LEGO City – New Sets For 2021!
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Available from LEGO.com and LEGO Stores from January 1st 2021.
LEGO City 2021 brings us multiple steps forward in City theme to give us a revitalising new take. This is mainly conversed through the introduction of road plates, a new modularised road/platform solution bringing the biggest evolution of the theme. As well as this new layout-friendly piece, LEGO City 2021 has a huge subtle influence of clean, green and renewable energy, with every street lamp powered by solar (and glow), multiple sets focusing on electric cars and even the largest set of the wave once again drawing attention to separating recyclables from generic garbage.
This wave of sets feels refreshing and like a huge renewal of the theme, it finally pulls LEGO City into the 21st century, whereas previously, we would describe the theme as stagnating and overdone. It’s committal to a clear outcome gives the sets of 2021 a new way to convey a very important message to the next generation, without compromising on the values of play.
LEGO 60304 – Road Plates
What better way to begin a review of the 2021 sets than none other than the road plate expansion set itself? The Road Plates set gives a very easy solution to those who wish to trial the plates in their city to see if it works for them, without having to fork out a lot more for a set that would come with these plates and a whole lot of excess things.
Following this, the set also is a nice easy way to get some street signs, traffic lights, and solar-powered streetlights. The lines in the middle of the roads, as well as the streetlights, bring back LEGO’s glow-in-the-dark pieces, giving a fun way for kids to enjoy their cityscapes at night. It’s also hilarious that the solar-powered streetlights can be actually solar powered if you use the sun to light them up.
The new modularised system gives a new way to build roads, and more importantly, bridges. Using a new 16×16 platform will make City bridge building a breeze. City building takes a step in a new direction with these plates, as we can now easily connect them together, or even how they can be used to make speedbumps as they do in this very set, a huge +1 over those traditional baseboards of old. There aren’t any corner pieces announced yet for this 2021 wave, but there surely would have to be.
One of the initial controversies when the Road Plates were first announced came from (with no surprise here) the AFOL community with their pre-made city landscapes. For context, previously LEGO used the thin-layer baseboard for their original road designs, it was limited in the width of the roads and offered about 8 studs either side of the road for kids and people to build on. These baseboards worked well with the LEGO Modular line, in which the high-detailed models were also on the 32×32 thin baseboards, most AFOLs to their own annoyance, ripped up their modular buildings and moved them slightly over on to these road baseplates so they could utilise the road.
Now, most traditional city landscapes in the average AFOL’s house are rectangular or square-shaped, using these traditional baseboard pieces as the foundation. So what’s our point with all this? Well, enter the Road Plates, LEGO’s new way to make your roads. These plates sit two plates high off any baseboard and don’t work with most AFOL’s pre-existing cities. People lost their damn minds; “How can I use these Road Plates if when I put them next to my modular, they sit a whole plate higher than the footpath?”
We’re going to give you a very hard pill to swallow here. Companies grow. New innovations arise and if you don’t want to move forward with the rest of us because you don’t want to, that’s not anyone else’s fault but yours. There’s a lot of benefit to these pieces in your city, so you need to push past the stubborn-ness and hate and hear us out.
These are road options for your city that can be easily expanded with a few plates to make the roads wider, no more squished 6-stud-wide vehicles. They can be used to make speedbumps, bridges, slightly inclined roads and used to make lane-dividing islands on the cityscape. It’s all beneficial but requires one big thing, the effort to go back to your cityscape and upgrade it, take that same energy that you used moving those modular 8 studs forward, and instead, build them up 2 plates higher. It will pay off in the long run. Heck, for anybody making a model that has to sit diagonally on a pre-made platform, instead of using hundreds of tiles underneath it when locking it down, you can now use the Road Plates!
LEGO 60290 – Skate Park
The Skate Park gives us a great example of how the new road plates can be used for non-road purposes (although it does end up implying that this skate park is on a road nevertheless, as it comes with lane dividing lines). It is immediately obvious that this so obviously a skatepark, but what went right over our heads the first time we looked at it is that it seems to be a skatepark event, all sponsored by the “VitaRush” company. VitaRush flags, VitaRush plastic bottle, VitaRush representative and VitaRush car with implied VitaRush cans sitting in the back. It’s a cool little way to flesh out the story of the skatepark, but if we’re being completely honest, the set doesn’t need the car or the flags.
A lot of people would love to get a skatepark regardless of it having to try to be sold as an event of not. The skatepark itself, unfortunately, loses a bit of lustre by having these loose builds to the side of it instead of fleshing out the skatepark itself a lot more. LEGO provides us with guardrails, which can either be used to close off the area to the event, or used as grinding rails, but we really wish there were more things for our skaters to interact with.
