Review by EVA_Unit_4A
-- WARNING --
According to the manufacturer, this product is not recommended for children under the age of 7 years as it contains many small parts which a child could potentially choke on.
On the Sentai Mountain, humans work side-by-side with intelligent robots in mines. They use large excavation machines to dig out, gather, and transport mined rock to the surface. Unfortunately, an error occurred in one of the machines, and it sparked a vicious rebellion. Robots turned on their human masters, and through the fighting a series of mysterious explosions blasted the mountain into two halves. The robots were eventually driven deep into the newly-formed canyon far below. Years later, the robots returned, having quietly converted their mining machines into combat-hardened Battle Machines. In a surprise attack, the robots were able to conquer half of Sentai Mountain, additionally taking hostage thousands of human workers and their families. Anticipating their return beforehand, the wise and noble Keiken-sensei gathered together all the people, technology, and resources that he could and created Exo-Force- a defense screen of hardened battlements with tall gates, powerful weapon turrets, advanced research and development laboratories, and their own designs of brand new Battle Machines piloted by elite teams trained under his leadership.
At first, the first Sentai Fortress proved quite a challenge to the robots and their megalomaniacal leader, Meca One. But with access to greater resources and with more ruthlessness, the robots were able to make a heavy strike on Sentai Fortress enough to break it, forcing the inhabitants and survivors to flee higher up the mountainside. The robots limped back to their own side of the mountain…
Fortunately, Keiken-sensei was aware of a legend about the ancient Golden City where the first inhabitants of Sentai Mountain made their base of operations. After successfully retreating there, it was discovered that it was indeed a pinnacle of high technology, and its central computer systems gave them access to powerful new technologies and Battle Machines to replace their war-torn ones. While this did not grant them room for expansion enough to attempt an assault on the robots’ side of the mountain, the lessons learned there allowed for new Battle Machines and technologies to be developed. Desperate to get it’s claws on this technology as well, Meca One launched another heavy assault. But this time, it was able to use one of it’s many copies to kidnap and then impersonate Keiken-sensei in order to expose the city to attack! While Exo-Force was once more fortunate to drive the robots back and keep the Golden City secure, the disappearance of their leader left a large gap in their hearts which could not easily be filled…
Keiken-sensei knew that the only way to win the war and beat back the robots for good would be to first rescue the untold thousands of humans being held prisoner on the robot-controlled side of the mountain. Where they were now, he could only guess. But an expedition would need to be sent to find the massed prison cells. And so, to ensure that Meca One would not learn this, he secretly used Golden City technology to build new Battle Machines specially designed and customized to the talents of Exo-Force’s finest pilots, which he would then personally lead down into the lowlands of Sentai Mountain. The responsibility of keeping the Golden City safe and Exo-Force functional in his absence would fall to his granddaughter, Hitomi- who had become an experienced and courageous pilot in her own right recently. But what hadn’t been expected was the treachery of the robots. Upon Hitomi taking command of the human resistance, the new Battle Machines were discovered, and a new mission drawn up: Hikari, Takeshi, Ryo, and Hayato would go alone into the deepening jungles and waterfalls of Sentai Mountain to find their leader and make sure that he is not harmed and interrogated by the robots!
While not as excitable as Hayato when it comes to being in the sky, Hikaru also likes flying and has incorporated it into his style of fighting the robots’ Battle Machines. Preferring to keep his distances from his targets and then snipe at them with long-range weapons, Hikaru is traditionally assigned to flying Battle Machines. However, for whatever reason, when Sensei Keiken built the Chameleon Hunter, he seemed to have neglected to incorporate any kinds of long-range engines, flying surfaces, or sizable fuel tanks. While the Chameleon Hunter is equipped with jump thrusters, they are only just enough to rise above the canopy of the deep jungle at the base of Sentai Mountain, and even then not sustain lift for very long. Instead, it is designed as an ambush unit, hiding in tall trees and then using its new camo-phores illusion armor to hide it from both visual and electronic sensors. Then, when the prey gets within range, it can jump down and tear off a Battle Machine’s armor or weapons with the large claw on its left arm, while at the same time reducing its internal structure to slag with its flame-blaster and medium laser cannons on the right. A nice bonus includes two homing missiles which can track on aerial recon units. In a way, it is not unlike the robots’ earlier Fire Vulture Battle Machine in its selection of weapons and capabilities. While fairly light on armor compared to other Battle Machines of similar class size & weight due to the space for the camo-phores system, it is studded with many various-sized blades and spikes along its chassis for melee-range encounters.
