LEGO Icons 10338 Transformers Bumblebee – Does this Beetle-bot beat all bots? [Review]

LEGO has once again dipped its toe into the world of Transformers action figures. And while Optimus Prime and Megatron are likely the two most well-known of the Hasbro toy line, the Autobot Bumblebee has definitely got the number three slot locked down. First released in Japan in 1983 as Microchange Wagen, this scout-bot wins the hearts and minds of children everywhere with his “never say die” attitude that always looms much larger than his stature. While recent theatrical appearances have popularized a Chevy Camaro-version of this Transformer, LEGO has opted to return to the roots of the robot with the original Volkswagen Beetle design in LEGO Icons 10338 Transformers Bumblebee. The set clocks in at 950 pieces and hits store shelves on July 4th (July 1st for LEGO Insiders), retailing for US $89.99 | CAN $119.99 | UK £79.99. But after the success of LEGO Transformers 10302 Optimus Prime back in 2022, will B-127 measure up to his leader? Read on to find out!

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.

The unboxing

With a dark blue band of brickwork at its base, Bumblebee looms large on the front of his packaging. The “Transformers” logo sits proudly in the upper left corner, and the opposing section shows a wire outline of Bumblebee’s two modes.

Spinning the box around, we find a wealth of diagrams showing the transformation process from car into bot and vice versa. There’s also some shots of his Beetle form and the accompanying plaque of Transformer statistics, just like on the back of the blister pack from the 80’s and 90’s. We’ll dig more into that feature later.

Two thumb punches later, and I dump ten numbered bags out onto my build space, along with a single sticker sheet. Some parts are printed in this set, and the use of stickers like these seems appropriate, especially for the stat sheet.

There’s also a well-illustrated instruction book included. Much as we’ve seen in past adult-focused sets, the first few pages are dedicated to some additional information on the model’s subject and the design process. I’ve generally found these inserts to be hit-and-miss, though I do acknowledge the effort put into them with every set. But sometimes, there’s not much more to contribute to a subject that I can’t surmise (or that I wasn’t already aware of if I’m a fan of the IP).

The build

We begin our build of the ‘Bee with bags 1 and 2. From these pieces, we form the feet/front bumper of the robot/car. Situated in the center of each foot is a click joint, which will be used to connect the legs later on. And a pair of bar-clip connections are used to fuse the two sections together into a single automotive anterior.

Bag 3 ditches the yellow bricks entirely as we assemble the legs of this figure. Tons of click hinges are employed here in what will become essentially the spine of the build, whether in car or robot form. I adore the pair of printed 2×4 tiles used on the legs here. I’m sure those have all kinds of applications outside of Transformers creations. The ends of the legs connect with the click joints hidden in the feet, as shown below.

The next bag, number 4, begins the work on Bumblebee’s torso. This is a centralized cube of parts with all kinds of stud, Technic pin, tow ball joint, and click-hinge connections attached to it. Much of the build and its transformation process will revolve around this compact box of parts.

Moving on to bag 5, the cab of the Beetle comes into being. And with it, we find our first of two printed “Autobots” insignia. When dealing with a character as old in the Transformers universe as Bumblebee, there are inevitably variations in the design over the years. The instructions allow you the choice of adding the red logo to the top of the cab or the car’s hood. These reflect the different placements of the logo on the different iterations of Bumblebee, in both robot and car forms. As a credit to the set, it includes two 2×2 tiles with the logo and two extra tiles without.

With bags 6 and 7, we assemble the arms of our scout fighter. Of all the sections of this Transformer, these limbs have got to be my favorite. They’re so compact, yet unfurl just like the action figures of my childhood. And the detailing on the hands is incredible, especially considering they’ll hold a blaster that we build later on.

The smaller bag 8 finishes out the trunk of the car, and adds on some more stickered elements. Those two exposed studs will come in handy when it’s time to attach Bumblebee’s “wings” during the transformation. We also see construction of his head, attached via a ball joint within said trunk.

