Okay, it’s really time to get stuck into these Lego 250 reviews on a regular basis–since I’ve started these reviews, my collection of 250 sets has blown out to over 270, and I kind of want to be through them by the end of 2020, so, you know, maybe reviewing them faster than I buy them might be the way to go……
What better time, then, to introduce a fresh theme? Welcome to the lots-and-lots-and-lots-of-transparent-blue madness that is Ultra Agents.
Once upon a time, someone at Lego said something extremely funny about how they don’t like their children’s toys to be used to promote violence or gun play or militaristic fervour or something. It’s a noble goal, but given that their third ever theme involved opposing teams of knights wielding swords, bows, lances, and armour-plated horses at each other– and given that subsequent themes have featured ninjas, space combat, armed police, a constant procession of human characters looting the ruins/homes/planets/caves and otherwise of peaceful creatures that don’t look like us; aaaand basically just assumed that whenever two slightly differing tiny plastic peoples are in close proximity one of them is going to start a biff with the other– it’s a claim that’s always rung just a leeeeeeeeeeeeeetle hollow.
Put simply, I have two entire drawers of tiny plastic Lego weapons that say “Naaaahhhhh”.
And so to a theme that makes no bones about its intentions: Ultra Agents. Put simply, there’s a team of don’t-look-like-us bad guys who are up to nefarious nogoodnikness, and a team of clean-cut, suit-wearing good guys so conservatively perfect they could finish up a hard day on the offices of Mad Men before engaging in some Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. action against a defenceless family of homeless Mexican immigrants and still have time for a whisky and checking their franking credits by a 9pm bedtime.
To make the world safe for suburban expansion and four-wheel drives that go no further than the local shopping centre, they have a selection of weapon-laden technovehicles that would make even the highest budget Vietnam War movie jealous. And this is where the news gets really good, because these vehicles are, not to put too fine a point on it, awesome.
If Robocop took an air taxi to work, this is what he would take.
In this instance, we have 70170 Ultracopter, a whirlybird that can’t be described as anything other as the attackiest attacker of attack helicopters. There’s no attempt to pretend this isn’t designed to encourage fake killing amongst the prepubescent set: it’s absolutely bristling with weaponry and hi-tech gizmonotry. It looks like Skynet did unspeakable things to an Mi-24 while it was sleeping and the Republicans forced the mother to go to term.
If Ronald Reagan’s wet dreams could fly, they’d look like this.
And they’ve put some serious effort into it, as well. There’s no pretence of placating any younger siblings with a pissy little side build, here. Everything goes into this single machine: at the better part of 600 pieces, and nearly 45 centimetres in length, this is a big, solid, beast of a kit. It’s super swooshable, a monster of a pew-pew machine, and it just looks bloody beautiful.
Big. I mean, properly big. I have train sets, with tracks, smaller than this.
The minifigs throughout the Ultra Agents theme are detailed, and the antagonists– in this case, Antimatter, a purple-lightning-throwing Moon Knight lookalike — are beautifully individual and realised. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the Agents themselves, who are paint-by-numbers corporate swapheads. But, as is tradition, it’s the bad guys who are the more interesting, and in this case, they are gorgeously interesting.
All minifigs should be this gorgeous.
The only real downside to the set, and the theme in general, comes courtesy of Lego’s consistently naff attempts to include a level of technological cross-pollination. Ultra Agents precedes Hidden Side in attempting to utilise specific parts to enable tech-savvy younglings to do something or other with a specific app designed by the sort of middle-management executive whose grandkids showed them how to Google at Christmas and who brought that back to the office with a meeting about “this internet thing the kids are all talking about”. In this case, it comes in the shape of a specific brick that doesn’t really connect to anything else, and probably triggered some lame gameplay on a free app that was deleted the moment the kid in question realised it wasn’t a Minecraft extension. For those who care, there are three of those bricks in this set, and they’re underneath Antimatter’s little sky-sled thing. I don’t care, which is why I didn’t take a picture, or download the app, or waste time trying to remember what it did. I used the bricks when I built this set, and I used them again when I rebuilt it several years later. That’s how good they are.
In my defence, I said the same thing when I review my first Hidden Side set earlier in this series, and I’ll say the same thing in a couple of years when Lego inevitably tries it again, because memories are short and reviews don’t last forever. Dear Lego: Just. Say. No.
That flaw aside this is, mostly, a great set. I love Lego helicopters. You’re going to be seeing a lot of them as these reviews go on. This is just about the best one in my collection. It’s futuristic, incorporates a suite of new parts and transparent parts (always highly prized) in serious numbers. Sadly, like a lot of the exciting themes that don’t have a licensing component, (and which rely on a flawed marketing decision such as, ohhh, sayyyy, linking to a shitty app that nobody who buys a construction set cares about because the point of a construction set is the construction of the set. For example,) it only lasted a single series, but the few sets that Ultra Agents gave us are almost all beautiful.
70170 Ultracopter Vs Antimatter is definitely beautiful. And it isn’t even the best of them.
A sexy beast, keeping the world safe for sensible haircuts and shiny shoes, and the sort of kids who think that Lego app games are cool. By which I mean none of them.
The League Table of Awesomeness