One of the most anticipated LEGO sets each year is the latest addition to the LEGO Modular Buildings series. These are expensive, top-of-the line products, catering to adult LEGO fans who like complex and large LEGO sets with advanced building techniques that also look great on display. LEGO has been releasing one LEGO Modular Building in January each year, and LEGO fans have been fond of collecting them and building a whole LEGO street. 🙂
Speculation about what the next LEGO Modular Building is going to be usually begins in the summer. LEGO fans passionately analyze every little piece of leaked information they can find, and also try to guess what the next set is going to be by noticing patterns in the previous releases. Things like every third release is a corner building, and that there is a pattern of government, commercial and residential buildings following each other. However when things become this predictable, they also become boring. So it is time for a shake-up! And this is exactly what LEGO did with the 2015 LEGO Modular Building, the #10246 LEGO Detective’s Office that will be released in January 2015.
We have discussed the #10246 LEGO Detective’s Office previously, and you can read the full press-release and watch the designer-video with Jamie Berard here: LEGO Detective’s Office Pictures & Video! Because this set breaks the pattern in so many different ways, and is so different from the previous LEGO Modulars, I’m pretty sure it is going to be controversial. Some people will love it, some people will hate it, and some won’t know what to think of it. Since I had a chance to build the LEGO Detective’s Office already, thanks to LEGO’s community support team, I would like to share my own thoughts on this set, and hopefully this will help you to decide if you would like to get it when it becomes available on January 1st.
Instead of writing a traditional review, I will focus on some of the key features of the LEGO Detective’s Office, especially the ones that differ from the previous LEGO Modulars. William is going to write a second review in his Brick Breakdown series about the interesting building techniques found in the set, and you can also read Huw’s review at Brickset, where he goes through the entire model in detail. So let’s take a closer look!
➡ LEGO DETECTIVE’S OFFICE EXTERNAL LAYOUT: One of the first things you will notice about the LEGO Detective’s Office is its unusual layout. Most previous LEGO Modular Buildings are basically a big box on a 32×32 baseplate with a walkway at the front, and an alleyway at the back. Even the somewhat different corner buildings follow this pattern. The #10218 LEGO Pet Shop released in 2011 is the first set that is a bit unusual; instead of one big building, it has a split footprint with two 16×32 baseplates and two separate buildings. That was considered a radical step, but other than the split layout the LEGO Pet Shop is in line with the rest of the buildings.
The following two LEGO Modular sets, the #10224 LEGO Town Hall released in 2012, and the #10232 LEGO Palace Cinema released in 2013, were quite conservative. The next LEGO Modular where something unusual was incorporated is the #10243 LEGO Parisian Restaurant released in 2014. It has a wrap around porch that starts at the side and takes you to the back of the building. It also includes an attic studio-apartment that is only accessible from the back. Previous LEGO Modulars pretty much focused on the frontal view only, so this was a big step. But then comes the LEGO Detective’s Office that breaks the pattern of size and layout in several ways.
First of all you will notice that there are two different level roof-lines. The right-side of the building (blue and brown) is three stories high and has a roof that is just a tad higher than the LEGO Pet Shop and LEGO Parisian Restaurant. But the left side with the pool-hall and detective’s office is only two stories high and significantly shorter. While I think this looks great and adds an interesting variety to the pretty much standard roof-lines of the other buildings, it can also be a bit of a problem. I have my LEGO Modular layout on a shelf against a light yellow wall, and having a big gap in the middle of the roof-lines looks kind of out of place. So I ended up placing the LEGO Detective’s Office at the end of the row and I like it much better; it gives a nice finish to the street with the lowering roofs. I wouldn’t be surprised if people buy two of this set so they could add an additional floor. In the image below Huw shows off how the LEGO Detective’s Office looks next to a couple of other LEGO Modular buildings, and in the second image Brickset member Regimus adjusted the same picture to show an additional floor added in.
Another break from the pattern in regards to the layout is an alleyway between the two buildings. This is the first time we can have minifigs walking from the street at the front to the alley at the back without having to walk through the inside of a building, which really opens up the playability of the layout. The alleyway includes the entry to the barber-shop and also a stairway to the second floor above the barber-shop. You can add some shady alleyway activities here, if you like. 🙄
A third aspect of the external layout that is unusual is that there is in fact not two buildings but three. At least that’s what it looks like from the outside. There is the side of the pool-hall and detective’s office which takes up half of the baseplate (thus making it similar to the LEGO Pet Shop), and there is the other side with the blue three-story building and a brown building that is set back a bit. Interestingly, on the inside the brown building is actually not separate but is simply a little hallway. This split between the buildings (which is also highlighted by the colors), gives the whole structure such an interesting look. Again, I think some people will love this, while others may be hesitant to introduce such features to their otherwise even LEGO Modular street. I should also add here that this set looks really good from the back!
