I’m incredibly honoured to be able to bring you an early review of the newest LEGO Ideas set, 21305 Maze. Ideas is one of my favourite themes from LEGO and I love the unexpectedness, creativity and unique concepts that are the hallmark of the entire theme.
When the 13th Ideas set, 21305 Maze was officially unveiled earlier this month, I was incredibly pleased and excited to see the final product. Jason Alleman’s brick built version of the classic Labyrinth Marble Maze Game just oozes creativity and originality and I was both impressed and surprised that LEGO greenlit the project. It’s a big gamble by LEGO, launching a LEGO set like this, but I hope it pays off for them.
The LEGO Ideas Maze is such a bold concept, so I hope my review will help shed some light on this unique set and help you make a decision on this set when it becomes available for purchase. LEGO 21305 Ideas Maze will be released on 1 April 2016 on LEGO.com and will cost US$69.99.
No news on the Australian price yet, but I’ll update as soon as information becomes available.
The Maze’s Australian price is $99.99 and is now available on LEGO.com.
Special thanks to LEGO for sending an early review copy for the purpose of this review!
First impressions when I unwrapped the box – wow, it’s massive! The LEGO Ideas Maze set is absolutely huge and is the largest Ideas set to date. Weighing in at 769 pieces, the box feels incredibly heavy as the pieces in the set are huge. There are hardly any tiny elements such as 1 x 1 plates or round studs, the pieces included are of the larger variety and contribute a lot to the set’s heft. Don’t be fooled by the piece count, you’re getting plenty of ABS plastic in this set.
Here’s a look at the contents of the box. My heart sank when I realised that the bags were unnumbered. For a set that has this many pieces, it meant a very painful and frustrating building process as you aimlessly stare at a sea of homogeneous bricks looking for that one piece that you need. Very excruciating.
Oh and side note about the box quality – the cardboard felt a lot thinner and less sturdy than previous Ideas sets. I chalk it up to the larger size, which makes it feel a lot more flimsier. It still isn’t as flimsy as regular LEGO boxes, but doesn’t feel as thick as previous Ideas boxes.
Some fascinating parts right out of the box – a 32 x 32 light grey baseplate, which I believe is quite uncommon, having only shown up in the Parisian Restaurant before this. The four 8 x 16 black plates included are also fairly rare as they were previously only included in the UCS Tie Fighter set.
Like all Ideas sets, the instruction manual is one of the highlights of the set. We get a thick instruction manual, with a rather odd design. The grey border surrounding the brown maze background looks quite odd. No idea why they didn’t just cover the entire booklet in the sweet maze design.
There’s plenty of great reading contained in the manual, such as a profile of the designer, Jason Allemann of JK Brickworks and some background information of the original Ideas project.
Building the Maze was unlike any other LEGO set that I’ve ever assembled. You start off with the base, putting together the foundations and the Technic pieces that facilitate the Maze’s tilting mechanism. Plenty of Technic liftarms and axles are used for the mechanical system, which is operated and linked to 2 wheels that provide the means to control the entire Maze.
Once the base is completed, you add on two tan frames – an inner and outer wall that tilt at different axes.
Here’s a closer look at the Technic bits. It was a pretty fascinating experience – the frames were pretty repetitive, but I enjoyed putting the Technic parts and axles together as Technic isn’t something I dabble in and of course, I was very inquisitive and wanted to see how the mechanism worked.
I really liked the clever use of different coloured bricks (red, blue, yellow) which were very useful indicators and acted as bearings of the model. It’s quite a challenging build as you’ll need to rotate the set quite a bit during the construction process, so younger builders might need a little assistance from a grown-up.
Here’s a nifty little brick-built container to store the balls used for the maze. The balls are standard LEGO balls. They’re not perfect spheres and have little dimples in them, which can sometimes cause them to get stuck in the maze which is a bit of a pain.
