Volcano Explorers is this year's 'action/adventure' City subtheme that takes the townsfolk out of their conurbations and into the unknown. The range consists of five regular retail sets, one store exclusive and one polybag (so far). 60124 Volcano Exploration Base is the largest regular retail set, weighing in at 824 pieces and costing $119.99 / £79.99 / 99.99€.
It's packed with playability and comes with an impressive cast of minifigures but is not without its faults.
There's certainly no shortage of minifigures: 6 in total. Three are kitted out with breathing apparatus and look ready to venture onto the summit. The heat protection afforded by the one on the right's attire will allow him toi venture further into the crater. His torso, legs and helmet are silver metallic (LEGO) / flat silver (BrickLink) and he looks excellent. Despite the protective gear he's dripping with sweat!
That particular figure appears in this set and the store exclusive 60125 Volcano Heavy-Lift Helicopter only.
Three base camp workers are also provided: a female scientist complete with hard hat/ponytail headgear, a drone pilot and the guy in the middle who drives the truck when not cracking open rocks.
The designs on the rear of the figures can be seen in our review of 60121 Volcano Exploration Truck.
The first thing that's built is this drone, complete with camera, for undertaking aerial surveys of the volcano. It's not a bad effort, I suppose, although such gadgets would normally have four rotor blades and they'd be horizontal. The three mounted on this one can't be positioned horizontally because they foul each other when rotated.
A small tipper truck provides a means to transport the rocks that are spewed out of the volcano into the boulder rack.
Four rocks are provided in the set and they themselves are quite interesting. LEGO has made similar rocks in the past which have consisted of a top and a bottom piece. This one, however, is made from two identical pieces, which join vertically. Both sides have a stud inside to enable a blue crystal to be attached. It is these that the explorers are investigating/harvesting/whatever, apparently.
The tracked vehicle is my favourite part of the set. It's equipped with a hammer arm, spring loaded by way of an elastic band, that can be used to crack open the rocks.
The tip is a Harpoon spike piece that's new this year. It's just about wide enough to press down into the hole in the top of the rock to split it open.
The cab is protected by a new piece, 6138603: Lattice 3X6 Module W/Knobs, design ID 23444.
Finally, we come to the largest, but weakest, vehicle in the set: the 'exploration base'.
The tractor unit is, however, fairly impressive and suitably big and bulky. It's equipped with hoist at the back which can be used for moving rocks about.
The trailer is rather disappointing, though, particularly when compared to other mobile bases such as the Police and Agents ones. It's too small and there's not much inside.
It can be unhitched from the trailer and held level by way of a small stand.
Both sides hinge upwards to provide access to the inside. As you can see there's not much in it: a seismograph at one end and a platform for examining the crystals at the other.
This is the only regular retail set in the range to come with a proper volcano. It's actually very substantial, 22 studs square by about 13 bricks tall. It's symmetrical and uses two different designs of BURP (bug ugly rock piece). Trans orange pieces are used to represent lava flows down the sides.
I'm not keen on the use of light grey parts on the sides and base: they stick out like a sore thumb.
It's a hollow structure and inside is a Technic mechanism to eject rocks from the crater. Pressing down on the lever raises a 'trap door' plate. If you press hard enough a rock positioned on top of it will be thrown across the room. Only one rock can be placed in the crater at a time.
The volcano is constructed using eight of a new style of BURP, Mountain Brick 8X8X6, design ID 23996. It also appeared in two Police sets earlier in the year.
It's been designed to match up exactly with the old style BURP piece so while using such elements is usually frowned upon by the AFOL community I'm sure it will have its uses in MOCs for quickly providing height in landscapes. I like that it has regular studs rather than hollow ones, which means its use in MOCs won't be as obvious.
The completed model
As you can see there's a lot in it, and the picture doesn't include the volcano!
As I said at the start, this set is packed with playability and provides everything needed to explore the volcano, transport the rocks, crack them open and investigate the crystal inside. The cast of minifigs covers a whole range of professionals: truck drivers, scientists, drone pilots and intrepid volcano explorers.. It's a dream set for kids, and at a pretty good price too. I suspect it'll be appearing in many 'top 10 toys' lists leading up to Christmas.
However, for AFOLs, it may not be so appealing. The tracked vehicle is great, the minifigs are interesting and overall it has an attractive colour scheme but aspects of it are a bit lacking.
The first thing that disappointed me when I first saw the set at the London toy fair was that the 'exploration base' was not a base at all but merely a large vehicle. It's easy to see why LEGO would make the base mobile, as it provides more playability and I guess trucks are more appealing to kids than buildings, but I would have preferred something along the lines of that in the original Arctic sets (6575 Polar Base).
Having accepted that it was a vehicle and not a building, I was disappointed by the size of it, perhaps because we've been spoiled by other mobile bases in the past.
I also feel the volcano is too regular and square. It is, however, big, so accounts for a fair chunk of the pieces in the set. Perhaps because of this savings have had to be made elsewhere, such as the trailer, in order to meet the required price point. I would have preferred something more organic looking, on a larger base area, with lava flows extending beyond the sides of the volcano. Still, I guess that would be easy enough to build oneself.
TL;DR: There's a lot in it. It's a great set for kids that's packed with playability features but it might not be so appealing to AFOLs due to a disappointing mobile base and volcano.
Thanks to Norton & Co. for providing the set to review. The opinions in it are my own.