LEGO Ideas 21331 Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone: The perfect set for a speed build [Review]

The LEGO Ideas line continued its rapid pace with the January 1st release of 21331 Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone. This US $69.99 | CAN $89.99 | UK £59.99 has 1125 pieces, spanning key locations from the first level of the SEGA classic game, two brick-built monsters, the Eggman and his Eggmobile, and an updated version of Sonic in minifigure form. There are also a smattering of play features, customizable options, and Easter eggs. But is the final set a runaway success, or something you should run away from? Get ready, Player One, and read on!

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with a copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Unboxing the parts, instructions and sticker sheet

This set’s packaging features LEGO’s adult collector theming. This means a dark, plain background, minimal logos, a colorful strip along the bottom edge, and a mandatory “18+” age range. The front of the box shows the full set to good advantage, with both Sonic and the Eggman floating in space, rather than interacting with the set. The back has inset shots giving the dimensions of the set (14″/36cm by 7″/17cm) and showing some of the set’s play features. The rear product shot has a repositioned (but still disconnected) Eggman and Sonic, and a few items have moved around. Otherwise, it doesn’t offer anything in addition to the front image.

This tab-sealed box is a bit unusual in that it has an opening lid rather than the standard flaps. The part bags are packed loose in the box, as was the instruction manual and sticker sheets.

There are seven part bags spanning six building steps. The instruction manual is perfect bound and 188 pages long.

The two sticker sheets have their ups and downs. The first has fun stickers that will add some customization options later on, and the other is a bit of foreshadowing for the painful pattern building that will dominate a lot of the upcoming build.

The instructions follow the usual pattern for 18+ sets, with the first few pages going over the history of the Sonic franchise, then moving to a couple of pages introducing fan designer Viv Grannell and the LEGO builders who converted her base idea into the final set: Lauren King (Senior Graphics Designer) and Samuel Johnson (LEGO Design Manager).

The parts

This set doesn’t contain any new molds, but does have a significant number of newly recolored elements. Among them are 1×1 bracket plates, in builder-friendly quantities of 30 copies of the bright green, and 31 of the lime. There are also new printed 1×1 round eye tiles, light-nougat 1×1 round plates, and 2×2 tiles in dark azure.

There are new 1×4 printed tiles with a pixelated grass pattern, a 2×2 dome with Eggman’s glasses printed on them, blue 3l bars, and white bigfig hands. There are also 4 copies of the new 1×5 long plate in black.

Zone 1 – A crabby tree

The build starts out with a figure stand for Sonic. There are seven spots for the Chaos Emeralds, presented to the builder as a reward after finishing each major chunk of the set. The iconic rings of the Sonic game are represented by minifigure life-preserver accessories. I’m really not sold on this choice, as I think a minifigure chakram accessory would have been a better fit. The yellow color could also have been replaced with gold, but I guess it’s a decent match for the video game’s brightness.

Next up is the first of the brick-built bad guys, Crabmeat. It’s a fun little build, and a decent representation of the character. The clip-hinge articulation on the claws allows for a very small range of motion, and you can angle the legs and eyestalks to pose Crabmeat a bit.

The first part of the Green Hill Zone to be built is this palm tree. The design closely matches Viv’s Ideas submission. There’s a small treat from the LEGO designers in the use of a second 2×2 round plate in light nougat – a part currently exclusive to this set. It’s used as a spacer in the middle of the section, and can easily be swapped out for any other 2×2 plate if you want to keep it handy for custom building of your own while leaving this set assembled. The new 1×4 pixelated-greenery tiles are affixed to either side of the base.

The tree assembly slots into the small landmass. There are open Technic pin connections on the left side, and Technic rods on the right. Only the rods will be used in this set; those open holes hint as possible future expansions to the Sonic theme. Or maybe just a nudge to get people to buy a second (or third) copy of the Green Hill Zone and link them all together.


Zone 2 – The Bridge

It was hinted at in the last section, but it’s in this next bit that the painful tediousness of this build really kicks in. Apparently, this set was designed before LEGO started using their new 2/3 height modified 1×1 bricks, instead using piles and piles of 1×1 plate to build two-plate-high stacks. This not only doubles this portion of the part count, but also means that your fingers are going to be crying for mercy after having to align and assemble dozens of these sub-builds.

Anyway. This next section feature a log bridge spanning a river. Those 2-high plate stacks are used to create a more square grid pattern than could be achieved with standard height brick. The top edges are covered with strips of green plate, and the river is coated with a layer of transparent light blue tile and cheese slopes.

