LEGO Batmobile: Two Face's Escapet

I'm not a huge LEGO guy. Oh, sure, I realize they are cool, but I've never bought many, since I prefer fewer sharp edges on my toys. I end up with far more Playmobil, but that's probably because there's less work involved, and I'm damn lazy.

But when LEGO announced they'd be doing a Batman line, well, I was in. The sets are starting to just hit stores - KB first - and include four sets right now: The Batman Dragster: Catwoman Pursuit ($10), The Batboat: Hunt For Killer Croc ($20), The Batmobile: Two Face's Escape ($30), and The Batwing: The Joker's Aerial Assault ($50). There are also plans for a Batcave, an "ultimate collector's edition" Batmobile (with over a 1000 pieces in just the car), and figures of Mr. Freeze, Alfred, Robin, Bruce Wayne and Penguin have been shown as part of upcoming sets.

While other companies have tried to match the LEGO success, including Art Asylum with their C3 line. But no one has been able to approach their world wide appeal, and seeing them finally pick up a DC license has been great news for many fans.

I snagged the first Batmobile/Two Face set from the LEGO store online, but you should start seeing these pop up at TRU, Target and Wal-mart stores soon, and if you have a KB in your neck of the woods, check there now.

Packaging -  ***1/2
The box is attractive, with some great looking graphics of the set assembled. It is difficult to open - mine was completely glued on both ends, so the only way to get in was to tear up one flap - but this is probably due to theft prevention and loss avoidance at the store.

The included instructions have some areas for improvement, but I'll deal with that in greater detail in the Build section.

Sculpting - ***1/2
This is kind of a weird category for LEGO's.  They are block toys, and as such, don't really have much sculpting.

But the figures here fit the characters well considering the limitations of the basic design, and Batman is particularly well done.  I'm also glad that all three of these figures have some sort of hair or hat, since the weird top hole on the usual LEGO head bugs me if it isn't covered.  For an example of that, check out the Killer Croc set.

There's another aspect to the sculpt of sorts, and that's the overall design and engineering of the vehicles.  Getting the basic block structure to create cool looking and relatively realistic vehicles is no easy feat, but they've done a terrific job with both of these.  The Batmobile has a very Burton look, which isn't a bad thing.  While it has that look and feel, it isn't an attempt at an exact representation, taking liberties with the style and improving on it in some ways.

If you were thinking about displaying these with your mini-mates, forget that.  Even the smaller Marvel mini-mates are bigger than these.  LEGO figures stand under 2" tall.

Paint - ****
Most of the paint here is on the figures, and it's basic masked work. LEGO has this sort of thing down to a science, so there's never any slop or irregularities. Their quality control on it is really quite impressive.

I'm not a huge fan of decals, since I can never get the damn things on straight, but unlike some other sets, LEGO decals don't stick tightly the minute they touch the block. If you need to do a little repositioning, it is possible, although you'll still want to do this before you press it down too much. There's a reasonable number of decals here - maybe a dozen - but nothing that will drive you insane.

BTW, I had forgotten one sticker in most of the photos of the Two Face armored car.  It's the one on the windshield, which I included for the final shot.  Personally, I liked it better without.

Build/Design - ***1/2
I mentioned issues I had with the instructions earlier, so let's start there.

While the instructions were complete, they can be difficult to follow at times.  Comparing these to the instructions with Playmobil, C3 or Mega-bloks, there's a couple improvements they could make.  First, it would be nice if they would highlight the added pieces in each photo.  Moving from one step to the next, it can be tough to see what was added to the overall structure in that step, since they aren't highlighted.  You just have to do some visual comparing, and you have to double check just to be sure you aren't missing something before moving on to the next step.

The other request is largely an issue for this set because of the color - black.  The all black Batmobile can be tough for us old geezers (especially us old color blind geezers) to see on the page, and making out just what piece was added, and just what shape it was, was more time consuming than it needed to be.

Otherwise, the instructions were complete and relatively easy to follow.  Any kid under 10 is going to probably need some parental help though.

The design is top notch, with excellent engineering.  One of the nice features of LEGO is that the blocks snap together tightly, and tend to stay put once they are there.  You can use glue of course if you never intend on taking it apart again, but it's nice to know that it's not really necessary, even for basic play.

The set has 394 pieces in total, and took an hour or so for my kids and I to put it together. I suspect that if you don't have a pair of 5 year olds 'helping' you, it will take a little less time.

Articulation - ***1/2
There's articulation in both the figures AND the vehicles. The figures are fairly standard with neck, shoulders, wrists, and hips. They can sit, stand and hold basic poses, but the lack of a shoulder ball joint in LEGO figures has always bugged me. For example, it means that the henchman driving the Two Face vehicle can't actually point the gun out the window without standing sideways in the cab.  Also, while it appears that they have waist articulation, they don't.  They fit together (and come apart) there, but since there are TWO posts connecting the legs to the torso (unlike mini-mates or palz), the torso can't turn.

