LEGO FORMA 81000 Koi Model review

LEGO FORMA takes fans into uncharted waters with a new range of fish sets for adults. Does 81000 Koi Model make a splash?

Price: £42.99 / $45.00 (initial crowdfunding price)  Pieces: 294  Available: Now

81000 Koi Model is one of the limited, first run products in the LEGO FORMA theme. Seeking to bring new adults to the LEGO hobby, it aims to provide a relaxing experience while building an attractive model. Special skin sheets are included, so when the building is done, the fish can be fully realised using these decorative prints.

LEGO Forma 81000 Koi Model 8

While it does not say so on the box, LEGO FORMA is a Technic set. Only a few regular pieces are included within, the rest are all Technic elements. The Technic brand is synonymous with cars, machines and petrol – so it seems that this product line, which has been developed to appeal to adults who might not otherwise buy a LEGO set, has intentionally been labelled differently.

This product theme had an interesting road to fans’ homes. Back in September, the Creative Play Lab, a LEGO department all about developing new concepts, teamed up with crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to bring the product to market. Fans in the UK and US could order the product and pay in full (it was considered crowdfunded rather than pre-ordered) then wait for the product to ship early in 2019. That means that this initial test run is no longer available, but the theme is expected to be released in the usual way at a later date.

The build involves putting together two structures – the base, which is a tightly packed bunch of gears, and the skeleton, which involves putting the shape for the fish together. White tube elements are used to make the base a little more aesthetically pleasing, while the body is not concerned with such adornments as it will be almost completely covered. The two sections are combined in a very simple way using Technic rods.

Building the set does not take long – there are not a huge number of pieces, and the steps are simple to follow for even a Technic novice. This is a great way to introduce fans to the way the complex building system works, as it is small enough to be a bite-sized build yet does provide a good example of creating motion from turning a handle.
That limited size should be noted as it does not make the set feel like good value for money — $45 is not the lowest end of the price spectrum. It seems that the cost of the skin sheets is bumping the price up. If this theme is to be attractive in a regular retail environment, the price could do with being 25% lower.

Once the build is complete, it is time to use the new element, a type of Technic pin that has been developed specifically to attach the skin to the model. This new pin has a tiny bit of give, so when it is slotted through the holes on the skin, there is space for the skin to rest. Even when clipped in to the model fully, the pins will not pinch the skin.

The skin itself feels both sturdy and flexible – it has to bend, as several pieces encase the model by being wrapped around it, yet it will not crease. It is also firm enough that the tail piece sticks out. The printing on the skin is well executed – although stylised rather than accurate to real life, it is highly detailed, incorporating scales that might not be noticeable at first glance.

When attached, it looks fantastic. The head is particularly interesting, wrapped around the front of the frame, with holes allowing LEGO elements to poke out and represent eyes, which gives it a very tangible feel, making it look more lifelike than if the eyes had simply been printed on.

This set achieves what it sets out to – the skin covers the skeleton to produce a nice fish model that moves in a very organic way. But it is fun as a novelty, an oddity in the LEGO range – LEGO building would not be much fun if each set involved building the model, then covering it up. With so many beautiful, detailed models available to entice adult LEGO fans into the world of the brick, LEGO FORMA 81000 Koi Model feels like an interesting LEGO set, but in no way an essential one.

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Graham was the Editor up until November 2020. He has plenty of experience working on LEGO related projects. He has contributed to various websites and publications on topics including niche hobbies, the toy industry and education. Follw Graham on Twitter @grahamh100.

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