Saturday, 24 August 2013

Lego Review - 9461 – The Swamp Creature

Set: 9461 – The Swamp Creature

RRP: $12

Pieces: 70

Build Time: 10-15 minutes

The Background

I’m more than a little late reviewing this particular set; Brickipedia tells me it was originally released back in May 2012, though I don’t recall ever seeing it until closer to September/October 2012. Just in time for Halloween, I suspect.
The backstory to Monster Fighters is something to do with a whole bunch of classic horror monsters in Lego form (vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein’s Monster, mummies, ghosts etc.) each owning a piece of a “moonstone”, which I believe is some kind of magic rock. When Lord Vampyre (the main villain) collects them all, the world will be drawn into a state of permanent lunar eclipse, and the monsters will invade the land of the minifigures.

The "human" minifigure characters are less than pleased with this state of affairs and are looking to stop this evil occurrence. From a story point of view, it’s then up to the individual purchaser to decide which side emerges victorious. One might reasonably ask why they can’t just sort out some sort of mutual agreement, I suppose, but let’s not dwell on the details.

I don’t know that I rate Monster Fighters as a theme all that highly; a number of the main monsters have already appeared in various collectable Minifigures series over the last couple of years, and a lot of them looked better there, in my opinion – though granted, some of the Monster Fighters versions do glow in the dark. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, that can be a real clincher for me (and by the way, I did end up buying the glow in the dark Robocop recently).
The Minifigures
Given my generally unimpressed demeanour, you’re probably wondering why I bought this kit at all. Well, the minifigures were definitely the main reason behind this purchase – the “Swamp Creature” minifigure specifically. He’s not officially Gillman (of Creature from the Black Lagoon fame), but he’s about as close as we’re probably going to get.
He comes with a standard wooden spear, a piece that’s most frequently been seen in Castle sets. It’s good that he’s got an accessory, but I think it would have been cooler if he had one of the golden tridents that were featured in Atlantis (though I suppose it would have been less “swampy”). I think I’ve got some lying around somewhere, so I may substitute this in future.

                        The Swamp Creature, with his portion of swamp and Moonstone
Speaking of Atlantis, I think he fits in quite well with the sea monsters that came with the Atlantis sets that were released a couple of years ago. When I finally get around to setting up my City of Atlantis set again, he may pay a visit to the underwater denizens of that legendary city.
You’ll recall I mentioned earlier that I liked the fact that some of the monsters in this theme glow in the dark. Well, this is one of only two sets in the theme that don’t feature glow in the dark pieces. It’s a shame, because Swamp Creature has some green highlights on his scales that would have looked great if they glowed. Nonetheless, this is a minor quibble, and on the whole I’m very pleased with him. $12 purchase price justified right there, for me. 
In contrast, I wasn’t particularly interested in the minifigure of the actual Monster Fighter – Frank Rock. In monster-oriented media, the humans tend to pale in comparison to the monsters themselves. They’re just not as visually interesting, and tend to be fairly thinly drawn as characters. At first glance, Frank Rock was no exception. With his large Polaroid-style sunglasses and greaser hairstyle, I initially thought he looked just like Elvis, sans-sequinned bodysuit. An Elvis minifigure would be cool in many other settings, but not this one, and his smirky expression makes him look kind of like a jerk. However, closer inspection reveals him to be a little cooler than I first thought. He’s got impressive little details all over his face, including stubble and little bruises/scars.
                                                      Frank Rock? Or Elvis sighting?
Best of all, the reverse of his head is also printed, sans-sunglasses. With this expression, he looks a little more hardened and serious – like someone who’s actually spent some time battling the creatures of the night. He also looks more than a little like the legendary Bruce Campbell, which does tie in well with the Monster Fighters theme. Give him a Lego chainsaw instead of a hand and a sawn off-shotgun, and he'd pretty much be Ash in Army of Darkness.
He’ll probably never be my favourite minifigure, but he was a pleasant surprise especially considering that I thought he would be nothing more than a Mr Generic McBoring monster prey.
                                                          Frank Rock with his swamp boat.
The Build
There are two builds in the kit – the piece of swampland and a swamp boat.
The swamp section takes all of a couple of minutes – it’s a brown base with some stones, some swamp weeds, a fish and the Swamp Creature Moonstone piece. There’s also a frog, which is a neat little touch. Small as it is, it’s surprisingly effective at conveying the required swampy atmosphere. It could also be repurposed as part of an Atlantis diorama, or even with the Treehouse’s (set 31010) water area.
On to the swamp boat – like its driver, the swamp boat ended up being much cooler than I expected. It’s like a mini-hovercraft, though this one shoots flick-missiles, and is also armed with two pistols mounted to the front. It too was quite simple to build, but it demonstrates an effective use of minimal pieces in its construction. It’s also a nice middle ground between the extremes of the implausible (but awesome) science-fiction Galaxy Squad vehicles, without moving into the “impressively-realistic-but-a-little-boring” territory that City often veers into. An interesting novelty - there's not a lot of Lego vehicles that look like this one.
I don’t see myself picking up any of the other Monster Fighter sets - though the werewolf does intrigue me - but I am glad that I got this one. $12 for one great (and one good) minifigure, as well as a cool vehicle is hard to argue with.
Though the kit itself will not grab the more dedicated builder, the Swamp Creature minifigure alone was worth the price of admission for me – everything else was a bonus. I’m giving it a 7.5/10 for minifigures, but in building terms it’s more like a 5 or 6/10. 
And as for who won? Well, I don't think of the Swamp Creature as evil, more misunderstood. So after a hard-fought battle, Frank and Swampy became good friends.
                                                        The set in its entirety

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