Saturday, June 19th, 2010 at 9:29pm by Andrew M, BZPower Reporter
Sweet mother of the Fender Stratocaster, I went to the local (Springfield, VA) Toys R Us to buy the Space Police Lunar Limo set today, and what did I see peering at me from the endcap?
That’s right, true believers. As reported yesterday, Hero Factory is here. Today I have for you the first in-depth review of this brand-new Lego line in print, with an additional video review. How does the new Hero Factory set design stack up against our old mainstay, Bionicle? Are the parts fully compatible? Find out this and more as I review #7170 Jimi Stringer. Hold onto your pith helmets.
Hendrix - er, I mean, Stringer - is one of the impulse-level sets, priced at $7.99 USD. Word on the storyline has been relatively scant, but presumably this riffin' fella fights the evil forces of Von Nebula alongside his Hero Factory team-mates. Putting the main characters at the lowest price point is an intriguing decision on Lego's part, and probably a wise one, ultimately: it can ensure that even the smallest sets are ones that the fans will really want.
Regardless of the marketing tactics, this is the set I purchased, and I invite you to watch a dazzling video review of it, starting...now!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The packaging is nearly identical to the Bionicle Stars packages, which is to say it is attractive and pleasing. It is a plastic canister with a pop-off lid, styled with the Hero Factory logo at its apex rather than the Skrall maze motif of Bionicle's death throes. Each can is coloured correspondingly to the hero it contains, which is black in this case.
The aesthetics of the label design are quite visually appealing, hearkening back somewhat to the simple style from 2006 that I've praised often. An angular diamond mesh criss-crosses in the background behind a stern, CGI portrait of the canister's contents. Above his right shoulder is his signature; above the left, concept art of his head, which is a fun touch. The 'Hero Factory' logo above Jimi displays a font size no greater than his printed name at the can's bottom.
The back of the package shows Stringer in action, facing a yellow, radioactive goon that will presumably be released later this summer. Like the can's front, there is also a callout here proclaiming 'From the makers of Bionicle characters' to snatch crossover fans, although this one is in French. Below this is the usual multilingual legal text that none of us reads. In the end, this canister is what we're used to from Bionicle - no big change, and it's still attractive. Lego, like AC/DC, sticks with what works.
THE BRICKS - WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
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 interesing pieces that you will encounter.
Surprise! Jimi Stringer is almost one-hundred percent new-mould pieces. Sadly, none of these are electric guitars, but I will make do. Everything except a few black new-wave hipjoints, a black Glatorian hand, and a trans-orange Glatorian head are from scratch, first seen here. The entire set is also bi-chromatic; everything is either black or a shade of orange. This is a strikingly wonderful colour combination, and not just for Hallowe'en.
Starting off the new pieces is the helmet, which is intense yet heroic in appearance. My best manner of analogous description would be to say that it takes the genetic material of a skull (Yorick?), Darth Vader, a jet engine, and a punk rocker. It is one of the best new 'masks' we've received in a good long while, and I approve. It's also quite detailed, down to microscopic texture in the mouthplate.
The turbine motif continues to many other pieces, including the torso armour and the feet. With the feet it is particularly fun, as one can imagine Jimi leaping up into the air on his Rocket Shoes, jet-propelled. It's a wonderful attention to detail and I approve immensely. This fun, detailed aesthetic expands to all the new-mould armour pieces. As for the limbs, they are classic orange and look straight out of Bionicle. The final piece is the trans-orange 'heart piece,' which is in a particular hue I do not recall seeing in Lego plastic before. It is lighter than the standard trans-orange. Quite interesting!
I'm not wholly impressed by the weapon arm, though. It's all one piece, and it's a mite too flat and hollow for my liking. The piece looks fantastic from the outside but inside the grand illusion is lost. I guess it was probably moulded in this manner in order to save plastic.
In short, I think all these pieces look quite useful for MOCing. They have a wealth of connection points and look to be fully compatible with Bionicle and Technic bricks.
