Tuesday, January 6, 2015

REVIEW: LEGO Legends of Chima Iceklaw Polybag

* Arctic Explorer Not Included
LEGO Polybags
As LEGO collectors may know (and as non-collectors reading this will soon know...), ''polybag'' is the term given to the LEGO sets sold in plastic bags. The sets are cheap (around $4), feature around 30 to 40 pieces and although the sets differ based upon the sub-line, they tend to be either small-scale vehicles (such as micro-helicopters or carts), scaled-down vehicles (such as Star Wars ships) or mini-dioramas/scenes. 

There are generally two styles of polybag. The first is the Seasonal Set, which features a LEGO set themed to the time of year, such as Easter Bunnies or Fall Scenes. The second, which the subject of today's Review falls into, is the ''Stocking Stuffer/Easter Basket''-style set, which are usually themed around popular sub-sets and released at specific times of year.

(NOTE: One drawback of the polybags is, unlike other LEGO sets, they don't always have ''official'' names. In this instance I'm referring to this set as the ''Iceklaw Polybag.'' Hopefully LEGO won't issue an all-new set with Iceklaw, as that would just confuse matters...)

Anyway, onto the Review!

Iceklaw Polybag
The Iceklaw Polybag features 39 pieces (plus, as always, a couple of spares over the official tally), which are used to construct the Iceklaw minifigure and his Mech. So all of you who've been dreaming of an anthropomorphic LEGO polar bear with tattoos, riding an exo skeleton will be pleased to hear it's finally here...

Construction is quick and easy, although those expecting the usual LEGO assembly may be in for a surprise. More on that later.

As the name suggests, Iceklaw is a member of the Ice Bear Tribe. He uses the standard LEGO minifigure, augmented - like most Legends of Chima figures - with a new ''head/hood'' piece.
As you can see, he sports a pretty neat tampo (which features exposed ribs, so I assume he's some kind of zombie bear - it's like an onion of awesomeness!) and a really cool semi-transparent ''frozen'' leg.
The figure's build is fine for what it is, but what really makes Iceklaw so interesting is the transfer work. I love the tribal tattooing around his muzzle and the ''barbarian''-style loincloth and chest strap are particularly cool.
Remove the head piece and you'll find a double-sided design. Unlike other LEGO sets, Iceklaw does not have two facial expressions but instead sports a very cool tattoo on the back of his head. It's a shame this is covered up by the helmet, as it looks really cool.
 His face is also pretty neat. I like the asymmetry of the design.

Iceklaw's Mech
The Mech is an interesting-looking little vehicle, into which Iceklaw fits quite neatly. The overall effect is pretty cool and I like the mix of barbarian and technology.
As I mentioned above, the construction may seem odd to those not familiar with some of LEGO's other lines, as the Mech uses a series of hinges and ball-joints similar to those found on the Hero Factory/Bionicle and Mixels figures.

It's all very nicely engineered - a few minor quibbles aside - and you'll find yourself able to assemble it with speed and ease.
There are two ''restraining arms'' that swing open to allow you to place in/remove Iceklaw. It's a neat touch and adds a little bit of biomechanical awesomeness to the piece. They can also be turned into a neat pair of pincers, should you need some additional assault power.
The hip joints are by far the better of the articulation set-ups used here, with the ball joints allowing for a good range of movement, although it is somewhat limited on the ''forward/backward'' plane.
As you can see, though, the joints are solid enough to support the weight of the vehicle (and pilot) quite easily.
And although he arm joints are not quite as good, you can still get some pretty neat poses from them. I just found that they would often pop loose when I tried to pose them. I'd just advise caution and would warn younger LEGO fans of this, as they may find this a little surprising/annoying.
Speaking of annoyances, there are a couple of little issues you may find frustrating. For starters, the Mech's seat features a smooth tile, meaning Iceklaw is left sitting loose in the vehicle. This is just a very strange move I don't understand. The other is that there's nowhere for Iceklaw to keep his Chima crystal. Yes, he can hold it in (on?) his hand but the cabin space is fairly cramped and, as a result, it does tend to obscure his face somewhat. Both are minor points but worth mentioning.

Final Thoughts
It's great to see LEGO's designers trying something different from the usual peg-in-port, flat-panel construction. If you're a fan of the Mixels or Hero Factory (or the soon-to-return Bionicle line) then you'll really dig this, as it's basically a scaled-down Hero Factory figure, which, considering they did it at that scale and in about 30 pieces, is pretty impressive.

The articulation, although a little strange, is good and allows for a wide range of poses and play opportunities. Younger fans may struggle with the joints, as they do require a certain level of finesse and a cautious hand. Add to this the fact that Iceklaw isn't anchored to the seat by his leg holes (and the slightly unstable grip he has on his Chima crystal) and I could see, at best, a few parts vanishing from this set pretty quickly (and in the worst-case scenario, the entire thing exploding during a vigorous play session.) I would just advocate a degree of caution if you are buying this set for a youngster. And even as an adult, take care when carrying/picking up or posing this figure, as the joints don't move exactly in the way you might expect.

Iceklaw is a cool minifigure. There may not be a massive amount new in terms of sculpt or pieces but the tampo transfers are great and the whole tribal aesthetic is great.

But the real stand-out is the Mech. Design-wise, it's as much at home in the world of Chima as it would be in your Galaxy Squad or Marvel/DC Superhero scenarios. The really impressive part, though, is the articulation. Considering how few pieces are used (and how simple the build is), it's a great piece of engineering. And yes, it may be a little fragile but so long as you're careful with your posing/play, it shouldn't be too much of an issue.

A great-looking, fun set at a superb price.

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