Sunday, August 31st, 2014 at 2:11pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
Today we've got an interesting review - LEGO's PR company sent us a copy of 21204 Town Master from the new LEGO FUSION line of building sets and games. It's an interesting merge between classic bricks and the apps that have taken over our phones. Is this something to go get a high score in, or should you let the life bar drain to empty? Continue on to read and watch our review!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The FUSION sets come in a nice, reusable box with the new theme's logo prominently displayed on the front. Below the theme and set logos, we see a LEGO city being built on top of a tablet, indicating the merger between the two. It's a very busy box, but it also shows off a lot of the potential in the set and the game.
The back shows the basic process of how the game works - you download the app, launch it, see what the minifigs want you to build, build it, scan it into the game, and play some more! There's far more text on the back than you usually see on a LEGO set, as they explain more of the concept and how it works. You can also see that the app is available from the Apple App Store for iOS devices as well as the Google Play Store and Samsung Apps Store for Android devices.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
Here's the great part about this set - there's really no instructions! Sure the instruction book gives you an example that you can build, but beyond that, it's all up to you! That said, in order to work with the game, your building facades must be less than or equal to 16 bricks wide by 16 bricks high and 1 brick deep. This does limit you to pretty basic studs-up building, but as someone who's played around with writing image recognition software I can definitely see why they had to put some restrictions in place. So props to LEGO and TT Games for making it as open-ended as they could.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Based on the limitations of the facades you have to build, you can expect there to be a pretty basic selection of bricks. You get 1x1 up to 1x6 bricks in a variety of colors, including some nice shades like olive green and a few shades of blue in addition to basic ones like black and red. There's also some modified 1x2 bricks with notches, grill patterns, log shapes, and masonry patterns. There's a lot of different slopes too, including some in olive green. All in all a nice variety. The star of this set, however, is the 6x12 plate with no studs on a 5x10 area. The tile section is printed to look like a street, with a manhole, hopscotch game, and a fire hydrant. This is used as a reference point to scan your creations into the game and is key to the whole thing.
Above is the house facade that the instructions have you build. You certainly don't need to build it to play the game, but it gives you an example of how to use the 16x16x1 area you have to good effect. It's certainly nothing to write home about though.
The minifig torso and head are unique to this set, and it's a pretty cool design. He's wearing a vest and a scarf and looks like the perfect hipster for an up-and-coming city. All he needs are some glasses to complete the look. This fine gentleman is the character you play as in the game, so it's much appreciated to get him in physical form too!
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?
This is where the Town Master set comes to life. As the main character of the game, your job seems to be to keep the citizens of the town happy. As you move through the town, some of them will get little thought bubbles over their heads with different icons. Tap on a bubble, and the person will tell you that what this town really needs is a bike shop (for example). You then receive the tasking to build such a shop. You can quit the game and put your phone or tablet to sleep (to save your battery) and take all the time you want to build a facade of the appropriate structure. Launch the game again, and click the button to scan a new building in. This is the finicky part, as you need to be in a well-lit space with a plain background for your building. The game helps you position your mobile device appropriately though, and it gets easier each time through repetition.
Some more comments on the scanning - while it's good, it's certainly not perfect. You'll often see it pick the wrong side of the masonry bricks, and sometimes it confuses the blue-grey bricks with notches for masonry bricks. In one case, it thought the 1x3x2 curved slope brick was a 1x4 slope. In another instance, I made the base of my building 16 studs wide, hanging off the baseplate by two studs on either side. This resulted in a very interesting building, as it saw some of the pieces hanging off but not all. If you're going to use the 16 stud width limit, make sure to use it on the roof only. Overall it does a pretty good job, and if you're not happy with the results you can discard the scanned in building and try again.
Alternatively, instead of building a new facade, you also have the option to use one of the existing ones you've designed. This helps if you're playing on the go or are separated from your pieces, or just don't have the lighting to get a good picture. I appreciate that TT Games added that element, as more choice in this case is a very good thing.
Every now and then while you're playing, a 'challenge' will appear. The first one I received informed me that one of my citizens was hurt and I needed to build a hospital. Once it was built, I was able to enter the hospital and come out dressed as a paramedic riding a three-wheeled motorcycle. An indicator appeared on the screen directing me to the injured minifig. Hopping off my bike and tapping on them got them all fixed up and netted me a good amount of studs.
Speaking of studs, if you've ever played a TT Games LEGO game, you're familiar with these guys. In Town Master, citizens will drop them when you build the building they request and the building itself spits some out for you too. At times, for things like the challenges above, a trail of them will appear to help get you where you need to be. In addition, there's woodlands surrounding your town that you can adventure into - hitting a tree or rock will get you some more studs. The studs are needed to build new buildings, and in the time I played I never came close to running out.
It's definitely a fun game, and as someone who has played countless hours of Tiny Death Star, it scratches my city-building itch. What's better - there's no in-game purchases or super-long timers to wait for. I would hope for as much since you're essentially paying for the app when you buy the set, but it's good to know LEGO and TT Games made the right call on that front.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Good selection of bricks
- Fun and engaging gameplay
- Tons of replayability
- No instructions!
- Great combination of games and bricks
What's not to like?
At $35 for 256 pieces, there's definitely a premium in this set for the app (and the box to a degree). But the Town Master is much more than some pieces, and I think the gameplay offers tons of variation and can keep you occupied for a while. With that in mind $35 for a polished game and some cool LEGO parts is a good deal, and if the game sounds like something you'd be interested in, I definitely recommend it!
Thank you all for reading and watching - I hope you enjoyed the review. Please leave any comments or questions in the Talkback and I'll be happy to answer them. Keep your eyes peeled on BZPower for more set reviews and LEGO news!
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