Thursday, August 7th, 2008 at 2:54am by Andrew M, BZPower Reporter
(Jai Guru Deva Om)
Storyline updates are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup: they slither while they pass; they slip away across the internet. A Takanuva Blog post here follows closely on the heels of a new serial there. With all this news focusing on the fictional, we find ourselves poised in danger of forgetting the monetary centre of the Bionicle franchise: the Lego sets. I feel it is high time to remedy this conundrum by feeding you a hearty set review full of glossy photographs, a gluttonously-sized video, and extra fiber. Read on to stomach it.
Indeed, your ears do not betray you: I have repaired my camcorder and now once again have the ability to transfer motion pictures onto digital film. Splendid! In celebration I deliver you my first video review since Mutran & Vican and my first utilizing this device since I roasted Nupari Mahri back in October. But be warned, this is a long one, and as always we implore you not to stream the video! Download it instead. Members of BZPower's forums know full well the server is shaky enough without this added strain. Right-click the appropriate link and select 'save target as.'
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
It's as big as a whale, and it's about to set sail!
Though to established fans, like the majority of this community's populace, the box may be nothing more than a mere, quickly-discarded cardboard commodity serving to said transportation of the product within from the factory to your hands (the store is but a middle-man), packaging is an essential component of peddling toys. A product's box must successfully attract a browsing person's attention from the competing toys on the shelf next to it. It must impressively display the product within (occasionally that requires deft disguising of design flaws). How else will new fans--and, therefore, money--be acquired?
Bionicle has historically had excellent packaging for its toys, originating with the Toa 'Olda's' resealable canisters, which not only could be incorporated into original creations, store the collectible Kanohi masks, and were featured prominently in the tie-in storyline, but also just looked rather 'cool.' Though they are contained only in Lego's standard-style cardboard boxes, the artwork and graphical interface of the larger sets' package has generally been of comparable quality. Though there have been occasional lapses in upholding this high standard over the years (the Mahri containers come to mind), most Bionicle packaging has been fun to view.
The box art for the Jetrax T6 and the 2008 product line is not my very favourite graphical theme in Bionicle, but it is perfectly adequate. After two years of new and unique styles--the pallid elegance of 2006's art (that is my very favourite yet) and the aquatic theme of 2007--Lego has returned to something evocative of Bionicle's earlier years, art-wise. I am especially reminded of the 2004 Metru-Nui packaging, in fact: the main colour is a very deep blue and the product is seen emerging from a 'rift,' much like the box art of Nidhki, Krekka, Turaga Dume. Absorbing a solid eighty percent of the surface area on the box's front, the model is well displayed photographically, though I fear its hues are a mite too similar to the rest of the box; it doesn't seem to 'jump out' at all, instead blending into its surroundings. I do notice, however, the immediacy and distinctness of the Bionicle logo--it is the first thing that grabs one's attention when viewing the box. Perhaps Bionicle has become a large enough name that it inspires some degree of 'brand loyalty'? This is quite interesting to a fan who saw the franchise taking its first baby steps!
One last thing to note about the packaging is its elephantine girth. It is one of the largest boxes to ever house a Bionicle set. Takutanuva and other store-exclusive combiner sets had larger packages, The box for the Manas was comparable in size I believe, but I seem to recall it being somewhat smaller. Then again, I was somewhat smaller at the time too, so god only knows how skewed my memories are (has it really been seven years? Really? Tell me me I'm not this old.). Regardless, the size alone is bound to have it noticed, which compensates for whatever areas in which the visuals may fall short. Brilliant!
The rest of the set isn't this monochromatic
Opening the box took some difficulty, but that is likely due to my ineptitude. It has no push tabs and was sealed with two pieces of industrial-strength scotch tape. I used a screwdriver or something to combat the defenses (this is all in the video review, naturally, for your enjoyment). The contents of the container that spill forth include three plastic bags stuffed to the brim with bricks, assorted larger pieces, and three instruction booklets. Yes, a trinity of instruction booklets is included, each one containing one-third of the set's construction directions. I find myself perplexed as to what the point of this is; the stopping points in each booklet are entirely random or so it seems to this mere mortal. I can only surmise that perhaps the machine printing the instruction booklets could only handle a certain amount of pages per tome, and thus subdivided the packets--and yet, I have bought Lego sets with larger, thicker, longer instruction booklets, like the second Millennium Falcon.
There is a fair assortment of new pieces included (most of which are photographed above), but the only piece of especial interest is an absolutely awesome three-way connection piece, with a plus-rod port in the centre and three #1-sized plus-rods arrayed in sixty-degree angles. So cool! I cannot even begin to fathom the myriad of uses this may garner in MOCs. Lego, you've done well.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
Unusually, I have included no photograph of the set during its construction. The reason for this is because I was having so dang much fun building it, i forgot to do so. This is a good sign indeed.
