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Transformers is one of few franchises that has managed to bridge the generational divide without fizzling out. Whilst I was introduced to the Transformers as a child with a hand-me-down Bumblebee toy, other folks may be more familiar with Michael Bay’s bombastic take on the exciting world of the robots in disguise. Lego’s mighty Optimus Prime set 10302 weighs in at 1508 pieces and harks back to the original beloved series and comics. The Autobot leader will set you back an RRP of $279.99 (on sale for $199.95 at Amazon), includes a bunch of accessories and does indeed transform into a classic big rig truck. In short, this is nostalgia done right and I can’t get enough of it!
Before we get to the whole transforming part, we need to build the big fella. This process is an absolute blast! From the comic book art and the occasional notes scattered throughout the instructions, Lego provides a nostalgic touchstone here and there without being tacky or overbearing. The build shares some similarities with that of other large mechs from Ninjago and the like whereby part of the pleasure comes from seeing the moving parts begin to interact with each other as you go. Out of the box there’s twelve numbered bags and one unnumbered but you’ll start to see articulation from the very first steps where you build the upper torso. Setting Optimus apart from other mechs is the constant curiosity about just how Lego pulled off the whole robot-transforms-into-a-truck thing. I did not expect this degree of anticipation and delight with this set but coupled with my sense of nostalgia for the character, I can report a giant grin scarcely escaped my face throughout the entire 1500-part build.
Optimus stands at about 35cm and bares just five stickers in total; thank the AllSpark. The red 4×4 modified tiles are absolutely printed and that Autobot symbol is as iconic as it’s always been. Perfection. Unfortunately, the display plaque is still a sticker but Lego has made indications that sets like this in the future may well have printed displays: We’ll see. Nitpicks aside, playing with this set/model/action figure is just pure joy. You may well hear some disappointment surrounding the lack of knee movement but Optimus still has 19 points of articulation and even those knees allow for single-axis rotation. Honestly, for an official Lego set, my expectations were exceeded. Add an accurate Ion Blaster and fancy Energon Axe alongside an Energon cube to protect, the options for display and play are remarkable.
Time for some balance here: no set is perfect. I did have some issues with parts falling off as I tried to pose Optimus for his glamour shots. Despite the rubber link tread attachments to his feet, I did also manage to push him over a couple times as well. These aren’t really major concerns if you intend to have him sit relatively untouched on the shelf. The biggest gripe I think I have to level at this set is the transformation itself. I found the process of making this man into a truck a bit clunky, but maybe I’m just a little clumsy. Firstly, you have to remove the jetpack entirely and just put that somewhere, replace a tile on his bumper and follow a specific set of steps in order to achieve truck status. There is however a place to position Optimus’ blaster in truck form. To be reasonable, I expected the transformation to have a certain learning curve but the process to and fro did seem to exaggerate the issue of parts falling loose and the final appearance of the truck form does have some pretty significant gaps and peculiarities. It’s clear the emphasis was placed on an accurate robot form with the truck appearance taking a back seat. Again, I think this is somewhat inevitable and it’s important to check our expectations. At the end of the day, this is a good looking Optimus Prime that does indeed transform into a truck –it also happens to be made of darn Lego bricks. It’s truly an amazing feat.
Sooooooooo, is it worth the price tag? Yes, unquestionably yes. I’ll qualify this with the caveat that you should have some ever-so-slight appreciation of the Transformers franchise. If you’re looking for just a cool mech, Lego has you covered in other themes for a smaller fee. What you get here isn’t lazy nostalgia-baiting but clever and well-intentioned design reflecting a shared passion for the property. If you haven’t snapped this set up yet, this is the perfect Christmas present for the seasoned Lego master and/or Transformers fan. Here’s hoping Lego will follow up with another Transformer – I’ll take a Bumblebee if you’re reading this Lego…
Words by Lukas Mack
Photos by Lukas Mack
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This set was provided free of charge from The LEGO Group. Opinions expressed in the review are those of the reviewer