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…
The gold-plated leader of the robot army, Meca One, is known for its ruthlessness, its cunning, its intelligence, and its superiority complex. It was the first to rebel, and lead all of the robots into conflict with their creators, so it has been there from the start and has seen it all. The first thing it realized was that when together, humans are very resourceful. So when Meca One led its new army of Battle Machines against the Sentai Mountain, it was not only able to take the more-plentiful resources, but also rob them of their fighting spirit by abducting their family, friends, and co-workers. Knowing that a counter-attack might upset that advantage, it ordered thousands of prison cells be constructed at the base of the mountain before the invasion began, and then moved all of the prisoners there… except for the ones it forced into working in the mines without robot help. But this new Exo-Force human resistance had proved more difficult to overcome than initially expected. With the discovery that Sensei Keiken was leading them, Meca One realized that he might be the only one capable of bringing it and its army down. But Exo-Force’s resistance was also due to its access to the superior technology in the Golden City. So Meca One sent one of his many copies covertly to the city fortress, and had it abduct Keiken-sensei so that they could now gain access to that same information.
One of the weaknesses of a Storm Lasher is that you can hear its twin high-powered turbofan V-TOL engines thrumming loudly from miles away, which gives Exo-Force pilots the change to duck for cover before it screams over head… unless it’s cruising along at higher altitudes at Mach 1, though they don’t seem to do this much. Completely abandoning a humanoid-shaped Battle Machine body works well here as it did for the heavier and outrageously over-powered Sonic Phantom prototypes. With more dependence on speed and agility to avoid damage, a lighter structure was engineered around a moderate power generator, control pod, and a mixture of weapons. Their mobility above the treetops is their greatest advantage over enemy Battle Machines- getting quickly where they need to be. Strom Lashers act primarily as interceptors and back-up for ground forces, and utilize heavy strafing runs against slower-moving targets. A pair of long-range pulse blasters doesn’t heat as quickly as standard-type laser cannons, but produce similar damage. And two small quad-barrel autocannons are mounted on swiveling motors which can follow targets as the Battle Machine continues to move. For situations where flying below the canopy might be more advantageous, two sharp mandibles are affixed in front of the control pod for delicate lifting or strong crushing. But if the target fights back, the Iron Drone at its controls can twist the Storm Lasher around suddenly, and quickly hack away at its opponent with the diamond-sharp tips of the six-bladed turbofans.
Though its army of Devastator and Iron Drone robots is superior in many ways to humans, Meca One was reluctant to admit to itself that they, too, were not well-equipped to move in among the vines, branches, sharp rocks, and the foothills of the mountain. So a new type of mini-robot was designed to act as a scout for the Strom Lasher. Equipped with four large dragonfly-like wings which constantly buzz through the air, it can act as a recon sensor drone beneath the treetops while the larger Battle Machine buzzes above. Additionally, its powerful back legs allow it to jump incredible distances without making as much noise from its wings. It, too, is equipped with a pair of swiveling laser cannons similar to hand-held units that Iron Drones usually carry, but with a higher output. And finally, it carries a long stinger at the end of its flexible tail which can puncture Battle Machine armor. Though more limited in its intelligence to prevent Exo-Force from capturing one and learning anything from them, it is still smart enough to avoid being detected by hiding in radar shadows, or hack into and disable enemy Battle Machines.
