(Written by William)
It is rather unfortunate that the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster was released so close to the massive #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster. Fans of roller coasters are naturally going to compare the two sets, resulting in the #31084 LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Pirate Roller Coaster getting relegated as the poor-man’s option. Even though both roller coasters use the new tracks and carts, comparing them isn’t really fair. The #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster is a huge LEGO Creator Expert Builder set with over four thousand pieces and a staggering price of $369.99, while the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster is a moderately sized set with little over 900 pieces and a price of $99.99. And they have other differences as well. 🙂
I must admit that my opinion on the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster was also effected, especially since I got the #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster first (you can read my review here). Thus, I didn’t even consider getting the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster until I saw it on sale at Amazon. Combining the sale price with points from an Amazon credit card, I was able to get it for around $50, so I decided to give it a try. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, and I’m saying this with the experience of building both the #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster, and the #70922 LEGO The Joker Manor from last year (which was the first set using the new LEGO roller coaster system). Now, let’s talk about some of the interesting building techniques I found in the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster.
➡ LEGO PIRATE ROLLER COASTER: THEME VS. TRILL
It’s safe to say that, for the most part, roller coasters are thrill rides. They are designed to have steep drops and fast turns to thrill the senses. However, that’s only one way to approach designing a roller coaster. Using the Disney theme parks as an example, their coasters tend to focus less on pure thrills and instead heavily rely on theme. They immerse the rider in another world filled with spectacular sights and sounds. In the case of the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster, this is exactly what LEGO went for.
The ride starts out in an island fort. This is where fair goers get on board a shark. Once the ride gets going, you must pass the reaching tentacles of the sea monster, go through the giant skull, travel around the pirates’ hoard of treasure, move through the broken pirate ship, and make a massive splash at the final drop before arriving back at the fort. This is all packed into a simple oval with a few ups and downs of the track. Even though the #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster is my favorite LEGO set of all time, I can appreciate the story-telling strength of the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster.
Building the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster made me think about how I might be able to improve the bigger coaster. By filling a coaster with a narrative and aesthetically dynamic features, it comes to life in a much different way than just going up and down loops. This is something you can consider in your own LEGO creations; do you want to emphasize dynamic movement, stories, or both? It’s worth noting that the #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster doesn’t need a theme to be awesome, and the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster doesn’t need thrills. They are just different types of coasters, offering different types of rides.
In addition to the ride itself, the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster also offers some additional pirate-themed builds to increase the fun. I wonder if the set would be more popular with a different name; like Pirate Theme Ride instead of Pirate Roller Coaster. This way, people wouldn’t automatically compare it to the large traditional coaster, but think of it more like a themed ride. Pirate Theme Ride (or Rides) would also make the set more cohesive when considering the two alternate builds.
➡ LEGO PIRATE ROLLER COASTER – WEIGHTED TRIGGER
With a nice little oval and some interesting decorative elements in a moderately priced set, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of unusual building techniques. But, surprise, surprise, the end of the ride has a splash effect all connected to a weighted trigger that looks rather interesting. Before getting into how this works, I should probably give a short explanation of the new roller coaster car piece, and what makes it so clever.
The coaster car chassis has three distinct characteristics that allows it to do things that haven’t been done before in LEGO. On the front and back are hooking mechanisms that allow attached cars to remain connected even when angled in very abrupt ways. Each chassis also features guides on the sides to help it keep locked on to the rail system. Finally, under each car is a prong, which lets the car interact with things it passes over. This is how the cars link onto the chain in the #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster to get pulled up the steep incline, and in the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster, this is what trips the trigger for activating the water feature.
Now that you know how the cars hit the trigger, we can discuss how the trigger is made. Under the last part of the track, there is a small lift-arm that pokes up between two of the cross rungs. It sticks up just enough to come into contact with the coaster, but since it’s smooth it won’t derail anything. Connected to this lift-arm are two large blue flame pieces, which act like a watery splash when turned upright. The problem is that these flames are too large and too heavy to go completely upright by a small flick of the coaster cars. And, this is where the weighted element comes into play.
On the inside of the track is what looks to be a lever with a boxy element built on one end. As a lever, it can reset the action element by simply lifting up. However, its other function is to act as a weight. When the trigger is activated, it tilts the box over. This additional weight is greater than the flames on the other side, so therefore it can complete the action.
This particular implementation is probably the simplest way to build a weighted trigger. However, you can also use the following questions to help come up with your own designs. How can you balance things to have the trigger primed? How much more weight do you really need to make the element work? Can you easily reset the mechanism? By using these questions as a guide, chances are you can include a lot more subtlety in your own designs.
➡ APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARNED
It should be pointed out that in the case of theme vs. thrill, you could also describe it as creativity vs. functionality. That’s not to say these concepts are exclusive or opposed to one another. It just so happens that the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster and the #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster were designed this way and thus provide excellent examples. While examining the two sets, you can see that the usage of parts goes a lot farther when you get creative and incorporate a theme into a model. Creating something functional takes a lot more work, and therefore brings its own level of impressiveness. There is no right or wrong way to build, but if you do find yourself limited on parts, doubling down on theme is not a bad way.
As for weighted triggers, it is a great way to amplify an effect. The problem is that the weight often takes up just as much space as the effect you’re going for, so it’s not the cleanest design. If you find implementing a weight into your design too difficult, you may try rubber bands to simulate a counterweight. This does mean your trigger will need to be more of a latch, but it is one way to make a weighted trigger design a bit more compact. Otherwise, think of a weighted trigger as a set of scales that can be tipped over at any moment by the slightest pressure. If you build something like that, then you’re on the right track!
All in all, the #31084 LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster is a great set with its own merits. No need to compare it to the #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster, as they offer different types of rides and different building and play experiences. If you like the #31084 LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Pirate Roller Coaster, you don’t have to fee like you are just getting a lesser, cheaper version of the real deal. It’s a whole different type of ride, and it even comes with two other alternate rides! You can find it at the LEGO Creator section of the Online LEGO Shop.
What do you think? How do you like the LEGO Creator Pirate Roller Coaster? Do you have it already? Or are you planning to get it? Are there any other interesting building techniques that you noticed? Which one of the sets using the new roller coaster track system do you like the most? Feel free to share your thoughts and own reviews in the comment section below! 😉
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