Thursday, May 2, 2013

REVIEW: Lego Monster Fighters The Crazy Scientist and His Monster

Produced by Lego | Released May 2012

9466 - The Crazy Scientist and His Monster!
In honor of the rapidly approaching first year anniversary of its release, today we're taking a look at the Lego Monster Fighters kit, The Crazy Scientist and His Monster! As well as including a neat ride for the Monster Fighters and a lab for the Scientist, the kit features a collection of four minifigures, a light-up brick, and some pretty cool play features, all clocking in at just over 400 pieces. So let's take a closer look at the individual components, starting with the Minifigures.

The Crazy Scientist
As mentioned above, there are four minifigures included in the set, two of which are unique to this set, the first of which is the titular Crazy Scientist.
OK, so fans of the blind-bagged Minifigures could argue that this isn't technically a new figure, as a somewhat similar character did appear in Series 4. However, upon closer inspection you'll notice some differences in the tampo transfers, enough I think to warrant this figure being considered ''unique'' to this set.

Anyway, with that out of the way, we'll discuss the figure's character-specific parts. As well as sporting the aforementioned new decals (which as you can see below, also extend around to his back) and face design (which is reversible), the Crazy Scientist's most obvious custom part is his hairpiece, a shock of Einstein-like insanity that screams German accent und experrrimentation!
The wrench in his hand is my addition to the look and it may simply be that I had this piece left over when I'd completed the construction, so don't be too alarmed if you don't find such a piece in your set!

The Monster
So what of the Crazy Scientist's creation, The Monster?
Again, Lego is revisiting Series 4 of the Minifigures line but, like the included Crazy Scientist, The Monster sports some subtle differences when compared to his blind-bagged counterpart in the form of a new suit tampo and a new facial expression.

Again, like the Crazy Scientist, The Monster sports a unique head augmentation, designed to give him that great, Neanderthal brow and flat head look. And again, the body's transfers extend to the figure's rear, which is a neat touch.
Doctor Rodney Rathbone
The leader of the Monster Fighters is one of two included heroes in the set. Unlike the Crazy Scientist or The Monster, Rodney is not unique to this set (by my reckoning he's the most common figure in the line, appearing in three sets.)
Rodney is probably the most elaborate of the four figures in the set, featuring not only his own, unique tampo work but pieces that are very specific to this character, including - most obviously - his steam-powered leg. I'm sure the fencing foil and bowler hat will make (or have already made) another appearance elsewhere but in the Monster Fighters line, they're certainly most closely associated with this character.
Again, it's cool to see the tampo work extending to the back, with the vest/waistcoat tie being a nice touch.

Major Quinton Steel
Major Steel is every bit the big game hunter. Clad in his khaki safari outfit and pith helmet and equipped with a high powered rifle, he's certainly ready for an adventure!
Again, Major Steel is a repeat character, also appearing in the Werewolf set (which we'll get round to in the very near future.) And again, in both sets he comes with his signature accessories.
I have to admit that much as I love his look, Major Steel's helmet can be a pain to keep in place, as it doesn't seem to pop onto his head peg in the way you'd expect it to and as a result, it can be difficult to attach. And even when it is in place, you may find it popping loose.
Still, minor construction issues and duplicate figure woes aside, the overall impression is strong. Each character has, well, character and I love the way the set includes both good and bad guys. I can imagine kids having a lot of fun setting the heroic Monster Fighters against the Crazy Scientist and his Monster but hardcore collectors - or indeed, those who simply own a few other sets in the line - may be a little disappointed to see the same minifigures reappearing in this set.

The Hero Car
Alongside the heroic Monster Fighters figures you'll also find what Lego describes as the ''Hero (or Hero's) Car.) Constructed from blue and grey bricks, it's a piece with a few fun features to play with.
As you can see, the vehicle features a driving position within, plus a second seat upon the roof, next to the flick-launch missiles and adjustable ''Monster Scanner'' dish.
The driver's seat can also be slid into a ''combat position'' by pushing the slide out (it's the grey piece with the two darker grey crosses in the above image.)
It's not the most exciting or cleverly engineered pieces I've seen in the Lego line-up but it's a neat touch kids will, I'm sure, have fun with and although the Hero Car is a neat-enough looking vehicle (the front grill, headlights and ramshackle, almost steampunk-esque roof-mounted weapons being particularly neat) the overall feel of the vehicle is a little ''off.''  It's difficult to really explain but it feels like the sliding seat gimmick cheapens the weight and sturdiness of the Hero Car and to me it looks closer to something from the Lego Cars line. I don't know, maybe it's just me.
The Laboratory
By now you may be thinking this set isn't really worth your time and doesn't offer much to the buyer. After all, four Minifigures we've (sort of) seen before and a fairly average car don't sound too enticing. And were that all the set included then I'd be scoring it a lot lower. But thankfully that's not the case, as the bulk of the set - namely the Crazy Scientist's Laboratory - is actually a lot of fun.
The Laboratory comprises of three main parts, each connected by angled hinges, and includes a dungeon/cell, the lab space and what I'm going to call ''the resurrection tower.'' Let's begin with the dungeon.
Although relatively small, the cell is large enough to accommodate whichever Monster Fighter is unfortunate enough to be locked within. The roof features a working teeter-totter style catapult (which can be used to launch the included projectiles) and the structure itself features a hinged door and window, allowing you to open the cell.