The log bridge is made from rod-supported stacks of 1×1 round brick, sandwiched between 1×2 rounded plate. The edges of the build have Technic rods and open Technic axle holes.

Connecting the bridge to the tree completes this section, and Sonic gets another emerald added to the display stand.

Zone 3 – The loop

One of the most recognizable parts of the Green Hill Zone are the loops that Sonic runs through. The next section of the build recreates one of these, making use of even more of those hard-won 2-high plate sub-builds.

The loop itself makes use of arched bricks, offset to create a path for Sonic to run along. The only connection points, though, are at the bottom. It’s also worth noting that the pattern on the inverted slopes and sides of the loop are actually stickers rather than brick-build grids. Even if the stickers aren’t perfectly aligned (and mine never are), the illusion is pretty good and the pattern looks pretty continuous.

Slot the loop into the left side of the bridge and claim another emerald!

Zone 4

The other brick-built monster in this set is a Moto Bug. This is the first foe that Sonic encounters in the game, so it’s kind of funny that LEGO put him second in the building order. Moto’s expressions are sticker-based but do allow you to decide how you want to display it.

The section of track built in this area features a play feature. A small hinge is incorporated into the left side of the module.

The rocker plate is covered with  a plunger, and a flower is added to the right.

The rocker switch can be pressed to push up the plunger and throw Sonic into the air. While the build does a good job of locking the bricks into place, you sill need to be careful with alignment to make sure the switch moves easily. (Alternately, you can fudge it to have more friction so you can leave the plunger in an “up” state.)

This module is the end of the LEGO Green Hill Zone. The right hand edge has two exposed Technic pins, which could be connected to another copy’s open hole on the left of the tree.

Zone 5 – Boxes and Rings

The next bag of parts adds in video game extras to finish out the level’s landscape. First up are two terminals with five different power-up options. The screens are all stickers, and the terminals can be placed anywhere on the level where there’s a two-stud connection point.

A small floating platform is added to the edge of the loop, and a stack of three rings is clipped to the far side of the spring assembly.

Behind the bridge, three more rings are mounted on transparent clear poles. There’s also a save point with a rotatable red and blue indicator.

On the front left edge, Sonic gets a sticker-based life counter.

On the back is a small Easter-egg heavy sticker showing high scores. The top score by “VIV” is for Idea designer Viv Grannell, with a score of 281020, representing the birth date of a family member. Lauren King’s “LCK” score of 76642 is a fun puzzle, as it’s the keys that were needed to type “SONIC” on old phones. (For example, the “6” on a phone’s keypad could generate one of  “MNO”, for those who didn’t have to live through that era.).  Sam Johnson’s “SAM” celebrates Sonics year-of-release of 1991.

The rings are all mounted on click hinges, and you can change the display by lowering them. I don’t recommend this option, though. First, it makes the display space needed for the set needlessly deep. Secondly, it just doesn’t work all that well. The friction on the hinges is great enough to pop off the bars easier than they can be bent. If LEGO had really intended for this to be a play feature, they would have reinforced the plates with a 1×8 tile or something to lock them in place.

Anyway, once all the goodies are in place, Sonic gets yet another emerald for his collection. A correctly-colored green one this time! (I was always confused as to why that the Chaos Emeralds weren’t all green. Now I’m older and can let that sort of thing go. Except that apparently, I still have to mention it.)

Zone 6 – The Eggmobile

The final set of part bags starts off with building Eggman’s Eggmobile. The build isn’t super complex, but is colorful and well-shaped.

The details on the side of the ship are sticker-based, but the control panel is a printed tile. I really like how the jet exhaust is designed – the small candle flame makes this feel appropriately goofy, rather than Batmobile-like.

Sonic picks up a yellow emerald when you finish the ship.

Zone 7 – The Eggman Cometh

The Eggman build starts strong. The leg design is very clever, with Technic claw and tube pieces giving the perfect shape to the feet and legs. The body is built studs-out, with a generous helping of curved slopes to create a nicely rounded shape. The white buttons on the pants are the last of the set’s stickers.

Eggman has new white-colored bigfig hands for gloves. His arms are mounted on clips, allowing for a small amount of articulation. You can also rotate the feet a bit, providing for better stability.  Now, you may have noticed I didn’t talk about Eggman’s face yet. I figured it deserved some individual attention, which we’ll get to momentarily.

