October 08, 2007

Best Lego of 2007

Boston is a great geek city. A few Sundays ago, we walked by Quantum Books on the way to try out the MuLan Restaurant in Cambridge. Even though the famous techie bookstore was closed, the owner (I think it was June Katitin) was in the the store and unlocked the door to let us browse around. We found a wonderful kids' book about numbers (Go Figure, by Johnny Ball) that gives a full-color treatment of such topics as primes, transcendentals, infinity, and the four-color theorem. What geek material.

Another great thing about moving from Philly to Boston is that we now live near two (two!) Lego Stores. We stumbled on one on our last trip to the mall, and we picked up a new set which I suspect is the best Lego set of 2007....

Gears and Motors and Sounds, Oh My!

The set is the Monster Dino, set number 4958 from the Creator Line. It's new enough that nobody on Lugnet has really reviewed it yet.

But it's great. The set comes with a variety of pretty useful pieces, including a pair of motors and an infrared remote control/receiver set that can separately drive the two motors. Nine-year-old Anthony is thrilled by the glow-in-the-dark spines. It also comes with instructions for building a spider and a crocodile out of the same pieces - the whole idea behind the Creator line is to provide enough reusable pieces that you can make a variety of different things. The set delivers there for sure.

And the Dino model itself is really outstanding. It is a working walking biped! (In truth, to achieve stability and balance, the Lego designers have hidden a couple extra moving legs under the dino's belly - Anthony observes that it actually operates as a quadruped.) When it walks, the dinosaur has a convincing gait, tilting left and right and swinging its tail as it makes progress across your living room floor. The second stick on the remote controls the arms and neck and mouth. And when you open the mouth all the way, the geometry of the jaw triggers a funny little sound chip that makes a roar.

The dinosaur has all the clever visible gearing that you would expect in a typical model from the Technic line, but it also comes with an extra helping of personality that is the mark of a Creator set. It is incredibly playable when you're done.

And so the Lego design team seems to have done the impossible. For $88, they have delivered a bunch of new motors and control systems and put together a tricky model that captures the kids' interest more than video games. Anthony devoted an entire day and a half to building it, and since then he has been bringing it with him everywhere. The little electronic roar has become our lunch, dinner, and breakfast companion.


Posted by David at October 8, 2007 11:34 AM
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