The coolest play feature, however, comes in the form of the jail-break wall, which includes a chain that can be attached to the Hero Car.
It's a silly, small little feature but it works well and - unlike, say, the Hero Car's sliding seat - it doesn't compromise the overall design by its inclusion. I could see this being the most used with ''play feature'' of the set, as it's not only well designed but also a neat little story element for kids to enjoy.

In the center of the set we find the lab space, where the Crazy Scientist mixes concoctions and performs experiments.
It's a fairly simple bit of design, consisting of a back wall, a shelf and a few accessories but what's here works really well. I have to apologize in advance for the quality of the shots of this space (because they really don't reflect how much fun it is) but the area consists of a number of ''crazy genius'' props, such as a (glow-in-the-dark) skull in a jar, a bone, a cobweb, some potions and a microscope. It's an awesome little playground of the mind for kids with the imagination to enjoy it and for adults it presents a lot of posing options.
However, the largest and most impressive piece of the set comes in the form of the resurrection tower.
Designed to recreate those ''It's ALIIIVE!'' moments we all know and love, the piece consists of a large, pylon-like tower - complete with lightning conductors and other scientific doohickeys - all designed to channel the power of the storm and bring the Crazy Scientist's creation to life.
The resurrection tower also includes the ''star'' piece of the set, the light-up brick. By twisting the mechanism within the tower it's possible to ''lock'' the brick's light-up feature into the ''on'' position, meaning you can then channel the lightning to bring The Monster to life.
Or to do other stuff.
The engineering on this section is particularly strong, with the light-up brick ''locking'' mechanism being a neat solution to the fact that Lego light bricks don't stay lit (you have to hold the button in to make them work) but the real stand out for me is the ratcheted table, which can be slid forward and backward by rotating the attached windlass. It all works remarkably well and is surprisingly sturdy.
Final Thoughts
The Crazy Scientist and His Monster is a set that features some good and, sadly, some not so good.

Let's get the ''bad'' stuff out of the way: two of the four included figures are duplicated in other Monster Fighter sets and the two unique to this set are, minor changes aside, as near-as-damn-it replications of figures that have already appeared in the Minifigures line. Granted, for some collectors (myself included) that's a plus, as not everyone was able to find those figures but if you've been collecting Lego for a while (especially the Minifigures) then their inclusion here may stick in your throat some.

Secondly, there's something about the design of the Hero Car that just doesn't appeal to me. You may think differently but to me it feels like it was designed around the sliding seat gimmick first, rather than being designed as a neat-looking vehicle that incorporates the play feature. I also find it disappointing given the vehicle's size that there's not more room for passengers or any storage space and would have - personally - preferred to see additional seating or an opening trunk rather than the missiles and sliding seat features.

But it's not all bad: the actual Laboratory elements are fun, with the pull-away jail wall, scientific work space and resurrection tower not only looking very cool but also being a lot of fun to build, pose and play with. And at the end of the day I think it's probably fair to say that this is intended to be the centerpiece of the set and, as such, the overall effect is pretty good. 

But before you all get too excited (or confused by the score below) there is one major point that needs to be addressed: at around $50, this isn't the cheapest of sets and given its size and the number of pieces the box  includes it really feels like it should be somewhere closer to $35 or so. At that price I'd have no qualms about heartily recommending it but at the current RRP it just doesn't sit comfortably with me to do so. 

Of course, the inclusion of the light brick is the reason for the higher price and yes, I understand that it's expensive to manufacture such pieces. But part of me wishes they'd come up with an alternative using light pipes and clear bricks to achieve the same effect. Had they done that - and then the pricing had reflected the removal of this expensive piece - then I'd be more than happy to recommend this set. As it is though, The Crazy Scientist and His Monster is a set I can only recommend if you're a completionist or if money is no object. Which is a shame, as minor Minifigure and vehicle quibbles and high price aside, this is a fun set.

Good but not quite good enough to justify the price.

Final Score: B

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  1. I have been very tempted to pick up these monster fighters sets. It seems like each year Lego comes out with something better than the last.

    For the past few years I've been struggling not to buy sets like Indiana Jones, Prince of Persia, Space Police, Alien Conquest, Lord of the Rings, and now Monster Fighters.

    I just can't get into buying Lego, because my wallet would hurt too much.

    1. The Monster Fighters sets are great and although there's some really good stuff here, this is actually the one I'd rate as the weakest of the sets. The others though are superb.

      And I was able to snag the Alien Conquest Tripod set, which I'll be looking at here very soon (and very cool it is, too!)


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