functions parts.

And that's it - that's the entire set.  At $150 from LEGO Shop at Home, I would honestly say that this set isn't worth the cost.  There isn't anything wrong with the passenger train...it is just too small.  I would have loved to get one more passenger car, plus a couple of extra minifigures.  With the lack of any sort of meaningful station or other accessories, this train simply doesn't add up compared to the cargo trains that are also currently available.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  6
Play Value:  6
Kid Value:  7
Adult Value:  9
Overall:  6

While trains are always a fun set to get, the High-Speed Passenger Train simply doesn't offer the amount of play features that one would expect from a $150 LEGO City set.  The build isn't particular exciting (the front and back engines are virtually the same build) and you only get a single passenger car (plus only two passengers and a conductor).  I think this set is better suited for adults with a larger collection of preexisting pieces (and minifigures) so that they can add to the set (such as by building a train station).  In the end, I'm glad to have this set since it's my only passenger train to date...but I'm also glad to have gotten for less than retail (and I would suggest you try to do the same for this one).

And now, how about a peek into my custom city to see the train "in action?"

As you can probably see, my city has two levels - the passenger train on the upper level and the cargo trains on the lower level.

I used the tiny platform that came with 60051 and made it a small waiting area for the passenger train (I also have a proper train station as a second stop for the train).

And finally, one more shot of the passenger train as it goes over my custom cave (complete with parts of the gold mine set)!

Thanks for joining me for the review - I'll hopefully have more LEGO related content on the blog soon!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

REVIEW: LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 16

From what I've read online, the LEGO Collectible Minifigure Series 16 line of figures wasn't supposed to be released until later this summer.  However, the stores near me seem to have gotten their product early - and when there's a dollar to be made you can bet they will make it!  It's not often that I have early access to LEGO, so I took advantage of my opportunity and tracked down a full set (with help from my wife) by feeling the packs.

And now, I'm ready to post my full review of Series 16!

First, the insert that comes with every minifigure.  Unlike the Disney Collectible Minifigure set (which had 18 minifigs in it), we are back to the usual 16 figures which I think is more reasonable.  Also, like with most of the previous sets we are back to the common - uncommon - rare designation for the various figures.

Minifigure Rarity (based on a full box according to thebrickfan)

Common (5 per box):
Banana Guy
Desert Warrior
Spy

Uncommon (4 per box):
Mariachi
Cute Little Devil
Hiker
Rogue
Dog Show Judge
Spooky Boy

Rare (3 per box):
Babysitter
Scallywag Pirate
Cyborg
Ice Queen
Penguin
Kickboxer
Wildlife Photographer

Now, here's a closer look at each of the sixteen minifigures (as well as my thoughts on each one).  As usual, I'll go in the order that the figures appear on the insert.

1.  Ice Queen (Rare)

The Ice Queen has a LOT of pieces so I can understand her taking up one of the rare slots.  Her cloth robes are actually two separate pieces (with the shimmery "glitter" on only one side of the cloth).  Her tiara is in transparent blue and attaches to her hair piece via the typical small peg.  She also has new (to me) clear plastic "handles" with an open stud that you can put the ice bolts in...I think the effect works well enough to simulate blasting out ice from her hands.  The biggest downside to the minifigure is that her dress is yet another 2x3 sloped piece - I was hoping the Queen from a couple of series ago was a harbinger of better dress piece variety.

How to find her:  Her slope piece is big and easy to pick out - she's the only one with such a large, blocky piece in the entire set.  In fact, the Ice Queen was one of the first minifigures that I identified (perhaps only the Banana Guy is easier to find via feeling).

2.  Desert Warrior (Common)

The Desert Warrior has a lot of nice printing (both front and back of his torso and legs) as well as a nice green turban piece.  Unfortunately, for my money he isn't really all that interesting of a figure - and his uses seem quite limited to me.  I'm also not a fan of the extra large scimitar - though you will be if you happen to want to find the figure from blind bags!

How to find him:  As I said, the sword is probably the easiest thing to feel for - the handle is especially easy to find - just make sure it is attached to the long, flat blade section.  If you feel the flat blade first (somehow), make sure you don't have an ice queen in hand instead.