The Storm Lasher (back) continues the trend of non-humanoid-shaped Battle Machines, this time drawing more heavily on the animal world for inspiration (as most of the robot army Battle Machines will for 2008 …) While the Battle Arachnoid and Dark Panther more closely resemble real animals (a spider and a- a… whatever), the details in its online profile at Exo-Force.com suggest that it is more related to a dragonfly. And you can kinda see that. The control pod, which hangs below the rest of the body, carries all of the weapons. From the top down on the pod, you have a pair of laser cannons which can pitch all the way over. (They look a lot more like missiles to me, and they can be easily separated to be so if you wish.) Second, the paired autocannons- which are attached to ball-and-socket joints, and have a fairly good range of motion up & down and a bit side-to-side as well. (The autocannons can spin where they connect to that joint as well, but they’re not really made to do so; it’s just the pieces they used.) And finally, the two pincer-like mandibles can snap-rotate open and close in increments for a total of about 120-degrees. They’re not very strong, and could only hold something really light, like a minifig or one of these mini-robots from the 2008 line. The darkened transparent canopy piece flips down to admit the minifig pilot into the featureless cockpit. (This poor Iron Drone is less protected than Hayato is in the River Dragon!) The main feature of the Storm Lasher is the paired turbofan assemblies on either side. While mainly displayed horizontally, there are two ratcheting joints which allow them for both twist all the way around 360-degrees for forward [or backward] flight. The turbofan blades themselves- made from chipped Pirate scabbards (clever!)- can be spun by hand via the thin shafts which extend below them! Additionally, the turbofan assemblies can be stored vertically as well! While not very stable when the turbofans are stored upright, the set stays level by use of a thin grip in back. And above the grip are two long insect-like panels which can be posed by twisting and pitching them independently at their base like air brakes or steering fins.
Lego Set #8117 comes with a traditional brown Iron Drone minifig with a red #2 Technic rod placed in the back of its head to make red eyes. No weapon is provided.
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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#8117 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 #8117, the mini-robot (back) forms an inert lump of machinery attached to the Storm Lasher’s back- right between the turbofans and tail brakes, and right above the grip. It implies the appearance of a wasp, with yellow pincer claws that are attached to four black Exo-Force robot minifig arms. The back two legs are made up from two flexible PVC antennae which debuted in 2007 primarily for certain Bionicle playsets, but were also used in a few other lines like Aqua Raiders, but here they make their Exo-Force debut. The head has two independent neon-green balls for the eyes; all previous mini-robots have had transparent-part eyes or decals. Unfortunately, the head cannot move. The wings are four identical segments which can both pitch 360- and rotate 180-degrees, making them very flexible for posing. The two small transparent-red laser cannons above the wings can swivel back 180-degrees. The tail is another of those hybrid-material triangular plates that I’ve mentioned in other reviews already (particularly the Chameleon Hunter’s), which are making their debut this year in the Exo-Force line. Again, the colors of the materials contrast each other- black ABS and yellow flexible PVC. This mini-robot is actually quite large, nearly half the size of the Battle Arachnoid! The Storm Lasher neither loses nor gains any extra function(s) when the mini-robot is removed; if anything, it bulks up the back end a little, and adds a bit to the ferocity of the Battle Machine.
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 #8117- Storm Lasher can combine with Set #8115- Dark Panther to form a tall humanoid Battle Machine with a large claw.
Even though it wasn’t a humanoid-shaped Battle Machine, I was really looking forward to getting this one. And I was certainly not disappointed in any way! It’s very simple to use and build. It is a far better effort than the 2006 Sonic Phantom set (which was also a vehicle) even though it is composed of fewer parts. It also performs exactly as advertised; a lack of hidden features may be disappointing, but I found it not a problem here. Perhaps it biggest hindrances was its thin structure (aka, lack of weight), and that it doesn’t rest very soundly when the turbofans are retracted upwards. I can understand trying to keep the head round and body thin like a dragonfly’s (they succeeded, IMHO), but some retractable landing gear would’ve been appropriate as well to help with that resting balance. It’s also little things that makes the difference and add to the playability of the set- spinning propellers with knobs you can twist, air brakes that look like a tail or long feathers, mandibles & smaller weapons that can be moved around. The wasp-inspired mini-robot is also impressive and full of little details that make it quite memorable compared against other mini-robots seen up to this point! Things to change? Other than giving the Iron Drone a little more protection in its cockpit and adding some stabilizers when it’s on the ground, not really! It’s just fine the way it is. And so, I highly recommend getting the Storm Lasher!
|Posted 2 March, 2008 - 05:40 by EVA_Unit_4A|