To expand its detection range, Keiken-sensei equipped the large green Battle Machine with a new spy drone robot. Being that he was the one who created the robots before they all turned to evil (and for which he is ever-grieved and guilt-ridden nowadays), Keiken-sensei took the lessons learned from his mistakes, and created these new human-sized mini-robots with a simpler artificial intelligence (“AI”) and less-independent thinking capabilities, making them more dependable in a fight and less-prone to corruption while in a hazardous encounter with their enemies. The one attached to the Chameleon Hunter is equipped with two mantis scythes. A proportionately-large set of thrusters are arrayed around its wide shoulder armor shields to allow it actual flying abilities unlike its larger brother Battle Machine. This makes it ideal as a medium-range air drone.
The Chameleon Hunter (back)- I thought to myself as I was building it- looks like a walking cactus... It features several brand new parts introduced in 2008. Most notably on the legs and shoulders are four brand-new- what I’ll call- ‘hybrid’ Lego parts. Each one is a single piece- long thin and triangular panels that start out as ordinary light green ABS and then, following the taper, merge into a soft and flexible PVC point! Lego has tried mixing colors in their ABS parts before (early robot minifigs from the Thunder Fury, Fire Vulture, Sonic Phantom, and Striking Venom sets in 2006 had limited swirled plastic coloring), but this time different materials are being merged together seamlessly into the same part (which I don’t think they’ve ever done before). Another new piece is these metal-colored parts which have two cylinders attached to them, that are located inconspicuously in the feet. (They remind me of pistons in a muscle car's exposed engine.) As mentioned in the review for the Assault Tiger, these new vent plates (now in neon-green) appear on both sides of the knees. In that same review, I pointed out new blocky dark gray pieces as the foundations for the torso and lower legs on that set. Only one returns here, but too is used as the base for the Chameleon Hunter’s torso. Perhaps the biggest step in shaking things up is the radical redesign of the torso section. No longer is everything built upon a central spinal structure which frequently led to Battle Machines tipping over from being too front- or top-heavy. Instead, a squat and shorter torso has been designed (though I don’t think it looks as good here as it does on the Assault Tiger). The shoulders feature wide-yet narrow designs, while the traditional ratcheting shoulder joints have been replaced with ball-and-sockets. The elbows, also, have been altered- removing any kind of poseability, though I’m not sure why. Both missiles can be removed easily enough. At the elbows, the arms are designed differently. Two Bionicle-originating parts appear on the separate arms. On the right side, the red flame for the flame-blaster was originally used by the first Toa Tahu (#8534) as his sword; though here, a different-colored plastic (yellow) has been mixed in with the traditional red ABS (a first for this part). The other are those three red claws on the left arm, which debuted in several of the 2007 Bionicle playsets (which used minifig-sized Toa characters attached to vehicles instead of the traditional fully articulated 4.5” action figures). Each claw is snap-articulate and can close to grasp things, though they are not strong enough to lift anything significant. As an added feature, the gunmetal-gray gear behind the left elbow can be turned, causing the clawed hand to spin. The legs have ratcheting joints at the hips and knees. Traditionally, ratcheting joints were also used in the ankles, but those have also been replaced by ball-and-socket joints, which offer slightly better range of motion at the risk of wearing out a lot sooner and not being able to hold the Battle Machine upright in some positions due to its weight.
Lego Set #8114 comes with a new version of the Hikaru minifig. While he still has his light blue spiky hairdo and double-sided head (one face serious, one a battle-cry expression), the chest print has been redesigned to incorporate new designs- including a camouflaged shirt beneath the techy fittings!
Normally, when a Lego set needs specific details on a part, such as a control panel or flag, the image is printed or painted directly onto specific parts. Exo-Force continues for its third year by using stick-on decals; something that is becoming more commonplace in other lines of the Lego System. There is a small sticker sheet which provides allegiance markings, warning symbols & notices, and names- some of them written in Japanese text! Translations of the Japanese text are given on the sticker sheet, but do not go on the parts. This allows for a wider range of piece marking without Lego having to create a completely different piece each time, and merges the Exo-Force and Japanese toy influence closer together. Whereas in the debut 2006 line some sets had a few conflicts where decals would cover more than one part and would make it impossible to separate again unless they were cut (or not applied to begin with), this has not been a problem with since and was not present in the 2007 line. And so there are no conflicts in Set#8114 from the 2008 line.
