Saturday, January 26th, 2008 at 3:29pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
It's review time again! Today BZPower Forum Assistant InnerRayg reviews the very unique Makuta Vamprah. To see why he's so different and to see if that's the kind of set you want, read on for all the exciting details.
This is your friendly neighborhood Rayg, back again to help you decide just which set is going to be getting your money. So if you're ready to take this exciting plunge into capitilism, let's begin.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The new canisters for this year are fairly interesting. In 2007 it looked like fully plastic canisters had become a thing of the past, however they have made a triumphant return this year. They are almost exactly as large and as thick as the Mahri canisters, so be sure to keep a sharp eye out in the stores for them, as they can blend in with the last year's sets. Unlike last years, however, they are more rounded, and so much harder to stack to save space.
These canisters still retain a two-part construction - the Blue cave design is fully textured and features an embossed "Bionicle" at the top that seems pretty distinct compared to the flat designs of the past. It is attached to the main canister with some very strong tape - I suggest using a knife to cut it instead of trying to tear it, as you can damage the sticker on the canister otherwise. This piece looks cool as an addition to the box art, but it serves no purpose once you've opened the toy unless one wants to use it as a creative window-frame for the set as pictured on the back. It's not the easiest to make stand on it's own though, and removing it from the actual canister leaves the transparant black portion looking lonely.
The canister has a "lid" on it that is made of a flimsy plastic which is difficult to pop off-it takes a little elbow grease, but eventually you can open it up and get to the pieces inside.
I think presentation wise these designs are very creative, and they will make the Phantoka stand out on the shelves-however they can also obscure the set itself in some cases, and I think taking the idea and making it slightly less cluttered would be a good decision for Lego. It would also be nice if the decorative portion could feature some connection points - I'm sure somebody could turn this cave design into something useful.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The opening on the box is a little small, so you might have trouble getting out a few of the bigger parts if they get stuck, but when you finally do succeed you end up with a cool little pile of parts that vary from dark blues and blacks to bright orange and an instruction booklet. The instruction booklet has returned to a horizontal orientation, instead of the vertical orientation we saw on the Inika when they came out.
The insides are pretty standard fare - the illustrations are in cartoon style, and for the most part the rest of the pages are blank, unlike the more decorated instructions that we had in 2001 and 2002.
Of the parts you are getting in this set, there are about seven new molds, and two pieces in new colors. On the left we have the new molds - Vamprah's Kanohi Avsa, which sucks out the hope of anyone in range, the new wing piece in two colors, a new body piece and accompanying "rib cage", the Tridax pod and it's contents, some slightly new molded hip joints, and some new colors for Takadox's armor piece and the Mahritoran blades.
Once you start building the set, the thing that makes Vamprah stand out becomes immediately apparant. Unlike his contemporaries, his leg design uses the Mahri blades as very sharp feet, making them much more like a real bat's legs. These, unfortunately, make it impossible for Vamprah to stand without support from his arms, but I think the creativity in this more than makes up for the lack of bipedal motion.
It is easy to fit the new Pod into the chest of the set by pressing the back of the silver piece, which forces it open to allow the ammunition inside. This part looks great. Even if you don't like the concept of a "chest shooter", the glowing orange look and the rib-like construction of the firing mechanism makes the Tridax pod seem like a glowing "heart" for the Makuta. The Tridax pod is extremely well supported, and does not move around at all when in place.
The arms are more standard fare - they feature a Piraka arm with Gali's claw and the two wing pieces (one in each color) attached to create a "wing". I think it's interesting that unlike every set that has come out since 2002, Vamprah features no real weapons to speak of other than his mask and claws.
After attaching the arms, the only thing left is the head, which poses a small problem. The plus rod used to keep the hand joint in place on the body is not held in place, but left loose, which means the head will wiggle around a little. This is an annoying aspect of the set and probably the one thing I would have suggested Lego fix before releasing this set - it's not just Vamprah, this happens in all sets with Tridax pods.