The Eggman figure fits perfectly into the Eggmobile. The dark blue saddle connects him securely to the vehicle, and you can swoosh it about as much as you’d like. The scale is right, and it fits in well with the larger display.

So…yeah. That face. Wow does it look terrible. The main problems are caused by the orientation of the face – the gap for the studs on the upper dome create a mouth-like shape under the printed glasses – making the quarter-circle tile used for the nose look like a tongue. The mustache growing out the sides of Eggman’s head also reads wrong, sitting way too far back. I really wish the designers had just stuck with Viv’s Ideas submission version (shown in the inset.) You can see there where changing the orientation (and moving the print down to fit within the gaps) changes the look to bring the eyes right up next to the nose.

All in all, this was a terrible point to end the set’s build. If they had decided to finish with that great Eggmobile, you’d be feeling a lot more excited to find a display spot for this set.

The Completed Model

Like most 18+ sets, the completed model is meant more for display rather than play. The Green Hill Zone is represented very well, with a lot of key locations and features easily visible. The floating rings and island are a convincing illusion. The ability to swap out different boosts, and to select the status of the save point, add some minor customization possibilities to the landscape.

From the back, the exposed mechanics of the play features lower the visual appeal a bit, but not to the point of looking silly. It’s unlikely people will really be looking for “accuracy” from this angle from the side-scroller anyway.

Compared to Viv’s Ideas submission, you can see that very little of her initial designs survived into the final set. What did survive, though, were the ideas she put forth. The Green Hill Zone had four smaller builds – the tree, the spring, the bridge, and the loop. The loop and the tree leaves are the designs that had the fewest tweaks, but you can still feel the source DNA shining through in each portion.

The loop has a missed opportunity in that there aren’t any exposed studs to let Sonic be posed part-way through the loop. This clearly frustrated marketing, too, as the back of the package shows the Sonic figure photoshopped upside down in mid-air.

The platforms, bridge, boots, and baddies all made the conversion to brick in good order.

The spring is an interesting play feature, but probably not one too many builders will put to regular use. You can, however, pose Sonic “mid jump” by clipping him to one of the rings, and the design here lets you take off a lower ring if you want to have it “already collected”.

And Sonic can take on the Eggman in your own imagined battles. Will he claim the Chaos Emerald? Well, that’s up to you. (But I bet he does.)

The minifigures

The only minifigure in this set is an updated Sonic. This version is exclusive to this set, and has several difference from his appearance in 2016’s 71244 LEGO Dimensions Level Pack. Notably, he has new side printing on his legs, an updated torso print, and a slightly different expression. Also interesting is that his eyes lack the green irises, now matching the black and white look from the original Sonic logo. (As seen on the manual cover)

The figure stand looks good with the full spectrum of Chaos Emeralds in place. I’m still not sold on  the use of the life-preserver as a gold ring, though. But there’s no rule that you have to include that in your displays.

Conclusion and recommendation

I spent many, many hours playing the 1991 release of Sonic, and this set brought back a lot of fond memories of that experience. The set captures many iconic moments, had well-rendered representations of some key bad guys, and some interesting customization options. There are some downsides though. Eggman’s head is just awful, and the build is a tedious slog in places. At $70 US for 1125 pieces, the price per part comes in at just over six cents per. This is a pretty decent ratio, although a LOT of those parts are 1×1 plates and brackets. Still, the exclusive version of Sonic (a real draw on the secondary market) and multiple unique recolors help soften that a bit. I think video game fans will be pretty pleased with this set, but the wider LEGO audience might be a bit more pressed for reasons to pick this one up at the full price. That said, the expansion points on either side of the set do suggest that maybe…just maybe…LEGO might be planning on more sets that could expand the world of Sonic. If so, this will be a key set to pick up if you want to build that world. (Or, you know, you could always build out your own world. LEGO bricks are good for that sort of thing.)

LEGO Ideas 21331 Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone is available now from the LEGO Shop Online for US $69.99 | CAN $89.99 | UK £59.99. It is also available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

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4 comments on “LEGO Ideas 21331 Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone: The perfect set for a speed build [Review]

  1. winstonheard

    I imagine this is what alot of AFOLs hoped for from the Mario sets.

    And while it would have increased the piece count, I think alternating plates/bricks on the sides of the loop would look so much better than stickers

  2. Jimmy

    I understand that there is an extra hollow 1×1 round plate and an extra clear minifig posing stand that can be used to place Sonic upside down mid-loop.

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