The Reviewers Academy was one of first ways I became involved on Eurobricks, and to celebrate its fourth birthday, I've joined my fellow teachers in releasing a flash-mob of Reviewers-Academy-Quality reviews.
The climax of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philospher's) Stone revolves around a string of challenges that Harry and his friends must battle through in order to prevent the stone from being stolen by Voldemort. The first two of these challenges were rolled into one set, released in 2001 as a part of the first wave of Lego Harry Potter. Today, I'll be taking you back to the golden days of Harry Potter - days of trap-filled, modular castle rooms that recreated the magic of the books with bricks. Join me as I enter the Forbidden Corridor!
Set Name: Forbidden Corridor
Set Number: 4706
Number of Pieces: 223 (Bricklink) 238 (Peeron and Brickset)
Minifigs: 3 (Harry, Ron, Hermione)
Original Retail Price: $30 USD (according to Peeron)
Theme: Harry Potter / Sorcerer's Stone
Year Released: 2001
For high-resolution versions of any of the photos you see here, check out my Flickr.
The first thing we'll take a look at is the instruction manual. It's not surprising that such a tall set calls for a square-shaped manual, but it's a bit surprising how crammed the artwork is. The staircase is partially cut off and Harry is blocking our view of a certain play feature we'll discuss later. This problem could have been easily avoided if there was less of a border, but maybe I'm over analyzing this.
The instructions to the set appear to be printed on pieces of parchment lying on a stone floor. It's almost like an instruction manual within an instruction manual - if you'll pardon the over-used joke - manualception!
Interestingly, the instructions also feature basic instructions for alternate models. If my knowledge of Harry Potter sets of the era is correct, pictures of the alternate models would have appeared on the back of the box. I don't think I've ever seen alternate model instructions in other instructions, so it's certainly noteworthy. However, this particular model doesn't look particularly attractive.
The back features an ad for Lego Creator Harry Potter - a horrible computer game, but at least it help set a precedent for much better Lego video games today!
Let's take a look at the piece selection. The high amount of black pieces in this set contributes to the gloomy atmosphere of the Devil's Snare pit. There are lots of basic arches and bricks, but nothing that's particularly exciting.
The gray pieces are a bit more interesting, holding within their ranks some tiles, hinges, and a trapdoor. Again, there's not much variety, but there's still a large quantity of each type of piece.
The rest of the pieces are mostly tan, brown, and green. The tan pieces build the "exterior" of the corridor (like in the title picture) while the greens, not surprisingly, build the plant pit of death. The molded door frame is one of the more interesting pieces, and a hallmark of the Harry Potter sets. I imagine you could achieve a similar effect with the new brick wall pieces surfacing in the Lord of the Rings sets.
The larger, bulkier pieces are displayed here. If you're wondering what all those strange wedge-ring things are, they are individual steps of the spiral staircase.
Pieces of Interest:
These are the more interesting pieces found in the set, in my opinion at least. Plants, animals, fire, tools - yep, this is a Harry Potter set. I'm a fan of the web piece, because it's both durable and detailed.
The Two Most Special:
The two most unique pieces get a photo of their own! Not only are they special, but they're key to the plot of the story behind the set. Hermione's blue flames save everyone from the Devil's Snare vines, and the flute helps put Fluffy to sleep. I always thought the blue flame was incredibly rare until I realized that it's used as water in a number of Town sets. The flute, however, remains just as unique. I mean, just look at it! A mouth piece, an owl decoration, and finger holes - it's incredible how much effort the designers put into it. This is the only printed bar piece Lego has ever made, and it certainly doesn't disappoint.
The set contains our favorite trio of angsty teenagers! They all have their typical Gryffindor robes and signature facial expressions. If this set was made today, I bet you they would all have alternate faces. I wouldn't mind seeing a flute-playing face for Harry and a freaking-out face for Ron, but I don't think alternate expressions were very common at the time this set was made. As an extra touch, Harry's cape is blue, as it appears in a few other sets too. None of them have any back printing.
Though he's not quite a minifigure, I thought it would be a good time to introduce Fluffy the Three-Headed Dog. I'm shocked that Lego made this behemoth in the first place, because it's a totally strange and non-reusable mold. They did an excellent job with the heads, but the paws are blocky leave something to be desired.
Fluffy has a few studs on his back, and you can see how the legs are positioned relative to each other. He even has a little tail too!
The lower jaws are actually the same as a Lego crocodile's mouth. So I guess the mold can be used for more than just Fluffy, but I'm not sure how well that will work out...
Here are a few pictures from the build. Each picture is taken 8 steps apart, for a total of 32 steps. The building process is extremely straight-forward: you start at the bottom and build up to the top. I guess the only interesting thing to point out is the half-completed Devil's Snare in the first photo. It's built into the base, rather than being a separate component built separately and placed in the room. You can click the picture for a larger version, if you want to see the details up close.
The Whole set:
Now let's take a look at the completed product! Within the context of the set, the hinges accomplish practically nothing. However, if multiple Harry Potter sets were combined, they could help create a more interestingly-shaped castle.
Our journey begins at the bottom of the staircase. It's nice that Lego provided a way of getting up to the second level, rather than just having an elevated platform.
