Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Toy Review – LEGO 21108 Ideas #006 Ghostbusters Set from LEGO

I am a little out of my depth in writing a LEGO review. That’s R.T.’s business.

My personal history with LEGOs is not glorious. My first LEGO set was the Forestmen’s Hideout, one of the Robin Hood themed sets that presumably went along with whatever their castle range was at the time (the time being 1988). As I mentioned in Episode 26 of the Needless Things Podcast, once I put it together I never, ever wanted it to be taken apart again. I love putting things together. Once. And I’m not much for coming up with my own constructs. So the bottom line is that a lot of the appeal of LEGOs is lost on me and for what LEGO’s cost it isn’t really worth it.

A few years ago I bought a couple of castles on super clearance at Walmart. I had a great time putting them together and then sold them to Gnoll because I don’t have anywhere to put giant fucking LEGO castles. This sums up my LEGO feelings – I love them, but once I put them together I’m kind of done with them.

I bought the set I am reviewing today despite that and against my better judgment because when it comes to Ghostbusters stuff I just cannot help myself.

This is one of those sets where LEGO has chosen something an AFOL has designed, cleaned it up, and decided to sell it as a set. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that, but you get the idea. The last set that received this treatment was a Back to the Future set that included Marty McFly, Doc Emmet Brown, and the iconic DeLorean. I wasn’t happy with how that set turned out (I don’t care for how the windshield was done), so I was extra cautious about buying the ECTO-1.

Of course, the first problem to overcome was that everywhere was selling out of the Ghostbusters set as fast as they got them in. It wasn’t a huge deal and it’s not like I was frantic to spend fifty bucks on this tiny car that I knew I was going to buy and put together and that that’s where my joy and pleasure would end. But they were selling out and I wasn’t getting a chance to see one in person.

Of course, they had tons of them at the LEGOKidsFest. As happens with things that I really want but know that I should not buy I picked the Ghostbusters set up and put it back down. I did this as surreptitiously as I could, because I knew if any of the friendly salespeople saw me touching it or even giving it a lingering glance they would descend upon me like a pack of howler monkeys. Only instead of howling they would be telling me how great the set was and how hard it was to find and how if I didn’t buy it people would call me a fraud and I’d never be allowed to watch Ghostbusters again.

Not the first one, anyway.

This was on my first circuit of the KidsFest, so after putting the set back on the shelf I very quickly made my way out of the store, avoiding the attention of the LEGO salespeople.

A bit later I stopped back in because I had forgotten to take a picture of the store. I picked up the Ghostbusters set again, but my excitement and desire made me careless. One of the salespeople descended upon me and told me how great the set was and how hard it was to find and how if I didn’t buy it people would call me a fraud and I’d never be allowed to watch Ghostbusters again. Or something to that effect.

I stammered and looked around, not knowing what to do. I knew that I didn’t need to buy that set, so I shoved it at him and ran out of the store.

We did, of course, end up in the store again. Unbeknownst to me my wife had made a deal with our son where he got to pick out a LEGO set. Here’s a thing that happens with my wife, though – she has this weird mental block where she cannot remember that LEGO sets are more expensive than gold bars. So she had promised him the fifty dollar X-Men Blackbird (or X-Jet or whatever they call it now) set without realizing it was fifty dollars. 
 
Well, I wanted a fifty dollar set, too, dammit. So I grabbed my Ghostbusters set and did my best not to think about how I didn’t need to spend the money on it because our beach vacation and Dragon Con and our anniversary and Lil’ Troublemaker’s birthday and Halloween and Christmas were all coming up in, like, the next week.

FIRST GLANCE

It’s hard for me to rate a LEGO set other than to say, “It looks like the thing that it is supposed to be; except made of LEGO bricks.” Which is what I can say about this from a glance. It’s worth noting that the windshield is much more satisfactorily designed than the one on the Back to the Future DeLorean.

All of the junk on top of the car looks great, which is appropriate because it took us about three hours to put that part together.

PACKAGING

This box is a step above standard LEGO releases. It is made from a much thicker cardboard and has graphics that are less distinctively LEGO but a little fancier. This is set #21108 and it has 508 pieces, which breaks down to a bit less than ten cents per piece. I don’t know if that makes me feel any better about the price. Some of these pieces are pretty tiny. Like, if I saw one of those little, clear headlight pieces in a Target or something, I would not be compelled to buy one. The tires might be a different story. Those things are worth at least a quarter each.

I don’t know if the piece count is the number of pieces that make up the set or the actual number of pieces in the box. LEGO sets always have a few extra pieces. I would assume it’s the former.

The graphics show the ECTO-1 in various states of play and feature a 3-th Anniversary logo and Egon saying, “Who you gonna call?” Unlike other LEGO sets this one does not show alternate builds because the only thing you’re supposed to make out of this set is the ECTO-1 and may the good Lord have mercy on you if you do anything else (with my set, anyway).

This is a nice box and I really like the black and yellow hazard stripes that line the interior once you open it:

The Bricks

The instruction manual for this set is as different as the box is. It’s in three languages, which I normally find really annoying but since this is a Danish product coming from one of the highest-quality manufacturers on the planet I will cut them a break. Also these are the only toys on the planet that aren’t made in China, so that counts for something, too.

