Thursday, July 16th, 2009 at 11:02pm by Andrew M, BZPower Reporter
Holy Unferth, is summer already halfway through? What is more, we have not even dented half the summer wave of product with our usually oh-so-timely reviews? This is preposterous. I will not stand for this. I prefer to be sitting when I utilize the computer, anyway. So join me, denizens of BionicleZone-Power, and listen as I present to you a review of 8985 Ackar in both text and VIDEO format. Read on to enjoy!
First things must understandably come first before I proceed. The links to the video, in several lovely sizes, are present below. Please do not stream the video; download it to your computer instead and watch it on your media player of choice. I also wish to apologize in advance for an item: my camera does not process reddish hues in a particularly stellar fashion. This adversely affects the photography of this fire-themed set, obviously. Hopefully my volubility will make up for this.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
With the ghastly exception of the otherwise-adequate 2007, the main line of "action figure" major characters in the BIonicle franchise always comes packaged in a resealable canister, which functions both as an attention-grabbing device and a convenient methord with which to store and port the toy (a successful strategy first utilized by Bionicle's predecessor, the Throwbots). Sometimes these cans have storyline significance, such as the original Toa cans and the Bohrok pods, and sometimes they have none, as is the case with Ackar. A lack of appearance in the mythos, however, does not preclude this packaging from serving its initial purpose, and well: the great girth of the canister (it is comparable in size to an Inika canister, as most have been since that upgrade) allows plenty of space to emblazon a CG photograph of the toy for all to ogle. Ackar looks steely and heroic, watching over the toy aisle of your local store like a ponderous protector. "Purchase me," he softly whispers from under his iron helm, his voice gritty and war-weary, but with an underlying tinge of compassion and self-aimed humour. "Do this using capitalism." You obey, mesmirized, not even noticing the labrynthine background behind Ackar, the standard warnings, logos, and piece counts that dot the can, or the back of the packaging, which has more warnings and adverisements for other products you could buy. After the transaction is complete, you return to your vehicle and either drive home to build the set, or open it immediately if you cannot wait. And is it merely your overactive imagination, or does the piece that will form Ackar's head smile, softly and contentedly, at you as it rolls onto the seat cushion of your car and gazes at you?
None of this happened to me, however, because the set was mailed to my door in a cardboard box. Awesome friends rock!
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The building is mundane. If you have built an Inika or any of the canister-level sets since 2006, you do not require the assistance of Ackar's instruction booklet. Limbs plug together and snap onto the torso: that is all. Such is the strategy of non-boxed Bionicle sets; they are made to come together as speedily as possible, and they do. The downside is that the construction process, supposedly the backbone of Lego products, can be neither savoured nor enjoyed.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
In terms of moulds, there is not a slew of new building elements in this set, though many are present in new colours. Just glancing at the bricks (and from the picture on the can, of course), the loveliness of Ackar's colour scheme is apparent. Classic "Mata" red and original orange have finally returned, after five years, and have been amaglamated together in perfect complement to each other here. It is as perfect a colour scheme for this fire-themed character as it was for the original Tahu eight years ago. I was ecstatic upon seeing all these bricks in these lovely colours that I have missed dearly, especially seeing things like armour and helmets in actual colours rather than simple being grey or silver. Bright colours are far more attractive, and far more eye-grabbing for the intended audience of children. I raise several thumbs in appreciation and encouragement of the return to colour.
As for the pieces themselves, I believe the only fully "new" bricks are the ankle armour and the pieces for the firesword. Also of interest are the hands, which I still like despite Patrick's protestations, the aforementioned orange armour, the spikeball, and the life counter with its very pirate-esque skull. Arr!
As the set stood completed I realized something even more impressive about the orchestration of the colour scheme, something I missed initially when just looking at the pieces. Ackar actually exhibits some proper colour layering: the orange in primarily confined to armour pieces, placed over his red "skin." There are some small places, like the ankles, where this is understandably different, but overall this methodology is well-applied and looks absolutely fantastic. In this, the way ackar's colour scheme is applied is actually better than the original Tahu's.