Once again, we have another design choice to make, as Bumblebee comes with two different license plates. One refers to the 1984 cartoon that featured the character (BMBL84), and the other references a rebuild of the robot during the Transformers story arc, transforming Bumblebee into Goldbug (GLDBUG).

With bag 9, we complete the hood of the Beetle, capable of splitting down the center to separate the bot’s feet. As mentioned before, we can choose to put a 2×2 Autobots tile here, or leave it blank. I do appreciate how close to an edge these tiles are, allowing for fairly easy swap-out on the finished model.

Finally, we finish the model with bag 10, adding on the vehicle’s tires, and constructing Bumblebee’s weapon of choice and the Transformers statistics placard. True to character, what the ‘Bee lacks in firepower, he makes up for in courage!

The transformation

The rest of the instructions from here on out detail how to change Bumblebee from car-mode to robot-mode. While I won’t go through an entire play-by-play with comments on each section, I’ll lay out the sequence of thumbnails showing the process. As there are some tricky parts to this, I recommend using the instructions during your first few times, for sure!

New parts

I wasn’t expecting to get some new parts added to my collection thanks to this Transformer, but the bot provided a pair of new-to-me pieces worth talking about. The quarter-circle curved slope in yellow fills yet another gap in the effort to make a LEGO circle of any size. It feels perfect for mudguards, just as it’s used in this set. The other part, a Technic beam with click hinges on each side, feels like the stuff that mechs are made of! I see humanoid and non-humanoid possibilities in this poseable part.

The finished model

Once assembled and transformed, Bumblebee is the spitting image of the Transformer I remember from my childhood. I appreciate the detail in recreating not only the overall look of the action figure, but also the transformation process from what I can remember. But much like the 90’s model in my memory, the transformation process doesn’t feel as crisp. I’m left with a lot of moveable flappy bits afterward; things that collide with my hands when I try to play with the toy. But I fear I’m getting ahead of myself with all these opinions….

Conclusions and recommendations

Bumblebee is a solid addition to the LEGO Icons line. For being a toy based on non-LEGO intellectual property (with the requisite “licensed property tax”), the price-per-part ratio is quite reasonable. The printed parts are wonderful and useful; the stickers are an understandable requirement and still well-executed; and the set is accurate to the original toy in robot and car mode. In a vacuum, this is an easy recommendation for me!

But there’s an 800-lb semi truck in the room named Optimus Prime. And yes, I know that expression normally involves a gorilla, but that would be Optimus Primal according to all the Beast Wars fans. As preparation for this review, I bought and built LEGO Transformers 10302 Optimus Prime. To be frank, Bumblebee just doesn’t hold up. The transformation of Prime is more crisp in LEGO form, the features and accessories are more plentiful, and there are fewer bits sticking out that can be accidently bent and malformed during handling.

Plus Bumblebee, when assembled, looks gigantic when compared to his Autobot boss, especially in vehicle mode! And I know a lot of this will be to account for his transformation requirement on a LEGO scale. But, for a scout that identifies as the “little guy” on this team of Cybertronians, he needs to be absolutely dwarfed by the Brobdingnagian Optimus just like in the show and comics. So, if you already have an Optimus, maybe give a think to where and how ‘Bee will be displayed before shelling out for it.

With 950 pieces, and hitting stores on July 4th (July 1st for LEGO Insiders), LEGO Icons 10338 Transformers Bumblebee retails for US $89.99 | CAN $119.99 | UK £79.99. It may also be available from third party sellers like 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.

1 comment on “LEGO Icons 10338 Transformers Bumblebee – Does this Beetle-bot beat all bots? [Review]

  1. Haywire

    Thanks for the review! In all fairness to Bee, Optimus’ transformation just kind of lends itself better to Lego (how many of us built an Optimus or Optimus-like character when we were kids?) It did look to me like there were more compromises in Bee’s design than Optimus, but it still sounds like a solid figure! Thanks again!

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