Swoosh-Swoosh, Pew-Pew: Child’s Play on May the Fourth

Last year, we saw the LEGO® sets aimed at younger builders shift from the the ‘Juniors‘ branding, to their respective themes, but with the added labelling of 4+. These sets feature the nifty aspects of the Junior sets: easy to build, no stickers, some cool minifigures, but with out the stigma of build specifically aimed at ‘Junior Builders.’ Now you can be 8 years old, and confident in the idea that these sets are OK for you to get: 8 is still on the plus side of 4. Previously, these sets had been limited to LEGO’s in-house ranges (City, Friends, Ninjago), as well as Disney Princess, Marvel Superheroes, and DC Superheroes. With this change in labelling, we have also seen LEGO Star Wars enter the fray, with a range of spaceships labelled 4+. Quick to assemble, and easy to start playing around with, these sets feature some large elements, which might be described as POOP: Pieces that could/should be made Out of Other Pieces.

There were two sets released initially: 75235: X-Wing Starfighter Trench run, and 75237: TIE Fighter Attack. It is these two sets that I shall look at today. there have been a couple of others released subsequently: 75247: Rebel A-Wing Starfighter and 75268: Snowspeeder. These latter two were based on the wedge plate 12×12, first seen in 70821 Emmet and Benny’s ‘Build and Fix’ Workshop.

When rewatching Star Wars: A New Hope recently, I remembered how, as a child, I loved the X-Wing fighter. I was frustrated at the time because building a swooshable X-Wing was somewhat limited using my parts palate at the time. And a TIE Fighter, with its uniquely shaped, black hexagonal solar panels was too challenging for 9 year old me. So I was intrigued to see how a young builder, recently introduced to the Galaxy Far Far Away might be able to move those star battles to the comfort of their own bedroom.

75235: X-wing Starfighter Trench Run

When 9 year old me imaginged flying an X-Wing fighter, it was rarely in open space, not even approaching the Death Star. It was making the run on the thermal exhaust port. Only a meter wide, I had little chance of succeeding, but if I did, I would become hero of the Galaxy.

This set comes with three minifigures: one of the new for 2019 Stormtoopers, R2D2 and Luke Skywalker. The stormtrooper is the same as the one seen in 75229: Death Star escape and the 7562: Imperial Dropship 20th Anniversary Drop Ship. The Luke Skywalker, pilot gear, is the same as seen in the 75269 Snowspeeder – 20th Anniversary Edition. His head, with dual prints, visor up and down, and helmet are the distinguishing feature here – with the torso and legs appearing in another 6 sets. The Droid, R2-D2, has appeared in this form over a dozen times to date.

The main build starts with the Death Star’s turbolaser turret. Based on the 8x8x2/3 plate that forms the base of many juniors sets. Framed by some 1x6x4 slope pricks, and a panel, this base includes a controll panel, as well as an energy reactor. It is topped with a turntable mounted disc shorter, to add a play feature to the gun turret. The set comes with three green discs to fire at your X-Wing Fighter.

The build of the X-Wing is extremely straight forward: based on a single element For the base of the fuselage:: the Ship Front 4x16x1 1/3 (design ID 42863). The ship is built up with a number of printed 2×4 sloped bricks and features a unique print for the nose wedge.

Clip hinges are used to position your S-folks in attack position. Also featuring on the wings are some red and white printed tiles. Some wheel hubs, without tires, take the place of the engines. The cabin is not completely enclosed, but uses a clear, curved canopy. This detracts from the movie realism, but makes it easier for smaller fingers to open and close.

Overall, the proportions are a little off: not quite as cute and chibi-like as the micro fighter vehicles are. Certainly, it feels a bit short overall: certainly relatively small compared to the size of the minifigure pilot. It is also missing a place for the astromech droid to sit, behind the cabin.

75237: TIE Fighter Attack

While the X-Wing was the ship that I always wanted to fly, the TIE Fighter never held that appeal to me until the release of the flight simulation game released by Lucasarts in 1994. That said, unlike the seemingly impenetrable Death Star, the TIE fighter – with its limited shielding -became a target that even the most errant of laser blasts could finish off, without too much effort.

This set comes with only 77 parts, and includes 2 mini figures: a TIE Striker /Fighter pilot, and a Rebel Fleet Trooper. This was the first appearance of this version of the Rebel trooper, reappearing in the 2019 update of the Tantive IV, as well as the Advent calendar that year. The pilot also appeared in 2016’s TIE Striker 75154, and the microfighter 75161 of the same craft.

The build is simple and straight forward – aided by several large ungainly elements. We start off with the TIE cockpit: this large element (Plane Bottom 4x12x4 w/4.85 Hole, Design ID 44665) has reappeared in 2020 in Bright green, in the 4+ 76149 The Menace of Mysterio; as well as the forthcoming 60263 Mini Submarine – where it appears in bright yellow. While there are a few small large elements – the roof, as well as front and rear cockpit dishes, most of the smaller elements serve a purely greebly role.