Rather than the numbered bags we’ve seen in recent years that correspond to the building steps, this is old-school – six cellophane bags with no markings other than the warnings not to feed them to your dragon or use them to insulate your big, furry boots. So the first instruction in the manual is to open up all of the bags and sort the bricks by color.

This terrified me.

Every once in a while one of my son’s little jerkbag friends will come over and when they leave one or more of his LEGO sets is no longer fully assembled. The worst instance of this came from the Batcave playset being swept off of a table and busting apart to the point where the only option was to take the whole damned thing apart and start over. Obviously we were far beyond numbered bags at this point and color sorting was the only option. I tried to help with this, but had to quit after roughly ninety seconds to avoid having an aneurysm. I do not know how my wife and son managed this, but God bless them.

I will admit that the set seemed somewhat less intimidating after we got the pieces sorted. Also, Lil’ Troublemaker is way better at sorting pieces than I am. When you have thumbs like garden trowels it’s tough to pick up those little pieces. And to text.

There are a number of printed bricks in this set – a few with the Ghostbusters logo, the proton packs, and the computer. I prefer this to stickers.

ASSEMBLY

I feel like this took longer than 110 minutes or so to assemble, but we watched Ghostbusters 2 (I had seen the first one much more recently and didn’t feel like going downstairs to get the cartoons) while we put it together and I don’t think we went too far past the end. It might have edged over two hours with little breaks and stuff where we didn’t turn the movie back on. I’m not sure.

The chassis was a little tedious due to all of the outward-facing pegs for the fins and stuff. It’s never as much fun building the base parts. But once you get into the details and gimmicks things get awesome. The way the windows were designed was pretty ingenious and the interior of the ECTO is great with the computer station, though we’re having a little trouble figuring out how to fit all of the proton packs in the back. I’m also slightly disappointed that the back doesn’t open and have a little slide-out piece for the packs to sit on.

The top was the best though. Seeing all of the crazy parts that comprise the top of the ECTO-1 come together and be represented with LEGO bricks was great.

MINIFIGURES

Lil’ Troublemaker took point on these. The likenesses are great. Ray is overly exuberant, Egon looks stern, Peter’s eyebrows have that wiseass slant, and Winston is serious and has his little mustache. Rather than full last names the patches on the minifigures have initials.
The proton packs were assemblies unto themselves, each one consisting of many LEGO pieces. The finished product snaps onto a collar with a stud on the back that is around the minifigure’s neck. The wands snap onto the packs or into the figure’s hands just fine.

Also included are a ghost trap, two walkie-talkies, and a piece that is supposed to be a PKE meter. I feel like the Ray minifigure should have had goggles on his head or even an extra hair piece with goggles over the eyes.

I love the fact that this set came with a display base for the minifigures. It has a cool design and a brick with the Ghostbusters logo printed on it.

FINAL PRODUCT

The wheels spin, the top lifts off, the ladder extends, and the little turret thing rotates. There’s plenty of fun interaction here. And on the shelf everything looks fantastic. There’s no denying that this is the ECTO-1 and that the minifigures are Ghostbusters. This is clearly a high-quality licensed product that will fit right in with all of your other licensed LEGO sets. I feel like LEGO did a great job creating this thing.

All of the Ghostbusters and their gear can't fit inside, which is disappointing. The extra little bits of gear do add play value and the wheels spin nicely, which makes the car fun to drive around.

This set is solid, but I feel like it could have been a little better. LEGO has to decide where the balance is between price point and features, though. If they had included a Slimer (me and Lil’ Troublemaker felt like this was a huge oversight), made the car big enough, made the doors work, included different hair pieces with goggles, and done all of the other little things that would have made this set perfect the thing would have ended up costing a hundred bucks or more.

Of course, you can also make your own Slimer like Lil' Troublemaker did:
He felt Slimer's exclusionwas as egregious an offense as I did.

OVERALL

And that, in the end, is probably my biggest issue with LEGOs – for the price you pay you are getting an interpretation of something. It isn’t a big deal with castles or spaceships, but when you get into licensed stuff I start to get nitpicky. Heck, even Batmobiles have a bit of freedom. But that’s the difference – if you’re a LEGO collector then I would imagine your need is to have these items, vehicles, or playsets adapted into the world of LEGO. But as a regular toy collector I want accurate representations of whatever the thing I’m buying is. I’m not saying that LEGO did anything wrong at all, I’m just saying that this once again proves that LEGO is not really my thing.

Bottom line is that if you are a LEGO fan that wants a LEGO Ghostbusters set this ECTO-1 is going to make you happy. Me, I’m probably going to donate mine to Lil’ Troublemaker’s ever-growing LEGO world.

4 out of 5

Part of my reason for buying this is my desire for an ECTO-1 toy. I didn’t even spend one second considering buying the ridiculously overpriced one Matty was offering, but I do still want one. I think my best option is likely to be the one from the Real Ghostbusters line and that could cost me almost as much as Matty’s would.

The most important lesson for me here is to not buy LEGO sets for myself. If there’s one I want, just save it as a gift for Lil’ Troublemaker.



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