Saturday, December 30th, 2006 at 1:24pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
[Source: Dr. Bionicle]
Well, there are two days left in 2006, plenty of time, in my eyes, to squeeze in one more review. To that end, Dr. Bionicle has managed to review Lava Chamber Gate, making it the second of our playset reviews. If you're interested in the playsets, or even if you're not, give it a read to find out all about it!
Back in 2005, LEGO did something insane. They combined Bionicle with System. The first year was prevailingly successful with Tower of the Toa, Visorak Ram, Visorak Gate, and Battle for Metru Nui all bringing about BZP buzz. Now itís 2006 and the playsets have returned once more. And once again that question remains: Can Bionicle really work well with System?
I will attempt to answer that question for at least one set in this review of the Lava Chamber Gate.
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.
The design on the front of the box certainly grabs the consumerís attention. With flashy lava splashing everywhere, jagged rocks intensifying the dark landscape, we see a plastic bridge (Boy, that stuffís strong!) stretching across a river of lava. We see Toa Inika on surfboards braving the elements, two of which are equipped with giant Zamor launchers. A Piraka catapult is firing a Zamor 'cannonball'. We see a blue Zamor glance off of a shield atop one of the towers. The right side of the bridge collapses into the fiery river, with an unfortunate Piraka going down with it!
As I was sifting through the boxes and looking at the design, I kept going back to the Lava Gate set. The scene was much more intense than the Piraka Outpost, Race for the Mask of Life, or Piraka Stronghold, with the pulse of the river and the suspense of the falling bridge. My bet is that if the cover designs determined how the sets sold, Lava Gate would be a smash hit among the four playsets.
And then we go to the back, which is the second thing that kids are going to look after they catch sight of the nifty-looking cover design. The designers lay out a lava river on the left side of the box, keeping the energy of the front design going, whilst advertising the other playsets on top of that. We see an interesting looking alternate model, consisting of a tower and an 'island' with a cannon. Then we lay out the LEGO scene, magnifying the setís special features, namely the catapult, Zamor cannons, falling jail bars, and (of course) the falling bridge. At the bottom, we see the Inika and Piraka charging at one another with weapons drawn.
But thatís enough about the box.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
So you've bought it and taken it home (or at least made it to the car), punched the perforated tabs and dump out the contents. What do you get for your money?
Being a system set, of course, this set comes with more pieces than most Bionicle Technic sets. It mostly consists of dark blue, gray, and black pieces with which to build the two main towers of the bridge. The Technic assortment here mainly consists of plus rods, Zamor Launcher ingredients, a pair of Chronicler staffs, Brutaka swords, two Axonn masks, and Gahlok-Kal shields. That leaves us with the tower bases, the surfboards, the minifigure ingredients, and a few other various odds and ends. Not a bad assortment in my mind, even if you only count the Technic pieces.
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 interesting pieces that you will encounter.
Here we have the relatively new pieces. The surfboards, with a hole for a small ball to snap into and two studs for the Inika to latch on. I totally love these pieces because of their smooth edges, which means you can surf them just about anywhere with no problem (even on water!), which is what I tend to do with them.
Then we have the weapons. Looking there, you can see some pretty cool weapons (one of which looks peculiarly similar to Matoroís sword). Weíve got swords, drills, an axe, a hammer, and a variety of claws. However, some of these weapons are simply ridiculous. We see one weapon, the one Zaktan is dropping when he falls off the bridge on the box, that looks more like a TV antennae than any sort of weapon. Weíve also got something reminiscent of a pogo stick in the line-up down there. While the effort is a nice one on LEGOís part, it might be better next time to make weapons that look more... like weapons.
"Yeah, it looks tacky, but you should see the definition we get with this thing..."
"Yeah, well isnít that just peachy. The Inika gets swords and axes. And what do we get? Pogo sticks."
I think LEGO did something really cool with this set. Some observant BZPers may have noticed that while on the box image, the Inika are holding weapons, but in the instruction manual they are given completely different weapons, and they seem to swap weapons in every picture you see. This, my friends, isnít a photographic error. Itís something better.
Back when fans were complaining about the almost identical structure of the Hordikaís weapons, I guess LEGO took it as summons to go for some variety and to make a point of not assigning the minifigures any specific weapon. This set gives the consumer more weapons than the minifigures, so that you can apply whatever weapons you want at whatever time you want.
