Techno-organic stuff is not the kind of thing that gets a LEGO representation very often, so it's nice to see that Galaxy Squad is here to deliver exactly that for folks who are fans of such things (like myself). It's been a long and winding road since our friends the Insectoids went out of vogue in 1999, and in their place are the vicious bug-aliens who are making a nuisance of themselves against the (heroic?) Galaxy Squad, interstellar defenders extraordinaire.
I have to confess, though, that even as a kid, I tended to enjoy (or at least imagine) that there were was a certain moral ambiguity in terms of the post-Classic/pre-Star Wars Space subthemes. With the exception of the Big-Brother-esque Space Police, I tended to feel that there was no faction that was meant to be interpreted as being strictly "good" or strictly "evil" necessarily. Sure, promotional material tended to play off M-Tron against Blacktron, or Ice Planet against Spyrius, but there was never a clear message as to the moral inclinations of either side - not to me, at least. This is all to say that I think it's fairly clear that we're supposed to interpret the bugs as being the "bad guys", and Hive Crawler is therefore their flagship set. It is cool that the "bad guys" get a relatively big set and I'm happy for that, but there's something weird in me that always hesitates to apply such one-side labels. I dunno.
This set retails at US$70, and it's therefore a bit shocking that there's only three Minifigs here - two of whom are from the titular Galaxy Squad and just one bug alien. I suppose one might consider the little alien larvae to be "Minifigs" of sorts, but I don't think my mental schema is capable of pushing the definition that far. If you happened to pick up the very excellent Warp Stinger (70702), the squaddies here may be of passing interest to you unless you really like them because they are identical to the other red squaddies in the aforementioned set. They're not unlikable, but considering that they haven't changed a whole lot since Space Police 3 or so, I personally find them a bit boring. On the other hand, I love the bug alien, and since he's only in this set and the enormous Galactic Titan (70709), you'll be pretty pleased to have him around, I'm sure. The only thing I found a little strange was his weapons, which didn't seem to make much sense to me. Claws? Armblades? I kind of just had him hold onto them without the added attachment.
As a sideshow to the main event, the squaddies get a tiny little jet thing that they're supposed to share. It's, er, not an awful build per se, but I think only kids will enjoy swooshing around and making pew-pew noises because it's not a terrible impressive display. It does come with a lot of handy SNOT pieces, though, so it can be easily cannibalised with no issue. I guess that's a good thing.
As for the Hive Crawler herself, let me start by saying that she is one impressive brood mother. It's possible to make vague comparisons to Arachnoid Star Base (6977), but even speaking visually it's hard to say that there's anything more than a passing resemblance. It kind of stands in philosophical contrast to the squaddie vehicles - while Galaxy Squad engineering has a bit of a fetish for modular vehicles that split apart into smaller ones (including the minuscule "jet" in this set!!), the Hive Crawler is one connected piece of techno-organic muscle, and it is really impressive. For starters, what is definitely not apparent from promotional stills is that there's a lot of movement involved. A lot of love went into this model, because while things initially seem suspect with the inclusion of old "horse cart" type wheels, the mere act of pushing the Crawler across your carpet activates a very clever mechanism that moves the legs in a curiously insect-like manner - very impressive. The back also hides a sweet catapult gimmick that allows you to launch alien eggs at unsuspecting foes - very fun. The construction on the whole is very clever, and even a grown-up will be able to spend a good amount of time putting it together. The beginning seems very blocky and suspect, but the final model is definitely worth it.
That's not to say that the set is free from criticism, the most likely of which would be the presence of stickers, and there are a lot of them. Surprisingly, the squaddie ship is probably the worse offender, but those can actually be safely ignored if you're so inclined (or disinclined). The Hive Crawler is covered with them, too, but I found them pretty easy to apply with minimal hair loss, and they really do add a lot of texture to the completed model. I would say that the other downfall would be that you only get one bug alien, which is really a shame, but I guess I see the point: unlike the aforementioned Arachnoid Star Base, this set is not a "base" at all but just a really scary war machine that needs only one pilot (if any???). Bug aliens are pretty thin on the ground all around, which makes things a little unfair - especially since this is supposed to be their biggest set.
Social justice aside, if you like alien architecture, you'll get a big kick out of Hive Crawler. It's a really impressive model and a lot of fun, and you can certainly tell that a lot of care went into its creation. I definitely recommend it.
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