22 February 2016

Creature Feature

Posted by Admin
The Barnicks are back in 2016 with more LEGO® BIONICLE analysis, to alert you to some cool new Constraction and Technic elements and to review how the sets compare to last year's offerings. Kicking things off, Andrew has two of the small £6.99 / US$9.99 sets to examine which include some elemental creatures with frankly spooky sidekicks!

In 2016, the Bionicle theme features the return of last year’s Toa with new designs, masks, and armor. But instead of the humanoid Protectors from last year’s sets, the smaller sets of 2016 are elemental creatures which can “unite” with the Toa, attaching to their backs to grant them additional powers and abilities. I’m happy to be reviewing two of these creatures for New Elementary: 71300 Uxar - Creature of Jungle, and 71302 Akida - Creature of Water. So without further ado, let’s look at the unique new parts these sets have to offer!

New Parts

Instead of traditional masks, all of the creatures share a head mold in one of six unique blended colors, which is designed to slip over the new Toa’s masks as part of their new “unity” feature. Uxar’s head (Design ID | Element ID 6135057) appears in Silver Metallic [TLG]/Flat Silver [BL] blended with Trans. Bright Green, while Akida’s head (Element ID 6135046) is Silver Metallic blended with Trans. Blue [TLG]/Trans-Dark Blue [BL]. The heads of the creatures that go with the more expensive Toa (Ikir, Terak, and Melum) are blended with gold and a transparent color instead, but I prefer the silver heads since rather than matching their respective Toa’s gold masks (and creating the impression of an elongated forehead when combined), the silver creature heads instead give the impression of a helmet or crown. Unlike masks, these heads have ball cups molded into them rather than attaching to a separate head piece, and they also feature other 3.2mm bars and holes for attaching horns, antennae, or other details. Aesthetically, they feature angular runes on their foreheads that slightly resemble the runes from last year’s Mask of Creation, this year’s Mask of Control, and the new Toa masks, and the backs of their heads transition to a detailed crystal texture that is shared by many of the other new parts for this year. Of course, these new heads aren’t without drawbacks. The way they combine with the new Toa’s masks makes them very hollow underneath, and their molded eyes feel much less vibrant and alive than the transparent eyes of most other Bionicle figures.

Another key part to this year’s unity gimmick is the aptly named “unity piece” (Element ID 6135237 | Design ID 24191), which appears once in both Uxar and Akida in Silver Metallic. This part can fit over standard CCBS bones like a shell, but unlike typical shells, this piece has a highly detailed texture and all of its actual connection points are Technic-based. The high detail of this piece has been divisive between fans of the older, more greebled Bionicle parts and the newer, smoother CCBS shells, but I feel the added greeble is a boon for sets like the creatures that don’t allow for added torso armor due to their gimmick, and its large number of connection points is essential for allowing these parts to be attached very securely to bones without risk of them coming loose when attaching or detaching other parts or figures. Also, its traditional mechanical texture is much more versatile than classic Bionicle parts like the “Kalmah armor” (Design ID 57558), which had similarly useful connection points but combined those with textures that didn’t match many other parts.

The crystal motif from the heads is continued on a new crystal blade piece (Element ID 6150661 | Design ID 24165), which appears twice in Uxar in Silver Metallic blended with Bright Green. This new blade piece is a very versatile shape and is used in different ways on many of the Creatures and Toa. Unlike the other crystal-detailed parts in this wave of sets, the crystal blade is blended with two solid colors instead of a solid color and a transparent color. On Uxar, this doesn’t make a huge difference, considering the similar hue of Bright Green and Trans. Bright Green, and considering how the part is molded in softer polypropylene like most Bionicle weapons rather than the harder, glassier polycarbonate used for the other crystal parts, it would have still appeared mostly opaque even if a transparent color blend had been used.

The interesting new parts in these sets aren’t limited to detailed Bionicle parts. Uxar also introduces a new and very interesting Technic element that is used in all of the creatures except Akida for unique and compact gear functions. This “gear axle” (Element ID 6134848 | Design ID 24014), which only comes in Medium Stone Grey [TLG]/Light Bluish Gray [BL] so far, shares DNA with the classic 12-tooth double crown gear (Design ID 32270). But instead of a cross axle hole, like on most gears, this new gear has a Technic pin hole, and two of the teeth have been replaced with a cross axle that extends two modules outwards from the center hole (though only three quarters of that length actually can be used to attach other parts). The result is a unique gear that can drive functions with much more efficient use of space than would be otherwise possible, allowing these new creature sets to have much more dynamic play features than last year’s Protectors, whose functionality was limited to their weapons.

