REVIEW: 6575 Polar Base
Posted 23 April 2011 - 06:26 AM
Trekking through the thick snow, this was one giant leap for minifig kind. None had dared to make the journey through the coldest reaches of the planet, in a land constantly threatening all trekkers with Mother Nature's icy heart. Everyone's heard the stories of cracked plastic, minifigs lost in the snow forever, and the polar bears that roamed the area. No one's lived to tell the tale, until -
"Crikey, this ain't an action theme we're dealing with ."
Name: 6575 Polar Base
Price: USD 59.99
Further References: Brickset.com, Bricklink.com, Peeron.com, flickr
Yet another theme that I was really into as a young kid, Arctic was one of those unique themes that unfortunately never gained much popularity. Arctic was categorized under the Town umbrella theme, and encompassed the exploration aspect of the snowy wastelands, as opposed to the more action-oriented themes like Alpha Team.
Here's some footage from the LEGO Racers 2 video game that featured the Arctic theme as one of the racetracks. I've never actually played the game, but this still evokes a lot of nostalgia!
The Box: Front
As with all my old sets, I must credit Peeron for the box picture . I really love the background and just the overall design of the box. It doesn't use CGI graphics heavily, so all the focus is directed toward the set as it should. The calmer, less gaudy appearance may not have meant this attracted consumers the most, but on the other hand the true excitement lay in the discovery and exploration aspect of the Arctic theme - something I know I enjoyed a decade ago.
The Instructions: Front
This is rather unique - the cover has a listing of all the individual builds included in the set. Oh well, better than just copying and pasting the box art!
The Instructions: Inside Pages
Even embracing the educational side of LEGO a little bit, the instructions feature some really nice photographs of science and research teams not in the Arctic, but in Antarctica (you can tell by the penguins!). The particular research station pictured here is the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, operated by the United States. The domed station has since been dismantled.
Like the box, the instructions also have a background picturing a glacial landscape, but here it looks more photogenic and realistic than the one on the box. Unlike to what most may be used to, the minifigs aren't all placed in the front - they are actually spread out through the build, and are called for in the beginning of each individual build.
The Instructions: Pictures of Nature
More wonderful pictures to look at. A very beautiful montage of the diverse life that we find in the farthest corners of our planet.
Thanks to Bricklink for providing the sticker sheets. Some of mine have showed signs of cracking, unfortunately.
Although they're not a widely sought after piece, the eleven blue 6x1x5 slopes are exclusive to this set. And a keystone piece in many of the Town Jr. sets, two 10x2x2 double slopes are also present in blue. A generous source of a few kinds of blue slopes if you need them.
Just like a toy maker's workshop, you're always bound to find all sorts of oddities in one set or another. All of the window panels and corners are exclusive to this set in light gray, as is the giant cockpit element. Another rarity is the trapezoidal piece, which has a lot of MOCing potential with the studs located on its legs. We certainly cannot forget the skis, which can be used for their primary purpose or as a neat little decoration on a certain café located around the corner.
I think we get even more of a mess of pieces here . No worries, it's just a preview of what is soon to come!
And finally, all the cool details that adorn every corner of this cool, cool set. Most are printed !
Just like they did in the ye' olden days, this set comes with baseplates...in white! You'll only find them elsewhere in a snowboarding set.
All of these are unique elements that are pretty versatile. I always used to fantasize over the printed X-ray tile for some reason.
If Arctic was a great theme for only one reason, then it's the polar bear. Such a great and uncommon animal element to have!
The Minifigures: Front
Arctic does not disappoint with its minifigs collection! Proudly bearing their theme's logo, the Arctic minifigs consist of various personnel on the research team. The fur-lined hood made its debut in the Arctic theme and would later go on to make brief appearances in the Star Wars line, like here and here. Love the medic's cap with the Star of Life on it.
The Minifigures: Back
Nothing to see from behind.
The Minifigures: Heads
I like how LEGO wasn't lazy in just assigning a universal head for all the Arctic minifigs. For the most part they have different sunglasses printed on them, adding to the variation of each figure. These actually appeared before in the Extreme Team. The pilot's head is just a typical female head prominent in the 90s, but maybe some headset printing would have worked? Finally, the Doc's head was relatively new at the time of the set's release, found previously in the Space Port sets.
The Tracked Vehicle, Steps 4, 8, 16
Honestly, I had no idea what to call this thing. But it's a nice little something thrown in the set.
The Helicopter, Steps 7, 15
The second vehicle is assembled, ready for rescue missions in the dangerous environment the Arctic offers.
The Command Center, Steps 5, 8
Alright, time to build the first building module! The general formula for each building is pretty similar to one another, which will be made more apparent in the next few sets of pictures. The various details and features on each building set them apart from each other.
Tower Module, Sub-steps 5, 11
I like this part of the build because of all the cool pieces it incorporates. It's very satisfying setting this on top of the main structure...
...and seeing the final result! The fun only gets better from here!
The Medical Wing, Steps 6, 11
This is probably the simplest build out of the four buildings. But in any case, the doctor is now ready to take in the injured and ill for rehab.
