Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Agents Rebooted

Some say you should never go back, and LEGO has some history in that regard, not least with their 'Legends' series of classic sets which failed to hit the commercial heights. The rights and wrongs of rebooting rather than innovating aside, LEGO's decision to revive the cult Agents theme under the "Ultra Agents" banner took me by surprise, not least because the original sets weren't retired that long ago. Consisting of 13 sets released in 2008 and 2009, I missed out on the original Agents line while it was still available at retail and have been playing catch-up ever since. As I've discovered to my cost, some of the sets have become quite sought-after in the aftermarket; not surprising, given the quality of sets such as Mobile Command Center, Volcano Base and Aerial Defence Unit which recreate larger-than-life scenes from your average Bond movie and are crammed with cool play-features and neat details.

I first spied the Ultra Agents sets at the London Toy Fair earlier this year and was, if I'm honest, a bit underwhelmed. One of the things I liked most about the original Agents sets was the consistency of the colour schemes and design DNA running through the different sets, and at the Toy Fair at least this wasn't so evident in the new sets, giving the range a less than cohesive feel. The best of the new sets was perhaps Set 70165 Ultra Agents Mission HQ which seemed to be a remake of the original Agents Mobile Command Center, but the other sets were a decidedly mixed bag. For me, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the reboot wasn't even the actual sets but what appeared to be a close tie-in to a complementary app which would, we were told, enhance the play experience. I left the Toy Fair very much on the fence about the reboot and needing to be convinced.

I got to dip my toe into the water a couple of weeks back - I needed to place an order at S@H in order to secure a promo Classic Spaceman and it was the perfect excuse to pick up one of the Ultra Agents sets so I could run the rule over it. I chose Set 70162 Infearno Interception and it duly arrived a few days later. The front of the box (above) features an action shot of Agent Solomon Blaze battling the dastardly Infearno, with the Ultra Agents logo prominent on the packaging and the availability of a free app highlighted in one corner. The back of the box (below - click to enlarge) highlights some of the numerous play features of the set as well as once again pushing the accompanying app.

I ignored the two thumb tabs on the back of the box, slipped a sharp knife under the left end flap, popped open the box, and surveyed the contents. Two large bags of parts numbered '1' and '2' and an instruction booklet were all I saw initially; when a quick flick through the instruction booklet revealed that that there were supposed to be some stickers in the box as well I examined the packaging again and discovered the errant stickers clinging to the inside of the box. Thankfully they were still intact (picture below - click to enlarge) and mercifully there aren't too many of them to apply.

The instruction booklet (cover shot below) has a footprint of around 12.5 cm x 20 cm and contains 56 pages from cover to cover. In addition to the building instructions there's a two page inventory of parts, further advertising for the Ultra Agents app in seven languages, and a request by a green Ninja for the reader to provide product feedback.

A selection of rare and/or interesting parts to be found in the set can be seen in the picture below (click to enlarge). Considering that this is a relatively small set there are quite a few elements of note including six which are currently unique to this set - the black printed 45 degree slope, the dark red surfboard, the flat silver 2 x 2 and 4 x 1 curved slopes, and the trans-light blue 6 x 6 webbed radar dish and 8 x 4 x 2 windscreen (not shown). The blue Technic axle and pin connector toggle joint, flat silver air scoop and trans-light blue cheese slope appear in this set and one other, while the trans-orange 8L arrow, the black 6 x 6 inverted dish and spoiler and the flat silver pin connector have all featured in less than 5 sets. All the other elements in the picture have appeared in ten sets or less, with the exception of the curious light and dark bley 1 x 4 brick-like element in the top right corner which I'd never seen before but which has nevertheless surprisingly graced 27 sets to date; it's actually a spring shooter, of which more later. Like the previous incarnation of the Agents theme there's a sprinkling of silver, albeit flat silver rather than the sexier metallic silver that featured in the original sets. There's also a goodly quantity of trans-light blue elements which in addition to those mentioned above also include no less than sixteen 1 x 2 plates, a couple of 4 x 4 inverted dishes, and eight round 1 x 1 tiles.

The set includes two minifigures. Agent Solomon Blaze (below - click to enlarge) appears in this set and one other - Set 70165 Ultra Agents Mission HQ. Striking a blow for age equality, it appears that Solomon isn't a youngster but a grizzled old pro complete with grey hair and a weather-beaten face. His hair is actually a new element for 2014 which is thus far restricted to just Solomon Blaze and General Airen Cracken from Star Wars Set 75050 B-Wing, and his head, torso and legs are unique to the Solomon Blaze minifigure. The Torso is printed with the pattern of a Suit jacket complete with the Ultra Agents logo and a gold tie Pattern, while his right leg is printed with what Bricklink describes as a "Silver Prosthetic Bionic Right Leg Pattern".

Solomon's torso is backprinted (picture below - click to enlarge) although it's easy to miss the subtle pattern unless you look closely. He has an alternative expression, again visible below, described by Bricklink as "Determined/Smirk"; it's the sort of expression that you might conceivably expect Indiana Jones or Han Solo to sport.

