Friday, January 18th, 2008 at 2:36pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
It is time yet again for another review. Today BZPower Forum Assistant Smeagol4 has reviewed the Limited Edition package of the Makuta Mutran and Matoran Vican. Read on to see if these villains make a good combo or not. Check it out!
Hello there, BZPower; I'm here again, actually at an appropriate time for once, to review one of the year's newest Bionicle sets: Mutran & Vican. Expectedly, I have filmed a supplementary video review, but regrettably my camcorder is broken and I had to resort to using the film feature on an old digital camera. This meant I was only able to record sixty seconds of footage at a time, and the quality is despicably poor. Nevertheless I persevered and stitched together this footage for the benefit of you, dearest readers, because I know you want to see my stunningly handsome (or disgustingly pallid) hands in action building this set.
I would recommend you begin downloading the video now, two sizes of which are linked to below, and read the textual review while it downloads. I implore you not to stream the video, because we all know
BZ's server is shaky enough without a strain like that imposed upon it.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The medium-sized cardboard box that houses the pieces of Mutran and Vican is not as graphically imposing as many boxes of the past. The characters don't sport a fantastically flamboyant color scheme or
lunging, leaping-out-at-the-browser pose like last year's comparably-priced set, Nocturn. Rather, the villainous Makuta and his lackey sport benign, unassuming poses that betray the violent evil in
The package's designers did not plan for action-filled poses or bright, attractive color schemes to catch the eye of prospective buyers of Mutran and Vican. The draw with this box is something entirely
unique: Mutran and Vican's packaging sports a new two-level 'windowpane' effect that makes the box art three-dimensional. Mutran's little partner hovers behind the stoically sinister Makuta. The effect
is quite interesting and very appealing. This is definitely among my favorite Bionicle packages.
The art style of this year appears to hearken back to 2004, with mostly blue hues (though not in an underwater manner like 2007, of course) and a return of the repeating hexagonal pattern. Also like 2004
is the effect of the set coming through some sort of gap-Nidhiki or Nivawk could replace the CGI art of Mutran and Vican and no one would notice at first glance. While I still prefer the elegant, desaturated
style of the 2006 boxes and was disappointed when the décor did not become standard, this is still a very appealing and graphically likable box.
The back of the box sports purpose similar to all other Bionicle box-backs, if I may invent a new colloquialism. It shows pictures of the set in different poses than the front, highlights their action
features, and advertises the other sets released in this wave. The only new thing of note is that the perforated punch-holes now have an illustration that diagrams how to open the box. I had always thought it
was rather self-explanatory but this addition is nothing to complain about.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The contents of the box consist of the predicted porous plastic pouches and inevitable, inexorable, indispensable instructions. No advertising booklets or offers to join the Lego Club were included;
those appear to have been wholly phased from existence.
This set includes a number of pieces from new molds and still more in rarer colors. Limegreen, a color I adore (I have a weakness for all things verdant), features prominently. New pieces include ghastly,
villainous Kanohi masks, Blade-like wings, several useful new connective bricks, and, of course, pieces that compose the new action feature of these Makuta-Phantoka, a cluster bomb of sorts. I find the
most interesting and potentially-useful new piece to be the all-translucent head of Vican. This could be wildly useful in MOCs.
The building process is rather straightforward. Vican is done in seconds.
Mutran's construction has little variation from the standard "Inika" template, though there are enough new differences, particularly due to his chest-mounted weapon, to make putting him together at least mildly interesting. By today's standards it is an above-average Bionicle building experience, though those of us who were fans in the earlier years will yearn for an intricate, almost artistic design like the
Boxor's, which was only dollars more than this set and was an utter pleasure to construct. This set, like nearly all Bionicle products of recent years, is more concerned with getting to the finished "action
figure" as speedily as possible. I consider that a shame; Lego's big draw to me when I was young (and still today) was the construction process. Innovation and complexity grower scarcer every year in the
Bionicle line; the designers need to be careful not to let Bionicle lose it roots.
Still, as I said, this set has a satisfactory build; putting it together is at least mildly enjoyable. It was quite fun to learn how the clusterbomb weapon was constructed.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
As this product is essentially a packaging of two sets (a biproduct?), I am compelled to detail both separately.
The little guy, Vican, is nothing remarkable. He looks merely adequate. He suffers from an all-too-common problem with "modern" Bionicle sets: He is laughably wafer-thin. He won't provide any
remarkable entertainment save in conjunction with the big guy. If he were packaged separately I wouldn't bother purchasing him.
He has a few neat points, almost solely in the department of new pieces. That translucent single-piece head has elephantine potential and I dearly pine for it to be produced plentifully and peppered
properly in a ponderous plethora of palette permutations in products. Also of interest are the new limb pieces, regrettably positioned at a ninety-degree angle but concocted with a socket-joint at one end and a ball-joint at the other. This likely could become a very useful MOCing brick indeed.
