Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 at 8:00pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
[Source: Nuju Metru]
The reviews keep flying in! Today BZPower Forum Assistant Nuju Metru looks at 44022 Evo XL Machine, one of the largest sets in the winter 2014 Hero Factory wave. Does this mech have what it takes to crush the competition and end up in your shopping cart? Read on to see!
Welcome, one and all, to this BZPower-exclusive first review of LEGO Hero Factory's "44022 Evo XL Machine!" Before I progress, I have to give a big shout out to TLG for sending us at BZP these sets, and also extend my thanks to Andrew for shipping this particular product to little old me; I love free stuff.
Since I'm a good boy who - well, sorta-kinda - avoids peeking at preliminary pictures of sets, I had no idea what I'd be getting when I requested to review the heftily-named "44022 Evo XL Machine." When I opened the box from Andrew and discovered that this year's Hero Factory sets are essentially a Pacific Rim rip-off (Mission: "Invasion from Below:" little heroes in big robots fight massive alien dinosaur-looking things from "below"), I'll admit that I freaked out and squealed a little bit. I hadn't expected the newest line of buildable action figures to take something we haven't seen since 2007 - namely, BIONICLE (or, Hero Factory) minifigures - in a highly playable, Kaiju-versus-Jaeger direction. In retrospect, it seems almost silly that BIONICLE never branched into mech suits back in its playset days.
In short, my initial reaction to the premise of this year's HF sets was positive; in the ensuing review, we'll see how well TLG executed the potential of that idea. Here we go!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
As I admitted in my last review (44011 Frost Beast), I have a thing against the Hero Factory zip baggies. Call me a BIONICLE diehard, but the old canisters are lodged deeply in my heart; in contrast, the flimsy one-trick ponies we're getting these days just don't do it for me. However, I was able to temporarily overlook my grievances about the shape and type of the packaging when I first laid eyes on it:
Look how pretty it is! Like most Hero Factory products, "44022 Evo XL Machine" (henceforth to be affectionately referred to as "XL," yes, like a T-Shirt size) is presented quite soundly from a design standpoint. The package grabs the eye with contrast and complimentary color schemes and all that, but is balanced enough to look good while it does it. The top of the package boldly proclaims this set to be part of the "Invasion from Below" mission. There's a cool, sliver-sized scene up there, drawn in a nifty graphic novel style; we can see Evo escaping to his XL, Kaiju on his heels.
Below that, and below the normal Hero Factory and LEGO logos, we get a look at the actual product, which is (typically) running towards the unseen camera. XL's bright yellow highlights and deep, darker hues make a dynamic contrast against the misty blue cityscape and orange explosions. In the foreground of the main action, we also see some four-legged little Kaiju things (Kaijettes, I'll call them) that remind me a lot on first glance of the rubber playset Visorak of 2005. One of these is being struck in its rump by an old school Zamor, launched by XL's blaster arm; the other looks like it's right in the path of one of XL's flick-fire missiles. The bottom right corner of the front of the package shows us static images of Evo and the two Kaijettes; in the bottom left is the suggested age range for this set. We can ignore that part.
The back of the not-box demonstrates the set's functions at the same time as it presents an alternate, 3/4ths view of XL. Juxtaposed against a dangerously close-seeming explosion of mysterious origin, XL stands idly next to a tower of floating boxes - er, call-out pictures - wherein its various play features are highlighted. The call-out boxes present, from top to bottom, a scale image of Evo, a demonstration of the set's flickfire missiles and, lo and behold, something else familiar: leaping rubber villains! The Kaijettes, it seems, are like the 2005 Visorak in more than just appearance; they too are designed to jump when pressed down on and released. How fun!
The bigger picture to the left shows us that the trans-apple-green vat on XL's back is designed to hold Kaijettes, that the adapted Thornaxx launcher shoots Zamors, that Evo's opening cockpit is detachable as an escape pod, and that XL can rotate about its midriff. The bottom part of the package, per usual, is full of dozens of languages worth of legalese. But enough of the outside of the package; you and I are both more interested in what's inside, so let's cut 'er open and pour out what's inside.
The package contains parts (two of which, a long Technic bar and a string magazine thing, are free of bags), instructions, and a sticker sheet; standard enough fare.
The pile of pieces when all those bags are opened and dumped feels substantial. Needless to say, I went right ahead and picked out the most interesting parts of the lot and photographed them by themselves... but this isn't the part of the review where you get to read about those! Delayed gratification is the best sort. We'll stick to the superficial for the moment: the pile is dominantly blacks and grays, but trans-apple-green and yellow accents stand out with pretty good frequency. There are a lot of traditional Technic elements and smaller pieces in there alongside the normal Hero Factory balljoint construction parts.