Apart from being used as a storage solution, the container also acts as a stopper, which locks the Maze in place, preventing it from tilting if you’re travelling or moving around with it.
Here’s the container locked into place, secured by a L-brick.
On the opposing corner is another black block that secures the Maze into place for transport.
Here’s a look at how the Maze tilts. Not sure if it was a design flaw, but I was quite frustrated that one the frames didn’t tilt evenly in one direction. One of the axis tilts just fine, and it’s balanced in just how much it tilts in both directions. The other axis just doesn’t tilt well (the one with the yellow Technic liftarm) as it gets obstructed half way through.
It was kind of frustrating as I would’ve liked the tilting to be even on each side, especially since game’s mechanics require you to tilt it slightly in different directions to manipulate gravity to guide the ball. When I first discovered the unintuitive tilt, I panicked as I thought I’d made some sort of mistake during the build but nope, it seems to be designed that way.
After awhile, I got used to the limited tilt and managed to incorporate it into my playstyle. I managed to beat both Mazes, so it’s not a critical flaw or anything – just something that feels rather jarring and unnatural.
Once the frames are completed and in place, the Maze has almost taken shape. The frames act as a nest for the Maze Plate to be inserted in.
Here’s a look at the Classic Maze Plate, constructed on four 8 x 16 plates. I really like LEGO tiles and was delighted to receive so many in this set. The Maze plates are the trump card of the LEGO Ideas Maze as they are infinitely customisable since you know, they’re made out of LEGO.
One of the biggest draws of this set is that you’re given all the tools to let your creativity flourish and customise your very own layouts and puzzles. Keep an eye out on the JK Brickworks Maze page where the designer will upload instructions for additional Mazes. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the wider LEGO fan community comes up when this set is released.
The Maze plate fits extremely snugly into the frame. I’m talking razor thin margins here. It’s a really tight fit and I had a bit trouble fitting it into the frame and removing it at first till I got the hang of it. That’s not a flaw, but more of a testament of LEGO’s legendary manufacturing precision.
Once you’ve locked in the Maze Plate, it’s time to play!
If you’re unfamiliar with the classic Labyrinth Marble Game, the concept is easy to grasp but difficult to master. You turn the dials on each side to tilt the maze, using gravity and momentum to guide the ball pass the traps, and navigate your way through the maze to reach the end goal.
Here’s a video of the Maze in action.
The LEGO Ideas Maze is unlike any LEGO set I’ve ever built, simply because it’s meant to be played with. That’s a huge paradigm shift for me as I’m an adult collector, which means I typically build sets expressly to admire them on display, or pose them for a bit of photography.
The interactivity and playability of this set is through the roof and I have to admit that as soon as I completed the set, I spent a lengthy amount of time playing with it.
I cannot overstate how fun playing with the Maze was.
As an added bonus, the set also comes with instructions and parts for an alternative medieval-style maze plate. Unfortunately, you’ll have to rip out the existing tiles on the maze plate to swap designs which is a bit of a hassle. Wish LEGO would’ve included more plates so that you could build on another and swap them in and out as you please.
I really like the medieval maze plate, which incorporates micro-scale design influences, as well as a burst of colour thanks to the green tiles, brown walls and small roofed structures and castles.
Really cool designs and it could almost pass off as a stand-alone micro-scale build, but it does serve a really good purpose for some much-needed variety when you inevitably get bored/master the first maze layout.
While the medieval maze-plate looks cool and all, it is also so much easier to beat compared to the classic one. Here’s a video of me completing the maze! In the 18s mark you can see the ball getting stuck and I had to violently shake the maze in order to dislodge it.
The classic layout is actually pretty damn challenging and it took me quite some time to properly master the route and become comfortable with the controls to beat it in one go. Like classic skill-based games, there is a certain sense of achievement – a rush that you get when you beat the physical challenge of the game that was very nice to feel.
