Sunday, 5 June 2011

First impressions....

.....are pretty favourable, to be honest. I'm talking about my first brush with sets from the new "Cars" theme.

Given the glut of excellent new sets during the second half of 2011, not least the superb Alien Conquest sets, PotC, Pet Shop and others, I had always intended to pass on the Cars sets. I assumed that they would be dumbed down for a younger audience, and that there'd be an emphasis on play features rather than an interesting building experience and models that would be fun to own and display. So not my cup of tea, basically.

I was forced to re-examine my preconceptions somewhat when the first set images started to appear, however. Yes, it certainly looked like some of the models were going to turn out to be a bit of a "build in your sleep" experience, but there was the promise of at least one new colour and a number of new parts appearing in the sets. Also, and more importantly, the likenesses of many of the prominent "characters" from the Cars movies - Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, Luigi, Guido and Sally - looked to have been quite well captured, and the sets in general appeared to possess a vibrancy which was quite appealing to me.

Anyway, the Cars sets have started to appear at retail over the past couple of weeks, so I thought I'd dip my toe into the water and order the two cheapest sets - 8200 Lightning McQueen and 8201 Tow Mater - from Amazon. At £4.99 each and free delivery I figured I couldn't go far wrong. The sets arrived barely 48 hours later and I was ready to dive in, with Lightning first in line.

Some of my earlier fears about 'dumbing down' were justified on the basis of some larger custom parts (pic below), but on the plus side, I was impressed that key parts were printed, particularly given that this is such a small, inexpensive set. Compare and contrast with some of the new non-licensed Racers sets (such as this one) which have lots of fiddly stickers and no printed parts despite their identical RRP....
The build was predictably short and sweet - with only 35 pieces I really wasn't expecting anything more - and the final result is surprisingly pleasing. Admittedly this is in part due to the aforementioned custom parts, but even so Lightning looks great from the front and sides. The lovely new red wheels play their part, as do the printed red 2x4 tiles on the sides.

If I have a criticism, it's that the back's a bit messy :

Overall,  have to say I like this set a lot. More than I expected, and if I'm honest, more than I should - I'm somewhat conflicted as the agreeable appearance is partly down to a couple of custom parts which have little to no utility outside the set. Lightning is zoomable (the automotive equivalent of swooshable...), cute, and by recent LEGO standards, surprisingly cheap given that it's a licensed set with so many new and printed parts. A bargain, basically, if you have any interest in the subject material at all. There are quite a few sets at lower price points in this theme, in fact, a welcome development given the licensed nature of the theme, and something which speaks to the intention to target the youngsters with these sets, I guess. On the flipside, completists may wince at the fact that the first wave of sets alone features an amazing 14 sets, or 15 if you include an upcoming promo polybag....

So will I be getting any more of the Cars sets ? Well, in a word, yes - once I've built Tow  Mater I'm looking forward to getting hold of some more of the main characters which are available in the Flo's V8 Cafe and Tokyo Pit Stop sets, and beyond that we'll see.... And even if I hadn't liked the look of these sets much, there's an added complication, namely my young son who is a Cars fanatic and who has already fallen in love with my LEGO Lightning, so I'll find it even harder to resist.....

[Edit.... I just had to come back and add the picture below - enjoy !]

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