Friday, 16 November 2012

Monsters, Inc.

Against all expectations I was really taken with LEGO's Monster Fighters theme following my first contact with the sets, and having initially tested the water with a couple of the smaller ones including Set 9461 Swamp Creature it was only a matter of time before I felt the need to add to my collection.


Truth be told, it was quite hard to know which set to get next. Having pored over the set images I was spoiled for choice - all of the sets have an endearingly goofy B-movie charm to them, and really I would have been happy to build any of them. In the end it was Set 9466 The Crazy Scientist & His Monster that got the nod - there's so much cool stuff going on on the front of the box (picture above - click to enlarge) that I just couldn't resist it.While the front of the box drew me in, it's only when you look at the back of the box (picture below) that you really appreciate how many play features and neat touches the designer has crammed into the set; we'll get to those later.


The contents of the box are thankfully accessed by cutting a couple of seals rather than by the use of messy and destructive thumb tabs. The box contains four bags of pieces; the bags are numbered from one to four, and each of them contains at least one smaller sealed bag of parts. There are also two instruction booklets (below) the first of which details construction of the minifigures and the Monster Fighters' car, and the second which covers construction of the structures and furnishings. Finally, there's a gratifyingly small sticker sheet containing just two stickers.



Instruction booklet 1 is pretty short at only 27 pages; other than a collage of all the Monster Fighter sets on the back cover it's all building instructions. Booklet 2 is considerably heftier, weighing in at over 60 pages; it's bulked up considerably by a variety of advertising copy as well as additional content including a summary of the set's play features and a 2-page inventory of parts. As previously stated, the sticker sheet is teeny and can be seen below.


The set contains some interesting parts, a small selection of which you can see below. The medium blue 4 x 4 wedge and arch are unique to this set, and other parts such as the green Moonstone, medium blue 65 degree slope and dark brown tranquilizer gun only appear in two sets including this one. Other parts of note include the wonderful vial containing green liquid, the red light brick, and a few glow in the dark parts such as a rat and spider which aren't widely available in this colour.


And so to the build. Diving into the first instruction booklet, the first job is to assemble the set's four minifigures. The Monster (pictured below) appears to be a representation of Frankenstein's monster; I did wonder whether the lack of an actual reference to Frankenstein was possibly a copyright issue or just a conscious effort on the part of LEGO to distance themselves somewhat from existing works. Whatever the reason, he's pretty well realised. His large head is formed by way of an additional hairpiece-type element placed on the top of a standard minifigure head. There's a good level of detail on his head and torso, for instance a couple of safety pins printed on his head and metallic surgical clips printed on his chest to indicate where he's been opened up and resealed. The olive green colouration of his 'skin' is suitably ghastly, and all that's really missing are a couple of printed bolts on his neck. There's some back-printing on his torso, but he doesn't have a reversible head, meaning you don't have a choice of expression and are stuck with a grimace. The Monster minifigure is exclusive to this set, and rather good I think....



There are some clear similarities between the Monster and the Series 4 Collectible Minifigure (CMF) monster, released in 2011, but also some obvious differences in skin colour and the head and torso prints. You can compare and contrast the two figures below; the newer Monster Fighters version is on the left.


The second bad guy - the titular Crazy Scientist - can be seen below. Unlike the Monster he has a reversible head, which allows him to switch between red and clear filters on his goggles. I love his lab jacket, featuring a printed tool belt containing test tubes, scissors and pliers which wraps around the back of his torso.



While unique to this set, he's very similar to the Crazy Scientist Collectible Minifigure from Series 4, right down to his rubbery bley hair. The torso and facial prints are however different, and the CMF version doesn't have back printing on his torso. You can see a comparison of the Monster Fighters version (left) and Series 4 Collectible Minifigure (right) below.


