LEGO Forma is a new initiative for the company: an experiment in crowdfunding, on the Indiegogo platform. The first project launched last September and a total of 6,674 'perks' were claimed before it ended in November.
I believe the general idea of launching a product in this way was that the company hoped to attract people who would not normally think of buying a LEGO set for themselves and who haven't touched a brick since they were kids: young trendy creative types, perhaps. How many were actually bought by those new to the product and how many by seasoned AFOLs, I don't know...
Essentially, the perks were a LEGO set of an animatronic fish, 81000 Koi, plus three skin packs that wrap around the mechanism in the main set to create other species.
My perk, the super box containing the main set plus the three add-on skins, arrived this morning, so I hereby bring you one of the first reviews on the 'net...
Box and contents
The flip-top box of 81000 Koi's will be familiar to those of you that have Architecture or Ideas sets
The design is plain and simple and in fact the back is virtually blank.
Inside are the parts, two die-cut plastic sheets, the instructions and a thank you note.
The set contains about 280 pieces which come packed in three bags. As you can see they are 95% Technic.
The project made a big deal about the design and production of the one new part in the set, this pin designed to hold the skin sheets in place. In reality, it's just another new piece, no different to the hundreds of others that are produced each year.
The skin is printed on fairly thick plastic sheets so the individual parts are sturdy and crease-resistant once removed from them.
One sheet is printed on both sides:
The other just on one. The die cutting is crisp and precise and all the parts can be removed easily, although care needs to be taken around the intricate edges to avoid damage.
With just 274 pieces it's a quick and easy build to those that are familiar with Technic but to those that are perhaps seeing Technic pieces for the first time -- the intended audience -- it'll probably take a bit longer while they become familiar with the parts and how they connect.
The base consists of a simple, clever and compact gearbox that converts rotation of the silver handle into a 'wiggling' motion. The tan gear at the front of mechanism in the picture below is pivoted so that when rotating the handle anti-clockwise it engages with a gear underneath and wiggles the top, while rotating it clockwise does nothing.
The fish's skeleton is built as a sub assembly before connecting it to the base.
Stating at the tail, the plastic skin pieces are wrapped around and connected to the skeleton using the new pins. It's all very straightforward and actually very satisfying seeing the fish take shape.
The completed model
Once the skin has been wrapped round the body a few hinged parts are added at the bottom to attach the pectoral and pelvic fins.
From the the left side, it looks fantastic.
It doesn't look bad from the right-side, either, although the pieces behind the dorsal fin spoil it a bit.
As you rotate the handle to wiggle the fish large holes are exposed in the side which isn't ideal but unavoidable.
A picture paints a thousand words, they say, and in the case of this set, a video paints a thousand pictures, so here it is in motion:
The add-on skin packs contain two printed plastic sheets, a small instruction book and, usefully, a bag of the new pins. This means that, should you wish, you could build copies of the main model from parts in your collection -- apart from a few re-colours there's nothing rare in it -- and have all four fish on display.
Ink koi. You are encouraged to colour this in yourself. You'd need Sharpies or similar markers to do so, though.
I've always been a big Technic fan, but the endless stream of vehicles in the regular product lineup gets very boring when you've been collecting it as long as I have.
It's refreshing, then, that the system is being used to create something a bit more original, imaginative and appealing than things on wheels or with wings.
So, I think this is a fantastic set, which I hope will be the first of many. Will it appeal to the young trendy creative types LEGO is targeting? Maybe. It will depend on whether they were expecting a 'traditional' LEGO experience. To the uninitiated there's nothing obviously LEGO about this but I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. It's certainly a great introduction to Technic and simple mechanisms and it will make a great conversation piece on their desks.
Unfortunately, if you didn't back the project you won't be able to get hold of this except from scalpers listing it on eBay and BrickLink. Expect to pay more than they paid, which was $88 / £64 for the super box, $46 / £36 for the core set. In fact, expect to pay a lot more: some opportunistic sellers are hoping to achieve upwards of £500 on eBay.co.uk already!
We'll bring you pictures of the other species soon.
This set was purchased with my own money so as always all opinions expressed are my own.