Sunday, July 1st, 2012 at 10:57am by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
[Source: Nuju Metru]
Today we take a look at one of the awesome Lord of the Rings sets, and who better to do so than Nuju Metru? Read on to see his thoughts on 9469 Gandalf Arrives, the smallest set in the wave. Is it a worthy addition to your Middle Earth collection? Go look and see!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The front of the box – as you can see, it's a very snazzy package.
Although I can't say that the packaging of 9469 Gandalf Arrives was what drew my attention to it – I'd been planning to buy this set, along with all its siblings in the LOTR wave, ever since I heard they even existed – I can still comment on how pleasing it is. It is attractive without being overly flashy; a nice combination of class and visual appeal. The LOTR boxes won't leap out at you from the shelf, like the lime Ninjago or sky-blue LEGO city ones, but when your eye, seeking relief, settles on the LOTR boxes, you will say to yourself, "wow, what nice boxes!" A combination of blue and gold frames the set, with the enlarged finger of Sauron stealing focus on the upper-right corner; a delightful image of the set, framed by cheery Hobbiton, takes up most of the space.
The back of the box, showcasing the set's lack of features.
The rear face of the product is also well designed. As though thumb-tacked on to the map of Middle Earth (a map colored with an elegant gradient of yellow to dark teal), small pictures framed by rough parchment edges show you a few possible vignettes one could create with this set. The lack of play features demonstrated on the box's back also leads one to believe that there aren't any such features. More on this later.
In the lower left corner, we see a little ad for the upcoming LEGO Lord of the Rings game, for which I am immensely excited. Like the front, it isn't flashy, but it excellently conveys the spirit of the Tolkien universe as it appeared in the LOTR films.
Now let's open this thing up...
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The box is open, and its contents spill forth...
Inside are two bags of pieces, an instruction booklet, and a pony, unwrapped and ready to rumble... We'll get to the pony in a few sections. The parts are predominantly in browns and tans, as is fitting for a wooden cart.
Our cast of characters: Frodo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey, and a pretty pony.
First to be built are the figures and the horse – which, yes, required a few bricks to be completed – and those are done pretty quickly. As I said, we'll talk about them in more depth later on. Let's go to the step-by-step construction of the main model, the cart itself.
Cart is done! Now we get to look at the finished product.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
The finished set, as you can see, recreates that... scene, you know, the one from... that... movie.
The set is done, so now on to the part I've been holding back for. It's time to take a closer look at that pony.
Look at how beautiful it is! I always found the old LEGO horse to be sort of dull, nostalgia aside; it was really square, immobile, boring. Next to all the beautiful textures and rounded surfaces of contemporary creatures like the new LEGO bear, cows, or cave troll, that old horse would have been really sadly out of its league in the LOTR theme.
To spare the old horses' feelings from being hurt, TLG deigned to design a new horse to debut in the LOTR line. It was a wise choice. Not only is the new horse far more aesthetically pleasing and anatomically complex than the old one, but it can also stand up on its rear legs! I thought that the new poseability was the most exciting part. Horses play such a large role in the films; the newer, snazzier horse will take on that role with pride.
My unexpected bout of Pony Enthusiasm aside, I move on to the real reason I bought this set (aside from my obsessive desire to own every LEGO LOTR set ever made): the figures. And what figures they are. The set includes Gandalf the Grey and a green-shirted Shire Frodo, who together make quite the minifig team.
Frodo is the less exciting figure. I'll be upfront about that. He appears in other sets, Shelob Attacks and the Weathertop one, in a much cooler and more memorable form. He comes with a ring and Sting in those sets. Here, he's just a green-shirted Hobbit who is sort of unremarkable by the LOTR theme standards. But of course, in the way of minifigures in general, he's great: double expressions, nice printing (and back printing!), and a great new hairpiece. I like the "oh-good-gosh-what-do-I-do-with-this-Ring?" face, but his loopy grin side is somewhat odd, and really doesn't invoke the character of Frodo or the appearance of Elijah Wood to mind for me.
Then there's Gandalf. Let's face it. He's the main reason to buy this set. The Fellowship's bad-butt wizard only appears in this set, and he doesn't disappoint. He has a new beard piece, a recolored hat, a new cape color, and an expressive face (despite the beard covering half of it) that just screams "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" As you can see in one of the pictures above, Gandalf has back printing, and nice back printing, to top it off. It's very clear that a lot of love went into the making of Gandalf's figure; he's even designed where the light of day will never see him! Bravo, LEGO.
The cart itself is well designed, too. Hinges are used very effectively to make that cart shape, and the use of SNOT (studs not on top) techniques on the pillars at each corner is very creative. I love how much space there is back there, and how many items the designer put in back. There's an assortment of fireworks (even a cleverly-included Ninjago snake part), a carrot, a book, and a letter. Lots of fun props.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
Well, let me just say, that nicely designed as the cart is, it's just a cart. It doesn't do anything except exist as... a cart. Of all the two-person scenes they could have recreated in LEGO form that involved Gandalf the Grey (most notably to my mind comes his duel with Saruman) they pick the least conflict-wrought, the least eventful, scene in the first movie, and one that includes a lamer version of a character we can get elsewhere. The choice of scene seems counterintuitive; you'd think that the test groups would have preferred a set with a clear villain.
Then again, maybe the villain of the set is clear – the villain is the pony's hunger.
The cart doesn't do much in the way of play features, except roll, which is I suppose understandable for such a small set, but is nevertheless disappointing. The pony can rear up, as we know, but attached to the cart, that's a pretty useless feature.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
I bought this set at Toys "R" Us, as I said earlier. Don't make my mistake. It cost me $17, sans tax. $17 for 83 pieces!? That's just plain ridiculous. I basically just paid $17 for the figure of Gandalf. He is a fantastic figure, granted, but not that fantastic.
Most of the LOTR sets are actually, to my surprise and joy, priced extremely reasonably, especially for a licensed theme – I mean, look at how expensive some of the LEGO Star Wars sets get – and as a small set, this one is understandably subjected to one of the worst price-to-part ratios in the theme. If you buy it for its original retail price of $13, that's a reasonable fee, a justifiable one even. If I hadn't had a TRU gift card and a burning passion for LOTR Lego Bricks, the $17 price would have severely offended me.
What's to like?
- Exclusive Gandalf.
- Pony! <3
- Cart is nicely designed, solid, accurate, creatively built.
- Fun play value, for a cart, especially with all those items in back.
- You can taste the amount of love they put into these beautiful figures.
- Some nice piece selections; even if not new ones, rare and good parts.
- Selection of scene encourages nonviolent play...?
- New molds and prints are movie-accurate and lovely.
What's not to like?
- TRU markup is MASSIVE. Don't get it there. Really.
- Only one exclusive character, and one sorta-pointless version of a common one.
- Bad price-to-parts ratio. Not as bad as Weathertop, not nearly, but not ideal.
- It's a cart. The only thing to do is roll it around.
- Why did they pick a cart, anyway?
If you're as big a freak for LEGO LOTR as I am, you want to buy this set. If you're only in it for Gandalf, I'd recommend you find the figure elsewhere for less money. It's a nice set, but there are far nicer ones in the line (albeit, for more money, but who cares?).
That wraps things up for today's review. Be sure to thank Nuju Metru for taking the time to put it together in the Talkback thread. This certainly won't be our last LOTR review, so keep checking back for more, as well as all the latest Hero Factory and LEGO news!
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