The small yellow skate ramp for the build is great and serves its purpose, but the large ramp definitely deserves some sort of return, so that the skaters can go back and forth between the heights of the platform and show of some sick tricks. *TONY HAWK’S PRO SKATER 2 INSTEFIES*
The figures of this set are quite neat, getting a new helmet colouration of the helmet/hair combo previously seen in the CMF lines. The biker also features the new mid-blue legs, which was a subtle add which we didn’t see right away. Ultimately though, the best figure of the lot is our intense-wheelchair-extreme-stunts skater in red and green. He sells the whole thing for us, and we’re so glad to be seeing the wheelchair piece in new colourations. It’s a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.
LEGO 60291 – Family House
The Family House set updates the modern-deco house sets of old and really revitalises it into a refreshing take on the modern home aesthetic.
Solar panels on the roof? Check.
Electric Car? Check.
Outdoor garden? Check.
Encouraging kids to play outside with some sort of sport? Check.
The Road Plates once again appear in this set, but we are a little disappointed that they didn’t use one for the garage space for the car. The easy modularity of the road plates meant that this would have been entirely possible, but LEGO just missed the mark here, I guess. It could have been a great opportunity to encourage building upon these Road Plates.
The figures of the set are split down the middle as far as generic go. The kids are the real stars, with interesting torso prints and the recoloured hair of the older daughter, which is relatively rare to find. Speaking of the torsos, the younger sibling has a Ninjago torso previously only available in one other set and seems to be the most important character in the set, base on the rest of the Ninjago themed items in the house.
The upstairs bedroom has a toy katana for our Ninjago fan, an action figure, as well as a Dragon themed poster that we love so much because of our joy for Dungeons and Dragons. Even downstairs the Ninjago theme carries through, with the TV connected to a console, with the first set version of the controller outside the CMF, playing the Ninjago game that LEGO made a few years back.
The middle floor of the house has a small crammed in space to try to convey the sister’s room and interests, such as art and music, as well as a bathroom in the newer teal colour. There is a poster on the wall reminding our figures to “Wash Your Hands”, which we would put down to coincidence with these current times.
Other notable parts of the build are the small BBQ outside on the second floor, and the NEW LABRADOR DOG MOULD OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDD. Sir Woofsalot the Fluffly is one of the best things about this set and even comes with his own personal accessories… poo! You get some droppings to scatter on the build wherever you please and some in the set as spares, so you can place his poo wherever your heart desires, on the yard, on the road, in the youngest sibling’s bed, or in the toilet like a civilised being.
LEGO 60306 – Shopping Street
The Shopping Street set is 2021’s version of tiny shopfronts all crammed together to help build children’s cityscape as fast as possible and honestly, it does the job pretty darn well.
The two-vehicle builds in this set both are immediately recognisable and despite being chopped down to a small size, the sports car looks like one of the best sports cars of this size that we have ever seen. The City Service truck serves its purpose well and allows children to come up with more ways to interact with the new features of the Road Plates.
Speaking of Road Plates, they are inevitably here, but what we really want to talk about is the bicycle lane that is attached to the Road Plates. Using a simple 2×4 tile in bright blue really cements the new 2021 City feeling of this year and it’s a fantastic addition that makes us excited to use this in our own city layouts.
The figures of the set are nothing ultimately too different from the norm, using a variety of generic parts of the last few years but a few new and rare colours, like the white cap/hair combo or the purple helmet for the bike riders.
Our three main physical builds for the streetscape are the workout station, bakery and sports centre. Admittedly, it took us a while to figure out what exactly the workout station was, as we were confused if it was insinuating a pathway to something else or not. It was only by the connection to fresh fruit and water that Dannii thought that it could be a workout spot for our sportscar driver. It does the trick, but we feel like the younger audience will have this go right over their heads.
The bakery isn’t a new concept to LEGO City, but this is probably a nicer rendition of it than most other builds previously. The Pretzel stand inside the bakery, as well as the signage out the front showing off what it available really help pull the aesthetic together. LEGO also utilise the Hoop pieces to make Bike stands for the denizens to lock their bikes up to, which help reinforce the idea of using bikes instead of public transport for a greener future. Big tick from us here. The issue that we do have, however, is down to what we believe is a mistake in the instructions. We checked this and checked it again to be sure, but something is definitely amiss here. The table out the front of the Bakery is listed in the instructions to be one stud over in front of the door, whereas on the box, it is moved over so the door can open normally. It’s a simple mistake, but kids are going to be very confused and disappointed when they realise, they can’t open the door.
The last shopfront on the street is a Sport Centre, specialising in selling bikes and helmets to those who wish to be a lot healthier than we could scrounge up the courage for. The classic bicycle is in a new purple here, as well as the half-bike, which allows one rider and one extra to sit in the front and enjoy a peaceful ride. The part is interesting, and admittedly I wish it was in red, as I know of a certain LEGO Masters challenge is reminds me of…
LEGO 60292 – Town Center
The Town Center is the biggest set of the 2021 wave, focusing on using as much of the Road Plates as it can, and building small facades off each plate where they can.
