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    Bionicle Master Builder Review
    ReviewSunday, May 5th, 2002 at 9:22am by Jon, BZPower Co-Owner

    This is a review of the "10023 Bionicle Master Builder" set which which has just started shipping from LEGO Shop@Home during the last week.

    I spent a few hours yesterday building all fifteen models in one sitting and jotting down my impressions.  Here now is my review of the models themselves, and the set overall.

    THE BOX
    The the most superficial part of any LEGO product, but the one that often determines whether or not the set is a success or failure.



    This set should sell millions, and it's not thanks to the content, but thanks to the box.  What's more intriguing than the promise of fifteen different buildable models all in one package priced below $15?

    It sounds like a win-win situtation, particularly for parents of young Bionicle fans.  Sounds like you're getting over a dozen new & different toys for one low price. What a bargain!  Well, we'll see.

    WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
    So you've bought it and taken it home (or at least made it to the car), punched the perforated tabs and dump out the contents.  What do you get for your money?



    It's pretty sparse:
  • Parts in plastic bags
  • Model Construction Manual

    No surprises here, unless you count the obvious omission of any promotional material whatsoever.  If you were buying this set in hopes of catching a glimpse of some upcoming LEGO products, you're out of luck.

    Not that there's anything wrong with this, I'm just pointing out that we're down to the bare necessities.

    THE BRICKS
    Here's where we start to cut to the heart of the matter.  You didn't buy this box for all the glossy booklets & creative artwork.  You want to know about the LEGO bricks & bits that are included, and what (if any) new & interesting parts you'll find inside.  Here's also where I'll talk about any new and/or interesing pieces that you will encounter.



    In an unusual omission, nowhere on the exterior of the box does it list a part count.  LEGO's Shop@Home store lists the count at 102 pieces, which sounds about right.  Makes me wonder if they felt that listing so few pieces on a box that promised 15 models would be counterproductive.

    There are no brand new pieces, but some old pieces in some interesting colors for the must-have collector.

    Bionicle fans that don't plan on buying the Boxor (though I can't for the life of me figure out why you wouldn't get the Boxor) will be pleased to know that 10023 is your second source for that great new Orange Pakari.  Plus some more signature Bionicle parts in unusual colors; like a dark grey Toa foot, a red Gali hook and a pair of orange Onua claws.



    I was also very pleased to find a pair of red Technic gearbox panels and a worm screw gear.  These three pieces are the best elements here, the models that took advantage of these pieces were by far the most interesting.

    Overall, the color scheme of these pieces are directly in line with the 8556 Boxor set: greys, blacks & oranges.

    BUILDING EXPERIENCE
    What can you expect while putting this model together?

    Drudgery. Sheer drudgery. I hate to say this about any LEGO set, particularly a Bionicle set, but having built all fifteen models in one sitting, here's my estimation of how this set came about:

    LEGO Executive: There seems to be a lot of demand for the animals seen in Bionicle comic books and the online game.

    LEGO Designer: Yeah, I have a couple of ideas, and some like the crab from the online game are pretty obvious. How about we do a set with three or four different creatures?

    LEGO Executive: Okay, get back to me in a couple of days with what you have.

    (Couple of days later....)

    LEGO Designer: Nifty, eh? Here are three great little models, and they can all be built with less than 100 individual pieces! We could release them as one small set, or three small $4.99 models.

    LEGO Executive: Well, you've got some good ideas, now take those same pieces and give me a dozen more models.

    LEGO Designer: What? But there's nowhere near enough variety of pieces for that! We'll need at least...

    LEGO Executive: A dozen models, I tell you! Get to work, you creative-type!

    (Door slams and lock snaps closed.)


    Now again, I wasn't there, but this is how I envision it.  This is not to say that the set has no merit whatsoever, but of all of the 15 models, only three or four really feel like they started with an idea.  The rest feel as though they started with a requisite pile of pieces and the mandate to "make something out of these."

    I am left with the feeling that the designers had either a very good imagination, or very poor eyesight.  Because to see many of these models as the animals they represent, you must have one or the other (or both would be good, I imagine).

    I'm going to first point out the worst, and best example of this mentality.  Presenting, the snake:



    I actually felt embarassed for this set when I built the snake.  Not even the half-hearted "striking action" designed into the head of this travesty could save it from appear to be a first-time MOC by a six-year-old.  I mean no offense to those who designed the set -- I feel your pain, and I imagine you are as embarassed as I am.

    Okay, now the good news: it can only get better from there.  As you move on through the rest of the models, you'll enounter several bugs & birds, even a rhino and something resembling a turtle.



    Then, of course, there are the animals that really stand out as seeming to be the ones that started as an idea, and the appropriate bricks were brought in to make it happen.  Three of the best are the crab (naturally), his cousin bug (I'm sure those of you who religiously played the online game know the names of all of these, so I won't pretend I do) and a really great scorpion.



    Also, you'll encounter a pretty neatly designed shark, which while I felt was a bit forced, seemed to be the most creative animal to come out of the limited pile of pieces.



    PLAYING EXPERIENCE
    So you've got the model together, but is it more like playing with a block of wood or an interactive toy?

    This is a little bit of a tough category to summarize.  Since there are so many models, you'd either have to purchase a dozen of these sets to have all of the animals at once, or choose just one that you like and play with it.  What I'll focus on here are the models that stood out to me as being the most interesting, and talk about their playability.

    Several of the models do have some interesting movement via joints & that aforementioned gearbox & worm screw, but first I'll focus on the kangaroo.



    Before I started putting this one together, it looked from the instructions that it was going to be a mouse, and in true Sylvester-the-Cat form, I started thinking, "Why on earth would a mouse be able to punch?" Then, I realized that it was not a mouse but a punching kangaroo. Probably the most playable of the models, this little guy has a great reach and very fluid punching motion, reminiscent of the Tarakava.

    Next is the model I have dubbed "Chomp."  I first thought it was a shark, until I got to the actual shark later in the instruction manual, so now all I'm sure of is that it's some kind of swimming creature, possibly a whale.

    Chomp has great mouth articulation, and I enjoyed using him to gobble up the pieces lying around that weren't used in his construction.

    Then there's the Drinking Bird.  Not an incredible model overall, but I enjoyed the usage of the gearbox/worm screw in his torso, and his incredible similarity to the small plastic birds you can purchase that sit on the corner of a glass and perpetually rock back & forth, dipping their beaks into the water.



    I got a laugh when I realized what this model did, and wondered if the desingers had that in mind when they thought him up.

    And finally, we come to the signature model for this set, the raptor pictured on the front of the box.



    The raptor isn't on the front of the box by accident.  It seems to me that this set may have possibly been conceived as the raptor alone, and later expanded to be all of the above animals.  The raptor definitely has the most detail and intricacy.  Of the 79 pages of instructions in the booklet for all 15 models, the raptor has eleven pages devoted to him.  by far the most enjoyable to build, but not necessarily the most fun to play with.  Still, if you just build your LEGO for display, this is likely the one you'll end up leaving on your shelf as a trophy of set 10023.

    OVERALL
    Here's where it all boils down to whether the model is worth your money and time or not.

    This is a tough one, and I guess it all boils down to your budget.  While not a stellar set by any stretch of the imagination, its modest price of $12.99 makes it more attractive than it would be at a higher price.  (To paraphrase one of my poker-playing buddies when deciding whether to call or fold, "What the heck, I'd watch a pig waller in mud for a dollar!")  If the price is low enough, even sub-par products start to appear attractive to consumers.

    I suppose the thing that made this set seem to be such a let-down was that I reviewed it coming right off the heels of the Boxor (my review of the Boxor can be found here), which was so wonderfully designed and thought out.

    So, should you buy it?  If just have the $13 lying around to play with, and it won't keep you from buying the Boxor later in the summer, then you just might get some enjoyment out of it.  But if it's a question of the Master Builder Set or the Boxor, hold on to your money.  In the long run you'll be very glad you did.

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