One theme which I've so far steadfastly resisted has been Time Cruisers, however. This theme, which consisted of a total of just 9 sets, had a brief run in 1996 and 1997 before sinking with barely a trace, and the sets look completely bizarre. Take for instance Set 6492 Hypno Cruiser (picture below - click to enlarge) which was also available in the U.S. as Set 1853. I mean, just look at it - a schoolboy and a professor driving a multi-wheeled vehicle which is propelled by a combination of what look like dragon wings, jet engines, a helicopter rotor and a dragster engine. In space. Pursued by a monkey. Someone must have been having a laugh.
|Set 6492 Hypno Cruiser : Bizarre...|
When I saw the first images of the new Monster Fighters theme, I have to confess that my first thought was "Time Cruisers". Consider for instance Set 9464 The Vampyre Hearse (picture below - click to enlarge). Maybe it was the dragster engine that brought to mind the Time Cruisers sets, but the whole concept of a dragster hearse, its engine secured to the bodywork by bones, seems entirely bizarre. Or is it just me ?
The Vampyre Hearse isn't an isolated case, either. Take Set 9467 The Ghost Train (picture below). I could just about get my head round the plane from the set being piloted by a Vampyre Hunter in a Van Helsing-type scenario, but just check that train out ! From the cow-catcher and Boo-esque diabolical grinning face on the front to the bones and the dragon wings, it's utterly baffling....
Anyway, I finally got my first sight of the Monster Fighters sets "in the flesh" at the London Westfield LEGO store a couple of weeks back. The store had the full range of sets on the shelves, and at least one set built and on display. After spending a few minutes debating the wisdom of dipping my toe into yet another new LEGO theme, I eventually decided to get my wallet out and take a closer look at one of the sets.
Set 9461 The Swamp Creature is the entry-level Monster Fighters set, and you can see the box above. Given the subject matter of the theme, the artwork is suitably dark and moonlit, with a spooky font spelling out the name of the theme. Opening the box reveals a small, folded instruction booklet and two sealed bags of pieces. There are no stickers in this set.
You can see a few of the more interesting pieces from the set in the picture above (click to enlarge). No parts are unique to the set, although the trans-neon green Moonstone, also known as "Rock Stepped with Swamp Pattern" (or just "ice lolly" as far as I'm concerned) can only be found in one other set. Dark green sea grass has been around since 2009 but this is only the fifth set it's ever appeared in; this is also the case for the sand green modified 1 x 2 plate with clip on top which I also highlighted in my recent review of the Ninjago Fangpyre Mech set. You get a smattering of flat silver pieces including five 1 x 2 tiles with grille which have only previously appeared in 3 other sets. I've yet to grow tired of the grooved 2 x 2 round bricks, although you unfortunately only get one of them in this set, in light bluish grey.
The front of the instruction booklet (above) is pretty much identical to the box art, apart from the absence of a close-up of the swamp creature. The booklet is 27 pages long, which seems a lot given how small the set is; each stage of the build gets a parts call-out, and there's an inventory of parts and a couple of pages of advertising for the LEGO club and a LEGO survey at the end. Love 'em or hate 'em, flick-fire missiles are here to stay, even in sets as small as this; don't fire them at anyone's head, kids, or it'll end in tears, apparently....
And so to the build; first up as ever are the minifigures, of which there are two - the Swamp Creature, who is exclusive to this set, and Frank Rock, who appears in two sets including this one.
With his scaly printed torso and legs, webbed head and red-tinged fish eyes the Swamp Creature (below) is every bit the corny matinee monster of my youth and I think he looks great ! He also features extensive back printing and a webbed fin on the back of his head.
Below you can see what's underneath that goofy rubbery head-piece - big, staring eyes and sharp teeth ! He definitely looks more scary this way. Given that his face is largely covered by the head-piece, there's no back-printed alternative expression, just a few more scales.
Monster Fighter Frank Rock (below) is notable for his Elvis-style quiff, cheesy grin and cool shades, although if you prefer your heroes to be pensive and considered rather than cocky and brash then you can reverse his head in order to get a different look. The printing on the torso and legs is classic LEGO Adventurers fare, and it's nice and detailed. His legs are olive green, which is an interesting new addition to the LEGO colour palette this year.
Frank's preferred mode of transport is an Everglades-style airboat (below - click to enlarge), albeit one which is loaded out with considerably more weaponry then you'd likely see on any airboat in the Florida Keys... As well as a pair of flick-fire missiles, the craft also features a couple of front-mounted clips to hold Frank's revolvers.
The set is completed by a small section of suitably swamp-like scenery, which includes the neon green
I suspect that most will buy this set for the minifigures alone, but the airboat and scenery elements do add some modest play value, not to mention making the set a little more interesting for folks like me for whom minifigures aren't the be-all and end-all.
In conclusion, it's a neat little set, and a veritable bargain at £4.99 / $6.99 when you consider that you get two minifigures, one of them unique to the set, and a handful of parts for your money. I particularly love the kitsch Swamp Creature minifig... The downside is that it's whetted my appetite for the theme as a whole, which means more expense; I can also blame the display model of Set 9468 Vampyre Castle at the Westfield store for that - it looked amazing and is a must-buy set for me.
Outside of the LEGO Brand Stores, most retailers haven't yet started selling the Monster Fighters sets at time of writing, although some third party merchants are selling them on Amazon in the U.S. and Europe at inflated prices. No hurry - they'll be along soon enough at or below RRP, but if you really can't wait I'm sure you can find some old Time Cruisers sets on eBay to fill the time...
|Set 9468 Vampyre Castle|