Monday, June 28th, 2004 at 12:15am by Jon, BZPower Co-Owner
"From biped to quadraped in six seconds flat!"
Let's get this out of the way first: I'm a lame adult who has let the real world interfere with his love for LEGO and Bionicle during the past ten months or so, and as such I'm just a tad out of touch with the Bionicle realm.
That being said, I've still been in a unique position to observe Bionicle and its most dedicated fans (that's you, by the way) during our transition from Toa Nuva to Toa Metru, and from Mata Nui to Metru Nui. It's been a new beginning of sorts, and now with the release of the Vahki, a brand new wave of bad guys, the first since the Rahkshi, have been released.
But some things never change. As always, bad guys or good, we're treated to six different flavors of what is essentially the same set with only color and weapon variations.
But here's where being somewhat out of the loop for a few months comes in handy: When I spotted the Vahki making their first appearance on my Wal*Mart shelves, for the first time in a long time, I was genuinely intrigued by the new sets. Not just because I'm a part of the administration of the largest Bionicle community on the net and have an obligation to our readers, but somewhere deep inside of me, that ten-year-old boy of my youth seemed to scream, "Cool toy!"
It was a good feeling to have after so many months of hum-drum indifference, so naturally, I tossed a Vahki in my shopping cart between the bottled water & Fiber One, brought him home, and wrote the following...
This is a set review for Vahki Vorzakh, set #8616.
The the most superficial part of any LEGO product, but the one that often determines whether or not the set is a success or failure.
It looks like LEGO is happier now with the pop-top lid which debuted with the Rahkshi over the old Toa-era screw-off lids, because they've now adopted it for all the new sets.
Once again, the can is designed to hold not only a pile of parts, but also a completed figure (with only the removal of his arm weapons required to fit). It's not anywhere nearly as integral to the set as the Bohrok canisters with their hangers, but it's a handy way to store your finished set later if you're running low on shelf space.
As for the aesthetics, by now we're all pretty familiar with the CGI-rendered set images with slightly exaggerated depth, and (sometimes overly exaggerated bending limbs). Vorzakh is posed in a menacing sort of, "You want some of this?" threatening pose, which has a lot of cool factor, particularly for a bad guy.
WHAT'S IN THE CAN?
So you've bought it and taken it home (or at least made it to the car), peeled the tape, popped the lid and dump out the contents. What do you get for your money?
All the stuff you'd expect inside:
33 LEGO Pieces
Vorzakh Model Construction Manual
Collectible Kanoka Card (with point code)
And keeping with the Bionicle trend, instructions for the Vahki combiner including Vorzakh are in the back of the instruction manual. I must admit that the combiners are getting a tad better, but I still feel that set combiners end up looking too muddy & overblown in an effort to use all the parts, so I'll stick with my stand-alone Vahki, thank you.
No CD-ROMs this time around, either. It's unfortunate to see the end of that trend, what with Bionicle being such a media-rich franchise. Maybe if we all complain enough they'll be back one day.
Here's where we start to cut to the heart of the matter. You didn't buy this box for all the glossy booklets & creative artwork. You want to know about the LEGO bricks & bits that are included, and what (if any) new & interesting parts you'll find inside. Here's also where I'll talk about any new and/or interesing pieces that you will encounter.
I feel about Vorzakh the way some people feel about Summer television: "It may not be new, but it's new to me!"
The Vahki use a great deal of economy in part count, but a good half of the bricks are new to the Metru phase of Bionicle. Some old standbys are still here, like the original Toa foot & Onua's arms (both in new colors), but the other non-standard Technic pieces are pretty cool stuff.
Some of the pieces I found of interest were those pictured on the left.
The Vorzakh weapon seen at top, some new configurations of body pieces with Technic balls, and then the two Vahki head assembly pieces in the lower left, which combine to give the Vahki their disc-shooting ability.
There's a lot here that is reminiscent of the Rahkshi (which is both good and bad), including lots of ball & socket joints which as you'll see later, give Vorzakh a great deal of flexibility.
What can you expect while putting this model together?
You're going to continue to see references to the Rahkshi in this review, because I see a lot of similarities between them and the Vahki. Not necessarily in appearance, but in design philosophy.
