As part of LEGO City’s Summer 2022 slate, LEGO have released a new play and building experienced for young builders – LEGO City Missions, with 3 sets in the sub-theme that replace traditional paper-based building instructions with a new interactive digital experience.
The new guided digital building experience, combines story-telling and LEGO City Adventures-like animated sequences, and has to be accessed with the LEGO Instructions App, which you can download for Android or Apple. Do note that you’ll require an active internet connection for the app to work, which can be slightly annoying.
LEGO recently sent over one of the sets, 60354 Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions, which released on 1 June 2022, and to put it through its paces, I employed my 5-year old daughter to help test out this experience. I also participated in an interview with the set designers – and insights from that roundtable will be inserted throughout the review.
The set is currently on sale on Amazon Australia till 30 June 2022 for only AU$30.57 if you’d like to check it out.
Special thanks to LEGO for providing the sets for this review.
60354 Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions Set Details
Name: Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions
Set Number: 60354
Price: US$39.99 / AU$49.99 / £24.99 – Buy from LEGO.com [US] [AUS] [UK] [Amazon Australia]
Exclusive to: N/A
Theme: LEGO City Missions
LEGO Designer: TBD
Release Date: 1 June 2022
So this is a really interesting concept from LEGO, and another attempt at “phygital” play – to bridge the physical and digital play divide.
As it’s core, the set (and LEGO pieces you get), are a bit of a hybrid between a typical LEGO City set, and LEGO Classic, which is a collection of basic bricks. Out of the box, you get the “core” parts that will create the spaceship, and plenty of relevant elements that can be used to customise the build – which is great for free-play.
A notable thing about the packaging is that the sets come with a flip top cardboard box, which is unusual for LEGO City, and akin to older Architecture/Ideas sets. The packaging design was intentional, and works great as “storage for the set and pieces” after you’re done playing.
Designer insight: The box was important because the model is never done and you’re always going to have loose pieces, so it was important that there was a way for for kids to keep that all together through their play experience and and be able to go back.
So if you’re playing one mission Monday and then you get to another one on Wednesday, you’ve still kind of got everything all together, and to make it as simple as possible.
LEGO City Missions App Experience
The app itself is really well-designed, and unlike regular digital instructions, has a more episodic flow to it, with different missions that get unlocked after you complete them.
I like the different missions, as it can really draw out the time that you have with the set, and/or use it as rewards for kids for good behaviour – do X chore, and you can finish 2 missions. Watching my daughter interact with the app, it was also great to provide a sense of accomplishment and progress.
There is also voice acting, and high-quality graphics and animation – the quality is great, and the animations are really engaging.
The first mission has you assembling and customising your very own minifigures. The red lightbulb prompts show up when you have building to do.
Here’s a look at the minifigures my daughter customised. There’s plenty to do, and you can freely swap wigs, helmets, and even torsos/legs however you like.
You get 3 different modern LEGO City astronaut suits, and flight suits, as well as the new Daft Punk-style helmets.
Here’s a look at their faces, and different wig options.
And yes, you can also equip them with accessories like this metal detector, which has had a slight facelift!
Here’s a look at the back printing.
These are pretty cool, and a great spin on the Classic Space LEGO Astronaut. and I like the homage to the OG with the Classic Space logo on the flight suits.
Here’s some screenshots of the various missing. After personalising your team of Astronauts, you then begin assembling the spacecraft that will take you to Mars.
The plotlines are fairly simplistic, but it encourages creativity – when you see this screen appear, it’s a prompt to free-build – no instructions required, although you can view examples of other builds which sources imagery from LEGO Life , as inspiration.
Designer Insight: Our goal was to explore what can you do more for creative play? Plus really seeing that creativity is such a such a human thing – everyone is creative. It’s inherent, it’s inside of us. But we know that as we get older, it’s so easy to to forget that and to lose that. To build that creative confidence, you have to start when you’re young. And so if we can get that for kids, if we can help them realize their confidence as early as possible, they’re going to just bring that with them the rest of their lives.
The Story was such a good enabler for that because it it gives you the beginning, but it doesn’t give you the end.
When I first heard of LEGO City Missions, I was quite apprehensive about the no instructions model, and the reliance of an app, but observing my daughter play through the missions, I think it’s great for younger builders, who may need that extra push to freely build, and in a way, tear themselves away from linear instructions.
The app and instructions were also easy to navigate, and didn’t require a ton of supervision and intervention from me.
While it’s a really polished experience, the ending was a little lacklustre… as you sorta just finish building, and that’s it. There wasn’t much fanfare, which was quite underwhelming after the initial buildup, and sense of achievement created after progressing through the missions.
An extended cutscene, or even prompt to break up the Spaceship, and rebuild again.