➡ LEGO DETECTIVE’S OFFICE INTERNAL LAYOUT: On the inside, the left side of the building is pretty straightforward. We got the pool-hall at the bottom floor, and the detective’s office on the second floor. The detective’s office can only be accessed by going up the stairs on the right side of the alleyway over the barber-shop, and then walking back towards the left, passing the bathroom. On the right side we have the barber-shop at the bottom floor, and then…
I honestly can’t say what’s going on with the second and third floors. You walk up to the second floor of the blue building through the stairway in the alley. No problems there. But then the only thing you find here is a bathroom and the entry to the detective’s office. Is the bathroom a public restroom since it is accessible from the street? Or is it part of the detective’s office? Both are fairly believable, but then it get’s weirder because if you keep going up to the third floor of the building, there is a full kitchen. But who’s kitchen is this? Is it part of the detective’s office? But why would they need such a large kitchen, especially when the detective’s office is so crammed?
Also, this kitchen (just like the bathroom below) is fully accessible from the street via a couple of flight of steps with no doors anywhere. When I first saw this set I was fully expecting that the blue side will be a separate, two-story apartment above the barber-shop, but instead it is a random building with a random bathroom and an even more random kitchen. Honestly, I’m very confused, and have been thinking about how to convert this layout into something more realistic. Or are completely randomly placed bathrooms and kitchens are really part of architecture somewhere in the real world? 😯
➡ LEGO DETECTIVE’S OFFICE COLORS: Another thing that you will notice right away about the LEGO Detective’s Office is the interesting color-scheme. People who first reported seeing this set said that the bottom floor where the pool-hall is located is bright-light-yellow (the lovely color that you can find in several of the LEGO Friends sets) and I was super excited. Unfortunately that is not the case and that side of the building is simply tan – it still looks very nice though, especially with the addition of some dark-green, so I’m not too disappointed. The top floor is mostly made up of nougat masonry-bricks, a dream-come-true for many LEGO fans. And that’s not all!
On the other side almost the entire bottom floor is built up of dark-blue bricks – a gorgeous and rare color! Unfortunately LEGO has been having trouble producing this color in a consistent shade, and in this set I found at least three different versions – I’m not too happy about that. The top floors are two shades of light-blue that are absolutely beautiful! The brown building in between is just regular reddish brown, but so is the 32×32 baseplate, which is unique. I’m positive people will buy extra copies of this set just to get all the nice colors and unique pieces!
➡ LEGO DETECTIVE’S OFFICE PIECES: The LEGO Detective’s Office is not just an incredible set in itself, but it is also a gold-mine of unique parts and colors. We have already talked about the nougat masonry bricks, but I wanted to add here that there are 64 1×2 and 21 1×4 masonry-bricks included! There are also two of the brand now 2×2 round tiles with stud and hole in the middle, both in white. This is an extremely useful piece that will also appear in some other 2015 sets. And there is also that beautiful reflective mirror that is included in the barber-shop. This is a true reflective-mirror, the first LEGO ever made. It is on a plain piece of white plastic, protected by a thin layer of paper that you need to pull off when building the set.
There are also 6 red 2×2 round tiles with hole (also called a doughnut tile) that are used for the lettering on the side of the building. Another notable and very useful piece is the 1×1 round plate with hole in the middle in black – 17 of them! Then there are two black paint-roll handles that are used for the lights at the side of the building. The black magnifying glass for the detective is actually a new piece – larger and thicker than the previous version. The scissors are new, and you will get three of them in this set. And there are four Unikitty’s tails in dark-gray that are used for building-decoration! Also, I should mention that all the decorated parts (door and window-panes, dart-board, etc.) are printed. There is not a single sticker in this set. 😀
➡ LEGO DETECTIVE’S OFFICE PLAY-FEATURES: As LEGO Modular sets are designed for older LEGO fans they don’t usually have a back-story and play-features like the sets aimed towards kids. This is another area where the LEGO Detective’s Office breaks away from the norm. It in fact has an elaborate back-story that Jamie explains in the designer video (see below). It is centered around minifigs smuggling cookies and candy during the prohibition days. To facilitate this there is an elaborate system throughout the set: a hidden door behind the barber-shop that leads to a movable cabinet, that leads to another hidden door, that leads to a passage-way under the stairs in the alleyway, that leads to another hidden door in the pool-hall (Jamie shows all of this in the video below). The kitchen upstairs is also part of this whole smuggling operation.
