Back in the day, I didn't own a lot of large Pirate sets (those were all pretty much owned by my brother). I did have a collection of smaller sets though - and I did have my own version of a pirate's shipwreck hideout that I'm sure I'll review eventually. However, before all of my Pirate sets came along there was the original bunch of Pirate sets - of which Forbidden Island is part of the collection.
The set itself was released in 1989 and contains only 182 pieces despite its large appearance! In fact, the set itself is built on a beautiful island base plate that is quite large (32 x 32 studs) with a printed island on it (complete with a bit of water in the middle).
Since I bought the set off of eBay, I wasn't sure if the base plate was correct or simply marked up by the previous owner.
|The entire base plate didn't quite fit on my scanner but you can see the white dots at least.|
As it turns out, it appears LEGO actually specifically marked the studs where you start the building of the fort (thus saving a lot of time of counting studs and referring to the instructions)! It was disconcerting at first, but after building the model I can attest that the marked studs save a lot of time! They are also only barely marked which means you could still use the base plate for MOCs and not have to worry too much about the white markings.
Once the build gets going, it's fairly easy sailing (pun intended). The instructions are mostly clear (and more concise than current LEGO practices - if this set were re-released I imagine LEGO would make the instructions at least five to seven steps longer)!
The fort itself comes with a small prison, a staircase, a suspension bridge, and a tall mast with a crow's nest at the top. In a surprise to me, there is actually a trap door where unsuspecting intruders can fall into the prison if you remove a technic pin. The prison actually has two identical jail doors, one on each side of the cell.
If you pull on that technic pin, the grey plate at the top will swing down and drop an unsuspecting visitor right into the jail cell. Pretty cool little play feature - I know I always loved stuff like that as a kid!
In the end, the fort looks pretty awesome for it's small piece count! You get a ton of green foliage, plus four minifigures (including the captain complete with a hook for a hand), a shark, a parrot, and a monkey. You also get a cannon, a row boat, and a treasure chest full of gold. Heck, there's even a green whip included (which is used as some sort of vine in this set) and a full-sized palm tree! The only downside to the set is that the stairs lead directly into the water - I guess pirates never took engineering classes in school.
The cannon is on wheels so you can move it around wherever you wish (though there really isn't much room to put the cannon in the fort structure itself). This set also provided me with my first suspension bridge piece - something that I always yearned for as a kid when I wanted to make my own forts! You might think it's a little too late...but maybe someday I'll mix some of my sets up and try my hand at some larger scale MOCs once again!
The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Play Value: 10
Kid Value: 10
Adult Value: 8
I think LEGO knocked this set out of the proverbial park. Four minifigures and plenty of other cool play features make this set an instant winner for kids. The play value is off the charts as well with the animals, the prison (with trap door), and the boat and wheeled cannon. For adults, the value is also there (though not quite as high). I think it would be a fun challenge to try and design some other fort type with the pieces in the set - there are a lot of large pieces which don't lend themselves to creative uses nearly as well. On the other hand, there are also a lot of fairly unique pieces (including the suspension bridge, large ladders, stair case, two prison doors, large pirate flag, and all the greenery). The Forbidden Island set definitely earns my full recommendation!