While last year’s Toa and Protector sets all included Skull Spiders that were identical apart from their color, this year’s creature sets mix things up with new and diverse “Shadow Traps”. At the core of each of these is the new shadow trap half (Element ID 6135124 | Design ID 24188), which appears twice in Titanium Metallic across each of the Creature sets and the new villain Umarak the Hunter. This part is fairly large but when paired makes for an awesome bear trap. Technic pin holes are used to help secure the parts together, and cross axles are used to attach click hinges that give them a satisfying snapping motion. There are also two 3.2 mm bar connections on each half, which are used to attach custom legs to these traps and make them into ambulatory threats. Each shadow trap uses different parts for the legs in order to diversify the traps and adapt them to the environment of their respective creature.

Apart from those new molds, both sets feature a few interesting new recolors. Uxar includes three CCBS 4M “A” bones in Trans. Bright Green (Element ID 6106244 | Design ID 90611) and five 7M claw pieces in Dark Stone Grey [TLG]/Dark Bluish Gray [BL] (Element ID 6133824 | Design ID 15362). Uxar also brings back the classic “Vorox/Skrall armor” mold from G1 Bionicle (Element ID 6016585 | Design ID 85079), which appears once in Silver Metallic. Like some other Technic-based sets in 2016, Uxar uses a 5M cross axle in Bright Yellow [TLG]/Yellow [BL] (Element ID 6130008 | Design ID 32073). It’s unclear at this point whether Bright Yellow will be replacing Medium Stone Grey on all odd-numbered cross axles in the long term or just remaining an alternate color, as it seems to be this year, but in any case the Bright Yellow works with Uxar’s color scheme. Uxar even includes System parts in its build, a rarity for Bionicle sets—the most notable of which are four 3x12x2/3 flaps in Trans. Bright Green (Element ID 6133118 | Design ID 57906). Rare parts in Uxar include six 3M chain links in Silver Metallic (Element ID 6124042 | Design ID 53551) and one 3M perpendicular Technic connector with two pin holes in Bright Green (Element ID 6097398 | Design ID 42003).

Akida’s new recolored parts include four small Bionicle wings in Dark Azur (Element ID 6133113 | Design ID 61800), and two tribal flame pieces in Bright Orange [TLG]/Orange [BL] (Element ID 6133821 | Design ID 18395). Rare parts in Akida include two 4M CCBS “A” bones in Trans. Light Blue (Element ID 6043678), two six-shooters in Trans. Light Blue (Element ID 6100096 | Design ID 18588), two 4M Technic half-beams in Trans. Light Blue (Element ID 6102824 | Design ID 32449) , four “Bad Robot Arms” in Bright Blue [TLG]/Blue [BL] (Element ID 6014032 | Design ID 76116) one 9M CCBS “A” bone in Black (Element ID 6077856 | Design ID 90605), and four small Chima spider legs in Black (Element ID 6076566 | Design ID 15064).

Completed models

The completed Uxar resembles a large flying insect. It uses the new crystal blades and System flap elements to great effect as huge “sonic crystal wings” that flap when you raise and lower the “stinger” on its back. In terms of its color scheme, Uxar augments the Bright Green and Trans. Bright Green typical for Jungle sets with Bright Yellow spikes — and the use of Bright Yellow as an alternative color for cross axles with odd-numbered lengths only augments the effectiveness of this accent color. Altogether, Uxar is one of my favorite creatures. It looks great from every angle and its function is impressive whether it’s on its own or “united” with another set like the new Lewa.

Akida has a much different build than any of the other creature sets, using a long CCBS bone piece instead of a torso beam and featuring a very heavy Technic-based build made to evoke a large fish or shark (even coming with a small stand to aid in horizontal “swimming” poses). Akida’s color scheme features a lot of different colors (Trans. Blue, Trans. Light Blue, Bright Blue, & Dark Azur), but the use of Bright Orange as a contrasting accent color helps unify the many blue colors and make Akida really stand out. Akida features a pair of six-shooters, like those that debuted in last year’s Bionicle sets, but is otherwise less functionally interesting than Uxar since it trades a gear function for a function composed primarily of Technic beams. By angling Akida’s dorsal fin forwards, the two six-shooters and Akida’s two pectoral fins tilt forward as well, but this function is less impressive than Uxar’s flapping wings and seems to be designed primarily for when Akida unites with Gali or the other Toa, to provide “pop-up” blasters. Also, while all the other 2016 Bionicle sets with six-shooters include a Technic wheel piece (Design ID 4185) for storing their extra stud ammo, Akida features no such solution, and thanks to its dual shooters it features more extra ammo than any of the other sets (with a whopping 13 extra studs in addition to the 12 used to load both shooters). Still, Akida is a very nice set with a very unique and complex build for a Bionicle set this size.