3.  Cyborg (Rare)

The Cyborg continues LEGO obsession with some sort of space-related figure in just about every minifigure series.  Unlike some of the other space related figures, the Cyborg doesn't seem to reference anything from LEGO sets of the past (unless you count the Ultra Agents sets from a year or so ago).  I do like her body armor - and as you can you can clip her gun to her back when she isn't using it.

How to find her:  The armor piece should be easy to find, but I found the gun the easiest piece to feel for.  You might also find the 1x1 round stud floating lose in the pack (though don't confuse that piece for the baby's head or the "ice bolt" holders or the lens for the camera...ok, don't actually try for the 1x1 stud piece).

4.  Cute Little Devil (Uncommon)

The little devil is one of the standout figures from the series (despite his diminutive size)!  In fact, I would wager that this Halloween-themed minifigure is a better costumed figure than almost any of the figures from the Monster series (series 14)!

I love the red wings (and the curly red tail) and the pumpkin trick-or-treat bucket is perfect as well.  I don't know why you'd need multiple copies of the devil so I think his placement as "uncommon" is perfect (he's too good to make rare in my mind).

How to find him:  You'd think that finding the trident would be easiest, but I actually had the most success finding his head piece (the two small horns were easy to feel for).  You could also try to feel for the bucket (remember the handle is a separate piece).  

5.  Spooky Boy (Uncommon)

Whenever a new minifigure series is released, I'm always drawn to certain figures while finding others less than appealing.  For me, the Spooky Boy was a figure that I had no interest in when I first saw it.  Now that I have the figure in hand, I have to say it isn't as bad as I feared.  For one, the book is great - especially the printing on the cover.  I also like the LEGO skull on the boy's shirt - a small element that I didn't notice when I first saw the new figures.

How to find him:  The book is the easiest thing to feel for (just make sure you don't have a 2x2 tile - then it's either the pirate or the hiker).  You can also feel for the spider without too much difficulty, but why bother when the book is so easy to find?

6.  Hiker (Uncommon)

From a figure that I didn't want initially to a figure that I definitely DID want - the Hiker is awesome!  First, the map is a new print - and it's perfect (with Greeble Trail labeled on it as an additional bonus)!  I also love the 1x1 compass piece - and printing it on a transparent tile was absolutely the right move by LEGO.

The hiker is even better because he comes with an alternate expression - perfect for when he is lost in the woods.  I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out the awesome backpack / sleeping back combination.  The pack/sleeping bag is a single piece but it is dual molded with two different shades of blue.  Probably my single favorite element from the entire series!

How to find him:  Find the 2x2 tile and then make sure he's not the pirate.  It's that easy since there are only two figures with 2x2 tiles.

7.  Wildlife Photographer (Rare)

If I had to choose my favorite figure from the series, I think it'd be a toss-up between the Wildlife Photographer and the Hiker.  Actually, to be more precise, it's the little penguin that I love (and it happens to come with the photographer minifig)!  As someone who loved penguins as a kid, I do cringe a bit when I imagine that plenty of people are going to fit this minifig (and the penguin) into their arctic expedition scenes...but penguins don't live in the arctic!  The photographer also has a second face (a winking face for squinting through her camera).

How to find her:  The penguin is fairly easy to feel for, but the camera is probably is even easier.

8.  Kickboxer (Rare)

The boxer finally gets a female companion to hang out at the gym with.  The best part of this figure (in my mind) is the included round brick which you can use to hold the kickboxer's headgear when she's not wearing it (i.e. when she's letting her included hair down).  For people who like to display their minifigures, the round brick was a thoughtful inclusion.

How to find her:  Find a torso with "lumpy" hands rather than the usual minifigure hands and you have the kickboxer.  Should be easy enough.