For an experience that is so heavily story-driven, it feels like a wasted opportunity not to have an “endgame”, or even prompts or suggestions on what else you could build with the parts after you’re finished with the Mars Spacecraft.
Now this isn’t going to be a traditional review, as there isn’t a singular Mars Spaceraft that everyone gets, but here’s what my daughter built.
As you can tell, it’s a typical spaceship designed by a 5 year old, and has plenty of fun gadgets like a net, claw and plenty of fiery bits erupting on all sides.
I did like this comically large fire extinguisher, which has a fun design, more so because it has a handle that allows a minifigure to grip it.
There are also these rocket-powered asteroids, which can hurtle towards the ship/astronauts.
There’s also a cute robot dog that you can build, with printed eyes on a trans-blue cheese slope.
There are some cool elements included in the set, such as this Geode piece, which comes in light bluish gray for the first time.
Other great elements are the great selection of Classic Space parts, such as this flag, and printed double cheese slope. the planet is a little orangey, so not the classic gold. Maybe it’s a way to differentiate the “modern” classic space from the original.
I believe both these elements are new and currently exclusive to this set, which should please fans of Classic Space.
Here’s some more shots of the front, which my daughter attached a net, solar panels, and a claw grip to, as well as the double cockpit which can fit 2 Pilots/Astronauts.
Here’s the 2 control panels, which are printed on slopes.
In a year that celebrates all things Classic Space, comparisons are sure to be drawn with the original, and I think this is a fun, approachable and fresh take on Classic Space.
Here’s a comparison with 918 One Man Space Ship – many of Classic Space’s design language is present here, including the logos, and mix of blues and yellows – if only the cockpit windscreens were trans-yellow!
It’s a good dose of nostalgia, that while aimed at kids, might also draw in Classic Space fans, or evoke some fond memories of swooshing spaceships in the 70s and 80s.
What I liked:
- Digital mission instructions are executed well
- Polished app experience
- Great spaceship parts pack
- Flip top box
- Plenty of Classic Space nods
What I didn’t like:
- End of “game” is quite underwhelming
- I still would like some physical instructions, or a pictorial guide
- LEGO Instructions App requires active internet connection
The more I think about 60354 Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions, the more I like the entire concept of the LEGO City Missions subtheme.
As a “phygital” (physical + digital) play experience, unlike some of LEGO’s clumsier attempts (Hidden Side, Vidiyo), and because creativity is at the heart of the concept, and play experience, it feels so much more natural – almost unforced.
I was also surprised to discover that this product has been in development for four and a half years, which is really long, even by LEGO standards, where it’s typically 2 years plus for a set to come to life. There were seven iterations in total, and this is a really great MVP (minimum viable product) and showcase of what LEGO calls “fluid play”.
Despite my reservations with the app, I found that my daughter had a lot of fun – she usually either completely free-builds her Friends city/houses, or follows instructions for sets, and it was nice seeing her take on a spaceship, and see what she did.
She found it enjoyable, engaging and most of all, it seemed very native to her transitioning from the app prompts/storytelling to building with LEGO.
As a LEGO set, I really like that this is a “themed MOC pack”, where you have all that you need for a core build – in this case a spaceship, with the right minifigures, but you are also given plenty of useful and relevant elements to take it further, and truly make it your own.
A lot of modern LEGO sets can sometimes feel rigid – you buy a set, and you can build a jeep, plane, and nothing much else, but I’d like to see more sets like this, that hopefully go beyond LEGO City.
If you’re on the fence, but have young kids looking for a fun building experience and parts pack, I recommend checking the LEGO City Missions sets out – but not at full price. As it’s a LEGO City set, you can probably get it at a decent discount, which makes it a great buy.
If all else fails, and you refuse to use digital instructions, you are more than welcome to free-build and make your own spacecrafts, which is why I like this concept, and the generous amount of relevant elements included.
Rating and score: 3/5 ★★★✰✰
Build  – Plenty of free-building that isn’t too hard for younger builders
Real Value  – You get enough parts for a spaceship, and more, as well as 3 minifigures, with plenty of accessories
Innovation  – LEGO have done well with the app – it feels polished and natural
Coolness  – It’s something new, and it’s Classic Space themed
Keepability  – A lot of replayability, as you can build and rebuild as much as you want. Only wish it was encouraged in the app.
60354 Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions is available now from LEGO.com, along with the rest of the LEGO City Missions sets – 60353 Wild Animal Rescue Missions and 60355 Water Police Detective Missions,
In Australia currently on sale on Amazon Australia till 30 June 2022 for only AU$30.57 if you’d like to check it out.
What do you think of LEGO City Missions, and is this something your kids would be interested in?
In case you missed it, check out some of my recent LEGO reviews!
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