Hands-on: Lego Ultra Agents Mission HQ review
Building Lego is fun in itself, but Lego being Lego it wants to offer even more bang for your buck. Its new Ultra Agents range is here - not only to be built but to be interacted with using its app. This free app adds an intense story to what you've built, told in a comic book style with games to play along the way.
So is this £80 kit some of the greatest next generation Lego yet?
The core Lego building experience is still Ultra Agent's main focus, with enough parts to keep us busy for a large chunk of the weekend. It's all pretty straight forward making that 9-14 year old age bracket spot on. It's probably prohibiting younger builders simply because of its size and how much patience it takes to build the entire thing. And of course the small parts issue.
We snapped our way through the build so you can see it here (cat not included).
Sectional bags made it nice and easy to break down into stages with the final build holding together pretty well. Although it was so intricate that closing the trucks and moving it meant loose parts had fallen off when we opened it again. More building fun to be had there then.
This is what takes Lego Ultra Agents HQ to the next level. Download it for iOS and Android, chose an agent, and you're thrown into a comic story with real voices and sound effects. The story is fun and the animation is clean but vibrant in an almost cell-shaded style - it really keeps your attention. Imagine what it must seem like for a child. The story arcs are almost like a game with an end level boss and moving graphics throughout so it's not too static like a real comic. This is where it goes into game mode and you take over.
Games vary from tapping direction buttons in a certain order to racing on jet-skis or jetpacks and shooting enemies while dodging weapon fire. And quite possibly the best part is that it's all for a real-world goal - a new plan for rebuilding your Lego. Complete the six episode comic and game and you acquire more building plans - we think that makes it really compelling. You must complete a sub-game to fully complete everything and win the new building action.
The sub-game involved spotting a logo in the corner of the screen during the comic which allows you to scan the area. This is done with either an x-ray scanner, zoom lens, or analyser - the correct one reveals more storyline in the comic. It's a nice layer of more thoughtful interaction that keeps you focused on the story and also slows the pace a bit from the action of the games.
The fact that it's peppered with subtle film references is just an added bonus that is clearly aimed at adults to enjoy. The lead tough agent, for example, is called Fury - Marvel much?
In the Lego Ultra Agents HQ you end up building a truck with rear trailer that converts into a lab. There's also a small plane, quadbike, and teleporter. The bad guy included is the aptly named Terabyte, perfect for this more nerdy set which focuses on the mobile lab. Terabyte has a mech robot suit which you can also build.
The various parts are also spring- or tension-loaded for action. The quad bike, for example, fires out of the truck at speed at the push of a button. The front of the truck itself is able to fire out two orange darts that look like lights when loaded. A tap of a side button and one can be fired from either side at the front of the truck. But Terabyte's mech suit is built to fight back with a plastic arms that can be pinched to fire out green balls.
The detailing is as awesome as the weaponry though. Computer screens actually tilt, chairs swivel and robotic arms swing. Adding stickers is all part of the build that ends up giving a great finished look and also adds some nice variation to the building process.
For a Lego challenge that's straightforward enough when concentrating but will challenge your patience for the long run, Lego Ultra Agents Mission HQ is ideal. The end result is impressive with many toys to play with for £80. The app, comic and games combination is brilliantly immersive fun that adds more to the package and ultimately lets you go back to building more Lego with extra plans. It's a truly complete Lego package that should provide days of entertainment.