9.  Scallywag Pirate (Rare)

As an adult fan of LEGO, I always appreciate when LEGO includes a "throwback" figure in their collectible minifigure series line-up.  I was more of a fan of the castle and space lines, but even so, getting a classic themed Pirate (with modern upgrades like an anchor tattoo on his arm) is wonderful too!  I also like the Scallywag's map - it is a print that I haven't seen before (but it may or may not be new - I'm not sure).  I also like the bandanda/bald head "hair piece" for the pirate - it updates his look while keeping in the same classic vein as the original Pirate series.

How to find him:  Feel for the 2x2 tile and then make sure you can find the sword (and not the hiker's backpack).  There are only two figures in the series with a 2x2 tile so it shouldn't be difficult at all.

10.  Penguin (Rare):


The Penguin kid continues LEGO's love of including costumed animals in the minifigure line.  Unlike most (all?) of the other costumed animals, this one is a kid in a costume!  The figure comes with a nice head piece and a pair of ice skates.  You may notice that the figure has "flippers" for arms - there is no way to attach anything to the Penguin's arms...and that's a problem because there is no place to put the ice skates besides on his feet (and then he can't be attached to the included base plate).  For as thoughtful as LEGO was to include the 1x1 round brick for the boxer's headgear (for display purposes), they completely overlooked how to properly display the Penguin.

How to find him:  The head piece has a fairly pointy beak that you should be able to find without trouble.  If you prefer feeling for little pieces, look for the two ice skates.

11.  Rogue (Uncommon)

I mentioned earlier in the review that I love "retro" themed minifigures - and if the Rogue had a "proper" Forestman's hat instead of the green hood, this would probably be my favorite figure in the entire set (the Forestmen were my favorite castle faction back in the day).  As it stands, the Rogue appears to toe the line between a castle figure and a ninjago figure...it's still nice, don't get me wrong, but it stops short of greatness.  Even so, it's still one of my favorite figures in the set!

How to find him:  I would have thought the bow would be the easiest thing to feel for but in practice I had the most luck finding his rather large hood piece.  Just make sure you aren't feeling the Penguin head (look for "regular" legs rather than short legs to be safe).

12.  Dog Show Judge (Uncommon)


The Dog Show Judge should prove to be popular because it is another figure + animal combo pack!  And not just any animal, but a new dog mold (at least I think it is a new mold)!  There is a lot to love about this figure including his cheeky grin and the dog biscuit in his pocket.  The other included accessory is a trophy which normally wouldn't be all that exciting but this one comes with a dog printed on it making it unique to this minifigure series!  You can, of course, flip the trophy around if you need to hide the dog image since it's only printed on one side (which is probably a good thing).

How to find him:  Skip trying to feel for the dog, instead look for the trophy.  It is super easy to feel for in the bag - just look for two large handles.

13.  Mariachi (Uncommon)

The Mariachi guy goes well with the Taco Tuesday guy from the LEGO Movie Collectible Series, or the Maraca man from even earlier on (Series 2).  He would also be at home with some of the old LEGO Wild West themed sets - and I'm sure he'll make a great addition to any western themed MOCs that people create!  For my money, the best part about the Mariachi guy is his awesome, single piece guitar.  I think it is one of (if not the) best instruments that LEGO has produced!

How to find him:  Find the hat.  It's a large piece and circular - very easy to find in a pack.  Failing that, you can also feel for the guitar - it's all one piece (with a hollow back).

14.  Spy (Common)
The Spy is another figure that seems to belong to the Ultra Agents line of sets.  I can't say that this figure interests me much.  His gun is nothing more than a nozzle piece and his night vision goggles are attached to his hair piece which means they can only flip down (not up).  I find that to be odd as well.  Finally, his other accessory is a coiled up rope - nice enough I guess but nothing to get excited about.

How to find him:  The rope coil is the easiest thing to feel for because it can't be confused for anything else in this line of minifigures.

15.  Banana Guy (Common)


When pictures of Series 16 made their way into the public, I think the Banana Guy is the one figure that caused the most excitement.  He is a great follow-up to the popular Hot Dog Suit Guy - though I'm not sure hot dogs and bananas really go all that well together (ew).  As for the figure, his torso is plain and he has no accessories...you are basically paying for the giant banana costume.  Luckily, the costume is worthwhile - LEGO even made both ends of the banana dark just like the real thing.  I do think that he should have come with a little LEGO banana but then he probably wouldn't slot in the "common" slot (which is where he belongs so that there isn't a giant price increase for the figure on the secondary market).