But there is more to like about Ackar than just his pigmentation. One thing I was quite quick to notice is that his proportions are far better than the past few years' sets.' They still are not perfect - his arms are just a little too long, and he uses the Inika torso which remains as terrible thin as it always has been - but at least, for example, the arms are shorter than the legs. All of Ackar's design elements, from the colour scheme to the helmet to the ankle armour, which greatly improves the appearance of those Inika legs, culminate to produce a quite aesthetically-pleasing figure.
It is not without its detriments, however. The ankle armour, for instance, though a brilliant idea, has not been executed superbly. It is tacked onto the leg only by a single half-pin and does not stay in place at all. It shakes, jiggles, and rattles about, never stationary, and thus never looking organically integrated. It has manifested itself as a great idea ruined by poor execution.
Ackar also suffers from the abominable Blue Pin Syndrome, which is especially obtrusive on this red set. Please go back to black pins, Lego. Please?
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?
Ackar has the now-standard thirteen points of articulation, giving him posing ability at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. The ankle mobility is inhibited somewhat by the armour there, but not disastrously so. With this level of articulation he can be placed in a gargantuan number of poses, suitable for all kinds of role-playing excitement. He will also look just fine standing on a collector's shelf, his beautifully translucent-orange flame sword eternally ready.
Though he lacks the fun gear-driven action functions of the predecessor I've compared him to muchly in this review, Tahu, he does have some small interactivity in the form of the Thornax spikeball launcher, which pretty okay as far as launchers go. I went over its operation in my Tuma review: it's a simple pressure shooter that launchers a metre or two, and thankfully the parts can actually be used easily in MOCing, unlike, for example, the Midak of last year. The main playability feature Ackar has, however, is the also-previously-covered game that ties together all the Bionicle products released this year. Its gameplay is simple: opposing teams line up their figures and shoot spikeballs at each other, each hit sending the dial down another notch. When a team is decimated, the other side wins. This game adds collectability to the sets, as gameplay increases with more figures, but thankfully it is merely a secondary aspect. Parents won't have to worry about their children "Needing" every set.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Wonderful colour scheme
- The return of classic red and orange (this is good enough to count as a separate point)!
- The proportions are better than most recent sets
- Lots of pieces in new, awesome colours
- SUPER ACTION FIGURE GAME (I'm told the capitalization is obligatory)
What's not to like?
- The building is not enjoyable
- There is nothing new or intuitive
- ANKLE ARMOUR DOES NOT STAY IN PLACE
- The proportions still aren't perfect and that Inika body is as laughable as ever
There is good and bad to Ackar, but there are so many good things about him in comparison to the preceding few years of Bionicle that I find myself wanting to emphasize the pros over the cons. Lego is taking many steps in the right direction, and I want to be encouraging about that. Really, just stabilizing the shin armour (which is the only true design flaw in this set) and bolstering the torso would make me definitively pleased with this set. What is even more encouraging in looking at the Glatorian Legends line as a whole: there is a lot of variety in the construction of each of these six fellows, and most do not use the Inika torso, which eliminates one of my major complaints about Ackar. As a wave of sets, these guys are pretty good, and much better than the dregs we've gotten these past few years. Ackar may not be the best entry in the line, but he's not bad at all.
Parents, this may be the first year in a long time where I recommend getting a canister-level set instead of one of the smaller ones if you're purchasing gifts for your Bionicle-fan children, for Ackar here is definitely, unequivocally better than the small sets and is not too much more expensive. The larger sets look good, but in these troubled economic times it may be difficult to shill out the necessary money, and so getting one or two canister sets maybe be the best option. With the SUPER ACTION FIGURE GAME, they can actually provide hours of entertainment, something that has been missing from canned Bionicle sets for some time.
That is all I have to say about Ackar. Share your thoughts in the talkback!
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