Creator is undoubtedly not the most popular Lego line amongst AFOLs, perhaps because there is a low collectability factor, and as display models they can appear incongruous. Nevertheless, the line is perennial, in one form or another, and the 3-in-1 models do feature a versatility not found elsewhere. Here I bring you an in-depth review of last year's Propeller Power - 3 flying machines of one form or another, for a reasonable price.
Name: Propeller Power
Year of Release: 2009
Price: GB £15.99 | US $19.99 | EUR 19.99 - 21.40 | AU $34.99 | DKK 179.99 | CAN $24.99
'Shop @ Home' said:
3 in 1! Take off and perform amazing aerobatics with this classic propeller-powered airplane with working landing gear. When you’re done, rebuild it into a fast fighter jet or high-flying helicopter! Instructions included for all three models.
* Provides multiple building opportunities for beginner and intermediate builders alike!
* Includes instructions for propeller plane, harrier jet and helicopter models!
* Spin the propeller and lift and lower the landing gear!
* Propeller plane has an 11" (27cm) wingspan and is over 9" (22cm) long!
Links Brickset ... Bricklink ... Peeron ... Shop@Home
I confess I wouldn't have bought this model had it not been for 2 factors:
- It was on offer for half price in a UK supermarket (I paid about £7); and
- I was a little bored!
Box - Front
The box is exactly the same size as the equally-priced 5867 Super Speedster, measuring H 260 x W 278 x D 61 mm. In common with the rest of the range, it features yellow flashing, and shows the alternative models in miniature on the front.
The back shows details of the alternatives, and highlights the retractable undercarriage of the main model. It opens with thumb tabs: not so good it you like to keep your boxes pristine.
The side features a detailed parts inventory (click for high-res image, when moderated):
The books are larger than the later Super Speedster (see image in that review). Book 1 - the main model - has an identical picture to the box front.
Advertisements for other models of the 2009 Creator range adorn the back of book 2. I never really noticed before how the different models each have a different theme colour; perhaps this is incentive to buy the sets for parts, in order to expand one's colour palette.
The steps are clear, and not too complicated, with piece callouts and no colour issues, using about 5 to 10 pieces per step.
A full parts inventory, with piece IDs, stretches across two pages at the back of book 1:
For the sake of those who may be interesting in buying this set for parts, I have included pictures of all the pieces by category. First up come plates and bricks:
Yellow and black are the theme here. It may not be obvious from the brick picture, but there is a quite noticeable difference in colour between the two 2x4 bricks and the rest of the yellow pieces, the 2x4s looking like something I might pull out of my childhood collection - lighter yellow and somehow dirty-looking. I'll demonstrate again later.
Tiles, small/specialised pieces and functional elements:
Note the sixteen 1x1 round silver plates - possibly the only really pieces of interest in this set. There's a nice number of 1x4 black tiles. Otherwise, overall the parts selection is nothing too special, and unless you need yellow slopes and wing pieces to build - perhaps - another Anakin starfighter, there isn't much to set this collection of pieces apart.
Still, let's put them all together and see the result.
Main Model - Propeller Plane
The build starts with the most interesting feature of the entire set - the retractable undercarriage. A little Technic is required here, but mostly it's brick-on-brick in the traditional way.
Some white inverted sloped form the shape of the underside of the fuselage:
The wings use a 4x8 yellow plate underneath for strength, with some black tiles on the top, and radiator grille detail.
The wings attach to the grey inverted slopes in the undercarriage section, and are held in place by 2x3 yellow slopes on the top. The result is sturdy, and reasonably nice to look at. A stop-end axle will form the rotor mechanism at the front.
Yellow slopes form the top of the fuselage. In the centre, two 2x2 and four 1x2 yellow slopes are used instead of 2 2x4 slopes; the former are needed for the alternative models. White plates and tiles top it off, adding strength and improving the looks.
The tailfin comprises one-stud wide slopes and bricks attached with jumper plates; note the 3-wide friction pin which connects the vertical stabilisers (second photo).
These can then tilt forwards and backwards, together or independently. This is a nice feature, although not strictly accurate; a plane of this type would have fixed stabilisers and elevators. At this scale, though, I think the designers have done the best they can, and the feature adds playability.
More of those ubiquitous trans-smoke curve slopes form the cockpit. No space for minifigs in there, though I'm sure it could be modded.
The rotor/engine assembly is clever: The aforementioned silver round plates form the cylinders, attached via 1x1 perpendicular clips to the octagonal frame piece. The whole slides onto the stop-axle, and it all rotates - engine and all. This is accurate; early rotary-engined planes feature engines that spin with the propellers. The 2001/2 Sopwith Camel and Red Baron sets include this feature on a larger scale.
By step 40, the plane is complete:
From this angle, she looks good: There's a nice shape the fuselage, the tail assembly looks accurate, and you can see the detail of the exhausts which seem to 'leave' the round engine cowl.
The side view shows a major flaw in the design - the fuselage is too short. For a taildragger like this, the fuselage would need to be longer behind the wings to balance the weight of the engine, or the plane would be nose-heavy and crash into the ground on landing. Ideally, also the wheels should be mounted further forward, but this wouldn't be so easily achieved whilst keeping them retractable. Note also the use of the ball-joint piece in lieu of a rear wheel - a plane of this era would undoubtedly have a wheel.
You can also see in the side view how several smaller slopes are used instead of two 2x4s, as mentioned earlier.
A higher side view (the short fuselage is slightly less noticeable from here), and underside view with the wheels retracted:
The trans-orange cheeses are attached to hinge-plates; these fold down to allow the wheels to deploy or retract; as seen in this shot they help to keep the wheels up, but they aren't strictly necessary.
