Creator is hardly among the most popular of Lego themes, among Eurobricks members at least; however, many are worth a closer look and are, in my opinion, often underrated. Generally, they make good starter sets; the multiple builds provide versatility and can be inspiring, particularly for those not so inclined to MOC; for those that are, these sets make great parts packs with usually excellent price to piece ratios.
The Sonic Boom Jet joined the range in Summer 2010, continuing and expanding the aircraft subtheme which had seen 2009's Propeller Power and 2007's Fast Flyers among its more recent offerings. Let's take a closer look.
Name: Sonic Boom
Theme: Creator 3-in-1
Price: GB £44.99 | US $59.99 | EUR 49.95 - 54.99 | AU $89.99 | CA $79.99
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Got the need for speed? This cool 3-in-1 building experience has plenty! Build 3 high-speed vehicles: supersonic jet, dual prop plane or high-speed boat. Soar through the skies in this supersonic jet, move its’ wing flaps, tail fins and landing gear and open the cockpit or light up the afterburners with a flick of a button. When you’re done, rebuild jet into a dual propeller plane or a high-speed boat!
- A cool 3-in-1 building experience
- Rebuild the supersonic jet into a dual propeller plane or high-speed boat
- Jet’s wing flaps, tail fins, and landing gear really move!
- Open the cockpit and light up the afterburners with a flick of a button
- Includes LEGO® Power Functions light up brick.
- Plane measures 15" (39cm) from front to back and over 13" (33cm) wide
Click the picture for a larger, full-frontal photo
A smart shot of the main model, climbing above the clouds, adorns the front of the typically yellow box. The choice of angle, from the plane's rear, is presumably meant to highlight one of the principal features of the set: the two red light-bricks which mimic the plane's afterburners. Also present are the '3-in-1' logo, and small pictures of the secondary models.
Click the picture for a larger picture
The light-bricks also feature prominently on the rear. Here we have larger pictures of the secondary builds, both with light-bricks ablaze, and a beautiful side-on view of the main plane. I particularly like the way they've combined all three models into one scene. Two insets demonstrate other features of the main model - the retractable undercarriage, and the opening cockpit.
Click the picture for a high-resolution view
As is standard these days for larger sets, a full part inventory can be found on the top of the box.
Each of the three models gets its own instruction manual:
All three are of the same size and quality. A full parts inventory, with part ID numbers, is found in the second manual (the propeller plane). The cover of the main model's manual, as you can see, had become somewhat crumpled in my box.
The instructions go right to the rear page of the manual one; the others' rears feature adverts, including the detestable Gewinne kid whom I've done my best to hide.
An interesting feature is found at the beginning of manual one, right after the usual warning not to attempt construction whilst picnicking in the jungle, swimming or skydiving:
The three models have a grade of ease of construction. Interestingly, I found the easiest build to be the second model.
The construction pages are somwhat Spartan, for the most part showing only one step per page, with only a few parts in the call-outs even for the 'advanced' model; acres of plain blue make up the rest of the space.
The usual bley/dark bley/black colour differentiation issue didn't affect the build for me, even with poor lighting: Lego have learned their lessons, and these days rarely use two similar colours for the same pieces in the same set.
The 539 pieces come in seven polybags:
There is no attempt at modular construction: presumably Lego didn't want to specify the order in which the sets are built. This is confirmed by presence of the reminder to remove the protector from the light-bricks (you can see it in the instructions picture above) at the relevant step in all three manuals.
I've divided the parts according to whether they came from larger or smaller polybags. Red, white and black are the featured colours:
Click the picture for a larger view
It's not a desperately exciting selection; the 45-degree wing plates could be useful, and there's enough tiles and curves to please the stud-haters. There are two 2x2 trans-clear round bricks, always useful for 'invisible' stands, and two of these parts that I first came across in the 3180 Tank Truck.
The smaller parts are also a fairly humdrum collection:
Click the picture for a larger view
Of note here are two 3x1 bley tiles, two 1x1 round trans-clear bricks, six pearl silver grille tiles, ten red jumper plates and THIRTY (30) red cheese wedges.
I haven't taken any build shots for this review. For a set of this size, with three alternative models, we'd be here till Christmas. Next Christmas. Instead, where the build is noteworthy I have taken shots to demonstrate the interesting techniques.
Model 1 - Fighter Jet
We'll start with the headline act - the jet fighter.
I say jet fighter - that's clearly what the design is meant to echo - but there's no visible armaments and the bright colour scheme would not camouflage well. It is possible that Lego were continuing their tradition of no 'war' outside Licensed themes, but more likely that the choice of colour was simply in line with the 'primary colour' ethos of Creator sets. I've contented myself with believing the plane is part of a high-speed display team like the Red Arrows.
Whatever its intended use, this plane is a thing of some beauty:
This top-down view highlights the sleek lines: the inward curve of the engines toward the rear, the tapering tailplane and the slick delta wing.
A slightly different view, more toward the rear:
This is the best viewing angle. Note also the dark bley curve of the wing attachment (and the missing silver grille from the starboard wing ).