The LEGO Ideas Maze is one tough set to review simply because unlike most other LEGO sets, the intrinsic value of this set lies in the actual functionality and playability of the Maze. Pictures, while they’re nice and all simply do not come close to fully communicating what this set has to offer.
Even the videos and GIFs I shared, while giving you a more realistic and dynamic look at the functionality of the maze also fails to capture the satisfaction of how this set works and most importantly, how it feels in your hand as you play with it.
The mechanics and smoothness of how it all works is truly marvelous and it combines a sense of simplicity with a challenging physicality that comes together to provide an incredibly fun play experience.
Put simply, you have to build and play with the LEGO Ideas Maze to truly appreciate the essence and brilliance of this set. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, since this game has been around for decades but the fact that such a mechanical feat could be made possible by LEGO elements is a triumph that the LEGO Ideas theme can take credit in bringing to life.
What I liked:
- The indescribable fun of playing with a physical toy
- Great selection of parts – plenty of huge bricks, elements and tiles
- An incredibly unique concept
- Excellent way to entertain guests to your home
What I didn’t like:
- Uprooting all the tiles to swap maze designs
- Tilting mechanism isn’t 100% balanced
- Questionable longevity as a LEGO model
Final thoughts: The LEGO Ideas Maze is not for everyone. While it certainly checks a lot of boxes such as being really fun to play with and is a stellar example of a unique concept born out of the LEGO Ideas platform, it is also far from what you’d expect from a conventional LEGO set.
The Maze gets a lot of things right. It’s a hefty, well constructed set made out of some really great parts. , as evident by the bountiful supply of large tan & black bricks, tiles and other miscellaneous parts. It nails the “supposedly golden rule” of <US$0.10c a piece, which is sometimes disingenuous but totally not the case in this set since you can appreciate how much plastic you get from the overall weight.LEGO definitely didn’t tighten the purse strings on this set
I’m still a-mazed (heh) that LEGO greenlit this set since it represents such a bizarre shift from a regular LEGO set and I daresay that we will never get to see a set like this ever again. An engineering marvel, I have to really commend designer Jason Alleman for designing and conceptualizing such a wonderful creation.
Minor flaws such as the slightly uneven tilting mechanism or the hassle of switching maze plate designs aside, the thing that holds this set back is also its most defining feature – it just feels like a novelty item.
As an adult fan, a lot of the decision making process when buying LEGO sets comes down to how good it looks on display and I imagine many of my peers qualify sets the same way too. You’ll never catch me buying a set because of its interactive play features as it doesn’t interest me at all.
While I had and do have a lot of fun playing with the Maze, I do realise that like with many things, I will eventually get bored of it, which then relegates it to being a display piece. But unlike a Star Wars UCS set, Modular Buildings or the Tower of Orthanc (my fav set of all time), it just doesn’t have that display X-factor which compels me to never want to disassemble it or remove it from my limited display space.
That said, I really like the LEGO Ideas Maze. Just like Birds, the Maze sets the tone for the kind of unique brilliance and creativity that the Ideas platform looks to promote and ultimately turn into retail LEGO sets. I also love the limitless potential for maze and puzzle designers and how customisable this set promises to be.
For parents looking to develop their kid’s motor skills, hand-eye coordination and also creativity, the Ideas Maze has a unique capability to do all of that and more. I suspect that kids will be much more welcoming and appreciative of this set, rather than your typical, mainstream adult LEGO fan. There’s just something innately special about the fact that this set allows you to essentially “build your own plaything”.
The LEGO Ideas Maze is not for everyone, but if you’re into puzzles, challenging physical board games and experiencing a LEGO set that’s unlike anything else, you’re the perfect person to appreciate Jason Alleman’s Maze.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope that you enjoyed my review! Do let me know your thoughts in the comments and if the Maze is on your to-buy list! If you have any questions or would like me to snap any specific photos or test anything out, please let me know as well!
The LEGO Ideas Maze’s release date is 1 April 2016 and will retail for US$69.99 from LEGO.com.