The Research Center, Steps 5, 11
The trapezoidal pieces mentioned earlier are creatively used here to build a hexagonal door that opens up to let the frozen fossil inside. It'd be nice if the set came with two polar bears so this one doesn't go on thinking the research specimen is an afternoon snack, but I guess the other got lost on some tropical island with strange supernatural powers (kudos if you got the reference ).
The Weather Station, Steps 6, 8, 12
No Arctic or Antarctic station is complete without a weather station outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment.
The Snowmobile, Steps 4, 7
I'm not sure why this was added on at the end of the instructions instead of at the front with the other vehicles, but whatever. This is very similar to one of the Arctic polybag sets, 6626 Snow Scooter.
The Snowmobile Trailer, Steps 3, 6
Even comes with a nice trailer for transporting injured minifigs on the stretcher.
By land and in the air, the medic crew is well prepared to deal with any rescue mission.
Design and Playability
The Polar Base is a true playset. With four different buildings, three vehicles, six minifigs, a polar bear, and tons of features in everything, the playability value here is far more than any flick-fire missile could offer.
Building 1 - The Command and Research Center
The buildings can be placed back to back to create one larger complex. The pairings don't matter; I just used the ones featured in the box art. My only design-related complaint here is that there isn't a proper doorway for the minifigs to walk in through, unless they want to get x-rayed every time they go inside.
Perhaps if the set was designed to have two larger buildings instead of four smaller modules, the sides could have had a door opening to the outside.
Building 2 - The Medical Wing and Weather Station
Although here, I suppose the door in the medical wing works.
The side profiles do a fine job in making this look like a research station. Clean-looking, but not gaudy and majestic in its architecture. I wouldn't call that a turnoff, but rather a decent attempt at realism on LEGO's part.
Finally, you can even combine everything into one ginormous structure! Okay, not that exciting, but it just showcases the different possibilities the set has!
So this is what the helicopter pilot would see from high above, through a trans-blue windscreen of course. Contrary to many action sets, play functions like missiles and whatnot that often detract from the set's aesthetic appeal are absent here, leaving more room for focus on the details and structural design.
All the vehicles in the Arctic theme bear a uniform orange and black color scheme. Normally I wouldn't think that'd make a very attractive color combination, but it's surprisingly effective.
Interior View - Command and Research Center
I guess the magnifying lens can be used to reflect sunlight to melt the ice encasing the fossil .
Interior View - Medical Wing and Weather Station
The inside has a variety of instruments and equipment for the minifigs to use. Today's forecast is well into the negative degrees range!
Interior View - Tower Module
Lucky for this guy, he gets to sit inside his heated command post while drinking hot cocoa. Now if he were to spill it on the computer...
As the ice block enters the facility, an x-ray of it is scanned. How hi-tech !
Then it's observed to identify the unknown creature inside.
Fun for blowing on to make it spin .
Yikes, unfortunately the helicopter pilot got injured somehow. No worries, the medical crew is on the job.
Even though Arctic wasn't a successful theme, I'm glad that LEGO chose to showcase this previously unexplored theme. I really liked the bit of educational value the theme had as well, that maybe inspired a few kids here and there in the scientific disciplines being explored in the polar extremes of the Earth as we speak. At the same time, it just may have been the lack of action and excitement present in the more popular themes that led to the short-lived life of Arctic. So how does this rather obscure set rank in the long run?
Pieces: 8/10 - The rare and retro pieces, plus the baseplates are a huge yes factor for me! There's a lot of stickers, but likewise there are a ton of printed pieces too, some of which are uncommon like the x-ray and Staff of Life tile.
Minifigures: 8/10 - Generic enough to be part of the larger Town theme, and pretty detailed. The hoods are excellent to have and work perfectly in snow-themed creations.
Build: 8/10 - A fun and miscellaneous build. It never gets repetitive, and building individual structures is a different experience from building one large structure all the way through.
Design: 7/10 - An appropriate design for the entire playset, great focus on the details in the buildings. The color scheme is also very suitable and works well in the Arctic context.
Playability: 9/10 - There aren't missiles and launchers that are often exhausted after a short period of time in their playability, but here much of the fun rests on the kids' imagination. I think this is what makes sets like the Polar Base superior to many others with respect to playability. It's not necessarily something that can be encompassed completely in a pictorial review, as the possibilities are endless.
Price: 7/10 - Sixty bucks isn't bad at all for the largest set in a series, but a tiny bit high knowing the actual piece count of 441 pieces. The baseplates make up for this, however.
Arctic is definitely an underrated theme in the LEGO community, and you can definitely expect more Arctic reviews from me in the future...until next time!
Thanks for reading
Posted 23 April 2011 - 06:30 AM
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Posted 23 April 2011 - 07:21 AM
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Posted 23 April 2011 - 11:59 AM
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Posted 24 April 2011 - 12:24 AM
Posted 25 April 2011 - 06:10 AM
I remember collecting the Arctic sets when I was a kid.
I had them all but this set and 6573-1 Arctic Expedition.
Great review -R8- Keep up the good work!
I love the functionality and details of this set.
I kinda want to order this set off of BrickLink now.
I cannot wait to see more reviews of this great theme.
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Posted 25 April 2011 - 06:20 AM
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