We also see the minifigure parts. The body is the same for all the minifigures, consisting of the torso, arms, hands, and legs. The differences in the characters are in their colors and faces. However, to clarify that the Piraka are the bad guys, LEGOís thrown in those nifty little spines which attach to the back of the head.
Other pieces are pretty standard. Youíve got two Chronicler Staffs, two Kanohi Rodes, three Zamor launchers worth of pieces, two big bases, two Brutaka swords, couple oí chains, and your everyday system blocks.
Just from my opinion, it seemed at first that there... well... just werenít enough pieces. It looked like the thing was always going to come out half-built. However, donít be fooled by this. Thereís plenty of pieces to go around.
What can you expect while putting this model together?
Building a playset, for me, is always more lengthy than building a Titan. For one thing, Iíve been purely a Bionicle fan for a long time, so I donít pow-wow with system too much anymore. Another thing is that the pieces are always so small.
Building the minifigures was ridiculous, in my opinion. My experience was that I was waiting for my mother and sibling to come out of a Hallmark store. With my unopened set sitting before me, I decided to put together the minifigures in my spare time. It was at this point I realized that they decided to play Scavenger Hunt. For some odd reason, the minifigure pieces are scattered about the bags so that some body parts are cut off from each other until you dump everything out onto the floor. Luckily enough, the hands were all in one bag, but I must say that there really should be at least two extra hand pieces, because theyíre tedious to handle and itís easy to lose one. Unfortunately, there are none; so be cautious!
Building the actual set, I found, was pretty easy. A few points, due to perspective, were a bit hard for me to interpret exactly how many studs over they wanted certain bricks, but in the end it just took a little common sense.
So now itís built. Letís pit our eight-year-old trapped in a teenagerís body methods to see what this baby can do.
So you've got the model together, but is it more like playing with a block of wood or an interactive toy?
Alright, so youíve got it set up, a big bridge and four surfboards. So what do you do? The suggested Inika attack the Piraka? A chase on the surfboards? Switch sides? Battle on the bridge? Itís up to you, but here are a few things I noticed whilst playingÖ
If any of you have heard me "on the air," so to speak, you know that I have constantly poked fun at LEGO about the surfboards in this set. And, for the most part, I was right. The surfboard can not stand on its own with the Zamor launcher. It will tip over.
"IÖumÖdonít think those things are particularly safe."
"Hey, whoís the engineer here, you or me?"
The only way to balance it is to add a Toa that is standing perfectly sideways, and even then, you have to be careful placing them down.
And heaven forbid we add any Zamor.
Honestly, I rarely used the Zamor with the surfboards. I just had the Inika and Piraka surf without them. I almost never knocked down the bridge with the launcher on the surfboard, but if you want to, you still can, you just have to hold it up.
When your figures are riding the surfboard, there are two stances they can take up. You can have them stand completely sideways or you can do the one-stud diagonal stance. The latter is my favorite stance, personally, because it allows room for some dueling.
Now, despite their being miniscule, the minifigures are the most important part of the set. Without Nuparu, Matoro, Hahli, and Hewkii facing off against Zaktan, Avak, Vezok, and Hakann, this set would have virtually nothing. Last year, the minifigures were the primary discouragement to buying the playsets. So how do these measure up?
These guys beat the patooties out of last yearís. Not only do we have moving arms, hands, and heads, but we also have waist articulation! So now Matoro can wind up for that swing. Unfortunately, the waist doesnít bend like regular LEGO minifigures, which means you canít have them bend into the surf while theyíre on their boards, but I still think itís pretty cool.
Another cool thing to be noted, since the arms arenít implanted into the body like the regular LEGO minifigures, you can actually make it so that they come out sideways and not just back and forth, as seen in the above picture.
Of course, this does result us in a few... awkward situations at times.
My only real complaint about them is that I think Nuparu and Hewkiiís heads are far too long, making them look like bloodhound Inika.
Now, as I mentioned, the Piraka are classified with a spine. This spine pops into a little hole in their heads. However, the spine isnít limited to this. Thereís actually four different ways Iíve found to use them.
- The traditional way.
- The stegosaurus look.
- A flogging whip for your own purposes.
- Give Hahli that feminine touch she greatly lacks.