Both Uxar and Akida feature unique Shadow Traps. All Shadow Traps have somewhat similar builds, being bear trap-like minions with a single transparent eye. But as mentioned earlier in the review, each Shadow Trap features some different detail parts to help them function in the diverse environments of Okoto. Uxar’s Shadow Trap features legs that resemble spiky vines and a short chain, while Akida’s has legs that call to mind a spider crab and trades the chain for a propellor to help it maneuver underwater. The Shadow Traps are fun to play around with despite their simplicity, and their “mouths” have a full 90 degree range of motion, ranging from laying almost completely flat to snapped tightly shut.

Final Thoughts

I’ve longed for a series of Toa figures with animal companions ever since the 2007 Toa Jaller set came packaged with a small crab creature. The 2016 Bionicle lineup finally grants that wish, with a series of very unique non-humanoid creatures. In addition to being great designs on their own, these creatures can also “unite” with the Toa to give them the powers and features of both figures.

Stay tuned for my brother Scott’s review of 71305 - Lewa Uniter of Jungle and 71307 Gali - Uniter of Water, where he’ll not only show off the new Toa and their parts, but also take a closer look at what this new unity feature is like in action!

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  1. Hello!
    That gear axle is an amazingly useful Technic piece! I was wondering, is it the first gear with a pin hole in the center?
    --Chaz Fairbanks

    1. Not quite. There were also two old-school Bionicle gears, http://alpha.bricklink.com/pages/clone/catalogitem.page?P=41666 and http://alpha.bricklink.com/pages/clone/catalogitem.page?P=41667. This new gear is nice because it can function similarly to both of those examples without being quite so specialized. Hopefully we'll see even more uses for it in the future!

    2. Interesting! Thanks for finding those. The only thing is, could the 2nd piece be used functionally? It looks like more of a decorative accent to me.
      --Chaz Fairbanks

    3. It could indeed be used functionally! Both of those gears were originally used on the Bohrok and Bohrok-Kal sets from 2002 and 2003, as part of a function that allowed their heads to lunge forward. The latter part was used as a lever of sorts which you could press down on to activate that function, while rubber bands on the head allowed it to snap back into place afterward.

      The latter part actually outlasted the former, because it was later used in 8623 Krekka to flip up a shoulder-mounted disc launcher.

      Also, in looking up the information about these parts, I learned that they were also both available in 10076, a Technic service pack from 2003!

      8563 Tahnok, a typical Bohrok set: http://brickset.com/sets/8563-1/Tahnok
      8623 Krekka: http://brickset.com/sets/8623-1/Krekka
      10076 Technic Gear Wheels: http://brickset.com/sets/10076-1/Technic-Gear-Wheels

    4. Another fairly recent part is also a gear with pin hole: http://alpha.bricklink.com/pages/clone/catalogitem.page?P=87407&name=Technic,%20Gear%2020%20Tooth%20Bevel%20with%20Pin%20Hole&category=%5BTechnic,%20Gear%5D

      You can also get that functionality from the old Samsonite gears ( http://www.bricklink.com/catalogList.asp?q=Gear%20Samsonite ) or any 16 tooth clutch gear ( http://alpha.bricklink.com/pages/clone/searchproduct.page?q=16%20tooth%20gear%20with%20clutch#T=P ).

      ...and there are also a few differentials that can be used as pin hole gears if you wish ( http://www.bricklink.com/catalogList.asp?pg=1&q=differential&catLike=W&v=2 )

      There are probably other things that should count as gears-on-pin-holes, too - there are a number of Bionicle elements that incorporate partial gears. The original Toa torso, for example ( http://alpha.bricklink.com/pages/clone/catalogitem.page?P=32489&idColor=6#T=C&C=6 ) has a partial 24 tooth gear on the bottom. This part has a pin hole:

      Short version: Depending on what you count, gears with pin holes in the middle date back to either 1965 (Samsonite gears), 1980 (differentials), 1993 (clutch gears), 2002 (Bionicle parts with things hanging off gears), or 2010 (the bevel gear).

      Oh, and there are also many (larger) solutions for having an axle rotate freely inside of a gear if you start getting creative with turntables.

    5. Or 1970, as international Technic gears. (Similar to Samsonite gears, but slightly different designs and sizes.)


  2. Hello!
    Not trying to order you guys around or anything, but New Elementary NEEDS to do a parts review of at least one of the Nexo Knights sets!
    I've seen so many new parts in those sets, it's dizzying! Please bring that special New Elementary flair to it!
    --Chaz Fairbanks

    1. Fear not Chaz, Nexo parts are already in the hands of New Elementary writers!