Christmas is almost upon us again, the lights and decorations are already starting to appear and the television is filled with weird and wonderful festive themed adverts. This year, of course, is even more exciting than most if you are a Star Wars fan, with Episode VII: The Force Awakens set to hit cinemas the week before Santa’s big day.
Set Number: 75097
Minifigures: Jawa, Ewok, Stormtrooper, Hoth Rebel, C3PO, R2-D2
As such, we are celebrating the release with our own advent-style event leading up to the release of the movie, 30 days of non-stop Star Wars related reviews and it seems fitting that we begin with none other than the official LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar for 2015.
Advent calendars have come a long way since I was a child, the choice now is endless with many people turning away from the traditional daily chocolate and looking at other alternatives. One of the most popular of these alternatives is LEGO, for a couple of years now the toy company has released multiple advent calendar sets which offer a new toy every day.
Unsurprisingly, LEGO’s biggest licenced franchise, Star Wars, has had its own Christmas themed set over the last couple of years featuring a mixture of minifigures, starships, vehicles and more and it is safe to say that the venture has been a huge success.
For most people, parents especially, the yearly advent calendar budget doesn’t tend to breach the £5 mark so at five times that, is this years’ offering worth the money? In a word, yes.
As a parent myself, I’m always looking for new ways to entertain and excite my children, especially at this time of year and LEGO has always been the dependable go-to for me. The idea behind the LEGO advent calendar is a fantastic one, a new toy every day leading up to the big day, it’s a great way to get the excitement going without spoiling what, for many kids, is the best day of the year.
Before I delve into the toys on offer this year, let’s take a look at the box itself. Much like a traditional advent calendar, there are 24 numbered doors to open but rather than a mediocre piece of chocolate, you’re greeted with a baggy of LEGO pieces and instructions on the inside of the door.
For those not familiar with LEGO advent calendars, the box is more than just packaging, though, as it doubles up as a fold out playmat which, while providing an on-going place to display the ever growing collection of mini builds, also provides the perfect scene for your LEGO fan’s galactic adventures on Christmas eve.
This year’s playmat scene offers three distinctive areas, imagine Hoth, Tatooine and the forest moon of Endor all merged into one and that should give you a fairly accurate idea of what to expect. The design of the scene corresponds to the toys which make up the 24-piece collection, all themed around the original Star Wars trilogy.
So what’s in the box? First of all, I should point out that I’m not giving away what door each build is behind because that will just ruin the fun, you’ll just have to wait and see as December rolls on.
The minifigures in any set are always a big sell, especially with LEGO Star Wars. Despite being more of a gimmick than an actual collectors set, the LEGO Star Wars advent calendar doesn’t disappoint on the minifig front with seven included over the 24 days, I’m including R2-D2 and a generic droid in that number though they’re not technically minifigures.
Getting the most generic figure out of the way first, there is a stormtrooper included. There is nothing special about the figure included in this pack, it is piece for piece identical to many other sets and any fan will no doubt have multiple versions of this figure already.
The Jawa minifigure is definitely one that collectors should be eyeing up, they’re quite rare having only appeared in two sets since 2005, both top-end value Sandcrawler sets. This particular minifigure is based on the 2014 redesign which doesn’t feature a cape. The figure looks great though, with unique black head and yellow eyes printed, fantastic detailed printing on the torso and a hood piece.
Similarly, this is a rare opportunity to own an Ewok minifigure without breaking the bank. A number of Ewok variants have surfaced since the LEGO Star Wars franchise began, though the sets they’re included in tend to be the larger, more expensive ones. This Ewok appears to be unique, having not appeared in another set. This particular design seems very generic compared to its predecessors, with a much simpler design. That said, those looking to collect as many Star Wars minfigures as possible will no doubt jump at the chance to own this Ewok.
The Hoth Rebel trooper minifigure has appeared in a number of sets over the years and so is going to be less of an attraction. That said, the character looks fantastic. The torso piece features a great deal of detail, making up the snow outfit from The Empire Strikes Back, the legs however offer little in unique design. While the head itself is fairly generic, especially in the LEGO Star Wars universe, the helmet piece is brilliantly detailed and offers something that you’re unlikely to see on many other LEGO figures.
C3PO has had a full festive make-over in this set, making this a unique variant but one that may not have the same appeal to collectors as it will to children. While the head and legs are the same as previous versions of the character, the main torso piece is actually a Santa suit design and the figure also features a beard-piece. Looks like 3PO is dressing up like Father Christmas this year.
R2-D2 has had a minor additional in this years advent calendar, featuring a set of antlers. This of course fits in with C3PO’s festive theme but those not that interested in the Christmas specific designs can at least remove the add-on and have a generic R2 figure.
Though not technically a minifigure, there is a droid figure included, it’s fairly generic when compared to other similar figures in the LEGO Star Wars collection, though it is the first time that I have seen this particular design in such a dark colour. My assumption is that this is a specific character tied back to the Jawa theme in the collection, one of the droids on the sandcrawler in A New Hope.
Obviously, you can’t expect multiple fully detailed vehicle builds but, while varying in quality slightly, the micro vehicles on offer in the advent calendar are great little additions. LEGO, especially recently, have developed quite a knack for creating great designs with very few bricks. LEGO Dimensions is a fine example of how the toy companies designers have crammed a great deal into such simple builds.