From the front, the plane looks powerful and streamlined:
This is a good opportunity to point out the delightful SNOT construction of the nose; the red curved pieces blend neatly with the cheese slopes on the fuselage behind.
I think the designer got the lines just right. Take a look at the side:
Everything from the high-visibility cockpit bulge to the wonderfully contoured tailfin looks just right. Here, we also get our first view of the undercarriage. It sits nicely level; if anything, I'd have made the plane sit slightly nose-up.
The underside isn't quite so attractive. There is a big gap between the engine nacelles; I can't speak for every fighter plane but usually the underside is flat.
The undercarriage folds up flush, but it remains visible; I'm also not keen on the use of the black colour for the bottom of the wings.
This is not just a pretty thing to sit on the shelf! It's also an educational tool, showing how aeroplanes work:
The control surfaces all move. Fast jets like this use the tailplane as a combined elevator (controlling pitch) and aileron (controlling roll): hence the whole surface rotates. This means the moving surfaces at the rear of the main delta wing are more likely to represent flaps, for flying at slow speed. Authentic!
This is a good point at which to mention the attractive contour of the rear surface of the delta wing, formed from a symmetrical wedge plate at the inboard and outboard edges.
The cockpit opens, but only the rear half:
The chairs are made quite simply from blue right-angle brackets; simple but effective. I like the use of the blue clippy-pieces as headrests.
Minfigs can sit in the cockpit, with varying degrees of comfort:
Bossk is quite happy flying the plane, but Rufus's big hair prevents the canopy from closing properly. Still, it's great that figs will fit in at all.
Underneath, we can see how the rear undercarriage folds:
The black L-shaped liftarms lock the undecarriage in both extended and retracted; little 1x2 liftarms (with the trans-yellow rounds) prevent the gear from overextending. Folded, the gear is still visible: it's a shame it doesn't get covered over, but I'm delighted at how unobtrusive it is when folded.
The smaller nosewheel folds toward the rear, into the large cavity in the centre:
This apparatus is a little ugly, and the red axles stand out like sore thumbs. It's also a shame the nosegear doesn't steer: taxiing the plane is tricky. I'm sure this would be an easy mod.
Here's how the afterburner lighting works:
The 'switch' is formed from two double-bend liftarms linked back to back; at the rear, two yellow connectors push on the buttons of the lightbricks. This is an imperfect technique: the yellow connectors are offset, and it's hit and miss whether both lights will activate, or just one. Again, this would be easy to fix.
Pushing the switch forward opens the cockpit canopy. Genius!
Here's the afterburners on:
The light is redder than it appears in the photograph; the effect is unexpectedly realistic and pleasing. The switch doesn't latch, though; I've had to wedge it on with a slope brick here.
Model 2 - Twin-Engined Propeller Plane
The second, 'medium build' model is another plane, but I can't say it lives up to the 'high-speed' theme of the set. I can't tell to which era this plane is meant to belong, but the simple, 4-wide fuselage, the straight, high set wings and undercarriage configuration point to this being a representation of the typical, lumbering piston-engined props of the Second World War era.
The wings have an unusual shape - wider at the front. I suspect this is an accident of available pieces rather than design. The studded nose-cone looks untidy, and would have been finished off nicely by one of these in black. Notice the 1x2 technic brick just under the wing next to the fuselage: we'll see what that's for later.
Two things stand out in this rear oblique view: the incongruous blue technic brick ...
... and the hideous tailfin. I can see why they made it that shape - it's more in keeping with the era - but it's too blocky and too deep.
The model fares rather better from above:
The lines of the wings look a little odd, but the arrangement of bley, white and red is smart and appealing. The stud-free centre fuselage is particularly nice. What doesn't work so well is the tailplane: this should have rounded, straight horizontal stabilizers, not swept as here. Again, this is problem of available parts.
Black once more dominates the underside, but it's less overwhelming than on the fighter jet.
You can see the outboard navigation lights on the wingtips: red for port, green for starboard . I love the attention to detail.
There's another problem, most apparent from the side:
The fuselage is rather too short, giving the plane a stunted look. You can also see how the undercarriage configuration makes this a taildragger - the third wheel is at the rear; further confirmation that this is an older plane. I don't think it would have taken much to put the third wheel at the front, though that may cause problems with the main gear, as we shall see presently.
Woo-hoo! Retractable undercarriage again!
The wheel retracts into a niche at the rear of the engine. It's on the inboard side, so fairly well hidden. When deployed, the stanchion stops against the dark bley hinge-clip, preventing the gear overextending. This may be why the plane has a rear third wheel - if it were at the front, the forward-angled main gear would not support the plane.
The tailwheel is fixed, via L-shaped brackets onto the blue technic bricks:
One again, no steering. Bah!
The single-seater cockpit again uses a blue bracket for a chair. This time, Rufus fits with room to spare:
'Two joysticks?! What do they do?' The Hand of God is required to open this canopy.
Here, I've slightly disassembled the port wing to show what's hiding under the red plate:
Ugly! This provoked a noise of disgust whilst I was building it, but it's covered very well by the plate and the white tile on the finished model.
