While LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Super Heroes dominate my collection, one theme has always had a special place in my heart, the theme that rekindled my love for the construction toy during my late 20’s, LEGO City.
Set Number: 60124
Minifigures: Female scientist, Heat suit Scientist, Female Worker, Male worker, 2 x Adventurers
I was first introduced to the modern LEGO City while looking for birthday present for my daughter a few years back. Having loved LEGO myself as a child it seemed the perfect option, and so I purchased the police and fire stations, huge sets that would keep the two of us occupied for hours. As the months rolled on, the collection built up until we had quite the little city on the go, it was a fantastic bonding experience for the two of us and also what set me on the LEGO fanatical path I’m on right now.
I’d be the first to admit that the franchised themes like Star Wars will always be the big draw, but LEGO City is LEGO at it’s best, creating sets using no template, just imagination, it’s what the company is all about.
The latest wave of sets from the theme, released last week, take the adventure outside of the man-made metropolis, on an expedition to a natural phenomenon that has sparked the imagination of kids for hundreds of years; the volcano. It features a number of sets from the budget-friendly starter pack to the high-end Volcano Exploration Base, with the theme being a mixture of science, adventure, and machinery, so these are likely to appeal to a broad audience.
As one of the largest sets in the range, the Volcano Exploration Base has a lot to offer. With three uniquely designed vehicles, a drone, six minifigures and the volcano itself, this gargantuan pack might not give you much change from £80, but the hours, and I mean hours, of fun that comes with this set will make that price tag seem worthwhile.
As I’ve already mentioned, the set includes six minifigures split into three groups; the adventurers, the scientists and the workers. What is great to see is that not only does each of the minifigures have their own unique look, but there’s actually a nice mixture of both male and female characters. Though it isn’t exactly new to see female minifigures in LEGO, it wasn’t too long ago that “female scientist” would have been a rarity in the toy world so it’s nice to see that the construction toy company is continuing to move away from its male-dominated past – as a parent with a young daughter, I feel this can be an incredibly powerful thing.
The two adventurer minifigures are both male and have identical torso and legs pieces. The legs are nothing special, a simple blue jean colour with no additional detail. In contrast, the torso printing is an impressively-detailed light green shirt with belt and walkie talkie. The detail continues on to the back of the torso where the volcano expedition logo can be found – you’ll see it on most of the vehicles – as well as the back of the belt, which features large pouches. From the neck up the two adventures are very different, one sporting a full beard and baseball cap, looking very Kevin Smith, while the other has a hint of Indiana Jones about him. The stubble on the face and fedora probably help a tad.
Much like the two adventurers, the ‘workers’ vary only slightly, one being female and the other male. Their legs and torso pieces are again identical, both predominantly Army green and featuring a printed design which covers both pieces. The detail is very similar to what you might find on a firefighter, with what is essentially a jumpsuit with harness straps and a heavy duty tool belt. The back of the torso continues the design with the belt featuring a couple of attached tools and the familiar volcano logo you see on the adventurer’s uniform. Continuing the similarities to a firefighter, the two both come with breathing apparatus, the standard yellow oxygen tank piece that has cropped up in sets for years, along with the large visor and grey breathing hose piece. The look is completed by a white workman’s hard hat. The only difference between the two is the head piece, though both are fairly generic with very little needing to be mentioned.
Saving the best for last, the scientists, and these two couldn’t be more different. Starting with the female scientist, the legs piece is the same jean blue as the adventurers, but the unique torso more than makes up for that. Featuring a while lab coat, name tag, shirt and even a pocket full of pens, this is the stereotypical science look and yet impressively detailed. Unlike all of the aforementioned minifigures, the female scientist sadly doesn’t feature the expedition logo on the back of the torso and instead the printing is minimal ambient detail lines.
While the head piece is a little generic, with the exception of glasses – seriously, this is full-blown stereotype scientist – the long dark ponytail is actually part of the white hard hat piece, making is a unique element in the set. While the female scientist looks good, a little too standard issue, but still impressive, the male scientist looks more like an adventurer in his full body heat suit.
This minifigure is unique from head to toe, with a superb printed design over a metallic silver suit. The detail features several straps and buckles, along with what looks like a carbon monoxide detector. Seriously, that’s some unnecessary detail that shows why LEGO are so very awesome. The back of the torso features brace straps running from the shoulders down to the waist, as well as the familiar expedition logo. While not eye-catching, the head piece features a concerned-looking face with beads of sweat coming from the figure’s brow, making even this simple head piece unique to the character. The heat suit helmet is made up of one unique mould with a large visor on the front already connected. The piece features additional detail including, a serial number on the top, breathing hose and that all-too-familiar volcano logo. Overall, this is the best minifigure of the six by far.
