Monthly Archives: May 2012

Monster Fighters: 9461 The Swamp Creature [Review]

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Here’s the second of the sets I picked up on Friday, 9461 The Swamp Creature, from the new Monster Fighters line. Given that this is such a small set, with only 70 pieces, this will be a short review. The Monster Fighters theme looks fantastic as a whole, though, with lots of classic movie spooks getting a bit of showtime.

9461 Box ContentsThis is a simple set, with one of the Monster Fighter heroes riding an airboat, and the Swamp Creature protecting his little spot of terrain. The box is nothing special, though nicely designed. The back includes a little comic showing the Swamp Creature giving–or perhaps being forced to give, as he doesn’t look too happy about it–his green swamp crystal, one of six rainbowed crystals, to the Vampyre Lord, presumably to activate some nefarious device which is included with 9468 Vampyre Castle. Inside the box are two little baggies, and the instructions, comparable to any other similarly sized set. Oddly the instructions include no advertisement for the rest of the sets in the Monster Fighters line.

Jack and the airboatThe build is quite simple, with no surprises. The airboat is nearly identical to many others that have been produced by LEGO, except that this one is armed with flick-fire missiles, which I’m still unimpressed by. The little square of swamp is about as simple as it gets, but you can’t expect too much from a set this size. The inclusion of a frog is always nice, but I’m not sure if the fish is dead, or just kept swimming away, because he’s clipped to the base.

The Swamp CreatureClearly the highlight here are the minifigs, which are terrific. The Swamp Creature is a lovely design, obviously imitating the infamous Creature from the Black Lagoon. I really like that LEGO has gone the extra step and included printing on the creature’s head that isn’t even visible with the fishy headpiece in place. Similarly, the hunter (Jack? He looks like a Jack to me) has a great torso print of a leather bomber jacket overtop a dirty white tee. Nicely enough, both figs have back and leg printing. I’m thinking that LEGO is realizing that minifigs are a huge selling point in their sets, and we all love super detailed figs. So I’m guessing that detailed front and rear prints and leg printing is going to become the rule, rather than the exception, with sets from here on out. The Swamp Creature is pretty sparse on new pieces, aside from the aforementioned crystal, and the Creature’s headpiece. A quick Bricklink search tells me that the propeller, which was new to me, has actually been around for a while. Of most interest to me was Jack’s leg piece, which is in the new olive green color. It’s basically a greenish shade of dark tan, and is really going to be a fantastic color for both foliage and military models.

The full setAll in all, it’s a fun little set, but with Jack and the green crystal included in other sets in the Monster Fighters line, the Swamp Creature is the only thing really unique to this set.

Mihai’s Inferno: The 9 circles of Hell made in Lego

Mihai Mihu completed a series of creations depicting the 9 circles of Hell. While staying true to the theme of poetic justice served to the sinners, Mihai portrays the punishments through his own interpretations. The recurring architectural elements and portrayal of the sinners tie the scenes together in a way that’s easy for the viewer to transition through. In this short interview, the builder talks about his project and the individual circles of Hell.

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TBB: Tell us about your 9 circles of Hell project.

Mihai Mihu: It all started last year with a contest on MOCpages (The 2011 MOC Olympics) where I was challenged to build a MOC in just two colors. I decided to approach an architecture theme for the entry as it was in my comfort zone. While building and the things progressed, the lack of colors made the MOC look lifeless. It was then when I had the idea to transform it into an underworld scene and I named it Limbo.

After the many positive comments that I received, I thought and then decided that it would be great to continue this MOC as an artistic series and I saw a great opportunity to display my skills and my love for design and architecture.

The whole project took me 7 months to complete, with about 2 to 3 weeks for the development of the ideas, design and building of each circle.

TBB: What is your approach to depicting each circle?

MM: The concept of the 9 circles is the work of maybe the first true master of fiction Dante Alighieri. It’s such an interesting idea, and I’ve been meaning to make a re-imagining of the hell depicted by him.

I didn’t read the Divine Comedy, only the small descriptions of the circles I found on Wikipedia and on other websites. I didn’t want to be much influenced by the original descriptions because I wanted to give a whole new fresh approach for each circle. I thought more about the significance of titles and from then on it was only my imagination.

TBB: Tell us about each of the creations.

MM: I. LIMBO

A place of monotony, here the souls are punished to wander in restless existence while they moan helplessly in echoes between the ruins of a temple.

II. LUST

Surrounded by erotic representations, those overcome by lust are forced to watch and experience disgusting things, ultimately being condemned to drown in the menstrual river.

III. GLUTTONY

The circle itself is a living abomination, a hellish digestive system revealing horrific faces with mouths ready to devour the gluttons over and over for eternity.

IV. GREED

This pompous place is reserved for the punishment of the greedy ones. The hands of the damned are popping out of the walls and are trying to grab the riches around them or to drag the new arrivals in and feed on their lust for wealth.

V. ANGER

In this depressing place the souls are trapped in the swamp, they can’t move and they cannot manifest their frustration which is making them even more angry. Here I wanted to approach a theme more about feelings and emotions. The weeping statue represents those who turned their sadness into anger.

VI. HERESY

The giant demon watches closely over his fire pit, dwarfing the damned that are dragging the new arrivals in the boiling lava. Those who committed the greatest sins against God are getting a special treatment inside the temple where they are doomed to burn for eternity in the scorching flames.

VII. VIOLENCE

A place of intense torture where the horrific screams of the damned are eternally accompanied by the hellish beats of drums. There are lots of elements here to convey violence like the suicide statues on top of the ruined citadel, the hanged souls or the river of blood.