You remember I pointed out those 1x2 technic bricks? Here's what they're for:
The lighting mechanism is simple yet effective. The two back L-liftarms - which are not connected to anything, just sitting there - when pushed down force the cheese wedges forward, activating the lightbricks ...
... which shine through the technic bricks, creating effective (if somewhat inexplicably red) landing lights:
Powerful, eh? The straight black line you see at the front of the picture is created simply by the shadow of the fuselage from the light on each side - odd that it should come out so sharp.
Model 3 - Speedboat
The tertiary model of these 3-in-1 sets is usually a bit of a throwaway, but I have to say this is rather nice - and I don't usually give much of a hoot about boats.
The designer has done well to make a realistic and streamlined hull shape from the available parts, and there are a number of touches which strengthen the overall look.
This plan view provides the overall layout - two seater cockpit, tail spoiler thingy and massively oversized rear engines. There's some nice tiling on the sides, and again we have port and starboard correctly identified.
The boat has a sleek, low profile, though the spoiler fins look a little top-heavy.
It looks like it could be a police launch, if it weren't for the colour scheme. The front of the boat is intentionally raised a plate relative to the rear, giving an authentic bow-up attitude on the carpet.
From the rear, the huge engines look a little silly:
I can tell whether the big aircraft-engine pieces are meant to represent outboard motors, or some kind of turbine. Above the engines, here you can see where the lightbricks feature - the black liftarm activates them when pressed.
The boat sits on inverted domes, for easy carpet-swooshing. These three domes are used in this model only.
There's some nice white SNOT tiling on the sides of the boat, seen best from this angle; however, they are attached only towards the front, and if you look closely at the rear the strips bend outwards.
The comfortable, roomy cockpit area features 'cushioned' seats, a computer, gearstick, heavy-duty steering wheel and what is possibly a radio:
The use of the wheel arches here is innovative, if not entirely successful visually.
The cabin are is possibly a little too large for minifigs.
Driving the boat today are Ricky Raccoon and Rufus Rabbit. They look right at home!
The slightly blocky engines are attached via a couple of hinge-clips ...
... they are then held in a tilted-back position by two cheese wedges. This stops the screws dragging on the carpet.
The rear of the deck sports what looks suspiciously like a comfortable double bed:
I guess this makes the boat more likely to be the plaything of a rich dilletante, rather than a police launch. Or, at least, I hope so!
The lights on this model are very powerful:
Again the choice of red lights is poor - I'm now very worried about the double bed!
Conclusion and Scores
I'm often pleasantly surprised by these Creator sets, and Sonic Boom is no exception. The Fighter Jet model is a class act - extremely well designed, it looks the part, and has enticing working features that greatly add to the playability. It's also surprisingly large. I had expected the afterburner lights to be a pure gimmick, but they are so effective as to be quite fun, even for an adult to activate casually, in passing.
The secondary models are less spectacular, but credit must go to the designers for the variety - a very different plane and a speedboat from the same set brings a surprising breadth to the set, whilst maintaining the overall 'speed' theme (to an extent).
As I've already implied, the odd one out here is the propeller plane, which doesn't quite live up to the powerful image of the other two; if they could have created a larger twin-engined jet it might have matched better.
It's interesting to note that these models appear to be designed to suit minifigs. With the recent appearance of figs in some Creator sets (most noticeably the new Log Cabin), this may prove to be a new direction for Lego, and further proof that they acknowledge the incredible power of those little dudes.
Design: 9/10 The fighter jet is a beauty and deserves a 10; the other two count for much less but still bring the score down a little.
Build: 8/10 The build is mainly brick-on-brick, but there are a few tricky technic bits. On the whole, it flows well, with some great SNOT work, and the process is satisfying.
Playability: 7/10 In Creator sets, playability generally plays second fiddle to creativity (well, duh), but the many features of the jet add greatly to its fun value. If nothing else, you can take off, swoosh around the lounge and land again on the carpet. Ground-based play is less involved - these models only go in straight lines. You can even place minifigs in the models, though the jet fighter will look a little outsized in the City airport.
Parts: 6/10 There's a nice varied selection, but I can't see this set being too useful solely as a parts pack. The red tiles and slopes are probably the biggest selling factor, but I think you'd need another reason to buy it.
Price: 8/10 at £45 for 539 pieces, most of which are large, this is good value; you certainly get a lot more for your money than with the average Licensed set, but what you lose is the charm of minifigs and the scenes they grace. It perhaps feels less good value for money than it really is.
Here's a case in point. Grievous' Starfighter 8095 is the same price in the UK, but has 100 or so fewer pieces, and the finished model is much smaller:
Ok, so you do get some new figs including cartoon-Grievous and another squidhead, but the Jet is so much more impressive.
Verdict: 76% My score: 8/10 If you like planes, or enjoy building realistic models, then I'd recommend this heartily. Otherwise, I'm afraid it'll be overshadowed by all the wonderful Licensed sets around at the moment.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! For some more pictures, check out my Brickshelf folder.
I'll leave you with the consequences of letting the Paparazzi near your boat:
Edited by WhiteFang, 04 January 2011 - 01:56 AM.