In general I like LEGO’s simple and innocent play features. They are not too common in adult-oriented LEGO sets, but as long as they don’t take away from the beauty and realism of the model, and LEGO designers don’t start adding flick-fire missiles everywhere like on kiddie sets, I’m fine with them. While I really appreciate the effort of adding play-features to a LEGO Modular set to make it more fun, I believe it may have been a bit overdone here. For example, in the barber-shop a second chair could have been added for better realism, if not for that opening cabinet that hides the hidden door and needs a lot of clearance (thus takes up a lot of space).
Also, that whole strange placement of the kitchen we talked about before could have been eliminated and replaced with something more realistic. Another feature that caters to the smuggling operation is the balconies above the alleyway. They are there to facilitate chasing the smugglers and adding some parkour-type of action – which also means that they don’t really function as real balconies. They can only be accessed through a couple of windows, and they don’t have true floors, only bars that escaping minifigs can hang on to. In the review at Brickset I linked to before, Huw mentioned that he thinks this might be a fire-escape route, although I’m not convinced. They are usually at the back or side of buildings, not at the front.
So while some of the features that facilitate play (the hidden passage under the stairs in the alleyway and the hidden sliding door in the pool-hall) are really well done, I believe that others take away from the life-like realism of the set that normally characterizes the LEGO Modular Buildings, and is so important to adult LEGO fans. Fortunately the good thing about LEGO is that you can always fix things that you don’t like. On my LEGO Detective’s Office I have converted the barber-shop into a small coffee-shop and modified some of the hidden passageways to make them more streamlined (see below).
➡ LEGO DETECTIVE’S OFFICE BUILDING EXPERIENCE: William will talk about unique building techniques in this set in another review, but there were a few features I wanted to mention here briefly for the sake of completeness. The newspaper-stand at the front of the pool-hall is a really fun little build, and fully functional too! The pool sign at the side of the building looks excellent, and the lettering above the barber-shop is really well done (similar to what you see in the LEGO Pet Shop). The bathroom is a clever design, and so is the kitchen. The interior of the detective’s office is perfect in its glorious messiness, and the fan in the pool-hall is ingenious. And the decoration on top of both buildings (one with the Hero Factory hands and the other with the Unikitty tails) was really fun. But the most surprising build for both myself and William was the water-tank at the top of the building. It is an incredibly clever design – how it is done you will have to discover for yourself. 🙄
There is one feature of the set I definitely don’t like, which is not exactly related to the building experience but more like the design of the set. On both sides of the alleyway between the buildings, the walls don’t go all the way up to the next floor. In otherwords there is a big gap on the interior walls (two bricks tall), that seems to serve no purpose and makes the buildings look unnatural. I have no idea what was the idea behind this; the gaps don’t serve the play-feature, or the functionality of the set, nor can I find any other reason for them. Fortunately this is all happening in the alleyway and is not too visible, and if you do want to fix it, it is very easy to do so by just adding in a couple of standard bricks and topping them with some tiles.
➡ LEGO DETECTIVE’S OFFICE INSTRUCTIONS: I should mention that the instruction booklet for this set is different than the ones that comes with the previous LEGO Modular Buildings. First of all, it is packed in a sealed clear plastic sleeve that you need to cut open. There is no cardboard backing with the instructions inside the sleeve. The booklet itself is one very thick 175 pages long book, instead of the 2-3 thinner booklets that we are accustomed to. It works well and I didn’t have any problem with it. This may be the new way LEGO will present instructions for larger sets.
➡ LEGO DETECTIVE’S OFFICE CONCLUSIONS: Ultimately, I really like this set, and it is my second favorite LEGO Modular so far (after the LEGO Parisian Restaurant). Yes, it is different, but it still blends well with the other LEGO Modular Buildings and it has such an interesting layout. In fact, if you take into consideration that the LEGO Modulars were first developed for LEGO Train fans (so they have something in scale to run their trains around), this is probably the most realistic set as far as what I have seen near train-tracks in real life; slightly dingy and shady building with a couple of small businesses and apartments. Like all of the LEGO Modular sets, this is an excellent model that will not disappoint. It also has a wonderful parts selection and beautiful colors. Below is a picture of my current LEGO Modular street.
The #10246 LEGO Modular Detective’s Office will be available on January 1st directly from LEGO, so there are only a few more sleeps until you can get one. In the meantime you can check out the currently available LEGO Modular sets at the Online LEGO Shop.
What do you think? How do you like the LEGO Detective’s Office? Is this a set you are planning to get as soon as it comes out? Or save it for later? Or pass? And what do you think of the features we have talked about here? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below! 😉
And you might also like to check out the LEGO Modular Houses section for more news, reviews and discussions, or select from the following posts: