Monday, 12 October 2015

Countdown to Halloween: Quick Crappy Review: Set 75902 - The Mystery Machine

Scooby-Doo watching is to me as Halloweeny as pumpkin carving and slutty costumes, in fact there’s slutty costumes for most of the Scooby-Doo cast (you never see a Slutty Fred costume…).

I like Lego, I really do, but for most of the time I’m content to admire it from afar – I don’t have the money or the space to get into it in a big way and well… there’s a stigma attached to adults collecting Lego that seems more tangible, a judging look from the cashiers and other shoppers that seems more potent, and I’m not comfortable enough with myself to ignore it. Every so often though they bring out something can I cannot physically resist, social stigma be damned: the last item was their brilliant Ecto-1, now they’ve only gone and made the Mystery Machine.  

Just in case you’ve lived on the planet Zog for the last 4 decades, The Mystery Machine is the main mode of transport for Mystery Inc, the characters from Hanna-Barbera’s (well Warner Bros’ now) cash-cow Scooby-Do franchise and dates all the way back to the first show ‘Scooby Doo, Where Are You?’ and is for my mind one of the most iconic vehicles in fiction. It’s a 1960s panel van that doesn’t exactly have a set model, but fan theory is it was probably originally based on a mid-60s Ford Taunus Transit Van. And now it’s in Lego, and it looks awesome. I think I may have spoilt the quick review there.

The van itself is about a close as I think you’re going to get. The main issue with making it in Lego is that the Mystery Machine is kind of rounded and Lego is kind of not so they’ve done well to take off as many corners as possible. Not to bang on about part sharing again but Lego have really become masters at making anything out of stuff they already have and the bare minimum of new brick shapes, the only parts I can guarantee you are new in this set is Scooby Doo and Shaggy and Fred’s hair. Although it came out looking convincing I was a bit unhappy that I had to stick all the decal (with the exception of the hubcaps) on myself via stickers like it was 19911, I know Lego Scooby Doo is only a small line at the moment but the amount of money Lego makes per hour I would’ve thought they could have printed up at least the computer screens and the Mystery Machine logo, especially as that opens mid-way through. Yeah the van opens (and the design team get props for remembering to put smooth pieces with no studs on ‘em all around these ‘doors’ so they don’t get stuck). I don’t remember the Mystery Machine ever being part Transformer but I’m sure it’s just to replicate its back doors. It was completely unexpected, is completely unnecessary from my point of view but anything that adds more play options is fine with me, and it allowed the designers to put in a fully stocked back-of-van, boasting computers, pictures of criminals, what I think is the healing station from a Pokè Centre and a sandwich, the sandwich is too precious, I adore it. Someone really put some effort into all the little extras with this set, I think there was a fan on the team.  My only other concern is that the roof is only attached via two studs and doesn’t join to the windshield at all, it’s almost certainly to facilitate putting characters into the front seats and probably won’t be an issue in my world where it’ll just be sitting next to Ecto-1 looking swanky but y’know, these ARE actually meant for children to y’know, play with and Spongebob has to use the Mystery Machine to escape The Shredder and half the villains from The Clone Wars and that means driving up walls and flying along the kitchen floor bouncing off the table and chair legs and we can’t be having its roof fall off and coming apart into five pieces, that would allow General Grievous to get in and necessitate rebuilding the damn thing and risk losing parts and forever ruining the look of the toy. You’d think Lego would think of these things.

So the van is a wonderful piece when built but a review of a Lego item is also a review of how user friendly it was to build but sadly I don’t have much of a story for ya. Honestly it was really simple, it had two books to tell you how to do everything in the set but that was just a ruse, each page only contained one or two things to do – a complete waste of paper but it made assembling everything piss-easy. The only issue we had was working out how to fix the hubcaps to the wheels, the instructions really weren’t clear that you had to thread the axel through the front of the wheel, but that (and having to stick the stickers on myself) is the only issue we had with the whole process. The bags of bricks were even separated into three and numbered, with book 1 working from bag 1 and book 2 working from bags 2 and 3, I don’t remember my old Lego Castle and Lego Space stuff being this use friendly, oh well I never built those, mum did :D. and the ease with which it came together gave us a chance to really enjoy the act of it coming together, Lego really is quite, quite ingenious.