One of the first things we noticed about this build was the park ride for the children, based on one of those tilt-rides you see at most playgrounds nowadays. It’s a cute little addition and tries to bring more character to the build.
The biggest build of the model is the car wash station, which we initially put down as being too big and bland to justify the space it takes up, until we realised that it was purposely designed so that the recycling truck could also fit in the same garage and have enough breathing room for you to put your hands in there with it to move it about. It’s a play feature that has had a fair bit of thought go into it, and really shows the designers put themselves in the shoes of kids who would get their hands on this set.
On the left of the carwash is another innovative small electric-car charging station, with one of the smallest LEGO cars we’ve seen in recent years. It’s a small build but tucks away nicely on the side just enough that it doesn’t get in the way. Just beside the car wash on the right-hand side is two recycling-based containers, designed to go together with “Shirley Keeper’s” recycling truck. The set comes with a bunch of extra pieces to try and teach kids to sort glassware from other recyclables and really opens the conversation about recycling with younger audiences. The truck itself uses the 2020 ‘armour’ piece on the front of the truck, which we haven’t seen before, but is otherwise a pretty standard solid build.
The other building that comes in this set is split into three parts, a downstairs pizza shop, an upstairs training Kendo dojo, and a rooftop herb garden. The idea of introducing an upstairs Kendo dojo is a welcome addition to any cityscape and hasn’t been done before as far as we recall, but the other two sections of the build do let it down a bit, we’re afraid.
This isn’t the first pizza shop we have gotten and it certainly won’t be our last. We can understand why LEGO has an affinity for this instantly recognisable take out places, but they really could have gone in a different direction to keep the focus on healthy eating and lifestyles, like the rest of this wave does. Maybe an organic food market, a soup store or even an information kiosk. Plenty of ideas and unfortunately wasted. By adding a small flame pop-up to the side of the building does make story building easier for kids, but it feels like a cheap attachment to the build and just another way to squeeze an otherwise irrelevant figure onto the build. The upstairs herb garden is a refreshing take but is still simplistic in it’s built for such a larger priced set, as well as no actual way to reach the rooftop other than teleportation.
The figures of this set are a split right down the middle for us. You either have really interesting figures or really bland figures. The criminal that appears in this set, who mind you, is stealing pizza, we feel has been in at least 3 or 4 other sets. There’s nothing significantly different about him, and his engagement with the build is lacklustre. If he was to say, be robbing an ATM, stealing a diamond, or even breaking into the pizza shop through a shaft of the roof, it would work, but otherwise is a bland grab at upping the minifig numbers. That goes for the police officer on a bike too, he’s only here because the crook is. There’s no crime scene to investigate, no doughnuts to shop for, just here with his bike.
The firefighter is only here, just like the police officer, to ultimately serve one purpose and then otherwise, useless to boot. The stud-shooter water play feature is a good feature to have in a LEGO model, but we wish the scale of it was larger. Instead of x1 bit of fire, x3?
The chef, as well as the Mom and baby, are pretty generic in this set. It’s nice to have the baby figure reappear, especially with the baby chest carrier, but the figures are just missing something about them to make them stand out. A new torso for the chef or a more engaging outfit from Mom would be better. There are some figures which do great. Shirley, our city recycle person, easily fits her aesthetic and we believe her hairpiece hasn’t been done in that colour before. We could however be mistaken. Her headpiece is unique, engaging and shows that she is a significant character in this build, which is something the chef, for instance, desperately needs. Madison and her Kendo teacher, are superb figures to get in this set. It definitely shows through their torso printing and accessories what they are doing and the helmet piece in a solid colour is a welcome addition, considering every other version before it is multi-coloured and limited in its useability. Their hairpieces as well aren’t common, and we gladly welcome them to the collection. The last figure we want to talk about is the man in the red shirt, who is accompanied by his new brown Labrador. The two of them clearly represent a seeing-eye dog and a blind man, which is a physical confirmation of LEGO’s goals to embrace diversity and show representation for all disabilities and aspects of human life. It’s the star of the show in our opinion, and HUGE props to LEGO for finally making it a reality.
Our overall closing thoughts on this set are, to be completely honest, not great. The price point of this set and what value you get from it, unfortunately, seem worlds apart. All the other sets in this wave seem to focus on concise story elements and supporting city elements like streetlights and signage, but this set has no city elements at all. Not a traffic light, streetlight, pedestrian crossing sign or speed bump. The generic-ness of the buildings work against the build, whereas the streetscape we reviewed above has the same number of buildings, but way more character. It falls flat, and with a little more refining, there could have been quite the opportunity for greatness with this set, and it missed its mark.
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Review sets and new release announcements are provided by the
AFOL Engagement team of the LEGO Group for review purposes.
All opinions are my own.