Monday, January 4, 2016

LEGO 4429: Helicopter Recue - REVIEW

For the most part, I find myself satisfied with just about every LEGO set that I build.  In fact, I'm not sure if I have ever given a set that I've bought for myself less than a 6 out of 10 for an overall score...usually you know what you are getting when you look at the box (and so a bad decision can only be blamed on the purchaser).

However, that all changed when I bought LEGO 4429:  Helicopter Rescue.  At the time that I bought this set (probably about a year to year-and-a-half ago), I was planning on someday creating my own LEGO City layout and figured a hospital would be a good fit.  The set was actually on sale when I bought it ($10 off if memory serves) so I went for it.  The set then sat in its box for over a year before I finally built it a couple of months ago.

I figured I should write my review before I tear the set apart, so here goes.

To begin, you get four minifigures in the set (a doctor, a nurse, a pilot, and a patient).  The patient isn't anything special but the other three figures are all quite nice.  So far so good.  The set also comes with a pair of vehicles, the helicopter (for which the set gets its name) and an ambulance.  In total, the set contains 425 pieces.

As you can see from the photo, the ambulance is much, much smaller than the helicopter.  In fact, the ambulance is built as a four stud wide build which is pretty unusual for modern LEGO City sets.

While the ambulance is definitely small, it can still (amazingly) hold both a driver and a stretcher holding an injured minifgure.  There isn't any room for an attendant to join the injured minifig but for such a small vehicle that can be overlooked.

The ambulance may seem a bit too small...but that complaint is dwarfed by the much-too-large helicopter that is included.

Much like the ambulance, the helicopter can actually hold both a driver (pilot) and an injured minifigure on a stretcher.  And yes, you get a pair of stretchers with this set which is nice (though there are more stretchers than there are "city folk" to rescue)!

The helicopter may look alright from the above photo but when you see it on the actual hospital structure you can see why I say it is too massive.

If you can ignore the helicopter, the rest of the hospital is fine (though slightly underwhelming).  The hospital has two floors with the bottom floor holding a reception area plus the garage for the ambulance.

I like the inclusion of the sliding garage doors (you can never have too many of those) but I was saddened by the fact that the side of the garage is completely open.  In fact, there's nothing at all inside the garage (besides the ambulance if you park it there).  It should be noted that other ambulances (such as from set 60023) won't fit inside the garage.

The second floor of the hospital contains a room with a pair of beds for patients.  You get a small infusion pole build and a control panel but otherwise there isn't much there.  The patient is holding a banana which presumably is what caused him to slip and hurt himself.  It's a cute inclusion by LEGO which I applaud.  You can also make out the helicopter landing pad on the roof above the garage.

The top of the building features a couple of an antennae (plus the landing pad) which provides just enough visual interest to keep things fresh.  Outside the hospital you get a single bush plus a sign and a bench, all of which helps to add to the overall appearance of the set.

Overall, I like the general look of the hospital quite a bit but I cannot get past the oversized helicpoter and undersized ambulance.  For me, the set as a whole seems terribly out of proportion to other City sets.  I also wish the hospital had a bit more on the inside, maybe an operating room or at least a better room for the patients.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  8
Play Value:  9
Kid Value:  9
Adult Value:  4
Overall:  6

Alright, so the set didn't dip below an overall rating of 6 (mostly because there is quite a bit to do with the set from a play value).  I also like the fact that LEGO created a hospital, there have been surprisingly few such buildings created by LEGO over the years!  That said, for adult collectors this set is simply begging to be taken apart and "improved."  In fact, that's precisely what I hope to do in the near future - I want my custom city to have a proper hospital so this set will provide me with a good start...but it's not good enough on its own!

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I don't usually do this but since Hospitals are quite rare (Brickset shows only three hospital sets released in the past twenty plus years) we can quickly compare the hospitals.

First up, LEGO 6380:  Emergency Treatment Center.
Image from Brickset

This set is an old set done in the old LEGO town style (4 stud wide vehicles) and using a road base plate.  The set contained 5 minifigs and 308 pieces but only one vehicle (the ambulance).

The third and final hospital (counting the one I reviewed in this post) is LEGO 7892:  Hospital.

This set contains slightly more pieces than the other hospital (382 pieces) but only 4 minifigures.  It also has fewer pieces that the Helicopter Rescue set putting this set smack dab in the middle in terms of piece count.  This hospital is also a closer match to the one that I reviewed in today's post in that you get a building, a helicopter, and a rescue vehicle.  However, while it may be close in contents to the Helicopter Rescue set, I find the Hospital set to be one of the ugliest sets that I've seen in quite some time!  The raised base plate doesn't help the set at all...and both rescue vehicles are disappointing.

If I were going to buy a single hospital set, I think the choice is very clear - you pretty much have to buy the Helicopter Rescue set.  The set has a much better selection of vehicles...and the hospital actually looks like a proper (albeit small) medical center.  For my money, the Hospital with the raised base plate is the worst of the three which means the older Emergency Treatment Center finishes in the middle of the hospital ratings.

In a nutshell:
First choice:  LEGO 4429:  Helicopter Recue
Second choice:  LEGO 6380:  Emergency Treatment Center
Third choice:  LEGO 7892:  Hospital

Despite all that, I still think the actual best choice is to buy the Helicoptor Rescue set and then make your own modified hospital building (which is precisely what I plan to do)!  When/if I ever finish my custom hospital, I'll be sure to show it off on the blog!

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