Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Review: LEGOs

So, I was going to do Christmas music because I bought Idina Menzel's Christmas CD, Holiday Wishes yesterday, but then I thought, it's not even Thanksgiving yet!  So I'll save the Christmas music review for later.  You're welcome.

Today, I'm going to be talking about LEGOs.  Prepare yourself: there's gonna be a lot of pictures.

Introduction: You see, my brothers and I grew up with LEGOs.  Generally speaking, we'd get a LEGO for birthdays and/or Christmas.  I remember for a couple years running, we'd have a small LEGO stocking stuffer and a bigger one under the tree.  These are LEGO sets, by the way, not boxes of random bricks.  So we collected quite a few over the years.  Some may have been lost over time, but most were kept safe for us by Mom and Dad while we were going through college, and now we each have our own sets from growing up.  I have a few more, having become interested in them again in recent years.

In my review today, I'll be comparing old LEGOs and new ones, and giving my opinion about the themes available now.

My Review/Reminiscence:

1. Old LEGOs.  Some of our favorite old LEGOs were the Pirate LEGOs.  Like this pirate ship:

The Black Seas Barracuda*
And my very first set:

Sabre Island
And my favorite pirate set that I owned:

Lagoon Lockup
We had a great time with these two belonging to my brothers, as well:

Eldorado Fortress
Imperial Trading Post
These things were awesome.  They were cool-looking, they were a great theme for the imagination, and they were sturdy.  So much fun.

We also enjoyed some of the Castle LEGOs.  We had a few small sets, including one or two Dark Forest/Forestmen sets (basically Robin Hood inspired), but the ones that stood out were the big Castles.  Over time, we had Castles from several different sub-Themes.

King's Mountain Fortress

Black Monarch's Castle
I didn't get my own large Castle until near the end of my LEGO enthusiasm:

Royal Knight's Castle

Ah, the good old days.  These LEGOs were detailed, sturdy, and difficult to build - the instruction books showed pictures of what your set should look like as you built it, but rarely told you what pieces to put where - you had to figure it out by studying and comparing the picture with your set.  It also didn't tell you how many pieces were placed in each step, so you had to be careful not to skip any.  It was a nice challenge.

Now!  Skip ahead a decade or so, and I got interested in LEGOs again.  I decided to go online and check them out.

2. New LEGOs.**  I was saddened to see that there were no Pirate LEGOs, but they had a good run and LEGO is always coming up with new things.  Let's look at the positives and negatives of the newer LEGO themes.

First, Space sets.  Some, like the current Galaxy Squad, just don't look very interesting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Alien Conquest sets they had out a couple years ago.  I only got a few of them, but they were sturdy, fun to build, and aesthetically pleasing.

I'm normally not a big fan of the alien space ships, but this UFO Abduction set was great.

I wish I could say the same for the Castle themed LEGOs.

I got a couple of small Castle sets.  They were pretty bad.  The line seems to be dying out, and no wonder.  They were built mostly with large specialty pieces, so there wasn't as much building fun, and they were incredibly unsturdy.  In addition, the mini figures and their accessories looked cheap.

No, right now, it's the City sets that reign supreme.  I got several of those, and they were fun to build, detailed, and sturdy.  Incidentally, they're still going strong - pieces I bought two or three years ago are still available.

My favorite:

Museum Break-In
Why is this my favorite?  Because it's awesome.  The vehicles and mini-figures are good, but the real joy is in this lovely, detailed City Museum.  It's got pillars, sky-lights, banners, lights, mini-figure gargoyles, and a security system for the door, not to mention the displayed artifacts inside.  It's basically awesome.

Then there are vehicles like this:

Cement Mixer
And this:

Camper Van
And this:

Logging Truck
The police, fire, medical and coast guard sets are and/or look pretty good, too.

Finally, there's the newest sub-theme: Arctic.

These are the sets that I want but don't have yet.  Except this little one:

Arctic Snowmobile
Here's what I like about these sets.  They look sturdy (and this little one actually is), and they're very imaginative.  They're set in the arctic (obviously), where scientists and explorers are mining the ice fields for crystals, which can represent pretty much anything you want.  Lots of potential there.

Plus, they kind of remind me of the Ice Planet 2002 and Aquazone sets Ben and I were starting to collect right at the end of our LEGO enthusiasm, so there's a nice little nostalgia factor.

But Rachel, what about all the movie-themed sets?

Seriously?  No.

Anyway, to sum up: LEGO sets these days are a little hit and miss in terms of building fun and stability.  I'd recommend buying a small set from the theme you're interested in to see how you like it before investing in the larger, more expensive sets - I've noticed that if one set in a theme is good, the others are likely to be, and same goes for sets that are bad.  If you're like me and are getting back into LEGOs after a long hiatus, be aware that the new packaging and instructions make building a lot easier (aka, less fun) than the old sets.  That said, they come with extras of the smallest pieces (in case you lose one), so you'll have some nice detail bits to add to your pile of random, set-less LEGOs for building straight out of your imagination.

Not even going to attempt this.

My rating:
Pirate: 5 stars
Various old Castle: 5 stars
Misc (like Aquazone and Wild West): 4 stars
New Castle: 1 star
New space: 4 stars
New City: 5 stars
New Movie-Themed: I said no.

Overall for all LEGOs throughout time: 4 stars - 5 if you're careful which sets you buy.

*Pictures from

**LEGOs can be purchased directly from the source through their website or your local LEGO store.  I highly recommend you immediately sign up for the VIP Program, as it's free and gives you points toward purchases.

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