Ultimately I feel that while there's nothing that will blow your mind on this set, its construction features enough new things such as the Tridax Pod and the ingenious legs to make it a good experience, and one you probably won't be able to do without a glance at the instructions.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
To start off, I'd like to look at some of the cool pieces that make up Vamprah:
The wing pieces are very cool little bits of work - they are easy decorative pieces that will work well on any MoC that features a similiar color scheme. Surprisingly, the end is a flexible rubber that gives the wings a much more leathery feel, very similiar to a real bat. The silver portion is solid plastic, so the piece can still be easily placed in it's connection point.
The Kanohi Avsa, like all Makuta masks we've seen this year, is two-toned blue and silver. It is extremely long, and when Greg described these masks as things a Toa would never wear, he was absolutely right -not only does it have an insidious power, but the fact that it so closely resembles a bat makes it look silly on anything that is not innately beast-like, especially a bipedal Toa. While it fits perfectly on a Metru head, it really is more like a Barraki head in what it should be used for.
The only problem with the mask I personally have is with the design of the mouth - the "roaring" position of it's jaws give Vamprah a "gaping" or vacant look if not in the right position. Basically, if you look him head on he's either about to feast on your lifeblood or really confused.
The new body piece is humongous - as far as I can tell, it's the biggest single canister body piece so far, with the possible exception of Kongu Mahri's body. It resembles the Hordika's in its design, but it has a lot more flexibility in its number of connection points, and the gaping hole in the middle of the chest really doesn't seem like it would hamper creativity, but actually improve it with new creative solutions. The head connects through a hole in the top that allows the skinny portion of a hand joint go in and then a plus rod to steady it, and there are pin holes on either side for the rib cage, as well as the usual places for the lower toa metru body to attach and three pin holes that are horizontal and not used in the set's construction. These lead to a lot of options for any industrious MoCer.
The flexible silver ribs inside are made of a much softer plastic and fit into the bottom of the body with two pins on either side, meaning you push it up to get it in place. This isn't as difficult as it would seem, because the piece's flexibility allows you to bend it to get it in place. Once in, it's a very snug fit and not prone to shaking or moving around.
The new Tridax pod is actually just one new piece - each side is symmetrical. They fit together pretty well, but are obviously designed to break apart. They also feature the great addition of a rod hold through the end, meaning you could use these as some very creative decorations for any MoC if you so desired. These are also the most vibrant parts of the set - they stand out immediately and liven up an otherwise dull pile of parts.
You get four of the new ammunition pieces in this set - these are called Shadow Leeches, and they are fairly clever for what they are. They come in the same variance of colors as the blue squids of last year. These are rubbery pieces, and feature a cute face on one, and an extremely convenient connection point on the back for a plus rod to fit into. I applaud Lego for this ingenuity into what would otherwise be a useless part. The face is also really clever - it adds a lot of character to the sets that I felt was missing with the Squids, and helps bring back a lighter tone to Bionicle. It can't be all doom and gloom , right?
Like all the Makuta this year, Vamprah's design is based on a bat's. However, unlike the others, Vamprah is not just a biped with wings; he is a completely new shape that has not really been seen before in Bionicle. His design means that he can not stand on his hind legs and must assume a pose more similiar to the Vahki of yester-year. While the other Makuta are capable of standing with all four limbs supporting them, Vamprah is the only one that looks like he was designed to be like this from the start. Some people don't like that he can't stand on his own, but I think it's a great addition that helps us remember what made the original designs of the Barraki in 2007 so great. While the sets this year aren't bad, I would have appreciated more differentation between the canister sets like we had last year.
Vamprah is fully poseable, but his lack of lower legs does limit the amount of poses he can assume without falling over. He must always be supported by one or both of his front limbs, however the length of the wing piece means that just one is more than sufficiant to hold him up with no trouble. His lack of poseability is going to be a negative for people who like to display their sets, but rest assured that while he's not really able to take on a great deal of poses, the ones he can do are usually very impressive.
Alternatively, you could position Vamprah in a "flying" pose, and I would venture to guess that this is the position the set designers had in mind when they made him. His legs become a non-issue when he's like this, however unless you plan to hang him up with some string or something akin, I wouldn't suggest this pose for anything but role playing. He looks cool from above or below, and the way his wings are constructed make "banking" or turning positions look really cool and easy to pull off.