Wheeled dumper and Drone
This is no small set, with 800-plus pieces there is plenty to build, though luckily you’re eased in with a relatively basic first bag of pieces to construct. The initial build is the simplistically-designed wheeled dumper accompanied by the boulder rack and a flying drone. What I found great about this set is that if you have a couple of children at different ages, the variety of complexity allows for a broader age range than the box suggests. This particular part of the build isn’t going to push the boundaries of a much younger audience.
The dumper is fairly straightforward, featuring a basic platform with wheels, a steering wheel (no seat) and the loader bucket on a hinge so that it can be moved up and down to about a 130-degree angle. There is just enough exposed studs to sit a minifigure behind the wheel and despite its simplicity, it still looks great in the vibrant green, which is prominent throughout the set.
Accompanying the dumper is the boulder rack, a cordoned off 8×8 piece of grey land just big enough to fit one of the many gem-encasing lava boulders which come with the set. It’s a simple, yet effective, setting piece which really adds to the imaginary adventures kids will have as they use the dumper to collect the lava rocks before dumping them into place ready for study by the scientists.
The build doesn’t take very long, with the use of dark grey corner bricks and the roof tile triangle pieces creating a perimeter around the area simulating that this boulder rack has been dug into the ground by the volcano. This is a quick solution to give it an uneven, natural look. The rack is completed by the inner man-made fencing created using yellow roll bars usually found on the back of small LEGO vehicles.
I love the drone, it’s the small little gem hidden among the monster-sized trucks, and a very modern touch for LEGO to include given the popularity increase in recent years. One circular green piece makes up the large majority of the aerial robot, with a simple lever and a few single studs adding additional detail. The three wings are each constructed from a rota blade and a Technics hinge which allows you to set the flight to any angle. A simple remote control is also included, essentially it’s a walkie talkie accessory with a blue lever attached.
Mobile operations center
Once the simple build has eased you in, the next construction is a big one, the Mobile Operations Centre. A good portion of those 800 pieces go into this particular build, and mostly for stunning additional detail as the chassis’ for both parts of the vehicle are standard LEGO truck construction, a few layers of large thin pieces with wheel arches built in.
The build is split into two parts, the truck and the operations center cabin, the two finished models connect together to form the mobile aspect, but in truth, they both look just as good on their own.
The light green is prominent here again, it’s the main colour which defines the entire volcano range, and this truck couldn’t look any more striking as a result. The green perfectly accentuates the darker grey and black pieces, making this truck look far less generic than the design would suggest.
For the most part, the build is fairly standard for a vehicle like this, many have shown up over the years in LEGO City and they all tend to have the same basic setup. Where the genius element comes in here is in the added detail, the interesting use of established pieces to create something a little different. The primary example is the bar which runs from the hood up to and across the top of the windscreen, it’s created using a series of simple clips and small rods, but looks absolutely brilliant once attached.
The back of the vehicle has a yellow crane with hook attached, with four independent hinges using Technics pieces, this can be positioned at almost any angle. The back also includes part of a ball socket, this will be used to connect the back half once that build is completed. Stickers dominate the set, there are loads, and while I’ve never been a fan they do a more than adequate job of adding further detail to complete the look of the vehicles. In the case of the truck, that includes the expedition logo on the hood, a large serial number of the roof of the cab, licence plate, side gas tank and the black stripes on the crane – that’s a lot of stickers for such a small construction.
Part two of this particular build and it’s time to go all sciencey as we construct the operations center which also acts as a lab for the female scientist to study the gems found in the lava. Again, the bulk of the model is green with black and gray pieces used for additional characteristics, and there’s also plenty of stickers adding that finer detail to the overall look. The build will take some time, not due to complexity but more down to the amount of smaller pieces used; once you have the basic platform constructed, the smaller elements are rife.
One end of the platform is a fairly bulky construction with some fuel tanks (or water, I’m not entirely sure), constructed from circular bricks and a dome on top, obscured from view by the roof which holds a fully rotating satellite dish. There are clips either side of this area as well to attach tools used by the workers on the expedition. At the other end of the platform you’ll find the rear of the vehicle as a whole, featuring a licence plate and antenna, that’s about it.
While this may not sound all that exciting, the side panels which complete the operations center are actually connected via Technics plugs which allow them to be rotated upwards, opening up the interior for play. Inside, you’ll find an ingeniously-built seismograph with pre-printed readout pieces and a lever acting as the needle which prints out the data. At the other end there is an examination area where one of the many gems from the lava can be sat under a spotlight for investigation. Admittedly, it’s a little sparse inside the mobile operations centre but once you have a couple of minifigures going about their daily science, you’ll soon realise how great a design this is.