Propeller really spins! No photo trickery here; I spun the props and took the shot. It might be interesting to Power Function this set...
What plane is it? It's probably not based on one particular plane; the best I could come up with that has a rotary engine is the P-47 Thunderbolt:
(image from www.2blowhards.com)
Model 2 - Helicopter
First up - a confession: helicopters are all a bit 'meh' to me. Why do the Lego designers love them so much? Still, let's turn a slightly disinterested eye at this rendition.
Inbuild shots. I've added insets to highlight the rotor mechanism: again it uses the stop-end axle, mounted vertically through a number 1 connector, and stabilised using the 3x2 plate with hole. This is a novel solution, and surprisingly effective.
The SNOT rear wing plates are mounted using only a 2x1 side-stud brick on each side, but they seem to stay on firmly, at least in gentle adult fingers. In the first picture, you can clearly see the colour difference between the 2x4 brick towards the front, and the rest of the yellow pieces.
One of the rotors is build differently - necessitated by the assortment of parts required by the main model. I was worried this might affect the balance of the rotors, and therefore how they spin, but I encountered no difficulties.
The finished helicopter:
From this angle, she looks quite nice. The cockpit is mounted using hinge-plates; the silver round pieces form engine greebling in this model.
Front and rear views:
The tail rotor consists of a single 1x3 plate mounted via a stud-end axle through the white circular piece. It is simple, and reasonably accurate. Look at the base of the heli, and you can see my biggest dislike about this model - the black plates on the bottom of the fuselage which touch the ground between the skis. I suspect this is done to prevent the skis falling off, but also because the balance isn't right - the heli tends to tip backwards if these two plates are removed. This problem can be solved by moving the skids one stud toward the rear, allowing you to remove these ugly parts.
The rotors spin effectively (again, no photo-trickery):
Here are the remaining pieces after building the helicopter:
I've no idea what helicopter this model might be based upon. The cockpit configuration reminds me of an Apache attack helicopter, but I can't see them making one yellow and black! This is the best I could do (hey, at least it's the right colours!):
Model 3 - Harrier Jump-Jet
The final model isn't even a propeller plane. Some inbuild shots:
The round white piece fits right around the chassis; the wings clip on via hinge-plates, allowing them to slope downwards.
The tail assembly isn't very nice. The horizontal stabilisers are horizontal, unlike in the real thing, and the tailfin looks ugly in my opinion. Jumper plates are again used to pin the one stud wide tail on.
The finished model:
It looks good from the top. The cockpit area is only attached in one place - onto the long black plate which forms the chassis. It tends to bend a little if handled roughly.
From this angle you can see the protruding black tiles at the rear of the wings, and the undercarriage, which 'retracts' although in a somewhat makeshift manner:
In this side view, the upsloping angle of the plane - accurate to the real thing - is highlighted. The front nosewheel doesn't revolve, and needs to be removed for 'flight'. The three-piece undercarriage isn't accurate; a Harrier has four wheels - two bearing weight under the fuselage, and two for stability at the wingtips.
The ugly tail is horribly apparent here.
Leftovers after building model 3:
And here's a shot of a real Harrier:
I've assumed it's a Harrier: there aren't many planes that have the distinctive down-sloping wings, and Lego have brought out the engine intakes quite nicely. At least this guy agrees with me! However, the resemblance is somewhat superficial, as I have pointed out along the way.
The three models that can be built with this set show a variety of different aviation features, and the different builds mean a lot of building time for a reasonably priced set. There's also a degree of educational value to be had, and an interested K/TFOL could learn a lot about aircraft and how they fly, particularly if there is a knowledgeable adult on hand to teach them (or Wikipedia, I suppose!). The spinning propellers and retractable undercarriages are fun play-features, and the models - particularly the propeller plane - are very swooshable.
There is little scope for integration with other sets; you can't easily fit a minifig in, and there isn't really another Creator set of the same scale for the plane to sit alongside on the shelf.
Design: 7/10 The propeller plane is study, weighty, and reasonably accurate rendition, and the retractable undercarriage is a clever feature. It loses points for the short fuselage. The heli looks attractive, and I like the rotor mechanism; however the black plates on the underside really detract from this model. The Harrier - well, I guess the designers couldn't do much better without greatly increasing the parts tally of the entire set; it's a reasonable job, but feels a bit 'thrown-in'.
Build: 7/10 The rotor mechanisms and undercarriage add to the complexity, but not overwhelmingly so; not a great deal of Technic nous is required. Otherwise, the build is straightforward, fun, and I suppose educational to an extent; perfect for K/TFOLs but not much to entice an adult.
Playability: 6/10 The planes are very swooshable, and even an adult can have a few minutes of fun taking off and landing. However, there isn't really anything else to go with this set.
Parts: 5/10 If you need yellow, this set will help, but I really can't think of anything that stands out beside the silver round pieces, and they are only useful as coins or greebling.
Price: 6/10 At full price, like most Creator sets, you get lots of Lego for the pound/dollar/euro, but it doesn't feel like value. For the price I paid it would get a 9; wait till it goes on sale is my advice.
Overall, 62%. I could recommend this as an educational set for kids or teenagers, particularly if they are interested in aviation, or as a starter set as a present for the Lego-naive; otherwise, I'd suggest spend your money on something else.
I hope you enjoyed the review (sorry it's a little dry this time!). Comments and criticisms welcome as ever.
Edited by WhiteFang, 26 February 2010 - 03:15 AM.