Thursday, January 31, 2013

REVIEW: Lego Galaxy Squad Swarm Interceptor

Produced by Lego | Released November 2012/January 2013 [Officially]

Solomon Blaze's Swarm Interceptor can split into 2 fierce fighting machines: an agile flyer with detachable guns and a powerful turret with hidden flick missiles!

Lego Galaxy Squad
Galaxy Squad is the latest sub-line of Lego kits and vehicles, an evolution of the earlier space-themed lines that seems part Lego Space, part Alien Conquest. Currently there are five kits available in the line-up, the first of which we're taking a look at today in our Review of the Swarm Interceptor set.

70701 Swarm Interceptor
The Swarm Interceptor is the second-cheapest kit in the line-up (the cheapest being fellow Blue Team kit the Space Swarmer) and retails at $19.99. For that you not only get the Swarm Interceptor vehicle but also Minifigures of pilot Solomon Blaze and a Mosquitoid alien, plus the Mosquitoid's Speedbike and a ray gun accessory.  Again, like the Monster Fighters Swamp Creature set it seems there's quite a bit of content in the box. And that's because there is a lot of content in the box...

Packaging & Contents
The Swarm Interceptor comes in the same sealed packs as the other Lego kits of late. It's an easy enough matter to split the box open and, once you do, you'll find the contents within, all neatly contained in an assortment of smaller, sealed packs.

As well as the construction pieces there's also a rather handy building guide and a set of transfers (and no, I decided not to apply them, as I've had quite enough of that with my GI Joe vehicles...)

The Swarm Interceptor features 218 pieces in total (plus in my case a few spares.) Construction is simple but slightly time-consuming, although that's down more to their simply being a lot to do than any form of confusing or difficult points of assembly.

Solomon Blaze
Solomon Blaze is the first member - the leader? - of the Blue Team, who the Lego site describe as ''navigators, engineers, and strategic specialists. All teams are equal, but when tell you "go", just trust that they know what they're doing, and go!''

It comes as no surprise to learn Solomon Blaze uses the standard Lego Minifigure buck, augmented with new tampo transfers and a space helmet (featuring a plastic visor!) The tampo work is neat, giving him a cool body-armor look and even including his little Galaxy Squad insignia. I especially like that the head is reversible, featuring a breathing mask-clad face on the other side.

I like that it's a neat callback to the original Space Lego toys (and yes, I'm old enough to have owned them when they first came out - heck, I remember the pre-minifigure days!) and whilst the helmet sculpt is particularly detailed, there's not a huge amount to get excited about in terms of innovation here. Which is fine, as this is pretty much what you expect from a Lego minifigure.

The Mosquitoid
The Mosquitoid is, again, based on the original Lego Minifigure buck but this time around he not only gets a new tampo set but also some really impressive, semi-transparent bug wings and - coolest of all - a mosquito-style alien head sculpt.

Unlike a lot of other Lego Minifigures, the Mosquitoid head sculpt is a completely new piece that replaces the standard head (rather than being worn over it). It's a very cool, very alien-looking bit of design (the bobbling on the fly eyes is particularly gross) which, when combined with the wings, does a superb job of making him look like an insectoid being.

Very cool.

The Mosquitoid Speederbike
The Mosquitoid has his own mini-transport in the form of a Speederbike. Obviously he's capable of flight thanks to his wings but - as they point out on the Lego website - his selection of vehicle is probably more to do with the amount of annoyance it musters over anything else.

The control column is adjustable, pivoting at the base to allow height modifications, plus the control yolk rotates, allowing the pilot to steer. There's also enough space on the vehicle's rear to allow the pilot to stand or sit, which is a nice little touch. The twin, front-mounted cannons are also adjustable.

Although the Speederbike is only comprised of about 20 pieces, it's a fun little accessory. Again, much like the Monster Fighters Swamp Creature set it's cool to see Lego including hero and villain in the pack.

The Swarm Interceptor
After those three quick appetizers, we come to the main course: The Swarm Interceptor itself.

