What do you get for $20? We asked one of our interns (and their daughter) to build several 2021 sets and let us know what they thought.
60283 – Holiday Camper Van
Easy, took about an hour. Adorable, too, even in its tiresome heteronormativity. For me, even though I also really enjoy free-building (my favorite thing to do with LEGO is design 3D “block” mandalas), there’s something really addictive, relaxing and comforting about just following someone else’s instructions and knowing I’ll end up with a finished product. As predictable as that can be (which is part of the comfort of it all when the rest of the world is chaos), I’m always surprised by the logic of the design. I learn something new every time about how I can fit pieces together. I suspect this gets even better once you get to that point where you can identify a certain piece, or the need of a certain piece, but I only came out of the dark ages recently and frankly, there are now a lot more pieces, colors, and ways to fit them together than there ever were when I was a kid.
The fact that I thought I was doing something radical by sticking the baby on dad (OMG the baby minifig!) tells you all you need to know about what I currently expect from LEGO… But then I saw the front of the instruction booklet and took note of the fact that LEGO, too, has made an effort not to assign stereotypical gender roles to parenting responsibilities and also put baby on dad. Until this particular thing becomes the norm, it is still cause for celebration!
41692 – Vet Clinic Rescue Helicopter
Paloma, 5th Grade, Age 10: Friends sets are some of my favorites because the colors are so great and they always have vehicles too. I asked my mom to help me with the helicopter but then realized I could do it myself, and I did!
I’d say it was a little difficult but it was really fun to build. It took me a while but it was awesome. And I’m glad they’re doing something cool and not like, hair or something. I mean, the salon is cool but that’s all you can do there. With the helicopter you can do a lot of different things.
71745 – Ninjago – LLoyd’s Jungle Chopper Bike
For a set with only 166 pieces this took me forever! Stickers always give me a bit of anxiety – I can’t ever get them on right on the first try and I get nervous thinking they’ll lose their stick if I try to reposition them too many times (they don’t, thankfully).
It’s funny, building vehicular things isn’t really my thing – but so far for these reviews I’ve built two – this one definitely required a lot more focus than the RV, but I appreciated the challenge.
There were a few moments when I found the directions a bit confusing, but that’s been the case with a lot of LEGO set instructions – I’m very glad the instructions for these weren’t printed on black paper like the botanical set, which basically rendered some of the pieces completely invisible unless I looked at them online instead.
Though I know nothing at this point of the Ninjago storyline, I find the sets themselves to be really beautiful (for an action LEGO set, I mean) and I love the overall color scheme. Themes don’t really interest me as much as colors and the way certain bricks are used to make things, and Ninjago sets really make great use of both. I really, really want to build the Jungle Dragon for this reason.
My only real beef with this set is the cloth sail on the back of the bike. No amount of fiddling will get it to sit straight or flat and it’s definitely not something that would last in the hands of a child. I’m no LEGO designer, but even so I don’t understand this particular choice as it feels very flimsy. It did give me an idea though, as I found a couple of random Elves dragon wings in a bulk buy and those would make a great “sail” on the back of some kind of fantasy vehicle while also offering some stability.
80018 – Monkie Kid’s Cloud Bike
I also really love the Monkie Kid color scheme! I also found this to be a pretty intriguing build – lots of little pieces and some interesting ways in which they fit together. I learned several new building techniques putting the Cloud Bike together and again, although vehicular-type things aren’t normally my first choice for a build, this was a lot of fun (though a little nerve-wracking as Monkie Kid sets seem, like Ninjago, to be very fond of stickers).
I especially loved putting together the spider. I don’t really know the Monkie Kid storyline too well either, but this is one of the Spider Queen’s robotic spiders (also part of set 88022: Spider Queen’s Arachnoid Base). It’s a really simple little thing but it’s geometrically appealing and gave me some great ideas for making some critters on my own.
Even though this is a small set compared to many others, in my humble, newbie opinion it offers a good bang for the buck – lots of pieces for a set this size, three minifigures and some interesting construction techniques, plus some really interesting and new (to me) pieces in great colors. I generally deconstruct built sets after a certain point (I know, sacrilege to some!) so I can use the pieces in my own creations. For now, these will stay together but I’ve already got some great ideas for MOCs thanks to some of the new construction techniques I’ve learned from this and a Ninjago set.