They say that you should end your year with a bang, so here I am with (in my honest opinion) THE best set of 2018 – the LEGO Roller Coaster.
This review has been long in the making, and I’ve been saving it to close out the year so I hope you enjoy what is the boldest, most ambitious and one of THE most impressive LEGO sets that I’ve ever built.
Special thanks to LEGO for sending this to me for review.
Name: Roller Coaster
Set Number: 10261
Price: AU$499.99 | US$379.99 | £29.99 – Buy from LEGO.com [AUS] [USA] [UK]
Exclusive to: LEGO.com / LEGO Brand Retail Stores
Theme: Creator Expert
Release Date: 1 June 2018
No joke, but this set took me more than 6 months to complete. I’ve been building it off and on (more off than on) over the past few months but I’m glad I was finally able to complete it.
LEGO sent this set to me ages ago but one thing led to another, and I’ve been putting off the build ever since. One of the reasons was also simply finding the space to display it when done – it now occupies a whole shelf of its own in my study.
10261 Roller Coaster is the largest LEGO set that I’ve personally built at 4124 pieces, so that’s quite a significant milestone for me.
When LEGO announced the set in April, the collective jaws of LEGO fans across the world figuratively dropped in unison. It’s part of the Creator Expert Theme Park sub-theme which also includes the Fairground Mixer, Carousel and Ferris Wheel, which will be retiring in 2019.
The Roller Coaster is the biggest, and greatest of them all.
For a set that costs half a thousand Australian dollars, I’d rather have no stickers, but we both know that’s not going to happen in this economy.
That said, the stickers add a lot of fun and personality to the set, with some really fun illustrations that really bring the theme park vibe to life.
Bonus points is that they’re all fairly easy to apply. I would’ve loved if we got the decal-type stickers instead of the paper-based ones, but oh well.
The set comes with a whopping 11 minifigures, which is fantastic as you get a whole diverse cast of characters to fill the set up with.
It is a behemoth of a set, so even with 11 minifigures, it does still feel quite empty. I reckon you’ll need about 50 minifigures placed around the set to simulate a proper theme park with hordes of people and unending lines.
The 11 minifigures are made up of Roller Coaster passengers, park attendants, and an elderly couple who are taking their granddaughter out for a fun day at the theme park.
I love the 4 minifigures that have shocked, queasy and horrified expressions on their dual-sided heads – absolutely perfect to capture the many faces of those that are scared silly by roller coasters.
Here’s a look at the family plus a random woman which has a sleepy, eyes closed face.
And here’s everyone from the back. I do like that you get 2 LEGO employees, who I guess have second jobs at the theme park.
I guess living costs in LEGO City have skyrocketed out of control. More seriously, I do think the LEGO branding is a nod to Legoland theme parks, where such roller coasters (usually based on Technic) exist.
The first thing you realise halfway through the build is that you most likely have severely underestimated how massive this set is.
See above for the LEGO Saturn V rocket for scale. It’s seriously huge AND tall and will most likely need a whole shelf on its own to display.
The build was very, very fun. There are some bits that are terribly repetitive such as the countless columns and pillars you put together, not to mention this shocker of a page where you’re expected to piece together 203 links together for the chain.
That said, there’s almost never a dull moment as you’re constantly kept on your toes, waiting to see how it all comes together.
It cannot be overstated how accomplished I felt when I was at the stages where I had to start laying tracks, and when I placed the last piece in.
It is a gorgeous, beautiful creation and I just marveled at the scale of the set, and quickly started playing with it.
Let’s take a tour of the Roller Coaster grounds.
It wouldn’t be a theme park without some food stands, and we have a Cotton Candy cart for those with a sweet tooth.
We get two sticks of cotton candy, which very cleverly use pink-coloured beehive elements.
The cart itself is compact, but packs all the familiar trappings of a cotton candy machine. I do love the glass dome, where pink 1 x 1 studs bop around to form cotton candy clouds, and the trans-pink umbrella.
Over on the other side of the park is a ticket booth which features a very colourful facade. The use of gold roller skates for added bit of texture below the ticket counter is another great but subtle design hint.
The LEGO employee in the ticket booth has a chair that can be swivelled around to face inside the park.
There is a photo counter on the other side of the ticket booth, which is a familiar sight if you’ve been to any theme park where they’ll try and convince you to buy overpriced photos of yourself during the drop.