As I’ve already mentioned, the two models fit together to complete the vehicle, but you don’t have to have them connected at all times thanks to a clever little stand which clips to the front of the platform on the ball socket piece and acts to keep to detached lab stable while the truck goes off to do important truck-related things.
My favourite part of the set by far is the excavator, it’s just brilliant, and was a hit with my eldest son thanks to the unique construction of the tank-like tracks which allow the vehicle to move. It is a fantastic recreation of the real-life heavy duty vehicle and one that I’ve never had the opportunity to build prior to this set. While I’ve seen similar designs in the LEGO Technics range, this is the first time that I’ve seen so much detail go into a standard LEGO creation and the design is almost flawless.
I say almost because those wondrous tracks that my son loved so much are made out of 42 individual small pieces each which you have to clip together yourself as part of the construction. Not the most fun experience I’ve had with LEGO over the last few years. That said, the finished product is superb.
Again, the cab is almost entirely green and the attached arm is the same yellow as you’ll find on the aforementioned truck, the two colours really work well together across the set. Aside from the tracks, the rest of the construction is surprisingly interesting, and as you build the base and add the underlying wheels and cogs, it’s clear to see that this is going to be very different from anything else in this set. The loading bucket on the front isn’t static, it’s connected via a hinge and so can be moved up and down, though the design restricts this considerably so it isn’t likely to add much in the way of play value to the experience.
The main cab platform is connected to the base via a large circular connection which allows the entire top half to rotate a full 360-degrees. Much like the mobile operations center, the main detail is added by the considerable amount of stickers, with the expedition logo sitting on the roof of the drivers area. The crane arm is again made up of multiple hinges which allows you some flexibility on how to play or display, though it cannot be independently rotated, the entire platform must be moved to achieve this. On the end of the crane you’ll find an interestingly designed drill piece which used an elastic band to spring back into the default position after being pushed down. It’s a nice practical addition which allows for a more fluid use.
Finally on to the star of the show, the volcano itself and the first real disappointment with the set; it’s size. The volcano is far smaller than you would hope given the vehicles that you’ve constructed, and it’s a real anti-climax that sadly lets the set down somewhat. The build itself is also unsurprisingly repetitive as you recreate four almost identical corners before connecting them up to form the bottom half of the mountain.
That all said, the finished model still looks great, and the Minecraft-esque look will definitely appeal to younger LEGO builders and the two-tone grey mixed with the translucent orange lava does make the volcano stand out.
The saving grace with the volcano is the built-in interactive play function. Built into one side you’ll find a lever which can be pushed down to launch a lava boulder into the air, simulating an eruption, kids are going to love it and with a bit of practice you can really get that lava to fly.
The volcano isn’t the ideal end to an otherwise great building session but it does complete the overall set nicely given the range is focused squarely on the natural phenomenon.
The Set Overall
Overall, I went into the review for the LEGO City – Volcano Exploration Base with high expectations. The theme as a whole is more than 30 years old and for a set with this price tag you can only expect the best from LEGO. The set delivered.
There is a fantastic mixture of complexity in this set which allows more than one age group to fully participate in the construction, the younger kids can join in without the older ones left bored without much of a challenge. That’s very important from a parent’s perspective, a couple of years between kids can have a massive impact on their LEGO ability and therefore the enjoyment of working on something that is either too easy or too hard, this set brings something for everyone.
The array of goodies, the vehicles, the minifigures, the drone, they all add value to the overall playtime experience. As you work your way through the build, it’s telling the story of what these characters are up to, from volcano spitting out the lava boulders, to the scientists collecting and analysing samples, there’s so much to inspire the imagination of children in this set.
The one and only let down, in my opinion, is the volcano itself. It’s just too small, barely two bricks higher than the operations center, the scale is way off. Apart from that though, there is very little to fault the overall set on. Hours of fun building, followed by hours of fun playing, I’ve got a couple of very happy kids willing to testify to that. LEGO City is still very much LEGO at it’s best.
This set was provided for review purposes. However, all reviews reflect the authors own personal views and are not influenced in any way.
- Varied level of complexity allowing for an enjoyable experience for a wider age range.
- Stunning vehicles with interesting and memorable designs. The excavator being the major highlight.
- A varied minifigure cast.
- The volcano is far too small, the scale is way off.
- Building the tracks for the excavator is tedious at best.