The front of the instruction manual looks just like the box, only that it's flat and not glossy, and that it doesn't have the cool graphic novel thing above the picture of the set. Instead, that can be found in the first pages of the booklet, where a more fleshed-out comic, resplendent with onomatopoeias and gritty shading, is included. The middle of the booklet is all boring instructions stuff, which you don't need to see; like LEGO instruction pages since forever, they are clear and easy to follow. The latter pages of the instructions are more interesting from a reviewing standpoint: there's a "collect them all" spread, demonstrating all the varied versions of minifigure Heroes existent in this line and, at the back, there's an action-packed diorama of all the sets in the wave (stay tuned for all these to be reviewed in the near future!).
The sticker sheet is unassuming, quietly there to CORRUPT YOUR PARTS... But it's not as bad as it could be. The decals are all clear, simple to apply, and placed in spots on the set where they're easy to get right/remove as needed. I put them on XL because you should see the set as it was intended to be photographed (and so that you can admire my world-class sticker skills). I appreciate how the two claw stickers, while identical in size and basically the same in composition, are made with differently positioned claws. It's a nice detail, for a constraction set's stickers.
Enough of these trifles, you say. Let's move on to the real deal. Let's build this XL Machine! Very well. Let's click some brick.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The first things to come together are the Evo herofig and the two Kaijettes, one orange and one red. You can't see it through his gunmetal armor piece, but Evo's core is actually a Skeleton torso. The Kaijettes are three pieces: rubbery bottom, hard ABS top, and 1.5-unit pin connector. I'll discuss the design of these three figures later on in the review.
We start off with a knot of Technic connectors, including pin-and-ball pieces and a small, gear-lined turntable, which I may be mistaken in believing to be a new element.
Next, we slap some legs onto XL below what turns out to have been the pelvic region. Notable here are the double-jointed reinforced hips and knees, and the lack of ankle articulation. Bent Technic beams are the framework for mildly backjointed legs.
After the legs are armored up, XL's wide shoulders come together, a mess of T-bars and ball-jointed torsos. XL's upper body is separated from the lower part by that aforementioned turntable. I see the hint of a gear function!
Next to be added are the shoulder ornaments - a cluster of flick-fire missiles, and a satellite dish - and the Kaijette tank. This is what those claw stickers get applied to.
What comes after legs? Arms! XL's left arm is pretty standard from a Hero Factory standpoint, with an oversized fist attached where forearm armor could be. Its right arm is more interesting; the bicep is normally constructed, but the forearm - which leads up to the Thornaxx Launcher - is made up of four HF System pieces to form a trapezoid.
Before you know it, we're done! The chest has been armored up, and Evo's cockpit/escape pod is built and snapped into place. The final touches are the magazine, which runs from the Kaijette tank to the launcher arm, yet is loaded with flickfire missiles, and the clicking-on of Evo's little gun to XL's thigh.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Now it's time to look at those fun parts I mentioned earlier. Forgive me if I call anything new that isn't; these things are new to me.
Vaguely from left to right in this picture: a trans-black windscreen (which, after I took this photo, I realized already existed in LEGO City sets, so ignore it); a mixed ball and peg connector, which looks highly useful for conversions from BIONICLE/Technic to HF System; a piece I am certain is new, the base of Evo's cockpit, with attachment points for his joysticks, the windscreen, the back of his armor (which has a peg to hold him in place) and, in the rear, a HF System connector; two click-together (and thereafter inseparable) halves of the turntable; one of the two halves of the Kaijette tank (hinged when pegs are pushed into the sides with both parts together); and, lastly, a versatile-seeming Technic I connector.
These are the smaller pieces of interest, which make up the 44022 minifigures. As is clearly visible in this shot, the Kaijettes are made up of two parts, unlike their Visorak predecessors. Evo's limbs and body armor, common to all heroes in this wave in different hues, are all new, as is his individual helmet. The helmet fits over a normal minifigure head, and to my delight, its eye sockets line up with normal minifigs' eyes. The torso armor is also compatible with normal minfigs, and restricts no movement. Evo's Hero Core, a 1x1 round tile, and his Jarvis-esque display, a trans-blue 1x2 tile, are both neatly printed.
Lastly among the parts of interest are some HF system pieces I'm pretty sure are new. There's a double-socketed connector, ideal for BIONICLE limb backwards compatibility, and a teensy-weensy torso, which has all the essential connection points of a normal-sized HF torso, but in about half the size. I can't wait to see this used in a Matoran MOC.
So, onto examining the set in earnest... we'll start small, with the Kaijettes. They're fun, sturdy little buggers, and their multi-colored design (there are also, it'd seem, green Kaijettes that appear in some sets) makes them more interesting and easier to relocate than the hordes of mottled black-and-GITD Visorak from 2005. The Kaijettes are also much springier than their predecessors; on a good jump, they'll fly about three feet, and get a lot of altitude in the process.
Evo is a nice herofig. He has five points of articulation, if you don't count his wrist-mounted display pad. He's rife with attachment points; aside from his hands, there are also clip-ready surfaces on his forearms, lower legs, and back, as well as a stud on his chest. This stud is filled with the printed Hero Core, which is very cool as a separate element. Evo looks tall, strong, and adorable at once.
