Minecraft. Doing a past Minecraft review here, I was shocked at how little interest there was in the theme. I'm 40, so no, I don't care about it the way I do Star Wars or Superheroes themes. I was also surprised at how retro the series felt, using brick-built everything, rather than use loads of specialised pieces. Overall, it was a pleasant surprise. I had a chance to review the star set of theme, will it compare favourably?
Thanks to the LEGO Group for providing the set.
Name: The Village
Minifigs: Steve, Alex, Villager x 2, Zombie, Zombie Villager, Iron Golem, Enderman, Pig, Baby Pig, Creeper
MSP: U.S.$199.99, £169.99 , 199.99€
So, my kid loves Minecraft. She won't stop talking about it, going on a year now. Often we try to take photos, and she does the most horrible, fake smile, but when she gets a massive Minecraft box? She can't stop smiling. The box is about as big as any LEGO box that has passed through my hands.
The cover is what it is, a showcase of the different parts of the Village. The size of this set pushed the limits of my 'studio,' so you're going to see some not perfectly white backgrounds.
Note how fat this box is. It's probably 50% bigger than regular boxes.
The back showcases both the set and the insides of the set's buildings.
There is one large square-bound book for the main build, and a thinner, traditional stapled one for the alternate build.
The set has eleven medium size bags, plus some of the plates that have become the norm in contemporary LEGO.
I'm going to show the pieces, but there aren't any stand outs. As I wrote in the intro, the series is retro in feel, and uses very few modern elements, beyond the colours. There are a few translucent green 2x2 bricks.
The mini-figs are spaced out through the bags, the first having a villager. From what I know of Minecraft, the villagers are kind of useless, and likewise, this mini-fig has no moving arms or legs! Try playing with that, kids!
I suppose this is a store? This is not a triumph of design, though I like the leaves dangling off of the tree.
The first bag also builds these mystery blocks. What are they for? We'll have to wait till later to find out.
This part of the build contains two of the very few printed blocks in the set, and as apple, which is a decidedly modern element.
The bags are, on the whole, underwhelming. I think the target age for Minecraft is about 12. For my seven-year old daughter, this was actually a really comfortable build, as an adult, I felt it was somewhat slight.
The bag builds have a building, my daughter informs me it's a crafting room, where you can upgrade weapons and stuff.
There is a nice Technic technique here which will be utilised in the next bag. But note it now to see how it works.
Here is the star of Minecraft, Steve. Now, LEGO has made a totally accurate representation of this totally bland leading character. I suppose to my daughter, Steve is as exotic a name as Luke or Han was to me. Anyway, that's a Minecraft thing, not a LEGO thing.
I like the pixelated effect on the sword! This is a very fun part.
So, I thought this was neat. A wall is made, and settled on the SNOT section.
From there, a roof is added, and thanks to that Technic hinge...
An opening building! This is a great little technique to use on small scale buildings. After the unexciting first build, this is a lot more interesting.
This is another half-build. It makes the base of a house, which opens with a side-hinge.
The brick-built door is fantastic. This is precisely the sort of detail which receives high praise in MOCs, but I don't think is appreciated in these sets because of the AFOL bias against Minecraft.
The inside is is sparsely decorated.
Here is another of the printed bricks; a crate. While the furniture is nice enough, it isn't really functional with the Minecraft mini-figs.
Now this is a weird piece. I would be curious to see if LEGO finds any other purpose for a piece like this.
The piece is the base of the poorly-balancing Enderman. Considering the aesthetic of Minecraft, this is actually kind of creepy looking!
The bag builds the roof with some beautiful tan blocks. I don't know what the wheel is for, but the bookshelf is a nice touch.
The SNOT on the roof is nice as well. It's not a fantastic building, but it's nice enough.
This was a slight build among slight builds! It has a kind of rocky greeble to it. The translucent blue water is always welcome.
This is probably the star of the set, a brick built monster by the name of Iron Golem. The mossy, pixelated printed tiles are sweet!
It's as thin as it can be while still being posable.
The bag builds a tower to place on the previous build.
Now, this seems to be a half-measure. It's a very small castle element that is dropped into a village. Note the base of this is different than the grass of the previous builds, so this feels like it doesn't belong in the set. I'm guessing it's a necessary environment to justify the Golem.
This bag comes with a second villager, with a different torso. Not all that much to say that the picture doesn't say itself.
This build is a small garden, and animal pen and a pond of sorts. A few other sets have this sort of detail. The first set I got was a farm, so this is familiar to me. Remember those mystery blocks from the first bag? Now they come into play.
