Wednesday, January 28, 2015

REVIEW: LEGO Bionicle Protector of Jungle

LEGO Bionicle
LEGO's Bionicle, is back!

For those unfamiliar with the line, Bionicle was a line of construct-able action figures - or ''constraction'' figures - that combined new pieces with ''mechanical'' parts from the LEGO Technic line. Introduced in 2001, the Bionicle series ran for nine years (and is credited by many as being one of the lines that helped reverse LEGO's ill fortune and help them become the powerhouse toy company they are today) before being retired in 2010 and replaced by the next evolution of the concept, the Hero Factory line.

Due to overwhelming demand, LEGO has re-introduced the Bionicle range for 2015, releasing a rebooted line-up of heroes and villains - so if you missed out first time around, then now is the time to jump on the Bionicle train!

The New Bionicle
The new Bionicle series takes place upon the island of Okoto, a land filled with biomechanical beings and beasts. According to legend, two brothers who lived upon Okoto created powerful masks to harness the power of the elements and all was well, until Makuta became jealous of his brother Ekimu's works and so forged The Ultimate Mask of Power, a mask that combined the elemental powers. Donning the mask, Makuta became possessed. Ekimu took his hammer and struck the mask from his brother's face, releasing its power and sending both brothers into an eternal slumber.

Years later, the Protectors - a group of beings gifted with masks that were used to defend their realms - gathered to address the rise of a new enemy. Reciting the Prophecy of Heroes, the Protectors called down six elemental heroes, known as the Toa, whose destiny it was to recover the masks of power and find the Maskmakers.

The Protectors
The Protectors are the ''entry level'' sets in the new Bionicle line, retailing at around $10 and featuring 70 or so parts in total. Each set includes an elemental-themed Protector (in the Bionicle world, there are six elements - Water, Ice, Jungle, Earth, Stone and Fire - with each correlating with a region of Okoto), along with his or her weapon(s), plus a dreaded Skull Spider.

70778 Protector of Jungle
The Protector of Jungle clocks in at 70 pieces. Construction is a quick, easy process and if you've built any of LEGO's other constraction figures such as the Hero Factory or Mixels, then you'll know what to expect. Even if you haven't, it's still a fairly simple process and the instructions are clear and concise. 
I would advise you pay attention to the assembly, however, as it's tempting to simply intuit your way through the building process, which may lead to some minor errors. I, for example, missed one of the pieces on the Protector's weapon and placed his back shell piece on upside down, only later correcting these errors and assuming I was actually improving on the original design until I consulted the instructions again and found the error was mine.

So with the Protector all assembled, let's take a closer look at the figure itself.
As you can probably see, the Bionicle figures use a core armature, augmented with a variety of pieces to create a ''full'' figure. Let's take a look at the figure stripped of all these pieces, as this will give us a better insight into not only how the figure is constructed but also how the articulation works.
The armature is assembled from a series of ball joints, a simple ball-and-socket arrangement that's remarkably effective. The Hero Factory line used a similar set-up but, as I noted in my Review of Bulk 3.0  there were limits on the range of some of the joints, with, for example, the knee joints being almost entirely restricted to forward/backward movement. Not so here. The new joints allow for a much larger range of motion on multiple planes, meaning elbows can bend and twist or be re-positioned to allow the joint to move fully in an almost unlimited range of movement.
As you can see, there are no problems getting the Protector into whatever poses you can imagine and when you take into consideration the fact that this is a figure you assemble (and can also dissemble), it becomes even more impressive just how well designed this toy is.

Speaking of design, it's probably a good time now to discuss the figure's looks and overall aesthetic.
I have to say I'm a fan of the Bionicle look but I can understand why they might not appeal. But if you're a fan of robotic characters (I've a feeling Transformers fans will dig them) then you'll find a lot to like here. The Protector of Jungle's look is pretty representative of the overall Bionicle design, with his mask and color-themed ''shell'' pieces selling the idea of the biomech concept. The oversize hands and clawed feet are also great (and being cast in silver plastic again adds to the sense of the mechanical.)
The head sculpt is a particularly neat bit of robotic design and I find myself torn when displaying the Protector, as I love both the mask and ''naked'' head! And for those wondering, there is a minor light-pipe effect with the clear plastic insert inside the ''skull.'' This insert also doubles as a button and can be used to ''pop off'' the figure's mask.
One of my biggest gripes with the Hero Factory figures was the lack of back panels, which left the figures looking incomplete when viewed from behind. Thankfully LEGO has addressed this issue (although I believe it's still present in some of the other figures) by adding a second shell piece to the Protector of Jungle's design. This can make the figure's torso seem a little bulky (especially with the silver chest overlay in place) but I'll take it over the skeletal back appearance any time.
One of the great things about LEGO toys is that the designs can be adapted and modified. This wasn't really the case with the Hero Factory figures, as there was always a feeling that each piece had a specific role and that's how it should be used (at least to me.) The Protector of Jungle, however, features a few pieces that can be reconfigured to change his appearance. As you can see above, the shoulder piece (or chest piece - it's the same part) can be attached to the figure's back to create a rocket pack or more robotic look. Similarly the chest piece (again, the same part) can be attached to the ''naked'' shoulder to create shoulder pads. And then the Skull Spider (which we'll come back to in a moment) can be used as a new mask, thus allowing you to transform the Protector into a kind of horned,  Predator-inspired creation. As you'll no doubt have noticed, I repeatedly switched parts around as I was photographing the character and I'm sure you'll find your own favorite configuration.
I actually want to buy multiple version of the Protector of Jungle, just so I can put together some new creations!