The XL is attractive, too. Broad-shouldered and imposing, it looks ready for battle when viewed from its heavily armored front. XL suffers a little of the usual Hero Factory back hollowness, but not too much; yellow highlights, wraparound armor, and shoulder-mounted accessories distract from the set's barebones back. The color scheme is simple and effective: dark colors, accented with yellow and trans-apple-green, make XL look tough and futuristic. The splayed toe pieces, which were awkward-looking on past sets, are right at home here. XL's hand looks more like a club with vestigial stumps attached. A few exposed ball joints make me sad, because they're lost opportunities for even more armor.
We have no idea how Evo gets into his XL Machine (a ladder sure would be useful), but oh man, does he look good up there. He sits securely in his seat, held in place both at the back and by his joystick handles, safe behind the windscreen. Three stickers are applied to the flat faces of this part, turning it from simple canopy into a heads-up display. I'm not big on stickers for constraction sets, but I like the function of these ones.
The Kaijette tank holds one Kaijette perfectly, and with a little bit of squeezing, it can hold both of them. Again, the stickers on translucent parts are effective enough; the Kaijette tank is transformed by their presence from mere holding cylinder into mobile laboratory. As you can see in the second photo, the tank is hinged at the bottom, and swings out and open.
From almost all angles, XL is an appealing machine. There are no readily observable holes in its form, the color scheme is quite nice, and it cuts an impressive silhouette. It manages to look stacked with weaponry and functionality without being cluttered; everything has a purpose. What are those purposes? We'll find out in the next section.
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?
I accidentally talked about the first play feature of the set - leaping Kaijettes - above. The other functions of the set are all incorporated into XL.
Zamor launcher: as usual, an effective play feature. Housed in two adapted Thornaxx launcher parts, the green Zamor flies forth when these are pinched together. The set only comes with one sphere... so don't lose it.
Pivoting midriff: this is a gear function. That's right: a gear function. Unseen since the days of yore, 44022 includes one of these BIONICLE relics... I'd admit I had a little bit of a lump in my throat as I was building it. The one here works like that of the Vahki, but on a bigger scale; when the black Glatorian Life Counter in back of XL is turned, the upper body swings back and forth. I found this to be very fun, as when XL's torso is angled slightly downwards, its arms can swipe at puny Kaijettes.
Escape pod: Evo's cockpit, attached to XL by one standard armor clip, is evidently supposed to be removed and reattached as a play function. I assume it's meant to be some kind of escape pod/ejector seat. Maybe the lightsaber blades are some kind of hummingbird wings? Who knows? I like the thought behind this, but it's a little hard to reattach, since there are HF armor plates below it that impede access to the escape pod's ball joint.
The only real downside I can see to the playability of 44022 is how hopelessly outmatched the Kaijettes are. I guess that's why you buy more than one product... Gotta recreate those Pacific Rim battles somehow.
The cool thing about playing with 44022 (and probably with other sets of the line, too) is that it's play on a different scale than usual. Our characters, rather than being several inches tall, are now a few centimeters in stature. All action therefore takes place on a more epic scale - the playset scale - but, because of the mecha device, maintains the same rough-and-tumble tone of the normal constraction figures. It's a reversal of what happened with Legends of Chima last year, and it'll interest me to see how well the "Invasion from Below" line does in comparison to more traditional Hero Factory sets.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
I can't speak to the price of 44022, since I very awesomely didn't have to buy it - heck, I don't actually know its retail price - and so I can't advise you on price-to-parts ratios or satisfaction of purchase. I can only tell you about the pros and cons of the set itself. Here they are:
What's to like?
- Pacific Rim feels
- Minifigure and Kaijettes are sturdy and well-designed
- Evo's pieces compatible with normal minifigures
- Nice parts, some new and useful
- Stickers used effectively
- Attractive colors, abundance of trans-apple-green
- Gear function <3
- Highly playable set, on a new play scale
What's not to like?
- Pacific Rim feels might be too overt for some
- Package goes straight to the recycling
- Few new molds, aside from the minifigures
- Stickers aren't the best thing
- Flickfires won't you please go away
- Kaijettes feel like rehashes, even if improvements, of mini-Visorak
- Lack of ankle articulation limits poseability
The cons up there are pretty minor things for me; I've included some of them mostly for your benefit, in case they carry more weight with you. I was happy overall with this set, and not just because it was free. XL was full of little nostalgia trips - gear functions, BIONICLE-type minifigures, jumping
Visorak Kaijettes - and feels about as substantial as a large-sized Hero Factory set should. If you want to get the biggest, baddest Jaeger of the bunch this wave, don't settle for anything less than 44022 Evo XL Machine. It's an enjoyable product.
Grokk (at left) was pleasantly baffled to realize that Evo, without his XL Machine, was quite defenseless.
Thanks for reading!
And there goes another 2014 Hero Factory review. Be sure to thank Aaron (Nuju Metru) in the Talkback and ask any questions you might have. We still have a bunch more reviews to get posted, so keeping checking back for those, right here on BZPower!
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