In my opinion, the Khetanna (Jabba’s Sail Barge) is one of the few that doesn’t live up to the standard. It’s actually a very disappointing build and looks nothing like its movie counterpart. That said, this is the exception and so shouldn’t put you off investing in the set as a whole.
In contrast, the MSE-6 Series Repair Droid is a brilliant little model with just a few pieces. While it doesn’t look much like the movie version, it is still a great looking design in its own right. The mix of LEGO and Technics pieces make this little droid actually look more like a tank.
The micro Sandcrawler is another great example of how intelligent design can make something so simple look like more. With a very few pieces, the micro vehicle does a more than adequate job of recreating the Jawa’s form of transport, using the same Technics pieces as the repair droid for the tank-like wheels.
One of the main issues with the LEGO Star Wars franchise as a whole is the smorgasbord of grey bricks used, the Empire isn’t very fond of colour. Unfortunately, this has a detrimental effect on micro-builds such as the Star Destroyer which, let’s face it, looks like a pile of bricks. Yes, it does a fair job of accurately recreating the infamous triangular ship but with detail severely reduced by size, this is one vehicle which loses its appeal.
If, like me, you cannot justify the expense of the £120 Millennium Falcon recently released despite how awesome it looks, then the great news is you can have a LEGO Falcon thanks to this collection. Alright, so it doesn’t have quite the same appeal but for the number of pieces used, it’s an impressive likeness.
The Speeder is just brilliant, with 14 pieces of LEGO the designers have created a build which not only looks the part but also has posable wings. This is definitely one of the highlights of the collection as a whole.
Remember that Probe Droid from the beginning of the Empire Strikes Back which lands on Hoth? Well, now it’s available in LEGO form. Alright, so this one isn’t a vehicle technically but it looks great, likely due to the smaller size of the source version, allowing the reduction for LEGO purposes to still accurately represent the movie likeness. The best addition here is the transparent mantle which comes with the model to simulate the droid floating.
The highlight of the entire collection, in my opinion, is the AT-AT. The use of existing pieces to create such a simple build of quite a complex vehicle is impressive. The legs are each made from one singular dual-ended pieces which is clipped to the main body at one end with a 1×1 clip piece at the other to form the foot.
The one micro-build in the collection not actually based on an existing design is the Light Saber Sleigh. Going back to the minifigures for a minute, this is the festive vehicle used by Santa 3PO and R2-Reindeer. The design is an interesting one with a simple base and seat and two lightsabers clipped either side to act as thrusters. The bonus for collectors here is that if you’re not interested in the build itself, you can at least utilise the pieces for extra lightsabers.
The Snarlacc Pit from Return of the Jedi gets the micro build treatment. It looks the part but with only four spike pieces is does seem more reminiscent of a Lord of the Rings set. This particular model could have been improved significantly had it been made just a little bigger with a couple more fangs added for good measure.
The Ewok Bow Stand is a great addition given that the set includes an Ewok minifigure, basically over two of the days you’ll be getting a minifigure and an accessory set for him. Returning to my Lord of The Rings comparison, this particular build does remind me of the Legolas polybag set from a couple of years back.
If I’m honest, the Ewok Village is a throwaway, unless you’re the one building it there is no real way to tell that is it what it is. Attempting to design a huge tree based village scene with only a dozen LEGO pieces is ambitious but ultimately pointless as this example shows.
There are more accessories on offer for our Ewok minifigure with a Catapult build behind one of the doors. The build is a basic variation of a tried and tested design and it works perfectly, launching singular LEGO pieces with a flick.
You’ll be able to arm your minifgures once the 3-Blaster Holder shows up. Much like the Ewok Bow Stand, this accessory works well with the minifigures and adds to the overall play experience with the full collection.
The micro build Gun Turret may not look fantastic, but it is one of the most interactive of the 24, offering two stud shooters on the front. Obviously this isn’t going to be high on the list of collectors but it will definitely make playtime a lot more fun for younger fans.
The V-150 Planet Defender is definitely one of the most accurate designs. If you think back to the battle of Hoth, you’ll be familiar with the movie counterpart. The design, while unsurprisingly simplistic, ingeniously provides you with a rotating laser uber-cannon. A ball socket pieces is used to provide the freedom to move the top-half of the model.
While the Hoth Rebel minfigiure might already have a blaster at his disposal, there is Hoth Control Station build which offers additional accessories. The blaster included on this build also has a stud shooter, again adding to the playtime appeal.
The Set Overall
The LEGO Star Wars advent calendars have only grown in popularity since they were first released and if this latest offering is an example of what to expect from future releases then this trend is unlikely to stop anytime soon.
Despite a few disappointing builds where the LEGO designers have tried to do too much with too little, the set as a whole is a brilliant collection of mini-toys to see any LEGO fan through December and leading up to Christmas.
The value for money is not in question here, it purely comes down to whether you can justify the cost compared to a normal advent calendar. If you can, though, you will get so much more from the purchase.
If you’re a collector then this set gives you the opportunity to own a few minifugres that are only available elsewhere in the top-end sets. There are also a large number of exclusive build designs, many of which will never been seen in another set.
This is, of course, aimed at children and from that perspective there is very little to complain about. In addition to getting a new mini-toy daily, as the collection begins to grow it is clear to see the potential for some interesting, fun and varied galactic adventures with the help of the built-in play mat.