The photo booth contains my favourite little addition, with photo tiles of the faces of the Roller Coaster passengers in various signs of distress. I love the one that has a photobombing Seagull.
Just across the photobooth is a small fountain which has a gold nugget in the middle of it.
Throughout the ‘park’, there are plenty of flowers and plants to ensure that it doesn’t look too barren.
On the other end, near the Cotton Candy cart is a small enclave of natural beauty, with a small pond, lily pads, reeds
and a small pine tree.
Update: Okay, the pine tree doesn’t exist. I added this in myself by accident! Sorry for the confusion!
Back to the park is the second booth, which houses a Juice Stand – to keep park goers hydrated.
It’s manned by an elderly lady who’s just so eager at getting nutritious fruit juices into the hands of the guests.
Props to LEGO to promote juice instead of soda.
I do love the simple and retro design of the booth, and the clever use of leaf and technic ball joints to create the logo.
I especially love the roof’s colour scheme which combines pale yellow with white stripes on the awning.
Another highlight of the Roller Coaster surrounds are the trees, which I absolutely love the design of.
They’re made with brown flower stems, and the 3-leaf pieces, and I love the spherical, neatly manicured look of them, coupled with the long thin trunk.
Another really nice touch is the park map, which features all the recent theme park sets, with the glaring omission of the Fairground Mixer.
Oh, I also love the height chart, which checks to see if the minifigures are tall enough for the rides!
There’s a staircase that leads up to the boarding station where park guests can line up to ride the Roller Coasters.
The boarding platform is quite simple, but has all the recognizable features of one from a real theme park. Firstly, I love the use of the dark blue uh, snow-plough pieces for the roof, which gives it a classic zinc-roof look.
There are turnstiles that open outwards to allow guests in and out of the Roller Coaster trains, and there’s a park attendant on duty to hit the buttons and get the Roller Coaster trains going.
As you approach the boarding platform, you’re hit with another familiar sight – a bunch of warning signs prohibiting items like cameras, cups, ice cream, babies and uh, pets from the ride.
When I first saw photos of the Roller Coaster, I immediately fell in love with it, but it didn’t hit me just how beautiful the set is until I completed it.
The photos fail to do it justice, especially all the little details and you really get a sense of appreciation of the Roller Coaster’s design, from snapping and connecting all these columns together.
Here’s the view from above.
The set is remarkably sturdy, although as you may imagine, there are several weak points throughout the build.
It’s a bit of a challenge to transport and move around due to its size and weight, but once you’ve figured out the stronger points, you should be able to lift it up. To be safe, I’ve tried to just carry the set around on the base.
The architecture of the set is one of its most underrated aspects. There are so many gorgeous geometric details when viewing it from all angles, that you can only get by seeing it up close.
There’s a really nice blend of symmetry, curves and bars and columns.
Don’t forget to say hi to the camera, which snaps the photos of guests as they hurtle down the drop!
I just took a bunch of these photos above to try and illustrate the beauty interiors of the Roller Coaster. I love the bright red tracks, and how well they contrast against the bright white columns.
It’s wonderfully intricate and just a joy to behold.
I love the geometric lines, curved tracks, and the layers upon layers of complexity that the entire frame consists of.
And one of the most eye-catching features of the Roller Coaster is this exquisite brick-built alphabet sign – I really love the stylised S, which is cool yet so campy, and the use of the gold roller skates are a great touch to represent the trains.
So architecture and design might be enough to set any other LEGO set apart, but this isn’t just any LEGO set. The fun is only just getting started as we get into the play features – the main draw of the LEGO Roller Coaster, as you may imagine.
The secret to the Roller Coaster trains zipping around the tracks with minimal friction are these new low-friction wheels.
There’s a secondary train for more passengers that can go into the system.
The most astounding thing about this set is that it’s built and designed as you would a real Roller Coaster, using gravity to move the train across the tracks without the need for motors.
I’m still blown away that the LEGO Designers finally were able to bring this concept to life thanks to the combination of the new Roller Coaster tracks, and the low-friction wheels.
In the photo above, you can see the mechanism that operates the chain which carries the Roller Coaster to its highest point.
To get the Roller Coaster moving, it’s powered by a hand-crank lever or Power Functions.
The lever with the arrow can be pulled to retract the bumper wheels, which cause the Roller Coaster to either stop when arriving at the station, or to go on through.
The middle crank is to get the trains from the station to the base of the climb, and the right-most crank is to get the chain moving to ride it all the way to the top.