You'll remember that up until the Rahkshi, all Bionicle figures were constructed by tacking limbs onto a central, pre-molded body piece.
Again here in the Vahki, that idea is gone, and instead we're treated to a constructed section which is made up of several parts, all which combine to give Vorzakh a very Rahkshi-esque shoulder-swinging motion.
For my money, this is a good thing. I understand that Bionicle figures are essentially action figures that you build yourself, but I often enjoy the building process more than the playing process.
I'd rather have a more complex assortment of tiny pieces to put together than fewer, larger ones that simply snap together in no time flat. I enjoy the zen of LEGO, and watching small, anonymous parts evolve into a recognizable form. The less recognizable at the outset, the better, I say.
Do you remember me praising the Rahkshi for their monumental advancement in the world of articulation? Yes? Good.
Because sadly, we've apparently stagnated since then.
Now, not to be contradictory, the Rahkshi were fantastic because of their huge leap in this department.
The Vahki, while just as poseable, and just as much fun to put in dramatic stances, get points off in my book because of the lack of advancement. Can we please have articulated arms? Anyone? Bueller?
Again, well-designed legs lend themselves to a great transformation (more on that later), but if you're gonna have elbows, does it not stand to reason that they should bend?
I was confident back in the days of the Rahkshi that the era of optimum articulation was at hand, but now disappointed to see that we're just idling. As Oscar Goldman once said, "We have the technology."
So you've got the model together, but is it more like playing with a block of wood or an interactive toy?
So now that I've complained about the lack of arm articulation in Vorzakh, I'm probably gonna bash him in this department too, huh?
Not so much.
It turns out that while little improvement in the bendy department has been made since the Rahkshi, it's still pretty freakin' cool.
Have a look at my general approximation of Vorzakh's CGI-generated pose from the front of the canister. I wasn't shooting for exact here, but just trying to make a point: These sets are every bit as poseable as the artwork on the label suggests.
And luckily for a grumpy old reviewer like me, the variety doesn't end there.
Vorzakh has two more tricks up his sleeve. The first of which is the ability to fire Kanoka discs from his mandibles.
I'm not sure if I like how Vorzakh fires his disc because he looks cool doing it, or because I just always thought the way a Tohunga/Matoran had to do it (slinging his little rubbery arm back & forth) was so lame.
But either way, it works pretty effectively, and even if you never use his jaws to sling that disc, there's no wasted design, because the disc tray looks plenty mean as a pair of scary tusk-like protusions.
Plus, you know that I'm always looking for an excuse to put a picture of my fingers in my reviews, so there's one more reason to like this disc-firing scheme!
Okay, now on to the Vahki's last and greatest trick. Drumroll please... (brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmm)
He's a transformer!
Well, sort of. At the very least, he holds the distinction of being the first Bionicle figure to transform from a bipedal humanoid to a quarapedal crab-like beast without the need for disassembly.
And it's pretty simple, really. Just flip his head around & upside down, and reverse his arms & legs (his back essentially becomes his belly), and you've got a very different looking figure.
In humanoid form, Vorzakh looks like a thinking, planning, evil meanace. But in crab form, he seems more like a mindless creature bent on destruction.
How do I get all of that from a pose? It's my imagination, if you don't like it keep out! ;)
Not bad for a bit of extended play.
Here's where it all boils down to whether the model is worth your money and time or not.
Kind of a tough one, here. I mean, I really like Vorzakh. He's like a Rahkshi with an alternate pose, and lots of new pieces to build with.
On the other hand, I hate to reward the lack of articulatory innovation with a glowing review. Maybe the Rahkshi just spoiled me. Maybe it was unfair to expect that same quantum leap between the Rahkshi & Vahki as I was so impressed with between the Toa Nuva & Rahkshi.
So maybe I won't jump up & cheer, but I still have to give Vorzakh a thumbs up. You should have at least one Vahki in your collection, if for nothing more than the joy of building & transforming him.
If you have an army of Rahkshi, then you probably won't want to buy all six. Myself, I'll probably pick up one or two more. It's the least I can do for the LEGO set that woke up my internal ten-year-old boy and made him scream, "Cool toy!"
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