While the little guy disappoints, however, the big guy delivers, albeit moderately. Mutran looks pretty "cool," with a winged, fanged design evocative of a bat. He also has a far more
realistically-proportioned body (except for his arms, which are laughably long), which helps make him one of the best-looking "canister-level" set in metaphorical eons. From the looks of them, I
would put my money on these healthy Makuta winning any battle against those emaciated Toa.
In addition to the improved proportions, Mutran's design aesthetic is rather good. Aside from some unfortunately bulbous thigh and bicep armor (Piraka armor was not the proper piece to use), he has a sharp,
angular appearance that looks very evil. He really can appear active and deadly in any possible pose, and twenty-three points of articulation allow for plenty of those (note the matching meter and
rhyme in the preceding couplet of clauses--did I lapse into verse?).
Ten of those articulated joints are for uncommon aspects of the set's design-wicked wings and cool claws. The wings fold and flap in countless possible ways. They certainly aren't of a realistic
size-anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of biology or anatomy can see that there is no way those tiny wings could lift big Mutran off the ground. But this is unimportant. The look excellent and
function well. The final six of these ten uncommon articulated points are for the villain's fearsome claws. They are one of my favorite aspect of the set; they truly look terrifying. I question why Mutran
was given peripheral weapons when his claws are very obviously weapons unto themselves. While I will not complain about more pieces included in the set, I generally choose to leave his weapons discarded, as I
find them to look silly in their superfluity.
There is one glaring design flaw in Mutran that detracts from its otherwise-appealing status. The socket-joint that forms the base of the next is connected by a plus-rod in a round pin hole. This results in a head that is securely attached but loose, bobbing and nodding and floundering whenever the figure is moved. I don't know why the torso piece wasn't constructed with a plus-rod hole instead of a round pin
hole; this annoying problem would have been easily avoided.
The color scheme of both is rather nice; black and limegreen go very well together and the two are well-balanced to compliment each other admirably. It is unfortunate that the wonderful pigmentation aesthetic is disturbed violently by the presence and overabundance of shiny silver, a color of which there has been a glut in Bionicle sets since 2003. It was tiresome by mid-2004 and it is excruciating today. Silver is one of my favorite hues, but it is used improperly and in excess in Bionicle sets.
But here it is not done as badly as in other sets, and it at least actually looks like armor on this set. It is not likeable but it is not unacceptable either.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
For the first time in quite a while, there is actually a sort of action feature incorporated into Mutran. Pushing in a taut silver portion of the figure's back causes his ribcage to swing open and allow
a translucent orange ball to drop or launch from inside his torso.
Oh No! We're in "Alien"!
Yes, all right, it's a bit lame, if you will permit me to slide momentarily into vernacular. Our first action feature in four years is simply letting a piece fall off the set. The ball is supposed to
explode upon striking the ground (or presumably a target) and scatter 'shadow leeches' which are cool little rubber things that, unlike those much-lampooned polyps of yesteryear, actually have connection
holes. Unfortunately this cluster bomb only works roughly fifty percent of the time - half of my attempts results simple in a ball rolling across the ground, unbroken. A lot of variables, such as height from which it is dropped and hardness of the surface it lands upon, will affect its performances, undoubtedly.
It is still more interesting than the other 'action feature' though, which is simply that the little guy can ride the big guy. This consists of simply plugging Vican into Mutran's rear.
However, although the features may be somewhat lackluster, these sets do something for the first time in years. I am quite excited and I find this to be a big step in the right direction.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- The comparatively low price is phenomenal.
- The overall design aesthetic is 'cool.'
- The wings and articulated claws are great.
- The coupling of lime and black produces a great color combination.
- There are some useful new pieces included.
- There are actually some actions features.
What's not to like?
- The aforementioned action features are lame (though better than nothing).
- Color issues are prevalent in overabundance of silver and the blue pins.
- The construction is still very generic.
- Vican is wholly uninteresting.
- There is a major design flaw in the neck that causes the head to bobble around.
Mutran & Vican has flaws, but it has lots of good points as well. What's more, it's a step in the right direction, and at twelve dollars (USD) I'd go so far as to define it as a steal. The gimmick of
this year is that year canister has a set has a Matoran partner-but this set is the only one where the partner comes packaged together with the bigger guy. In addition to this, it is less expensive than
purchasing another Phantoka and his Matoran partner separately.
It is not a perfect set, but it's definitely not bad. MOCists may only find select pieces from the set interesting, but this set isn't Garan. It doesn't cater to MOCists. This set is great for anyone
looking to get a good, fun Bionicle set to play with. Parents, I would especially recommend selecting this if you're looking for a gift for your child. It costs less money than buying any of the 'paired'
characters this year separately, and they'll probably like the bigger box better anyway.
If you're looking for a really unique, innovative new Bionicle set, Mutran & Vican may disappoint. Still, I'd say it is the best set released for 2008 thus far; if you're only going to get one set from
this wave, I'd recommend this one.
Be sure to thank Smeagol4 for his in-depth review of Mutran & Vican. As always, be sure to keep checking back on BZPower for more set reviews and the latest Bionicle news!
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