Here’s a look at the climb, and all 203 chains that I had to painfully snap together one by one.
At the top of the Roller Coaster, you’re greeted by a Do Not Stand Up sign, which I think is utterly hilarious.
At the top, by twisting the crank, or letting the motor do its thing, it rotates these 3 bumpers to nudge the train towards the drop.
And wheeeee, away it goes!
I was quite surprised how quickly it moved throughout the system – I didn’t expect it to go so fast, but I guess that’s what 9.807 m/s² does to you.
The low-friction wheels and the tracks just work so effortlessly well – massive kudos to the LEGO engineering, design and materials team for pulling this off.
Here’s a look at the train in various sections.
Love this sign halfway through the circuit.
And lastly, the guy that got sick throughout the ride. Lucky he held it in!
Of course, this set isn’t 100% complete without Power Functions. This is the first time I’ve ever played with Power Functions, but I was surprised how easy it was to set it up.
Surprised that I needed 6 AA batteries though – that seems fairly extravagant these days. I would love to have LEGO create a rechargeable battery box that can be juiced up via USB C.
To get the Roller Coaster going, you’ll need a Battery Box, and a Motor. I picked the 8293 Power Functions Set which had all that I needed.
The Roller Coaster is also compatible with LEGO Boost, but I didn’t get to try that out.
Installing the motor to the Roller Coaster was super easy. It basically goes where this axle goes.
And I just left the box lying about in the space next to it. If you have the rechargeable battery box, you should be able to attach it to the studs.
For a set like this, words and photos only go so far – so here’s a video of the motorised Roller Coaster in action!
What I liked:
- Man, just everything about the set
- How well the Roller Coaster mechanism works
- The design and architecture of the set
- Lots of minifigures with all their varied expressions
- Basic colours work so well together
What I didn’t like:
- Build was tedious at times
- Tough to display as it takes up tons of space
Final thoughts: Every now and then, LEGO creates a set that transcends what LEGO is all about, elevating it beyond just a rudimentary construction toy.
10261 Roller Coaster is a triumph on so many levels. Firstly, the engineering required to design the entire system in a way that works so effortlessly cannot go unmentioned.
It’s just so buttery smooth, how the roller coaster trains just glide on the tracks, much like the real thing its based on.
The crank shaft, and the chain which pulls it upwards to the pinnacle also mimics the real thing so amazingly well.
Secondly, the design. It takes a special kind of set to marry engineering and design like this, all while ensuring that the finished model is a beauty to behold.
This set is beautiful in the most unconventional ways – it doesn’t boast a highly detailed facade, or creative build techniques, but as you may have seen in the photos above, I’ve pretty much fallen in loves with the blend of straight lines, curved tracks, and criss-crossing beams that pepper the Roller Coaster’s entire structure.
A truly outstanding LEGO set draws you in constantly, from the moment you finish building it, to when you notice new details or visual patterns when you look at it.
While the retail set isn’t 100% complete, I strongly recommend adding Power Functions to the Roller Coaster, as it then achieves the vision that the designers laid out for the set.
I consider this one of the best LEGO sets aimed at adults (but really, kids will have a blast with this) – it’s monumental to behold, and looks impressive on display thanks to its sheer size, but once you fire up the crank or the motor, the set transforms into something really special, and really marvelous – something you can truly show off when you have guests over, or for your own personal enjoyment.
I rarely dole out 5/5 ratings on the blog, as I truly give it out to sets I deem absolutely flawless, but 10261 Roller Coaster easily gets a perfect score for being such an outstanding set.
At AU$500, this set doesn’t come cheap, and is one of the most expensive sets on the market, but I would not flinch at dropping the money on this set, as I truly believe that it’s one of the best sets of 2018.
It’s pricey, but the value that’s packed in the set is more than worth the price of admission. If you consider yourself a serious LEGO fan, I would seriously consider adding this set to your collection (or building it if you already own it!) if you haven’t already.
We’ll probably see more Roller Coasters down the line, and I hope to see ones that dwarf this in scale, but for now, in this moment, 10261 is what I would consider a perfect LEGO set.
You can purchase the Roller Coaster from LEGO.com or from LEGO Brand Retail Stores. In Australia, I believe this set is slated to come to David Jones as an exclusive some time in 2019 – possibly for the mid-year toy sale.
Special thanks to LEGO for sending this set for review.
Hope you enjoyed the review! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, especially if you already own the Roller Coaster. Let me know what you think!
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Until next time!