Monday, 22 July 2013

Designer Robot

For me, the Creator theme is one of the great unsung LEGO heroes. LEGO have been pumping out Creator sets since 2001 - 297 sets at last count, the vast majority of which have been unheralded and unhyped, at least until the advent of the Creator Expert line this year. Admittedly, Creator sets can be a bit of a mixed bag, but there's invariably at least one or two every year that catch my eye. Creator sets are usually cheaper than average, not least because of the lack of expensive licensing fees, and they generally contain fewer specialised parts, making them better parts packs for general building. With the exception of the Creator Expert sets, they also characteristically include building instructions for more than one model.

Over the years, a number of Creator sub-themes have come and gone, for instance the short-lived Creator Inventor line consisting of 4 sets released in 2003, and the Creator Designer subtheme which hung around for 3 years from 2003 until 2005 and brought with it an impressive array of 54 sets, although a lot of those were polybags. Buried within those 54 sets are a few genuinely interesting offerings which could easily slip under the radar, and for that reason I'm bringing you a review of one of them today - Set 4508 Titan XP.

The box has a sizeable footprint - it's 15 inches (38 cm) square. The front of the box (above - click to enlarge) features an action shot of the Titan XP robot against a backdrop of blurry CGI brick and plate outlines; this backdrop is part of the Creator Designer branding, appearing on the packaging of other 2004 Creator Designer sets as well. On the bottom right of the box are a couple of small inset pictures highlighting play features of the set, and on the bottom left is really the only clue so far that the set contains parts and instructions for more than just the Titan XP model. The back of the box (below - click to enlarge) shows the Titan XP robot from behind, plus pictures of the supplementary models for which instructions are provided.

The front of the box lifts up to reveal the contents - a generous 784 parts plus an instruction booklet, although there's no DSS and no minifigures. The presence of just one instruction booklet is somewhat surprising given the substantial parts count and all the alternate builds, but it's pretty hefty - A4 sized and 104 pages from cover to cover. The front cover (below) is almost identical to the front of the box.

There's a summary of the models for which instructions are provided inside the front cover (below). The different builds are graded by difficulty level; the 'Quick' build consists of a couple of small robots, while the intermediate, or "Experienced' build, is a larger two-legged robot which morphs into a flying machine, and Titan XP is obviously the 'Advanced' model.

The overwhelming majority of the instruction booklet is of course taken up with building instructions for the various models; the only advertising to be found is on the back cover (below) which highlights the other 2004 Creator Designer sets. Note the typo beneath the shark - that's actually Set 4506 Deep Sea Predators rather than Set 4507 which can be seen immediately below. See what I mean about some of these sets slipping beneath the radar ? There's some good stuff there....

The instruction booklet also contains a full inventory of the parts contained within the set, and we'll get on to the spectacular parts palette momentarily. My copy of the set is a used example which I sourced from eBay, and as you can see from the picture below it looks like the previous owner wasn't quite as obsessive about the condition of his/her instruction booklets as I am...

Regular readers of this blog will know that I like to highlight a few parts of interest when I'm reviewing a set. I have to say however that I really had my work cut out with this set - parts-wise it's a veritable treasure trove, and sorting through all the unusual and/or rare elements took me ages. For starters, I don't think I've ever seen a set containing quite such a large selection of sand blue parts; this rare colour has recently made a bit of a comeback in Set 10218 Pet Shop but other than that it must be close to a decade since the appearance of sand blue parts in sets. And not only does the Titan XP set contain a huge variety of different sand blue parts (you can see a selection of them in the picture below - click to enlarge), but a number of them have only ever appeared in this set. Unique parts include the sand blue 2 x 2 corner brick and corner plate, the modified 1 x 1 plate with tooth, the 1 x 6 x 2 arch with curved top, a number of different 45 degree slope bricks of various types, the left and right 6 x 2 inverted wedges and the 1 x 2 stepped vehicle fairing with two pins which you can see near the middle of the picture. Other sand blue parts in the set including the left and right 3 x 2 and 4 x 2 wedge plates have only ever appeared in a couple of sets, and none of them have appeared in more than 7 sets.

And it doesn't stop there - in addition to all the sand blue elements there are a host of elements in other colours which are worthy of mention. A number of the orange parts in the picture below are unique to this set, including the modified 2 x 2 brick with the rotation ball joint, the modified 1 x 2 tile with handle and the left and right 4 x 2 wedge plates, as is the chrome silver 1 x 1 round plate. All other parts in the picture below have appeared in fewer than 10 sets, with the majority being restricted to just 1 or 2 sets in addition to the Titan XP. Note the dark bley minifigure legs with light bley hips; as previously stated, this set doesn't contain any actual minifigures, and you'll see later how those minifig legs are pressed into alternative service. While it's always nice to get your hands on a set overflowing with rare parts, the obvious downside if you're buying pre-owned is that you'll be unable to cannabalise parts from your other sets if there's anything missing, although there's always Bricklink....