The ability to sit is great though, and much better than some other block figures. This is mighty handy with the various vehicles of course.

The Two Face car as rolling wheels, naturally, but it also has a turning steering wheel, and rockets that drop down on either side. The engineering of the blocks used for things like the opening side panels is really ingenious, and adds tremendously to the play value.

His escape car also has a top that flips up. If Batman blasts the back of the truck with his projectile (or you push it with your finger), the top pushes up, ejecting poor Two Face from his seat. Not only does it work, a feat in itself, but it works pretty well.

The Batmobile has rolling wheels too of course, and a lifting canopy.  The trunk also opens, with a seat for the eventual Robin figure to occupy.

One thing that's a tad annoying is that you have to remove the front half of the top and the windshield from Two Face's vehicle to put the henchman inside. Kids will get a bit tired of that pretty quickly.  You'd think that the Batmobile's canopy would be better, since it's designed with hinges to open, but unfortunately, the blocks that contain the hinges don't have very good leverage against the movement, so the canopy tends to pop off.

Accessories - ***
There are a few goodies thrown in for the figures to use. Batman has a nice assortment of batarangs, and a pair of batcuffs to put on Two Face or his hapless partner in crime. There are also two guns included, one for each of the baddies. These fit in their hands tightly without risking breakage. Kids as young as 4 or 5 should be able to manipulate them into the hands.

I'm going to include Batman's cape in the accessories discussion.  It's made from a material that reminds me of very stiff paper, or fiberboard.  It holds it's initial pose fine, and from the photos on the front of the box, is intended to be flipped up out of the way to fit Batman in the seat.  My son showed me just how this is done, and the cape was wrinkled immediately.  I'm not sure why they went with this material, and you're going to ruin the cape pretty quickly if you pop it up and down a few times.  A cloth cape would have worked far better, and would have been the kind of quality I expected from LEGO.

There's also a couple extra goodies in the form of a bat-gate, and bat-tire spikes.  The gate lifts up and down of course, and blocks the entrance of the Batcave, I'd assume.  Or maybe Arkham Asylum from which Two Face is escaping.

Action Feature - ***
These vehicles share an action feature. The firing projectile on the Batmobile can hit the back of Two Face's escape truck and pop him out of his seat. And yes, with a little practice you can make it work.

The projectile fires quite a long way too, surprising in this day and age of ridiculous lawsuits. Separately the action features work well, and together they actually work - I was surprised. They add to the play value without hurting the appearance or additional functionality of the toys.

Value - **
LEGO is the owner in this market right now, with Mega-bloks doing what it can to eat market share. As the owners, they are damn expensive, but the implication is that with the cost comes high quality. There's no doubt the quality is high, but it's still hard to justify $30 for a set like this.

Fun Factor - ****
My five year old son and daughter both enjoyed helping dad put this set together. At the end of the day though, it was Ethan that really loved it. I explained to him that this was one of "daddy's toys", which he usually understands, but I think that this is going to be one I end up losing.

The Batmobile/Two Face set is a little to complex for the beginner builder though, and is probably better suited to the 8- 10 year old range if you expect them to do it on their own. Once it's together, it stays pretty well, and they should have hours of fun.

Things to watch out for - 
The cape on Batman is easy to damage and wrinkle, especially if you flip it up and down. But that's about the only thing I found that seemed prone to damage through normal play.

Overall -  ***1/2
Both vehicles have minor issues, like the canopy coming off too easily on the Batmobile, but neither have any major problems.  The selection of three figures is decent, and the addition of the gate is nice.  While it's an expensive set, it is LEGO.

It took a little while to get it put together, but once completed, this Batmobile is a damn fine looking version.  There are two or three additional configurations of vehicles that you can make from this set, and they are pictured at the end of the instruction booklet, but the actual instructions aren't there.  Too bad, because they look pretty nifty as well, but they are for the more adventurous amongst you.

I'll be picking up the rest of the sets now that I have this one, because the quality of the vehicles is top notch.  And I may just have to pick up another for my son too!

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ****
Articulation - ***1/2
Build/Design - ***1/2
Accessories - ***
Action Feature - ***
Fun Factor - ****
Value - **
Overall -  ***1/2

Where to Buy -
These aren't available at too many brick and mortar stores yet, but will be soon enough. If you're lucky enough to still have a KB Toys around, they got them in this week, but TRU, Target and Wal-mart should have them soon.

Related Links:
I've never reviewed much LEGO, but there's some related items:

- first of course, you need to check the official LEGO site, where they have a cool little animated Batman comic using their figures as part of the marketing.

- Art Asylum's C3 line didn't have as nice of building toys, but I much preferred the actual figures. Here's a review of several recent mini-flyers, the older Flash Javelin, and the first series Chemical Warehouse.

- and if you like building toys, do NOT ignore the Mega-bloks, especially the Pyrates series. My son adores these things, and spends countless hours with them. The quality and detail is really amazing.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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