VIII. FRAUD

In Fraud the Demons enjoy altering the shape of souls, this is how they feed. In this process, the soul manifests its true fraudulent nature and reveals the cheats and tricks that it has committed in life. This is also the place of the cries and lament of a chained Titan who betrayed Zeus.

IX. TREACHERY

Lucifer lies here chained by the Angelic Seal which keeps him captive in the frozen environment. All the souls who are cast in Treachery are first processed by the flying demons at the temple where the Judas coins are.

TBB: Which build is your favorite and which circle would you least want to be in?

MM: My favorite build is Greed, because it has a really special feel to it. I like its majestic look and the powerful emotional contrast it expresses. It’s beautiful but sinister at the same time.

Gluttony is the circle I would least want to be in. It’s always freaked me out, it’s disgusting, chaotic and vital, definitely not a place to get stuck.

The Lord of the Rings: 9471 Uruk-hai Army [Review]

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I was elated this morning when my local toy store got in the new Lord of the Rings and Monster Fighters themes. I immediately picked up several of the smaller ones, and I’ll review them over the next few days as I get time. I’m super excited to finally lay hands on these sets. Today I’ll start with the largest set I picked up, 9471 Uruk-hai Army, from the Lord of the Rings license. Clocking in at $35 USD, it’s not a bad size set, considering it’s a licensed theme. With 257 pieces, it’s fewer pieces-per-dollar than the unlicensed themes, but still comes out cheaper than many Star Wars sets, and this set includes six minifigs.

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The box art is gorgeous, with a large image of Sauron’s finger wearing the one ring, with a fantastic map motif behind it. The rear of the box is pretty standard, showing all the play features, and also advertising the forthcoming LEGO The Lord of the Rings video game. Inside the box are two numbered bags, and the instruction manual. Unfortunately, it seems the brilliant idea of packaging the instructions in their own bag with a stiff piece of cardboard didn’t last long, as my instructions were quite curled and bent. On the upside though, there’s not a sticker in sight. The instructions continue the map motif lightly in the background of each page, which looks terrific.

Uruk-haiThe first bag contains the four Uruk-hai and the ballista. In keeping with recent practice, and especially the habit of licensed lines, the figures are all exquisitely detailed with both front and rear printing, and all the heads are double-sided, with a neutral expression and a battle expression. The legs and hips all have printing as well, though on the front only. The machetes and armor of the Uruk-hai are all in pearl dark grey, and seem to be of excellent quality. There are only a few pieces here that are new to me, like the Bracket 1×2 – 1×2 Inverted (recently released with the Marvel line), and a lovely brown 1×4 tile with a wood grain printing (ever so slightly different than the one found in The Burrows set).The Ballista This is, though, the first time I’ve seen 4×4 round plates used as wheels on a siege engine, instead of the old method of 4×4 round bricks, and I think I prefer the bricks, which look more like heavy wooden wheels and less like bicycle tires, even though these are probably quite serviceably within scale. The build for the ballista is pretty straight-forward, with a simple Technic frame. The ballista fires two flick-fire grappling hooks. Like most flick-fire projectiles in official LEGO sets, I’ve never been able to get much distance or speed. At least these have a little pushing mechanism, instead of pushing directly on the projectiles, as in some sets.

Eomer and the Rohirrim SoldierBag two is for the wall chunk from Helm’s Deep, and Eomer and the Rohirrim Archer (or, as LEGO puts it, the Rohan Soldier). Eomer seems a little out of place in this set, though until they make a Meduseld set (here’s hoping!) I suppose this location makes the most sense from a play-set standpoint. Eomer’s helmet is in its own bag, as is the case with most specially painted pieces. The helmet is quite amazing, both in shape (which the Rohirrim archer shares) and in printing, with golden horses on each cheek. The two men’s torso and leg printing is no less detailed, with wonderful generic armor (front and back) that will be of great use to Castle builders. The soldier’s torso is my favorite of the set, and would fit perfectly with the recent dark green dragon faction from the Kingdoms line. And then, of course, there’s the new horse. The New HorseIt’s really quite something. I have to admit that LEGO has done an absolutely fantastic job of re-designing something so iconic as the LEGO horse. I immediately grabbed a classic horse, and took some time to compare the two. The new horse’s head is slightly wider, meaning it can’t wear the head-pieces designed for the old horses, but LEGO has assured us that they’re making new ones. The body, however, while posed differently, retains the classic dimensions, meaning that classic bardings still work. The new pose-able leg-section allows for a two-legged reared up stance, and the legs actually make a soft click into place when they’re fully extended. The horse is remarkably well balanced when standing on two legs, and isn’t particularly off-balance even with a rider or when posed running.

There aren’t any new pieces in this section beyond the horse, though several pieces do make appearances in useful colors. Most noteworthy of these is the 1×2 brick with brick pattern, which appears here in light grey for the first time. This piece is going to be amazing for castle-building. Again, the construction of the 16-studs long wall is straight forward, though it is worth noting that the wall is built modularly, and is intended to fit with 9474 The Battle of Helm’s Deep to make an even longer wall, which is rather a cool idea. The wall includes a small catapult fixed in place, so you’d best hope that the Uruk-hai don’t veer to the left or right as they charge. Beyond that, the set is pretty sparse on built-in play features, though somehow I doubt kids (and big kids) will have much trouble figuring out what to do with it.

9471 Uruk-Hai ArmyMy conclusion: With six highly detailed minifigures, a bit of wall, and a ballista, this set is a great introduction to the Lord of the Rings line, even though it doesn’t come with any members of the Fellowship. I’m sure a great many of you plan on buying the whole Lord of the Rings line no matter what I say, but if you want a larger orc army, this is a fantastic way to get it.