Want to get even more creative with your minifigures? Well, a few cybernetic hands couldnít hurt (I didnít get a picture of this, but you can see for yourself by simply plucking out the hands on the minifigures and replacing them with weapons).
Overall, the minifigures really have drastically improved and given the set more potential than the Hordika minifigures did.
As some of you may have guessed, the bridge pieces are completely separate from the two buildings that connect the bridge. The bridge pieces are held in place by a technic stud connected to the targets atop the towers and a small support area on the sides of the towers.
If youíre even more perceptive, you might figure that the plus rod is attached to the Gahlok-Kal shield. Youíd be right. When that shield is pushed in, it pulls the plus rod out of the brick that holds up that half of the bridge and sends it plunging to the ground.
This is just a perfectionist irk of mine and it may just be something quirky with my set, but my bridge did not line up straight across. The Kanohi Rode somewhat rounds it out, but it still does not line up perfectly. This personally keeps me awake at night, but hopefully it wonít bug you as much.
Now, over here on the right tower weíve got a catapult. Back in 2005, Tower of the Toa had a catapult that had a mechanism where you had to hit it just right to fling the boulder. This has been ridiculously simplified to a simple flicking lever, but it works much better than that of the 2005 catapults.
I, however, didnít use the catapult too much because I was too busy on the left tower playing with the Zamor cannon. As I mentioned in my Toa Hewkii review, I love the rapid-fire Zamor launchers, so I had a lot of fun with the cannon picking off Piraka and Inika below. The way it's set up is cool, giving the appearance of being like a Death Star Turret, making that side of the building particularly threatening.
Now hereís a feature most members didnít seem to pick up on. Both buildings have an instant cell trap. Iím surprised they donít feature this more because they put a good deal of effort into it. I like to think of it as Avakís prison power, but whatever.
Basically, there are bars on the second floor, right?
Now we pull out this little pole and the bars fall onto the first floor, trapping in any unfortunate trespasser below!
And LEGO even saves us the trouble of having to pull up the bars ourselves, you just pull up on the Chronicler Staff and push the pole back in. Presto! Everythingís back to normal.
Of course, since the building is fairly open on all sides, the idea is kind of ridiculous from a realistic standpoint.
"Oh no! Iím trapped! I canít get out! NOOOOO!"
"Isnít he, like, the smart one?"
As with any playset, there is a certain amount of temptation to bring in the real deals. I found it particularly fun to suddenly storm the bridge with a Toa Inika, and if you have Vezon & Fenrakk, itís like Bionicleís Godzilla.
"What? Do I have something on my face?"
Another interesting thing you can try is just to ditch the whole bridge concept and go with a sort of Piraka outpost idea. Iíve done this multiple times and have had a good deal of fun with it. And I canít tell you how much time Iíve spent simply having a surfboard chase across the couch or on the coffee table.
What you do is really up to you, but there is oodles of fun to be had with this set.
Here's where it all boils down to whether the model is worth your money and time or not.
So here are the two questions it all boils down to: One, is it worth your money, and two, does it measure up to the first playsets?
The answer to number one? Iím not going to say "This should be $60, itís so awesome, so itís totally worth your money." Iíve never really agreed with any of the playset pricing. The Lava Chamber Gate seems worth about $30-35 in my mind. However, I will say that this set is definitely loads of fun and is a highly recommended item of choice if you find yourself with a $40 giftcard at your local LEGO retailer.
And number two? I bought this set two weeks ago, and Iím still playing around with it frequently. Tower of the Toa began to lose interest by this point. The minifigures alone are enough to make me more interested in this set than last yearís. I would say that, for me at least, this set is definitely a great follow-up to last yearís.
Despite illogical jail cells, disproportionate surfboards, and unaligned architecture, I find the Lava Chamber Gate set to be a great addition to my collection.
The Lava Chamber Gate Playset: $40.00
Destroying a Piraka fortress, saving the universe, and getting to enjoy ĎFinding Nemoí in the comfort of your own living room all before dinnertime:
And that concludes our 2006 reviews (for real this time ;-) ). I hope you enjoyed the varied perspectives all of our reviewers gave to each of the different sets. Be sure to thank them all, Dr. Bionicle especially for this last playset review. Tune in next year to get all the unique and varied insight you've come to expect from these reviews applied to the new 2007 sets!
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