I will be honest in saying that Bionicle sets have been extremely dissatisfying in the building department for many years now. Nocturn I enjoyed, because he was somewhat innovative in his construction, but other than that one fabulous exception, I don't think I have enjoyed building a Bionicle set since Toa Lhikan three years ago. Over-simplification in all price points of the line has produced sets that just are not any fun to put together, and building the figures is what sets Lego products apart from those action figures on the pegs beside them. The construction is to be savored and enjoyed, something worthy of our attention, something to stimulate our cerebrum. This is what Lego is supposed to be all about. Sadly they'd largely abandoned this in the Bionicle line.
The Jetrax T6 does not quite reach the level of building perfection exhibited by the large sets of 2002, the Exo-Toa, Bahrag, and Boxor, in which every single brick seemed an integral component and building the set was like bringing a being to life, all the while being surprised by innovation and having grand fun. This set has plenty of bits that are just slapped on for decor. But that is okay. New York strip steak may not quite be fillet mignon, but it's still a darn good steak. The construction of the Jetrax T6 is intricate and intriguing, with little surprises here and there. Seeing it all come together (right now, over me) was magical. I had absolutely tremendous fun building this set.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
The Jetrax all its glory
To begin, the Jetrax looks quite impressive. It's an enormous set, with a wonderful and surprisingly realistic design aesthetic. The colours flow incredibly well and the splash of red in the cockpit, caused by the pilot, focuses the attention expertly to the bad dude at the controls.
'Look at that ugly mug! He looks like Boris Karloff!'
Speaking of the pilot: my first inclination was to write him off as a generic, subpar, and forgettable figure. Admittedly, he is; he's just one of the identical cookie-cutter humanoid designs that have been churned out as Toa and villains for years now. I quickly realized, however, that I was judging him improperly: while he would be inadequate as an independent set, the crimson fellow is not the focus of this set. The pilot figure in a vehicle toy need not have proverbial bells and whistles. He has none, and that is fine. I have nothing to complain about. Oh, and he has a mask that is exclusive to this set; that shall be a must for collectors.
More pictures of the cockpit than you can handle
The pilot sits in a comfy, cavernous cockpit complete with crazily credulous controls. The cockpit opens and closes easily, though I am slightly disappointed that the opening is not automatic--it would have been grand fun to be able to pull a level or press a button and have the cockpit swing or slide open, like the fighter jets the Jetrax emulates to some degree. Alas, it was not to be (perhaps I should investigate simple modifications). The action features were one of my favourite aspects of the Bionicle Sets of Yesteryear and I've missed them dearly these recent years.
Behold! Turbines! Action Features! Painful amounts of detail!
And that is yet another reason the Jetrax T6 has impressed me: though the cockpit lacks one, the set has an action feature. In a very cool bit mechanical automation, pressing a button on the hull of the ship causes the oversized turbines to deploy from 'parked' mode to 'cruising' mode. The action is smooth and works flawlessly. This excites me to no end! I always adored Lego sets in which the builder constructs an automated feature; when i was young there was a Wild West set I adored called the Sheriff's Lock-Up that included a jail that would explode when one inserted a brick with a dynamite design into a slot on the side. Something that is fun to build and fun to play with is the ultimate in the Lego playing experience. This is what Lego is all about.
Press the button to deploy the engines of doom
It is quite fun to pick up and fly around the room, too. One is never too old to hold a toy aircraft in his hand and make 'whooshing' sounds as he 'flies' it through the air. Never.
Yes, I am and adult and I play with toys. I have a degree! Aren't you frightened?
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
It is an utter delight to build
It has a fantastic action feature!
It is tremendous fun to play with
It's chock full of useful MOCing pieces, particularly those new three-way connectors.
It contains an exclusive mask
What's to like?
That price is brutal
What's not to like?
I have almost nothing ill to say about the Jetrax T6. It is fun to build, fun to play with, and fun to look at. Honestly the only drawback is the expensive price--you'll be shelling out a few Jacksons for this one. I can, however, recommend this over purchasing five Phantoka or Mistika (this year's canister-level sets), which would be comparable in price. This is a much more enjoyable product and will provide a much greater amount of lasting fun. If you are not willing to spend fifty or sixty dollars on a plastic toy, however, you'll have to aim at a lower price point--The Rockoh T3 or Vultraz, perhaps.
Hey, at least I'm cheaper than the big red one!
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