The only other problem I had with Vamprah's design is one that hearkans back to the year of 2001 - owners of either Gali Mata or Nivawk will definately be saddened to hear that the problem in her hook's mold that sometimes made them loose and fall out of their sockets is still existant. One of my set's hooks is firmly in place, but the other falls out if held completely vertical and as such I must be careful when positioning him. I would have hoped that with all the new molds for old pieces would have extended to her hook, but it was not to be so. This seems to be a pure luck thing-some hooks are firm, some of them will fall out if you look at them. If it really bothers you, you might consider checking the BST forum for others willing to sell firm hooks.
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?
I've already gone over the poseability of the set - Vamprah looks great if you want to play with him swooping through the sky; I think he's one of the best for this kind of play, as he is specifically designed to be bat-like and aerodynamic. However, his other important function deserves a mention.
The Tridax pod which is held in every Makuta's chest is easy to launch - pressing on the piece from the back forces the ribs out, and the Pod will fall out (or launch, if you put a lot of force behind it). This pod is not like a Zamor - it's not meant for hitting sets at any kind of distance. Instead it's meant to hit opponents from above, so pretending to have Vamprah swoop overhead works well with his action feature.
The pod is fairly robust - just dropping it from the set onto any kind of soft surface will not make it break apart and spread its shadowy goodness. I managed to drop this from a height of about six inches and get it to pop open, but I had to put some force into it; if you just press the button lightly and drop it onto carpet it won't break. On the flip side, you don't want to push it out too hard or onto a really hard surface-your Leeches will go everywhere and you might lose them. As a function though, I think it's very clever, easy to do, and fun. I don't think this will damage the pods, but be careful nontheless not to drop it on something really tough like gravel or concrete, there's no telling if it could scratch up the pod or not.
Unfortunately, I don't have the money to help detail Vamprah's other action "feature"; his set features an extra connection point that, when used in conjunction with the smaller blue set Gavla, allows the Shadow Matoran to ride on top of Vamprah. While I think it's a genious marketing move by Lego to keep your set from being complete until you buy the little version as well, it is a bit of a drawback that your set is going to look lonely unless you can spend the money to get it's counterpart immediately.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Cool new canister design
- New and interesting parts - like the body, wings, and mask - make great additions as decorative or structural pieces to a MoCer's resources
- Unique design that is dissimiliar from other bipedal sets released this year
- Excellent role-playing potential for people who like to play with their sets
- Cool action feature that doesn't require a bulky launcher
What's not to like?
- Extra portion of canister is useless after opening
- Lack of poseability
- High price to parts ratio
- Loose parts - the Silver Gali hook may fall out easily
- Floppy head driving one to insanity
- An "incomplete" set - like Mutran, this set is designed to need the Matoran to really be a comprehensive set, but the Matoran is sold seperately in this case, meaning you'll have to buy both
I think Vamprah may be the underdog for this year - people are put off by his unique design, and if one is purely worried about positioning their sets for display it's a valid concern. However he is really just fun to play with, and I think in the end this is what's important. The toy has to be fun, and if Vamprah didn't make me want to play with the Makuta, making him swoop in the sky and dive bomb opponents, I wouldn't suggest it as highly as I am trying to. It's a good design. He looks like a bat, like an evil creature bent the destruction of all that is good, and a silent hunter as his bio suggests. If you're not interested in working with a new body piece or playing with the new wings, he might not be so great for a MoCer, but I feel like his parts do provide some useful and interesting things for people to play with. So if you liked 2007's unique villians, Vamprah is a good choice for you. If you like playing, then he will present you with lots of flying fun. If you like just posing your sets, you may want to pass him up.
Hopefully this review shed some light on this bat-like Makuta and helped you reach a conclusion about him. Be sure to thank InnerRayg for the review and all that fun stuff. As always, keep checking back for more reviews and the latest Bionicle news right here at BZPower.
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