The solar panels are both large, single plates: 14×18, hexagonal with a number of 4.48mm holes, suitable for biding to Technic pins. Some detail is added through the addition of grey tiles, BUT they are only horizontal lines, not radially aligned as seen in the movies.

The second part of the build sees us build our Rebel soldier, and part of the rebel control room, including a printed screen, showing detail of the Death Star, along with a radar. Dish. It is a small build, but conveys the environment of the rebel’s command Centre nicely. Add a minfigure with a beard, grey hair and a white coat, and you have General Dadonna as well.

Overall, to me, this set felt like a less satisfying build than the X-Wing – but I wasn’t looking for a life changing build. I was looking for a chance to get a TIE Fighter for my X-Wing to chase around the living room. It was nice to get a Rebel soldier: so many are seen in the opening moments of A New Hope, and it was nice to Finally add one to my collection.

The cockpit feels out of proportion to the solar panels, but feels about the right size compared with the X-Wing. The simple solar panels might lack finesse in their construction, but they do make the build quick and simple. Also, the large elements make the final model extremely robust – and therefore harder to explode when struck by a laser bolt, a flick fire missile or a sudden drop to the floor.

In Summary:

Overall, neither of these are especially detailed models, the TIE much less so than the X-Wing. They are quick and easy builds, with a useful collection of figures, for the beginning Star Wars Collector. None of the figures are exclusive, so a dedicated adult collector is already likely to have any of these figures. This pattern has been suspended with the latest 4+ Star Wars set, 75268 Snowspeeder, where the Wedge Antilles figure has a helmet that is currently exclusive to that set.

Both sets fit the initial brief of simple to build, swooshable Starfighter. They provide useful minifigures for a beginning collection, but may not represent the best value for money at RRP. If I had to choose, I think I prefer the X-Wing Fighter. I give that set 3.5/5 Arbitrary Praise Units. The TIE Fighter has some great printed elements – including the Death Star battle plans, The figures with it are great, but ultimately, the build feels just a little too simple to me. I give the TIE Fighter attack 3/5 APU’s.

Now, start talking about juniorised sets, with large, single purpose elements, and You might see AFOLs with a sense of history start to tremble. They remember themes such as ‘For Juniors’ and Jack Stone, from the early years of century. They remember the dire financial straits that the LEGO Group found themselves in at that time, and start to fill forums with statements such as ‘don’t they remember that they did this back when they got themselves into financial strife….?’

But so such sets have a place today? In our recent survey of the sets released in the 2010’s, we have seen a reduction in the overall range of DUPLO sets, aimed at the youngest builders. In the meantime we have seen an increase in sets aimed at the younger ‘system brick/minifigure’ builder demographic, either under the Juniors label or the new 4+ label.

But will this be the ‘beginning of the end’ for LEGO, as it seemed to be in the early 2000’s? We could be concerned that LEGO is starting to repeat some of the mistakes that they made at the time by shifting their focus away from the core business of toy building: Increased engagement with their attraction businesses, the purchase of BrickLink.com, and increased use of gadgets, without necessarily getting proper buy in with their consumers (I’m thinking Powered Up, and maybe Super Mario Bros – but time will tell). We have seen a trend in recent years for more and more large sets, often associated with third party IP – not just movies, but also sporting clubs and vehicle manufacturers – aimed at adults with significant discretionary spending capacity – which in the coming months might take a hit in the face of the economic body lows dealt to the world as the result of the COVID19 pandemic.

But perhaps those mistakes are not going to be repeated: the company is in a much stronger position, and we hope has learned from these mistakes. The toy remains the focus: in recent weeks, the LEGO warehouse in Australia has seen significant shortages in the face of the pandemic lockdowns; perhaps adults need a toy now, more than ever. Non brick products are licensed to outside companies: clothes, stationery, story books, animated stories and homewares in particular. And the 4+ sets contiain the same minifigures and mini dolls that you find in the sets for older builders

With the return to 4+ branding, I don’t think we need be too worried: the use of minifigures, rather than their own specific figure design, means that children can continue their early adventures as they grow older, and their story telling ability becomes more complex. The printed elements in these sets are welcome in the face of the regular onslaught of sticker sheets (personally, I see a role for both in my life). And there is something innately satisfying about being able to rebuild a set by heart with only one or two rebuilds prior. The majority of these sets are licensed, allowing kids to reenact the films and series that they are growing up with.

Certainly these Star Wars 4+ sets have their advantages and disadvantages, but for what they set out to do, I think they hit the mark. What do you think? Leave your comments below, and until next time,

May the Fourth Be With You, and

Play Well!

Sets in this review were kindly provided by the LEGO Group’s AFOL Engagement Team. Provision of materials does not guarantee a positive review.

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