31066 Space Shuttle Explorer is another fine example of the versatility of the LEGO Group’s Creator 3-in-1 line, but is it a set that reaches its full potential?
Price: £24.99 / $29.99 / €34.99 Pieces: 285 Available: Now
I’m a recent convert to the Creator line of 3-in-1 sets, those which come with the LEGO bricks required to put together any one of three instruction-based builds based around a single theme. The January wave of releases included a number of great examples of how this theme has developed greatly in recent months in particular. 31064 Island Adventures and 31058 Mighty Dinosaurs are both great examples that highlight the depth of intelligent design that can go into this theme, and the value that these sets can offer builders of any age. With a recently very positive experience of Creator’s versatility at my fingertips, I picked up 31066 Space Shuttle Explorer with high hopes and a level of intrigue.
On the box and through the official imagery, the three option builds available all looked strong and also plausible – none felt forced, nor put together from ‘leftover’ parts, or through connections that were weak or peculiar.
The primary build is the eponymous space shuttle, which uses all the parts and includes some unique brick strategy, shall we say, to assemble an interestingly angled back end to the vehicle, around the propulsion engines and tail fin. The final build is neat, with a cosy one-seat cockpit, and payload doors that open to reveal a satellite housed in the cargo bay.
Given that the minifigure uses the same torso as those from 2015’s CITY Space theme, your mind may wander towards comparisons between this shuttle and the versions from 60080 Spaceport and 60078 Space Shuttle. As a build its greater focus on brick building means that it compares favourably to both of those that used a moulded flight deck, in particular the juniorised shuttle in 60078, whilst it is also sizeably comparable to the flagship 60080, perhaps a little shorter, but no less wide. At the same time as being a credible and suitably different addition to that CITY line-up, 31066’s shuttle stands just as strong when solitary, in its own design, flat underside permitting.
The other two builds put together a vehicle and small living unit for the minifigure to make more of a life for himself when out in space. Perhaps he is Matt Damon, as these builds are slightly reminiscent of the vehicle and living unit on The Martian, an example of how not to soundtrack a film in space.
However, where these are both credible designs, it is surprising just how much LEGO is left over once you get to the end of each build’s instructions. Both leave more than enough pieces that could have added weight and further detail to the official builds, or that could construct similarly-sized complementary creations. It’s a surprise for the type of pieces that are left over too.
There are two ways to conclude this point and ultimately view a set that has a complete primary build and two secondary builds that only half-utilise the piece count. Those secondary builds are either disappointing and leave you feeling like there’s a great deal more that could have been achieved by the LEGO designers with this 3-in-1 set, or, the amount of spare pieces is a great surprise that leaves you with lots of extra LEGO to put together your own additional builds with. A Creator set that gives you the opportunity to create cannot be a bad thing, though it still may surprise you just how much LEGO you are left with to create.
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