The craft is a fairly conventional piece of spaceship design, sporting a reverse-wing configuration, up-front cockpit and twin engines to the rear. Which is perfectly fine, as sometimes it's nice to have a kind of ''what if?''/futuristic fighter plane design to play with.

Incredibly, the wings are actually mounted on ratchet joints, meaning you can adjust their angle, with a selection of five possible options, ranging from vertical to horizontal. I personally like having them angled somewhere in the middle, as it gives it a kind of Klingon Bird of Prey vibe but in the promotional materials the ship is usually shown with the wings in the horizontal configuration.

In a move that echoes some of the vehicles from the Star Wars prequels, the Swarm Interceptor's front half can detach from the rear, at which point both sections can be reconfigured for individual operation, with the rear becoming a ''missile turret'' and the front a smaller ''agile flyer.''

The flick-out missiles are a neat bit of design and the opening missile launcher - with its lift-open hood - is really cool, but I do have to admit that the actual missiles are a little wimpy themselves, especially as - when in this mode - being a back-up arsenal of destruction seems to be the turret's sole function. Maybe they're mega-nukes or something...

The flyer itself is a fun little vehicle and were it sold individually - at a lower price point, natch - I'd be more than happy with it as a solo kit. The design is sleek, the wings move nicely and the canopy cover remains locked in place during play but is fluid enough to move without issue when you want to open it. I particularly like the multifunctional aspect of the weaponry, as the twin cannons can also be used as pistols by Solomon when he leaves the pod.

What is a little odd is the way in which the two halves connect. A rod extends from the rear section and slots into place in a port in the flyer. It's a snug fit so there's no danger of the flyer coming loose but as a result it actually pivots on its axis whenever the ship banks (check the video here to see what I mean.) I personally found that a little off-putting and I get the impression somebody else at Lego did, too, as the ship can be very easily modified to stop this from happening by simply moving the rear pods's ''underbelly'' sections forward by one brick. This means you lose the ''gunnery platform'' from the piece but if it stops the wild swinging it's a trade off I can live with.

Minor rotating capsule issues aside though (and as I say, it's easily overcoming with a quick buildi fix, this being the beauty of Lego) the Swarm Interceptor is a superb looking toy.

Final Thoughts
When I first encountered the Galaxy Squad sets, two things immediately came to mind. One was that the kits struck me as Lego's homage to the classic Micronauts/Microman vehicles. Seriously, bear with me here. The Swarm Interceptor's color scheme, re-configurable set-up, firing missiles and the overall vehicle aesthetic reminded me of the Micronauts Mobile Exploration Lab (minus the tower, of course) to the point where I really don't think it's coincidence or wishful thinking on my part. And it's not limited to this kit. The other sets feature domed vehicles that come apart and recombine to form new craft, there's a mix of humanoid and robotic heroes facing off against aliens that evoke the design of Repto and Kronos and even a bug-themed ship that will bring back a flood of memories for anybody lucky enough to own a Hornetroid. That's a definite plus in my book.

And the second thing that struck me was - Star Wars aside - nobody really makes space-themed toys anymore. At least not for kids. And that's a shame, as I've always thought space toys encouraged wonderment and imagination and that the canvas of so huge a playground as the galaxy was a great place to create play scenarios. Or maybe that's just because I was always too fat to play football.

Of course, neither of these points actually matter when it comes to the Swarm Interceptor itself and the real question is this: is it actually any good? The answer is a resounding ''yes.'' With a chaser of ''it's awesome.'' Followed by another of ''You need to buy it.''

If you're a fan of Lego or you like your space toys with a dash of nostalgia (especially if it's Micronaut tinged) then you'll love the Swarm Interceptor. It's a fun, durable, missile-firing, zippy pew-pew, play feature-laden spaceship - that's also a Lego kit - that's not only fun to build but also looks great and - surprisingly - is more than capable of surviving a vigorous play flight around the room. Not that I've tried that of course... Ahem.

An outstanding bit of space-based fun for kids and collectors alike.

Final Score: A

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