Produced by Mega Bloks | Released May 2014
The Desert Outpost
Mega Bloks continues to innovate and evolve their awesome Call of Duty construction sets with the Desert Outpost, one of two ''mid-season'' releases (the other being the Jungle Troopers) that are landing at retail as we speak. Let's jump straight in and take a closer look, shall we?
The set features a single Micro Action Figure, complete with vest, leg webbing, a pistol and an assault rifle that can be ''broken down'' into a number of smaller pieces to further tailor the look, with a removable barrel and stock, plus detachable ammo clip and larger-capacity drum/box.
The diorama/backdrop piece consists of a damaged wall/door archway and includes an elevated defensive position, a sandbag wall, flexible razorwire, removable ladder and an oil drum (which, in accordance with Video Game Law no doubt explodes if you shoot it.)
In total there are 79 pieces in the set.
Assembly is relatively straightforward, although - as ever - the instructions may not be entirely clear to all. I find myself squinting a lot when reading the Mega Bloks construction guides and you may find yourself having to make a few educated guesses as to how it's supposed to go together.
There are a also couple of minor issues with the build:
1. It appears that between the printing of the manual and the final build, somebody decided to switch out a piece. My set was short of a single 2x1 piece but included an additional ''worn-edge'' 2x1 piece. Whether this is an error in packing or a running change I don't know.
2. The wall pieces seem to ''hang'' over the base in a few places. If you look at the bottom-left of the above image you'll see what I mean. It's also very obvious on the ladder (not shown above), which is connected to the base in two spots, one of which ''hangs'' free over the base.
As I say, minor issues but worth noting.
The Micro Action Figure
We've seen the Mega Bloks Micro Action Figures in past Reviews, so I won't dwell too long on what's here suffice to say that if you're not familiar with these toys then you should be. It really doesn't matter which set you get, as they're all based on the same articulation set-up but if you're a fan of small-scale figures, military toys or a LEGO fan looking for something different then you're sure to enjoy these toys, too.
The Micro Action Figure is aptly named. This is virtually a 4'' figure scaled-down to less than half that height yet retaining an articulation rig that puts a lot of larger figures to shame. Not only do you get a ball-jointed head/neck but there are also shoulders and elbows with rotate and bend articulation, articulated wrists, a waist twist, ball-jointed hips and single-jointed knees. ARE YOU LISTENING HASBRO?
Whilst the articulation is excellent, it does come at a price (or even two, depending how you view it.) Firstly, the basic sculpt is a little ''off'' when it comes to anatomy. As you can probably see in these images, the Micro Action Figures have ''ape arms'' that are fractionally too long. Given that most figures of this scale are little more than bricks with limbs, it's a little unfair to criticize too harshly but it's something that occasionally bugs me.
Secondly - and this is a more personal thing - I do struggle at times to pose these figures, due to the sheer amount of articulation they offer. I know that's a real First World Problem but it can be difficult to get the figure to hold a pose as you attach his foot port to a brick peg without him ''squishing'' or losing his stance.
As mentioned above, the figure also includes a removable vest and leg-strap, both of which feature a number of pegs onto which spare gear - such as pouches and ammo clips - can be attached.
The set's main selling feature is without a doubt the diorama/backdrop piece. That's not to say the Micro Action Figure isn't impressive (it is) but when you've been army building these guys for a while, it's nice to have something for them interact with on your display shelf.
The diorama features an elevated position (ideal for a sniper or gunner), a blasted wall with window and door arches, a sandbag wall and a line of razorwire. The elements all work neatly together, although the ladder - being bright red - is a little too harsh a contrast to the muted tones of the bricks and sandbags.
Like previously seen Call of Duty sets, the Desert Outpost uses ''discolored'' bricks to add texture and realism to the build. It's a really nice touch that helps sell the idea of a sun-bleached ruin and the use of ''rounded'' pieces is inspired, as it adds to the whole ''crumbling brick'' look.
I like that the set includes plenty of ''free'' space (such as behind the wall and on the overhead perch), as this allows for a lot of play/display potential and gives plenty of room to include additional Micro Action Figures in the piece.
Again, if we're pointing out issues (and really, there are very few and what are present are quite minor) the razorwire is a single piece that can be unrolled and connected to the standard
LEGO Mega Bloks peg. Unfortunately it has a tendency to ''spring up'' as it's done in the above images (it's supposed to be around the front of the sandbags, not on top of them.) Like I say, a minor point but you may find getting it to sit ''just so'' takes a lot of effort and patience.
The diorama features two smaller connected base plates, which will jigsaw together very nicely with the similar plates seen in other sets.
LEGO didn't get to be the second largest toy company in the world by making many mistakes but they could also learn a thing or two about their products by taking a look at the Call of Duty sets from Mega Bloks.
Much as I love the classic LEGO Minifigure design, it's amazing to see just how much detail and articulation Mega Bloks has packed into a figure barely 1/4 of an inch taller than LEGO's classics. I'm not saying one is better than the other but rather that Mega Bloks has been very aggressive with their innovation of the minifigure and that whilst the LEGO Minifigure is an iconic design, the Micro Action Figure offers so much more.
The other thing I like - and this is something we'll see more of from the Call of Duty line in coming months - is that Mega Bloks understands there are only so many vehicles you can build and display before your collection becomes a little tired. It's great to see these mini-buildings/dioramas being added to the line-up, as it allows collectors - and kids who play with them too, I'm sure - to ''ground'' their figures and really pull everything together. It frustrates me that LEGO doesn't seem to think buildings are interesting or can be produced on a budget and I think somebody at Mega Brands has been quite savvy to spot that there's definitely a gap in the market for affordable, ''mini-buildings.''
Anyway, with all that said, how does the Desert Outpost itself shape up?
The answer is ''very well indeed.''
Yes, there are some minor construction/design issues but they're either so tiny you'd have to have major obsessive tendencies to let them bother you or the kind of thing you could easily fix with a moment or two and half a dozen spare pieces. But really, these points are minor and included only to prepare you for them.
I love, love, love the idea of the diorama piece. It reminds me of the Tamiya military model kits of yesteryear, which would often include pieces of equipment or even battle-damaged walls and buildings to great effect. Some of the troop packs include bits of scenery and a display base, certainly, but this is the first release that's focused almost entirely on the backdrop. And odd as that sounds, it's exactly what we needed.
Add to this the fact that this set retails at just $9.99 - the same price point as the ''small vehicle'' Mountain Recon and Drone Attack sets - then you'll see why I'm so impressed with this set.
If you're a collector of the Mega Bloks Call of Duty line and are looking to add more ''height'' to your Desert Trooper display then this is exactly what you need. If you're new to the line then this is a great starting point: a fantastic Micro Action Figure complete with accessories and an awesome mini-diorama display base? What's not to love?
Fantastic fun for kids and collectors alike.