The new common gimmick for all of the 2008 line is these new mini-robots. Each one attaches to a Battle Machine. These are not new minifigs, but small Lego parts put together to make unique designs for each set that stands roughly as tall as a minifig. On the human-operated Battle Machines, there is a decal showing the forward profile of its mini-robot as well as the term “Spy Drone”. (Yes, this term is in conflict with all promotional materials- where they are called “mini-robots” instead.) When attaching them to their parent Battle Machine, they fold up and collapse down into a smaller form, though nothing is removed to accomplish this. Be aware that the connection between mini-robot and Battle Machine is not always perfect compared to the instructions, so you’ll have to tinker around until you find an appropriate position for everything, though you won’t have to remove any parts to do so. (It’s really no big deal, and you’ll get used to it quickly enough.)
For Set #8114, the mini-robot (back) forms a pod which attaches to the top of the flame-blaster assembly on the right arm. A long bar sticks out behind, but the legs and center body are heavy enough to comfortably keep it upright on a flat surface; plus, the feet are individually jointed and can be adjusted as well, much like its larger brethren can! The black arms (taken from the Devastator robot minifigs) can flip most the way around; though they way they are built they can pitch up and down a little at the shoulder, but these other ‘joints’ are rather tight, so I would not recommend doing this too much. There are also two large round shields attached to the shoulder parts as well; when positioning them, you might accidentally bump them off. It grips two long red minifig swords in its black claws. (Though they look like swords, I’m not really sure if that is what they really are!) The legs, however, are more flexible in this regard; the feet can actually swing back and fourth a bit at the ankles! It’s small and fragile, but it works! Unlike the Assault Tiger’s mini-robot mounting, the one for the Chameleon Hunter will always have a place to rest since no weapons/parts are removed.
For 2007, Exo-Force’s official website was upgraded with a new Code Brick Central section to accept specially-designated Exo-Codes which would be found in each set released. These alphanumeric Exo-Codes would grant access to special information and online goodies- wallpaper, screensavers, decals for your personal Lego profile, etc.- related to that one set from which the code had come. Apparently it was successful enough because the Exo-Codes are back for 2008. (Alas, they didn’t make new mini-movies of the Battle Machine’s in action like they did last year!) However, unlike the codes that were pre-printed onto flat 1x2 bricks in 2007, the new Exo-Codes are now printed onto decals which are then applied to the cockpit canopy of each set. Be aware that you must be signed up with a free Lego online profile in order to access the new information (of which they will also remind you).
Something that a lot of people noticed was when none of the 2007 sets were used to make alternate and combined models on the box art and website like they were in the breakout 2006 line. Well, you asked for them, and you got them back! While the singular alternate models have not come back, each 2008 set has instructions which can be found in the somewhat-elusive Build It! section of the website to combine two or three Exo-Force sets into one!
Set #8114- Chameleon Hunter can combine with Set #8111- River Dragon to form a quadruped Battle Machine.
Set #8114- Chameleon Hunter can also combine with Set #8113- Assault Tiger to form a tall two-legged Battle Machine with a new larger mini-robot.
Okay, I take it back- it looks like a hunchback commando dressed as a cactus instead. But what works well for one does not mean it will work for another. The formula which worked so well for the Assault Tiger didn’t work quite so well here, especially on the torso and small arms. It was really nice to see the medium-sized human-built Battle Machine get some decent weapons as opposed to the Assault Tiger. The large spinning claw with the articulate fingers was nice, though it is kinda annoying to have the long shaft sticking out the back of the Battle Machine’s elbow… While I still don’t like that the pilot is seated, it was still nice to see him in a near-fully-enclosed cockpit. (BTW, how is it that both Takeshi and Hayato rated seats in their cockpits, but Hikaru didn’t...?) I can see that they were trying to give it a winged appearance while preserving a scaly-lizard look; even though those new long pointed parts are pretty clever with the soft points, I’m not entirely sure that they pulled it off right. The torso is too squat as well, which kinda ruins it; ironically, making it taller might have helped! Also on the shoulders are the same antenna and radar dish that appeared on the Assault Tiger and River Dragon! (It’s nice to see consistency between the related units, but in this case it kinda spoils the look of each one individually…) The mini-robot was… okay, but it seems like too many things are sticking out on it- enough so that it actually becomes tricky to get a good grip on some things in order to move them! Overall, a fair set; it has both good and bad. So, while I may think that getting the Assault Tiger would be a better buy, I also think that the Chameleon Hunter would be good enough to get, though it’s borderline good for me.
|Posted 10 February, 2008 - 03:08 by EVA_Unit_4A|