What can you expect while putting this model together?
Well, here's something else similar to Bionicle: Stringer's building is quite quick. Indeed, like most impulse sets these days, he could probably be constructed properly without glancing at the instruction booklet; the only part that threw me off was that the weapon arm must be connected to a hipjoint; it doesn't have the joint moulded in. Which is something of which I greatly approve, actually!
Although the building is transient and generally forgettable, it was quite fun to see all these new, interesting pieces come together. I'd imagine it becomes less enthralling with the second Hero Factory hero, naturally, but at least that was a plus with with my first here. I understand that building is not the major focus of this line, as I've discussed in previous reviews, so I won't complain too much. It's still a slight shame, in my opinion, but that's the decision Lego has made.
I'd like to make a quick second note about the colour scheme: once put together, I discovered that the colours are beautifully layered in Stringer here. He really looks like an orange-'skinned' fellow wearing black armour. Nice work, Lego!
So you've got the model together, but is it more like playing with a block of wood or an interactive toy?
If I could sum up the constructed Jimi Stringer in one word, it would be 'Solid.' He exhibits this adjective both in appearance and practice. It's a tough little bugger of a set and can take a lot of abuse - don't be afraid to chuck this one against the wall during role-playing excitement.
But that toughness extends to the set's aesthetics (there's that word again), too. Jimi seems to growl 'I'm here to kick butt and play guitar, and I'm all out of guitars." I would not want to be on the business end of this guy's rifle. I'm really impressed by how bulked up and armoured Lego managed to make this small set. Remember just months ago when the Stars were released? They, like most Bionicle sets during the line's last few years of rasping breath, had wafer-thin torsos and hardly looked like they could take on an army of evil! But here, a set of comparable size and identical price point is made to be big, bulky, and tough. It looks really good and I applaud Lego.
Indeed, the biggest vibe I get looking at out little Mini-Jimi is 'Lego listened to our complaints about Bionicle and fixed them in Hero Factory.' It really looks like Lego strove to take everything that was good about Bionicle and fix everything that was wrong. Seeing as the designers for this line have admitted, in interviews, that they browsed BZPower to find out what Bionicle fans liked and didn't like, I don't think I'm off-base in this assumption. This Hero Factory really feels like a labour of love by the set designers, as if they were really trying to make exactly what we wanted. Speaking objectively as an impartial reviewer, it succeeds 100%. Hero Factory is like proof that Lego loves us.
My only large complaint is one I've been touting for years now, even since they were phased out of Bionicle: the set has no fun gear- or lever-driven functions, which I adored as a kid and still love now. But I've resigned myself to the fact that such things are no longer Lego's aim in its 'buildable figures' line. What Jimi Stringer is made to be is a buildable action figure; nothing more, nothing less.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Lots of new pieces
- Good colour scheme
- Solid, attractive contruction
- Dude, Lego loves us!
What's not to like?
- The weapon arm leaves something to be desired
Like everyone, I was cautiously skeptical about Hero Factory. I've been a fan of Bionicle since the beginning, through its ups and downs, through the good things and the bad things to say about the line. I was certainly unsure if Hero Factory could duplicate the magic of first getting into Bionicle, and I definitely worried that the sets would take the bad traits rather than the good.
But none of my anxieties panned out; indeed, it's quite the opposite. As I said earlier, this set keeps everything good about Bionicle sets and fixes every that was bad with them. Lego really listened to both our praise and out criticism and has launched a new line that fulfills pretty much exactly what we want. I definitely do not regret spending $7.99 on Jimi Stringer; indeed I'm more please with him than I have been with most of my recent Bionicle purchases. It's a good set and a good deal, and I'm excited to see how this line pans out.
It's almost a shame, really. I was saddened by the end of Bionicle, certainly, but my silver lining was that I figured I'd be spending a lot less on Lego in the future and could spend those funds on better things, like food, and gasoline, and my girlfriend. But I really think I'm hooked on Hero Factory already. Shucks!
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