Moving on to the Monster Fighters themselves, first up is Doctor Rodney Rathbone. His robotic right leg strikes a markedly discordant note against his neatly coiffured facial hair, natty bowler hat and immaculately turned-out torso complete with waistcoat, tie and fob watch. He doesn't have a reversible head, but his torso is nicely backprinted. Dr. Rathbone appears in three sets including this one.



Major Quinton Steele is the other Monster Hunter in this set. He's modelled on the cliched quintessential English pith hat-wearing adventurer, but with a twist - he appears to possess some kind of high tech monocle that even the Borg would be proud of.... This minifigure appears in this and one other set.



Once the minifigures have been safely assembled, attention shifts to the brick-built elements of the set. First up is the car, which can be seen below. The design of the vehicle is seemingly based on the iconic Citroen 2CV, but it's like no 2CV you've ever seen, bristling with armaments and other modifications including three flick-fire missles, an outrigger for Rodney Rathbone to fire from, rocket boosters at the back and a satellite dish on the roof. It's far from clear who's supposed to be at the wheel, however, seeing as both Rathbone and Steele appear to be too wrapped up handling the weaponry to attend to driving duties.... The car's neatly designed, with a rather fetching medium blue scheme. It would have have benefitted from doors, however, and it's a shame that a few bits of the bodywork are light or dark bley rather than medium blue. This is partly, but not entirely, down to limitations in the medium blue parts palette.


The laboratory is next up for construction, starting with the machine which breathes life into the Monster. This is made up of a tower which houses the diabolical reanimation device, and a rickety, uncomfortable-looking bed for the Monster to lie on while he's being zapped. The reanimation device contains a red LED light brick which, when activated, causes the transparent neon green dish and light saber blade attached to the front to glow red as you can hopefully see in the picture below (click to enlarge). An irritating thing about LEGO light bricks is that you have to keep the button held down in order for the light to stay lit. This set offers a neat solution to this, however - an elegant mechanism which allows the light to be switched on and remain lit. This is accomplished by turning a gear on the back of the tower which rotates a knob wheel adjacent to the light brick and holds the button down - simple but effective, and extremely welcome. Just remember to turn it off again when you're done or you'll be replacing the battery before you know it. The bed moves backwards and forwards by way of a reddish brown capstan so that you can manouevre the Monster into the perfect position for maximum reanimation beam exposure....


The remaining structures are what appear to be a holding cell plus a work bench and a storage unit (below - click to enlarge). The cell door opens at the front, but there's also a panel at the back that can be released if the occupant chooses to make a quick getaway. The roof of the cell is adorned with a ballista, presumably to defend the laboratory against aggressive oddballs driving Citroen 2CV's, plus a variety of animal species, of which two are of the glow-in-the-dark variety. The workbench comes complete with a glow-in-the-dark skull in a bell jar and various tools including a neat-looking little microscope.


The various sections of the laboratory bolt together by way of hinge bricks; triangular (cut corner) plates at the base of the various structures prevent much movement of the different sections relative to each other, although if you'd prefer to open the laboratory out more you can remove or replace the plates and choose your own arrangement


You can see how all the various elements of the set come together below; presumably the idea is that the Monster Fighters mount a full frontal assault on the laboratory and lay waste to the place. Let's just hope that the Monster gets a shift on and reanimates sharpish or the baddies are done for....


Overall, this is a cracking set - highly recommended. It's an interesting and extremely varied build, the components of the scene are well designed and come together nicely, and there are a ton of play features worked into the models, with the mechanism for activating the light brick and keeping it switched on a particular favourite. My 4-year old loved the set as well - seeing it assembled on my desk it was almost impossible to tear him away - so its appeal is clearly not restricted to AFOLs of a certain vintage....

Monster Fighters Set 9466 The Crazy Scientist & His Monster contains 430 pieces and retails at £39.99 in the UK and $49.99 in the U.S.. Even at RRP I'd be recommending it, but at time of writing the set is 17% off RRP at Amazon.co.uk making it even more of an essential purchase. Folks in the U.S. can pick up the set here.

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