The staircase is fairly steep, but it's a very pretty design. My favorite part is the off-center brick pattern that is created at its center - it reminds me of the new LOTR bricks! The only thing that bothers me about the stairs is that they can slide back and forth easily, rather than always being locked.
At the top of the staircase, we find the flute conveniently waiting in a chest. The chest can't close all the way with the flute in it, but it's still nice that they included it for storage. The room is otherwise empty, but hey, it's the "Forbidden" Corridor, they're not going to put in a vending machine outside of it!
A turn of the key later, we emerge in the dangerous corridor. The wedge functions as a good door stop, but it's really there for joining together with other Harry Potter sets. Allow me to explain. If you have another building of the same height, you can have a third building overlap with the 1x1 plates and it will become a bridge between the two. It's a bizarre connection compared to the other stacking modular connections found in the theme, but I would imagine it works.
Harry takes on Fluffy with the flute - hope he's been practicing, because Fluffy is a tough critic! This picture gives you a good idea of how big Fluffy is. He's towering over Harry! Also note the trapdoor handle. I'm glad they gave us a big target; otherwise it might be hard to open.
Due to the space constraints, making Fluffy fall asleep may in fact make it harder to get through that trapdoor...
Assuming there's enough space, the trapdoor opens easily, leading us to the next segment of the set. If you hadn't noticed them before, there are two flames in the background lighting the "room".
Looking Into the Abyss:
What could be down there? Here, you can see that a tile helps to keep the trapdoor from swinging all the way down.
Trap is Set:
There's a Devil's Snare waiting to catch Harry! Beware of the spider webs and bats while you're down there.
Trap is Sprung:
When you drop Harry, his weight causes the jaws of the Devil's Snare to close around him. I've never seen a play feature quite like it. It works reasonably well, as long as you drop Harry straight down.
Here's a close-up of the
How it Works:
Here's a sequence of pictures showing how the jaws open, as seen from the back. It works very well, and locks into place securely. The jaws are more likely to stay open than they are to accidentally come together.
Hermione to the Rescue:
It's up to Hermione to save the day! Thankfully she remembered a rhyme that helped her think of blue flames. It's hard to make the flames look like they're coming out of her wand - as the instructions show, it's easier to have her hold them in her hand. Ouch!
Safe and Sound:
And they're free! On to other adventures.
Bat on Roof:
Before I wrap up this review, there are a few details I'd like to point out. It's likely you didn't notice the bat above the entry way. It's foreshadowing your imminent doom as you walk in! Nice extra addition.
Gloom and Doom:
I love the spider webs at the back of the vine pit, but I can't help but wish that Lego put in a third one to fill up the empty space. A bat doesn't quite cut it in my opinion.
As mentioned before, a tile is used to keep the trapdoor from falling through. Lego simply raised the platform one plate high, leaving an ugly gap. It's a quick fix with the right parts, but it's still slightly annoying.
The “connectors” (1x1 plates and wedges) on the far side are more useful than the ones right next to the door that I showed you earlier. Lego used to include a fold-out advertisement with the Harry Potter sets that showed you how they could be put together. The obstacles at the end of the first Harry Potter book were made into three sets: this one, the Chamber of Winged Keys, and the Final Challenge. If you placed the Chamber of Winged Keys with one part on top of the Final Challenge, the other end would attach here. It doesn't make very much sense play-wise (Harry would end up below if he went into the trapdoor, yet the next challenge is behind Fluffy) but it's still a nifty concept. Here's a picture of the set-up:
Here's a brief video showcasing the trap door function and Devil's Snare feature. Enjoy!
Design: 7/10 The building has an interesting shape and a color scheme that matches the setting well. There's enough detail to make the set feel full, but not an excessive amount of detail to get in the way of storytelling. However, some parts of the set seem chunky or imbalanced, like the green roof area. In addition, some of the color mixing doesn't look very good in the support columns.
Parts: 6/10 A standard assortment of bricks, plates, and arches. The set contains a few interesting pieces, like the spectacular printed flute, but I wouldn't consider this a parts pack by any means.
Build: 5/10 Straight-forward with no surprises or interesting techniques.
Minifigs: 9/10 All the characters in the book scene are present, including a fantastic molded Fluffy. By today's standards, they're a bit bland, but I think their simplicity is just fine.
Playability: 7/10 The trap door and Devil's Snare function is one of the more innovative Harry Potter traps. With everything you need to recreate the iconic scene, the playability options are pretty good.
Price: 9/10 If this set originally retailed for $30 USD, that's a very good price. Yes, the piece count is only around 238, but there are several baseplates, a molded three-headed dog, and a special staircase.
Total: 43/60 This set brings plenty of interesting things to the table - Fluffy, the flute, and a unique trap. However, the parts that aren't special are really quite boring - the tall chamber, the bulky roof. If you don't mind the mundane aspects and you want the specials that it features, then this set is definitely for you. If you just want a flute, just buy it on Bricklink for a few bucks, rather than getting the entire set. This medium-sized modular castle set is an interesting twist on the Harry Potter theme, but it has its flaws.
Run for your lives! It's Scaly, the Three-Headed Dogigator! (click here for a better picture)
Thanks for looking! Once again, here's the link to my Flickr Set, and here's the link to the Reviewers Academy Info and Sign-up Page.