Animals are a frequent subject for Creator sets and many previous models have been excellent. In fact, 31088 Deep Sea Creatures bears a close resemblance to the exceptional 4506 Deep Sea Predators from 2004, displaying a shark beside an anglerfish and a squid on its packaging!
My expectations for this set are therefore very high and I think the primary model looks marvellous. Furthermore, it contains 230 pieces but only costs £12.99 or $14.99 so appears to offer great value, particularly given the consistently impressive standard of the alternative models which are all examined in this review.
The Completed Model
Squid have appeared in numerous LEGO sets and their scale has remained relatively consistent. This animal occupies about half of the pieces included and measures 18cm in length when its tentacles are fully extended. The proportions between those tentacles, the head and the distinctive mantle are fairly realistic and I appreciate the balanced combination of dark blue and white pieces.
Displaying underwater creatures is often challenging and this squid is no exception as its arms appear more impressive when spread. On that basis, you can display the model as though it is standing on its tentacles as they are individually articulated so provide some support, although an additional ball joint on each dark blue limb would have been useful.
The majority of squid have more than six limbs but I like the white feeding tentacles which are slightly longer than the other arms, loosely corresponding with those found on the real animal. The tan barbs on these tentacles look superb but the mouth between them could be improved. It is currently hidden behind the four smaller tentacles rather than being absolutely central which is disappointing.
Fortunately, the head appears more attractive, featuring some interesting texture along with two trans-neon green eyes. The angled connection between the head and the mantle looks realistic and the red highlights are a lovely detail. In addition, two dark bluish grey 1L Technic connectors are placed below the eyes. I think they are intended to represent the funnel, through which a squid expels water from its mantle cavity to aid in propulsion.
The second manual contains instructions for an anglerfish along with an accompany minnow, both of which look superb. Once again, the larger fish makes extensive use of dark blue pieces and captures the shape of its source material quite accurately, featuring a large lower jaw and rows of jagged teeth. This model measures 14cm in length so is only slightly shorter than some real angler fish!
Anglerfish are named for the fleshy lure, known as an illicium, which grows from their head. That detail is formed using a trans-neon green jewel but its red and light bluish grey colour scheme is inconsistent with the rest of the model, unfortunately. The jaws, on the other hand, look absolutely brilliant and I like the large eyes on the creature's head, despite real anglerfish featuring comparatively small eyes.
Moreover, the light bluish grey ball joints that support the eyes are not perfect but such shortcomings are inevitable in Creator 3-in-1 sets. Layered 1x1 slopes and 1x2 slopes create a scaly texture across the back of the anglerfish and I love its angular fins. The tail is connected to a ball joint so it can move vertically and sideways motion is possible as well.
A much smaller fish accompanies the angler fish. I like its red and dark blue colour scheme as well as the enormous eyes which can convey some expression. They seem rather strange in the image below but that is how they are attached in the instructions, perhaps representing panic as this minnow comes to realise that an angler fish is nearby!
Instructions for the third alternative sea creature are only available online and this impressive whale is not shown on the packaging. That feels like a missed opportunity as the whale is certainly my favourite alternative model, although it is a pleasant surprise after opening the box! It measures 16cm from nose to tail and is presumably based upon a sperm whale given the relatively small size of the lower jaw.
The head is constructed around 1x2x1 2/3 bricks with studs on the side and brackets, allowing you to attach curved slopes sideways and create a realistic shape. I like the small eyes which can be angled to generate some personality and the articulated jaw is excellent too. Furthermore, a 1x2 jumper plate represents a blowhole on top of the whale's head which looks great, although real sperm whales have an offset blowhole.
Ball joints connect the head and the body section, providing lateral motion which works beautifully. The shaping is quite simple but it looks perfect and I like the articulated tail as well. Ideally, the model would be able to move up and down, thereby recreating the swimming techniques of an actual whale, but that may require larger ball joints to support the head as a single small joint would probably be insufficient.
Another sea creature is also included and presumably represents a squid, giving the whale a sense of scale. The tentacles are individually articulated and two dark bluish grey ball joints form eyes on either side of the head. Many more pieces remain unused so you could easily build some other unusual sea creatures if you wish, without disassembling the whale.
The shark occupies all 230 parts and is undoubtedly the most impressive model, as one would expect. It measures just over 21cm in length so is significantly larger than minifigure scale, although not to the extent that would preclude displaying them together. I love its dark blue and white colour scheme and the entire creature is divided into four sections which are linked by ball joints. This sideways motion is useful for display and looks realistic.
Opening the shark's mouth reveals two rows of tan teeth. The pink pieces inside look fantastic and the trans-neon green eyes are quite intimidating! They are ingeniously constructed using Technic pins with a 4L bar through the centre and a small gap between the dark blue pieces represents nostrils on either side of the nose. In addition, the model includes several slopes that form gills behind the eyes.
A narrower dorsal fin would have been ideal but I think its shape looks pretty good and the articulated fins on either side are splendid. Furthermore, I like the light bluish grey band which separates the dark blue and white elements. The gaps between different sections of the body are unfortunate but they are an inevitable result of including articulation.
The model also features two pelvic fins which can move up and down while the tail swings sideways. Its narrow shape looks great but the colour scheme is somewhat muddled. The black 1x2 plate with a click hinge seems particularly out of place in my opinion. That component is available in white so could be replaced quite easily.
An adorable crab is also included alongside some treasure! This creature's exaggerated proportions are not entirely consistent with the shark but its large eyes look brilliant and the model is surprisingly articulated, featuring six legs and snapping claws. The accompanying terrain seems rather bland but provides a few additional pieces that can be used for the alternative models.
31088 Deep Sea Creatures is an exemplary LEGO product. The shark looks absolutely wonderful and employs numerous interesting building techniques, the most impressive of which are probably its eyes. There are numerous points of articulation, providing tremendous play value and a broad range of options for display.
Moreover, the alternative sea creatures are also quite appealing. The whale could probably be sold as an independent set and I can imagine some people preferring that model which is testament to its high quality. This set costs £12.99 or $14.99 so offers exceptional value and I would absolutely recommend adding it to your collection.
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