Then there’s the mini-figures, we didn’t just get a van in this set (and for £30 I should bloody hope not) we also got four mini-figures and, well I’m not sure what the killer tree counts as, it’s not a mini-figure but it IS a figure of some kind. The set includes Shaggy, Fred, Scooby and the Zombie and while I would have far preferred Daphne and Velma3, Shaggy and Fred drive the van most of the time and Scooby has to come in every set because he’s the titular character. The Zombie has new a torso decal to replicate the look of the Scooby Doo zombie2 but it ink the head’s reused, it may not be, it does look a bit like the Scooby-Doo Zombie but without ears and a nose it’s hard to tell. Shaggy has the great ‘two faces’ thing going on, where you can turn him from happy to scared but oddly Fred doesn’t I have three theories: 1. Lego are being cheap  2. It’s because it’s Fred and no-one likes Fred 3. Only Shaggy has the scared face to tie into his character being such a coward while the others, never scared shitless with the same regularity as Shags (and Scooby) – y’know, three times every episode are not given a scared face to tie into their roles in the other media. I want it to be 3 but it’s probably 1. Fred does come with two accessories to make up for his lack of second face, a huge comedy magnifying glass and a newspaper detailing more about the story of the set – a killer tree come to life. I had enough spare parts left over (if you’ve never made a modern Lego set, they always include some extras of the really little parts, having learnt from experience no doubt) to make a second flashlight for Shaggy, I’m not sure if the set is SUPPOSED to come with two flashlights, but I got a second torch out of it so I’m happy and so is Shaggy.

Scooby-Doo himself is fantastic. I’m glad they made him in the Lego Animal style (complete with stud on top of his body) rather than as a mini-figure. I really, really, dislike it when merchandise has Scooby Doo as standing on his hind legs like a man in a suit, yes he can talk and has better dexterity than most primates but he’s not that anthropomorphised, he’s not a SWAT Kat, he’s just a cartoon animal. It’s a pet peeve (pun?) to be sure but I’m glad Lego did it this way, it does mean that he only has neck articulation though (Mini-Figures are surprisingly articulated really, they have 7 points, that’s more than vintage Masters of the Universe or Thundercats had). The killer tree meanwhile is probably my favourite thing in the set, which is a shame in a way because he’ll rarely if ever be on display while I’m living in this house (I don’t have the room to display the Zombie, let alone a big ass killer tree). While I mostly like him just cos he’s a killer tree there are some actual good reasons he’s so cool, firstly I love it when a set of toys tell a story without spelling it out, the story of this set is obvious – a killer tree is coming to life, but it is in fact really a computer and when you remove the large jewel something is going to happen – the box implies that the tree will go berserk but it could just as easily shut it down, depending on your play that day; it’s not a new thing for Lego and it harkens all the way back to at least The Adventures of G.I. Joe in ’69 but it’s a cool thing that shows real skill on the design team’s part I find. Also there was a real satisfaction in building him, this tree has fully ball joined arms and articulated branches (for positioning more than anything else)  and the set has you build the whole mechanisms along with the rest of the figure, again this very much old news for Lego and was one of the reasons things like Bionical and Lego Technik took off like they did but Lego still gave me the chance to build a ball-joined figure as a bonus extra and that makes the killer tree special.  Also he’s a killer tree.

So in conclusion: I had a lot of fun making this; it was simple to make while still being engrossing (you have to be engrossed or you’ll fuck it up, one stud in the wrong direction and you’ll be taking apart three quarters of the bastard thing, such is the way of the Lego Masters); it looks bloody fantastic; it came with four mini-figures AND a killer tree; gave me the chance to build my favourite type of toy (action figures) as a bonus; is thematically linked to my other big Lego piece (Ecto-1 again) by being an iconic vehicle from a comedy horror franchise and actually felt like it was good value for money despite being an official Lego product. I think all of that outweighs having to stick some stickers on, this set is the shit.

1 honestly I’m just unhappy because I suck at putting stickers on, there isn’t a single straight sticker on this toy or in fact any toy I’ve owned since 1990 that required sticking stickers on (before that my mum did it, she’s marginally better than me despite having fingers like overcooked cocktail sausages).
2 First appearance - Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Episode 13: Which Witch is Which?
3 Velma, who lets face it is everyone’s favourite, only comes with the big ticket item The Mystery Mansion – what bastards. 

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