Those blocks are added to put this thing together. The set is really modular.
The garden is simple, but well-designed.
This also contains the pig, a nice brick built animal.
Three more figs, Alex, the female protagonist; Creeper, the mascot monster; and a baby pig.
Creeper and Alex are pretty much as they were in my last review, while the pig is just a slightly smaller version of what we've seen.
Again, I like the pixelated quality of her weapon.
The build is a desert scene, a well and a cactus. Like the Iron Golem build, this is quite disconnected to the main grassy village.
This is the first half of the final building.
Much like the first house, it opens on a hinge. The structure is different, with double doors.
Contained are the final two figures, the zombie and zombie villager. I like the villager one slightly more, just because the face is amusing. Overall, they're not special, even if they are accurate to the property.
The finished house is, from the outside, very similar to the previous one, which is again, accurate to Minecraft.
The inside is sparser than the first house, and less exciting.
I do like the pumpkin faces though.
The whole set is then assembled using the remaining blocks to attach them.
Again, the finished set is bigger than my makeshift studio can handle, sorry. In the photo, perhaps it appears smaller, but it is an impressive effect overall. Some LEGO sets seem so big, but then the finished product isn't that grand, and I think this suffers the reverse. It takes up a lot of space.
You can see the way the two houses fit.
For some reason, the pig goes in a tree. Steve goes shopping.
Alex is going to do some mining.
Underman apparently carries blocks around.
And a recently zombified villager sneaks around.
One of the big features of the set is the alternative build. Pieces are broken off and remixed.
The first build takes the swamp and second house.
The top of the instructions show which parts not to break apart, and the other pieces to be used.
The build is a fairly nice gate, with double doors.
There's a nice depth to it, it's more than just a wall. I like this more than the second house (mainly for how it attaches to the main build).
The back of the gate is somewhat bland.
Yeah, it looks better from the front.
The shape fits up perfectly against the main build: slide it in and...
snap! it's fastened with the same blocks as before.
The second build removes the desert and shop.
And again tells you what to keep as is.
The new build is what looks like a dungeon entrance. I like parts of this, but I don't know why the treasure is out in the open. It would have looked nicer in that entrance.
The other side looks a little better.
I enjoy the Minecraft foliage.
And it snaps in perfectly as well.
I understand why they put the second house in the main build, it makes the village look more like a village. That said, I like the alternative build better. on the original build, the shop and desert were the weakest designs, so it's not heartbreaking to take them apart.
It's a busy village.
The Final Verdict
Design: 6/10 I'm going to place a lot of the weaknesses here on the basic design of the Minecraft game itself. I think the game is well designed, but there are a limited number of elements in it. So, the torches are cool, but they're the same as in the other sets. Same as the pillars. Same as the gardens. It feels like the designers are cannibalising their own design. Is there a way to innovate with a property that needs a blocky, simple aesthetic?
Build: 7/10 The best build is the house, but then it's mostly repeated. The gate would be the next best. Other than a few places noted (the crafting room, the doors), most of it is similar to the other two sets I've done. It gains some points for the alternate build, but to be honest. for a set this price, like any of the modular houses, it is a big letdown.
Playability: 10/10 That's the big one on here. It's modular, so you can shift it around, it can join other Minecraft sets easily, and there is a narrative built in. My daughter was acting out battles the moment I released this to her. Even my intro photo shows some of the action available.
Minifigures: 8/10 The number of them is great, the variety of them is great, but these are mostly repeats from other sets. Possibly they all are. As with the design, LEGO is limited to what is in Minecraft. I'm surprised LEGO doesn't make ones using the large amount of skins in the game.
Price: 3/10 Can I give it zero? 12.5 cents per piece is fair, but there are a lot of 2x4 plates and 1x1 pieces. There aren't loads of new moulds or figures in this. I really feel like you're paying for a license and the LEGO group's robust sense of inflation. There is zero chance I would buy this at the suggested price.
Overall: 6/10 I wish I could give it a higher score, but I just can't. I like the brick built style, and the figures are good. But the repetition of this series is setting in. Because it's a collection of small builds assembled together, I feel like I could have bought two or three smaller sets and had a similar building experience. Half the builds were underwhelming, and even the good builds weren't great. After my many years of buying and reviewing LEGO sets, I'm of the mind that there are no bad LEGO sets, but there are ones that are a bad value. I think this is only for the true LEGO Minecraft fans... like my daughter. She'd give this a 10/10, but then again, she's not the one who pays for this stuff.