There’s not long now until All Hallows' Eve, so today I’ll be reviewing the 2014 Halloween offering from LEGO: 40090 Halloween Bat, which continues the new style of seasonal sets featuring cute brick-built characters that began earlier this year with 40085 Valentine Bear and 40086 Easter Rabbit. This will be the first review in a series looking at the seasonal sets that are currently available; 40091 Thanksgiving Turkey, 40092 Reindeer and 40093 Snowman will follow over the next few weeks. On a side note, it would be nice to have one of these sets available over the summer months too rather than having a 6-month gap between Easter and Halloween followed by four models in quick succession. Suggestions of what model could fill this gap to be directed to TLG...
As with the other seasonal sets this year, this model comes in a small box, which I think justifies the higher price (£8.49) as it feels more substantial than a polybag would. I’m guessing the change to boxes was because the polybag models were getting larger and hence more expensive but were not selling so well because of a perceived poor value for money, being more of a gift size than a pocket money toy. The front of the box of course depicts the built model, but the back includes a rather nice little storyboard showing the bat satisfying his craving for pumpkin. As well as telling a simple story, the pictures also demonstrates the play features of the model (such as being able to move the wings and to grip the pumpkin).
The set contains 156-parts, none of which are unique to this set. The least common part is the 1x1 bright pink plate which features in a total of 7 sets according to the Brickset parts database. The body of the bat is built using a lot of SNOT techniques, so there are a multitude of parts that facilitate this – headlight bricks, bricks with studs on the sides and 2x2x2/3 plates with studs on, for example. If you haven’t experimented much with SNOT, I think this little model provides a good opportunity to have a go at trying it out.
The build was not challenging, taking only 15-20 minutes (and this was done in my lunch break at work with curious colleagues looking on), but I found it quite enjoyable as I am more used to building minifigure-scale models and it was interesting to see the use of multiple plates and decorative parts to give Bruce (as I named my Fledermaus friend) a very clear personality. The use of SNOT and plates with bows has achieved a pretty good curved appearance for the bat in my opinion, both for his head and body. The articulation of the wings both at the body and mid-wing are sufficiently stiff to ensure that when Bruce is hugging his prize pumpkin, it is held securely. The feet connections are also stable enough to make sure he can balance and is not prone to toppling over, so he can be displayed conveniently. And with such a cute expressive appearance, who wouldn’t want to display this little guy?!
With regard to the pumpkin, this again uses SNOT with attached cheese slopes and, from a distance, this does achieve the effect of appearing curved. However when viewed up close, it is effectively a cross shape and looks rather odd. I understand that it is difficult to achieve a more rounded build in this scale though; previous brick-built LEGO pumpkins have either been two-dimensional or on a much larger scale. On balance, the pumpkin is a nice addition to the set as without it, there is nothing that puts to use the articulated wings.
While my general opinion of this set is positive, there are a couple of things that I would change. There are a number of parts that are dark or light bley rather than black, such as in the feet connections, wing connections and face, which were a bit jarring for me, and I think the overall appearance would be more aesthetically pleasing if black parts were used. In the case of the part attaching the feet, this is not actually available in black but the one connecting the wings is, as are the plates obviously. The only thing I can think is that the designers are not encouraged to use “black on black”.
I ended up rebuilding the model and removing the bley and I am very happy with the result, though I had to come up with a different solution for attaching the feet. I also decided to flip round the ears, which I actually think has made Bruce look slightly less dopey! The final change I made was suggested by one of my colleagues, who thought kids would like it more if the wings could move not just forward and backward, but up and down in a flapping motion. So at home that evening I replaced the 1x1 brick with vertical bar with a 1x1 brick with a stud on the side and a bar 1L with clip, and voilà! Bruce’s wings can now be posed in more positions. This connection does not quite have the rigidity that the official one has, and the wings are more liable to drop out of position, but I think I still prefer it.
In summary, I think this set has a great deal of charm about it. He would look nice as part of a Halloween display (though perhaps rather lonely – I may need to build him a lady companion!) but also has some nice play features that kids can use to act out stories with him. He’s still available to buy at shop.lego.com as I type, so if you order very soon I think you should get him in time for the big day!