The other minifigure in the set is super villain Infearno (below) who's only available in this set. Every element making up this minifigure - the head, torso, armour, legs and flame head piece - is unique to this minifigure. While the armour undoubtedly makes Infearno more imposing, it's unfortunately at the cost of covering up the excellent torso print which features a furnace and a pressure gauge. The torso print extends downwards onto the front of the legs which feature extensive printing from waist to toe.

Infearno's armour also obscures the torso backprint, which resembles a furnace door. Neither his head nor his legs are backprinted, although given that the flame head piece is transparent a backprinted alternate expression wouldn't have worked well on this occasion anyway. Note the two 1L bars protruding downwards from the base of the armour and the hollow stud on his back - their relevance will be revealed momentarily....

Infearno comes with a host of accessories, and you can see him fully tooled up in the picture below (click to enlarge). A pair of fire-spitting flamethrowers attach to the 1L bars mentioned above and wrap around the sides of his body; the flamethrowers are supplied by a fuel tank which attaches to the hollow stud on the back of his armour. As if twin flamethrowers weren't enough, he also carries a bundle of dynamite in each hand. Infearno gets about on a flame-powered hover board; this is made up of 8 elements including the rare dark red surfboard mentioned earlier which is propelled by a large trans-red flame with marbled trans-yellow pattern.

With both minifigs assembled it's time to get cracking on Solomon Blaze's vehicle, perplexingly described as a "convertible car" on the relevant page of the Ultra Agents microsite. It's a fairly quick and simple build, and you can see the completed model below (click to enlarge). The vehicle is certainly not 'convertible' in the traditional automotive sense, and it looks more like a 4-wheeled version of the iconic Tron Light Cycle than a car thanks to the black and trans-light blue colour scheme and the distinctive, sleek side-on profile, but that's fine by me.

Each front wheel is made up of a pair of black 6 x 6 inverted radar dishes with black curved bricks sandwiched in-between and trans-blue webbed 6 x 6 radar dishes on the convex surface of the black dishes. Although the front wheels are designed to rotate, the absence of tyres and consequent lack of friction means that they don't turn well on a smooth surface. The sides of the vehicle are greebled with a number of flat silver elements which further reinforces the high-tech feel, and a pair of forward-facing dual cannons complements the vehicle's main weapon which we'll get to shortly.....

The rear of the vehicle (above - click to enlarge) is a bit untidy on account of the big red knob sticking out of the back. Pushing hard on the knob activates a simple Technic mechanism linked to a rudimentary ejector seat with the result that Solomon Blaze is launched out of the cockpit. The two trans-orange bars protruding from the rear of the vehicle are actually the back ends of a pair of 8L arrows; push down on the rear spoiler and the vehicle's main weapon - twin spring-loaded missile shooters - are revealed (picture below - click to enlarge). Some gentle downwards pressure on the back of an arrow activates the firing mechanism and launches it a good few metres across the room - quite impressive.

In Bond movies the ejector seat often seems to be designed to get rid of the bad guy, but in this case Solomon Blaze uses it himself to get up close and personal with Infearno on his hover board and take him out. Our intrepid hero is ejected from the cockpit seated on a section of the cockpit floor (below - click to enlarge); once in mid-air it's presumably just a simple case of whipping out his mini blaster and dispatching the villain..... It's the first time I've encountered one of these weapons, which were only introduced this year. A small dark bley trigger clicks into the body of the blaster; once the trigger is in place you attach a round 1 x 1 plate to the end of the weapon, whereupon pressing down on the trigger makes the plate ping off quite energetically with a range of perhaps 1-2 metres.

I've already described a number of play-features, notably the spring-loaded missile shooters, but I've left the best 'til last - the vehicle has a hover mode which you can see below (note : the transparent stand isn't included in the set). This transformation is achieved by folding the front wheels inwards and the rear wheels downwards; pleasingly, there's sufficient friction in the respective mechanisms to keep the wheels folded like this even when you swoosh the model around. I'd somehow missed the fact that the vehicle had a hover mode until I'd bought the set and got it home, so it was a nice surprise.

You can see all the components of the set below (click to enlarge). I started out somewhat sceptical about the Agents reboot, and while I probably still need some convincing about the theme as a whole, so far as this set's concerned at least I like it. Infearno's an interesting baddie, and Solomon Blaze's car looks good and has some interesting play features, particularly the hover mode. For more information on this set and indeed other sets in the theme I'd encourage you to have a poke around LEGO's Ultra Agents microsite. I was a big fan of Crackdown on the XBOX 360 and I get a definite Crackdown vibe from the graphics and videos on the site; this impression was reinforced when I downloaded and played the Ultra Agents companion app on my iPad. The app, which is free and available for iOS and Android, offers a mixture of interactive comic book and minigames, and features distinct chapters each of which reflects one of the six Ultra Agents sets.

Set 70162 Infearno Interception contains 313 pieces and retails for £24.99 / $29.99 US. At time of writing, discounts on the set are few and far between; UK readers can get it here for a pound off RRP, while US readers can order via LEGO shop@home.


  1. Anonymous2/8/14

    Interesting that you brought up Tron. I thought it looked more like Harrison Ford's vehicle from Blade Runner.

    1. I was mainly reacting to the colour scheme I think....