The LEGO® Group made one of their occasional Customer Service database updates at the start of this month, which is always exciting news for a geek like me. Huw Millington over at the incredible resource that is Brickset imports this data into his database of parts, instructions and inventories... and lo, I've got a tidal wave of plastic to discuss with you. One of the first new parts to catch my eye was this tiny Technic connector.
It is a single pin hole with a pin projecting at 90° and comes in Black (Element ID 6073231 | Design ID 15100). It's absolutely obvious this is going to be an incredibly useful and common piece. But if you'd like proof of that, consider that it's already being used in ten sets this summer! Five of these ten are the Speedorz sets, and once I'd seen how many other new parts these sets offer I just had to get my hands on one. After some deliberation over inventories, I chose 70150 Flaming Claws.
Speedorz are pocket money sets introduced in 2013's Chima range, containing racing cycles based around a flywheel with a rip cord. I say "pocket money"... in fact they're very expensive for such low piece counts; Flaming Claws has 74 parts for US$12.99/GB£9.99. But that's because they're full of specialised and complex parts.
For summer 2014 the cycles have received quite a makeover. The new parts are smaller, less fussy, and have greater potential for alternate uses. First of all: the all-important flywheel assembly. Shown above is the 2013 version on the left and 2014 on the right, in lovely Trans-Orange [BL]/Trans. Bright Orange [TLG] (Element ID 6073456 | Design ID 15336). It has lost the irritating plate sticking out of one end (which used to seat the minifig) and the Technic housing surrounding the flywheel has been mirrored at either end, leaving a more compact and symmetrical shape for this part. One aspect of symmetry has been lost, however, as can be seen in the side view.
There are also two axle holes in the new design. In Flaming Claws, one is used to attach the Olive Green printed shell (Element ID 6071606 | Design ID 17462) that decorates and covers the flywheel assembly. These shell parts used to be a lot fiddlier, with pin holes and studs, and generally were a strange shape with a gaping hole in the centre that made it near useless for anything other than a Speedorz cycle. The new shell has a clean shape and can be used as a mask... or perhaps for a xenomorph in a new Alien franchise film I just dreamt up where the Croc Tribe go into space. Aliens v Crocadors?
The other axle hole attaches to the stand for the minifig; another new part. On the 2013 version, minifigs were unceremoniously sandwiched firmly in between the flywheel assembly and the shell. This was necessary to ensure they didn't dislodge during play - these Speedorz shoot off like a Chestburster at a John Hurt dinner party. Problem being, you had to remove the shell whenever you wanted to retrieve your minifig. The new solution is far more elegant... and gives us what could be a useful part for other builds.
It's a sort of J-shaped bracket with an axle hole (Element ID 6069867 | Design ID 15104). The minifig stands inside with the small divider pushing between its legs; but what holds the minifig securely in place are two small semicircular bumps. They're super-clever. If you face the minifig forwards, the straight bottoms of the bumps clip over the top of the toes and if you face the minifig backwards, the rounded edges of the bumps clip into the rear leg holes to do the work. And they work HARD; your minifigure is not leaving one of these in a hurry. In fact, they're a little tough to get out until you figure out the trick. I place my thumb underneath and my index finger on the small depression projecting at the back, and bend the stand back whilst lifting the minifig out with my other hand. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into this design and I think that despite only having the single point of connection, it could find its way into our builds, and perhaps even other official sets - it works quite nicely in my adaptation of the crane from 60026 Town Square. This doesn't look safe, but we know it is.
I feel the Olive Green of the cycle jars against the Trans-Orange of these eponymous claws, which look better with the colour schemes used in 70149 Scorching Blades, and better yet in Trans-Light Blue (Element ID 6065027) in 70156 Fire vs. Ice. The latter set, along with 70151 Frozen Spikes, also has the flywheel assembly (Element ID 6073455) and minifig stand (Element ID 6069866) in Trans-Light Blue.
Fairy Bricks could make good use of these. In fact it seems LEGO are obsessed with wings as well as all those claws; Chima's Constraction subtheme uses this large new multicoloured wing with an axle hole connector in 70211 CHI Fluminox (Element ID 6076585 | Design ID 15370) and 70210 CHI Vardy (Element ID 6074650).
Given I'm more impressed with those sweet wings than the lobster claws, you may wonder why I chose to buy Flaming Claws over the other Speedorz. That's because it has another new part; which once again is functional and very specialised - but it's fun. Strangely, this is the only set using it so far.
Two of these weird Red [BL]/Bright red [TLG] thingies (Element ID 6065019 | Design ID 15108) are joined together with a Technic pin to create a hinge. The ugly groove is there to hold a rubber band, creating a trap when the hinge is opened that snaps shut when the central hinge is poked. The rest of the part is nearly identical to part 2817, the 2X2 modified plate with pin holes underneath, except that one of the pin holes is an axle hole. The trap is then decorated with huge claws that resemble a Facehugger. Yeah I know clearly I'm obsessed with Alien today... but they do. And it's creepy.
I've only bought a couple of Speedorz sets in the past, so can't comment with much authority about how the gameplay compares. But I can say that Flaming Claws is genuinely fun, although I found it more fun to land on the Facehugger trap than to hit the target. If you've never handled a Speedorz cycle, you'll be surprised and excited by their speed. Arranging things to achieve the right trajectory takes a lot of trial and error and doubtlessly has some educational value in terms of awareness of physics. The 2014 revisions to the flywheel assembly are a triumph of common sense and make play much more enjoyable.
Although I'm not a fan of the Olive Green/Trans-Orange combo, I am very happy there's so much trans being used in this and the other Speedorz.
As a parts pack, this is more one for those of you who like to use wacky pieces in MOCs to elicit cries of "NPU!" The new Technic pin connector is obviously a fantastically useful part, but you're likely to own dozens of these in the near future. The hinge trap is fun, but I can't think of good uses in MOCs. I think the new minifig stand is the most interesting part here, in terms of possible wider use. It could be great for all kinds of vehicle cockpits.
The coolest part of all is still the flywheel assembly. Lots of people were very excited about its possible applications when the 2013 version first came out. However I've not come across many MOCs using it and am now finding them hard to locate... does anyone have any great examples? Hopefully this more compact alternative to the 2013 version will inspire some new MOCs.