How to find him:  If you see a bulging pack, you can almost be sure that it contains the Banana Guy.  Feeling the pack should confirm without any issue - bananas are everywhere in the box!

16.  Babysitter (Rare)


And finally, we reach the sixteenth and final figure of the series - and it's actually the two final figures since the Babysitter also comes with a baby!  For me, the Babysitter was the final figure that I had to track down - and it took me three stores before I found one in a pack...I think that's a testament as to how popular this figure will be (entirely because of the baby I'm guessing).  I do think that once LEGO releases a few more sets with the baby in them that the babysitter will lose some of her luster (after all, right now you can only get the baby figure with the Babysitter or in the $40 LEGO City park set which is basically an expensive minifig pack).

How to find her:  I found her by feeling for her hairpiece - the two ponytails on the side make her easy to spot (the challenge is to get to the box before all the other "pack searchers" get there)!

And that concludes my look at Series 16!

For me, the stand out figures include the Hiker, the Wildlife Photographer, the Penguin kid, the Rogue, the Banana Guy, and yes, the Babysitter.  Honestly, there aren't many figures that I don't like this time around - perhaps the spy, spooky guy, and the cyborg are the only weak links to an otherwise solid line-up.  I don't think this is the best minifigure series ever - but it certainly is solid from top to bottom (which is great for someone who feels the need to collect every figure whether I like them or not)!

Now it is your turn:  Which figure(s) do you like best or least?  I'm always curious what everyone else thinks of the new set!





Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Four Brand New Series 3 LEGO Minifigures (including Gorilla Suit Guy)

I'm back with what might be the single best haul of LEGO Collectible Minifigures that I've managed to get in quite some time.

That's four different minifigs from way back in Series 3 - a series from before I knew anything about the Collectible Minifigure line...and now it's a series that I own half of the figures - I'd call that a huge success!

Let's take a (quick) closer look at the figures beginning with the race car driver.

The best part of this figure is that he comes with both a helmet and a hair piece.  I like the Octan details on his racing shirt (jacket?) as well.

Next, the sumo wrestler.

I can't say this figure excites me much - but since it was one that I needed that's good enough for me!

The final two figures were my favorites, beginning with the fisherman.

I love his fishing pole (and fish) plus his bright yellow overalls - he would look right at home on a fishing vessel!

And finally, the big "catch" of the lot:

The Gorilla Suit guy is absurdly priced on the secondary market.  I ended up getting all of the minifigures you see here for barely more than what the Gorilla Suit guy often goes for on his own.

That concludes all of my recent LEGO acquisitions.  However, I have been busy on other LEGO-related fronts lately including my custom LEGO city.  In fact, I recently added an entire raised track to complement the lower track (the upper track is electric).  I also connected my new train station, snack shop, and book store (see more about that MOC here).  Finally, I am currently working on a tunnel for my train - something I hope to be able to show off on the blog soon!

Monday, July 18, 2016

More Minifigure Acquisitions (From Series 3 & Series 4)

About a week or so ago, I had to make another Brick Link order (this time I needed some large arched pieces for my raised train track that I wanted to build for my city - more on that in a future post)!  Anyhow, as I usually do, I checked out the Brick Link seller's other offerings - and as luck would have it, he had a pair of collectible minifigures that I needed for a reasonable price.

The first of these was the Space Alien from back in Series 3.

I have to admit that I don't have any particular attachment (or interest) in the Space Alien...but it was one of the figures from the set that I didn't yet own so I decided to buy him.  Sometimes being a collector is a tough gig!  The good news is this acquisition means I'm now only missing seven more figures from Series 3!

The second minifigure that was able to add to my collection was the Werewolf from Series 4.

As a whole, I can't say that either minifigure is overly exciting (the Werewolf has been outclassed by the Monsters line of minifigures that came much later).  Even so, getting a pair of minifigures from Collectible Series that were released before I discovered the minifigure lines is good for me!