Images are courtesy of LEGO.
Toy Review: LEGO City and Nexo Knights Construction Sets
These two series strike a good balance between past, present and futuristic.
Although the season of outdoor activity is practically upon us, if you get stuck indoors on a rainy day or you have a birthday party to buy a gift for this summer, you can still count on LEGO.
What's more, you don't have to default to the branded sets based on Hollywood properties such as Star Wars, Marvel Superheroes and The Angry Birds Movie. LEGO has original series, too, that will appeal to brick builders across a wide range of ages. l looked at a couple of examples, courtesy of LEGO, from the LEGO City and Nexo Knights ranges to see how they stack up.
LEGO City, as the name suggests, is a down-to-earth product line that is designed to appeal to builders who want real-world play rather than fantasy. LEGO provided the Fire Ladder Truck (Model #: 60107), which includes 214 pieces. When put together, these comprise the fire truck itself, two firefighter minifigures - one male and one female - and a canister topped by fake flames.
The design of the minifigures in this set is not strikingly original: the man is distinguished by a goatee and the woman by her eyebrows and both are dressed in firefighting gear. When posed for action, one figure can carry a fire hose that projects transparent blue studs and is connected to the fire engine by a string, while the other can hold a mini yellow fire extinguisher.
This set is pitched at 5-12 year-olds and any child around the middle of that range should be able to build the fire truck independently. Builders at the upper end and beyond might find it too easy. The majority of pieces that the truck is built with are LEGO standards and the square shape of the vehicle's body ensures that there are few steps in the instructions that involve complicated combinations of bricks. The only unusual part of this model is the ladder support, which is designed to pivot upwards and turn when complete.
In total, there are 76 steps in building the Fire Ladder Truck, which makes it a safe choice for children who have graduated to bigger boxed LEGO sets but aren't quite ready to tackle less conventional toys like the Nexo Knights set I describe below the image.
Launched earlier this year, Nexo Knights is LEGO's foray into sword and sorcery but with a high-tech twist. LEGO has created a complex good vs. evil mythology around this concept that supports a mobile game, an attractively designed book detailing various comically-themed villains and an animated TV series.
The set I reviewed, The King's Mech (Model #: 70327), is a good example of what Nexo Knights is all about. It's a giant robot-like suit of armour that holds a huge sword in one hand and a detachable jet-craft in the other. The set also comes with a crossbow-like weapon that is used by one of the minions of the evil Jestro to fire orange studs. That minion - Flamethrower - is one of three minifigures that this set comes with, the other two being King Halbert and the King's Bot.
Halbert has all the trappings of a medieval king, including a gold crown, a full beard and a cape. His bot, meanwhile, is not a conventional mini-figure. The robot has a traditional knight's helmet and a crest emblazoned on its chest but the thin arms and legs are metallic and it has a distinctly robotic face.
Most of the pieces of the Mech itself push or snap together like classic bricks. Due to the complexity of the finished design, however, this set has a comparatively high number of parts that are non-traditional shapes. Moreover, the Mech's arms and legs have multiple articulations and therefore require joints similar to those used in Bionicle toys.
Some of the 114-steps in the building instructions require a good eye for detail and overall this model took around twice as long as the LEGO City set to build. Hence, it demands more patience. Wisely, LEGO has pitched it at builders in the 8- 14-year age group. The end result is impressive and typifies the spirit of this imaginative series.
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