I have seen people complain that the yellow, black and green color scheme is a little off and yes, it is a bit garish I have to admit. But it doesn't detract from the overall look of the figure and even if the green panels and heel ''sensors'' are a little mismatched, it's not that big a deal. If it bothers you that much, you could always remove them...
One of the other major new features of the Bionicle line is the introduction of ''automated'' accessories and play features. In the case of the Protector of Jungle, it's his rather awesome Air Elemental Flame Bow - AKA the Gatling bow. Yes, you read that right. By turning the trigger wheel, you can fire six studs from the weapon in rapid-fire mode. It's a really simple system but it's incredibly effective.
The set actually includes twelve such studs - presumably to replace any lost during play - so, in order to keep them safe, I doubled-up the pieces. Even with this extra weight, the crossbow is still capable of launching them a significant distance. Yet for all this, it's also pretty well balanced in terms of the amount of force needed to turn the trigger wheel - and thus launch the projectiles. It moves easily enough when you want it to but you won't experience any kind of hair trigger/accidental launches.
One very small - yet important - detail on the bow is that the weapon's grips are articulated. Both grips - where the weapon fits into the hands - rotate horizontally to increase posing potential, but the rear grip is also mounted on a piece that rotates around the weapon's stock, meaning the grip can be held upright or horizontally. Coupled with the tilting wrists, this allows the weapon to be pointed in a variety of positions, rather than forcing the figure to accommodate a ''stiff'' weapon. As I say, a small feature but definitely one I appreciate.
Even GI Joe figures would struggle to match some of the weapon-holding poses the Protector of Jungle can hit.

The Skull Spider
The Skull Spiders are the first major villains in the new Bionicle story. It's a little disappointing to see that there's only one real villain in the line-up (so far) but we'll be seeing more as the line expands.
Each of the Protector packs features one such spider (although there are color and construction variants across the line) and although it's a simple ''figure'' - being constructed from just five parts and with just four points of articulation - it's great to see LEGO including an enemy for your Protector to battle.

It's also creepy as hell.
The other great thing is that the Skull Spider can be used both as an alternate mask...
But also as a terrifying Face-hugger/Headcrab-like parasite.
The Skull Spider ''mask'' piece - as you might imagine - fits perfectly, snapping into position to remain locked onto the figure. In addition, the limbs can be wrapped around the head and torso for a perfect death-grip. It's a really creepy enemy, for all its small size, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who really digs the design.

Final Thoughts
As the Protector of Jungle is the first of the new Bionicle sets I've Reviewed, I'm going to briefly touch on a few general impressions of the new line before moving onto the figure itself.

If the Protector of Jungle is anything to go by - and I don't see why he wouldn't be - then the revised Bionicle sets are a huge leap forward over LEGO's earlier constraction figures. By incorporating the new, free-moving joints, they've managed to really push the levels of pose-ability and range of dynamic movement the figures can reach. They've gone from being very pose-able figures to giving the Revoltech toys a run for their money. Seriously, they're that pose-able.

Whilst the biomechanical designs - and indeed, unusual color choices - may not appeal to all, if you're a fan of robots or mechanical figures then you'll find a lot to enjoy here. There's enough coverage from the ''shell'' pieces to make the figures recognizable as humanoid but the ''bare bones'' frame underneath really sells the idea of machine-men. I like that a lot.

As for the Protector of Jungle, from what I can gather he's one of the better figures in the line-up and so would serve as a good test subject if you're wanting to see what the line is about. Retailing at just $10 - which is about what you'd pay for a 4'' figure with a quarter the articulation of this toy - he's superb value for money. And sure, he may be slightly shorter than the $15 Toa figures or Hero Factory toys but even so, it's still a fair old chunk of figure for your cash.

But looking beyond that, what's even more impressive is the engineering behind this figure's construction. He's a superbly pose-able toy you actually construct yourself - and can then modify should you feel the need to do so. (Indeed, the intention is that you combine each element's Protector and Toa to create ''Powered Up'' versions.)  He also comes with a working Gatling gun - which again, you build yourself. If you're an engineering nerd or you just like assembling stuff that works, then you'll really enjoy both the building process and, afterward, marveling at just how well the pieces work together.

And then on top of that, the Protector of Jungle is a great action figure. He looks awesome (albeit a very stylized look), is durable enough to play with (whilst retaining the ability to be reconfigured or even taken apart) and he's fantastically pose-able.

I have to admit that I go through phases as a LEGO collector. Some lines catch my eye and I'll enjoy them for a long while. Other times I'll walk the LEGO aisle and not see a single set that catches my eye. That's not the case with the Bionicle line, though. I've actually developed quite the obsession with these sets and am counting the days until I can get back to the store to pick up some more, as - if they're anywhere near as good as the Protector of Jungle (and I don't see why they wouldn't be) - then I know I'm going to love building, playing with and posing them. I'm already analyzing the other sets to look at their construction and how I could switch parts around to make my own figures. I haven't been that excited about LEGO in a long while and I'm sure, if you take the plunge, you'll feel the same way to.

A superb construct-able action figure that's both a fun build and a great toy. A definite must-have not just for LEGO collectors but also fans of super pose-able action figures.

Image Gallery


  1. While not a huge fan of these it's nice to see them back.

    1. I missed out first time around but I was a fan of the Hero Factory stuff (moreso the early stuff) but I'm really looking forward to grabbing more of the line.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...