And so on to the build.... The alternate models didn't really grab me, to be honest - I sometimes start off with the supplementary models when I tackle a Creator set, but not on this occasion - so I jumped straight to page 62 of the instruction booklet and the Titan XP build. First up were the robot's legs and feet. Almost immediately I found myself having some difficulties with colour discrimination in the building instructions; sand blue was surprisingly difficult to distinguish from the different greys in artificial light, although the instructions were otherwise pretty easy to follow. You can see one of the Titan's feet below (click to enlarge) - big, chunky and featuring a number of the rare sand blue parts I mentioned earlier. The legs attach to the feet via a Technic rotation joint - if you look closely you can just about see the black pin which will slot into the rotation joint socket at the bottom of the leg peeking out from the top of the foot.

The completed legs and feet can be seen in the picture below (click to enlarge). Including the 'hips' and 'ankles', each leg features no less than 4 different points of articulation, of which 3 utilise Technic rotation joints. In theory, all these points of articulation confer almost unlimited possibilities when it comes to posing the model, although in practice there's a major trade-off which I'll get to shortly....

The torso and head (below - click to enlarge) are rather quicker to assemble than the legs and feet. Once again sand blue and orange are prominent, with a few chrome silver round 1 x 1 plates adding some additional bling. The light bley columns protruding from the top of the head can be angled further outwards if desired and the black 'back pack' can detach, but rather surprisingly the head itself is fixed and can't be rotated without modification.

Once the torso and head are complete it's time to build and attach the arms, complete with monstrous 1980's-style shoulder pads. The upper body can be then be dropped onto the legs and we're done (picture below - click to enlarge); the upper body attaches by way of a single pin, allowing it to rotate a full 360 degrees. Note the ingenious use of minifigure legs as the Titan XP's fingers.

First impressions are that the proportions aren't quite right - to my eyes the upper body and head seem too small for the arms and legs. That having been said, at around 14 inches / 36 cm in height it's still a fairly imposing model, and taller I think than any other 'official' LEGO robot or mech that I've previously built. You can get a better look at how the legs and arms fit together via the side-on view below (click to enlarge). The construction of the legs brings to mind a crazy paving mosaic from this angle, but the effect isn't quite so jarring "in the flesh".

Many of the LEGO robots and mechs I've built in the past have had a decidedly unfinished look when viewed from behind. The Titan XP doesn't suffer the same fate, however, with the back having a significantly more polished appearance (below - click to enlarge) than many other sets I could mention. This view reveals the preponderance of sand blue in the legs, and you can also clearly see the rather cool sand blue pods projecting backwards and downwards from the lower part of the legs. 

As previously mentioned, the multiple articulation points allow for a substantial range of movement and mean that the Titan XP can be manipulated into a variety of neat poses like the one below (click to enlarge). The downside of this is that the sheer weight of the model seems to overwhelm the joints in the legs, making the model decidedly unstable and liable to collapse or overbalance. Having just recently completed one large and somewhat unstable mechanical beast with legs, it's really quite ironic that the next model I end up building should also turn out to be a large, somewhat unstable mechanical beast with legs.....

It seems a bit bonkers for LEGO to have incurred the costs associated with including so many unique elements in this relatively low profile set, but I'm pleased they did - what an awesome colour scheme ! The combination of sand blue and orange, and the stripes on the legs, bring to mind the livery of the iconic Gulf Porsche (below) from 1970 which only makes me like the Titan XP more.... OK, so the Porsche is more medium blue than sand blue but hopefully you get my drift...

To give you an idea of scale, I've posed the Titan XP alongside an Exo Force mech that I reviewed a while back - Set 7714 Golden Guardian from 2007 (picture below - click to enlarge). While the Golden Guardian is admittedly smaller and can't be posed as easily, it's a lot more stable.

Containing 784 pieces and released in 2004, Set 4508 Titan XP really is a hidden gem buried deep within the Creator back catalogue. It's by no means perfect - the proportions don't look quite right to me and it's horribly unstable - but aided and abetted by that wonderful colour scheme I think it looks spectacular, and then there's the unique parts palette.... If you're looking to pick one up then eBay is probably your cheapest bet if you're willing to wait for one to come up - I paid less than £20 plus shipping for my used copy about a year ago. Otherwise head over to Bricklink - at time of writing the cheapest used example with a box is around £45 plus shipping, and you can get a new, sealed copy for little more than £50. Given that the RRP back in 2004 was £34.99 that's a veritable bargain I reckon.


  1. Anonymous22/7/13

    Creator Designer was possibly my favorite theme.
    It's what got me into Lego in the first place. This was one set I never got so thanks for the review.

  2. That weeny head is hilarious. The shoulder pads just emphasise it! Intentional of course, but kooky. Great post Dave thanks, it's on the wishlist...

  3. Very nice job! Go on now ! ;D