I really love reviewing and photographing LEGO sets, and it’s been too long since my last set review which coincidentally was also from the Arctic theme (Arctic Ice Crawler). I constructed the Arctic Helicrane a few weeks ago, and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since so I decided to put my Sunday to good use, photographing it in anticipation of a full review which you are now reading!
For more information about LEGO City’s Arctic subtheme, check out my What is…? LEGO City Arctic post.
Name: Arctic Helicrane
Set Number: 60034
Price: AU$39.99 (LEGO.com link)
Exclusive to: N/A
Adorable Huskies: 4
Theme: City Arctic
Year of Release: 2014
I seem to have a curious affinity with 6 rotor Helicopers from the LEGO City theme – the last time I built a Helicopter was last year’s 60013 Coast Guard Helicopter. The Arctic Helicrane was one of the first sets from the Arctic theme that I knew that I wanted – firstly because the idea of owning an Orange helicopter was totally rad, and secondly because I wanted the Huskies included in the set.
If you think the Arctic Helicrane looks oddly familiar, you’re not wrong. You’ve probably seen it in the news before, especially if you’re an Australian LEGO fan.
That’s right – the Arctic Helicrane’s design is loosely based on the very same Helicopter (a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane) that was LEGO-fied by Australian LEGO Certified Professional Ryan McNaught. And yes, it’s the very same one that infamously made headlines around the world when it was damaged by 2 vandals when it was on display at a shopping mall in Cairns. You can check out more pictures of Ryan’s Elvis helicopter on his Flickr album.
Any way, enough back story and on to the good bits, the actual LEGO set itself! Let’s kick things of by checking out the instructions followed by the minifigures before we dive into the actual build itself.
The instruction manuals for the Arctic Helicrane are cleverly separated into the separate booklets for the two major components of the set, the Helicrane itself and the Husky-Research-Sleigh. It’s supposed to be a modular build, which means you can start with either bag. I quite like builds like this, because you have the option of working together with either your kid or loved ones to collaboratively assemble a set together.
The only thing I didn’t like is that the manuals are both different sized, which may be a minor irritant if you sort your manuals by size. I’m one of those people, so it’s quite a pain having both manuals in separate files.
We get two minifigures in the set, a male helicopter pilot and a female Arctic explorer. I really love that they incorporated some gender diversity into this set, as I’m of the opinion that more female minifigures is always a good thing – especially if these minifigures get to play cool roles like Arctic explorers.
The Helicopter Pilot is pretty stock standard, wearing a brown poofy jacket that has fur trimmings. He’s got the same smug pilot look, complete with aviator sunglasses and a helmet. I would’ve liked it if the pilot had a communicator mouthpiece on his face but he looks pretty decent as is. I also like that he has black (possibly leather) gloves for his hands – a subtle but very believable design cue.
The Pilot also has 2 orange straps that are for his parachute (or backpack, depending on how you look at it) which is another neat little inclusion. Piloting a helicrane in unpredictable Arctic weather must be pretty dangerous and it’s great that the pilot is prepared for any accidents.
The Arctic Explorer is decked out in the usual bright orange and blue uniform that has great bits of detail such as carabiners and instruments. The only main difference is that she has a ‘female’ torso print in which her body has a more noticeable hourglass shape. She’s got the new standard issue Arctic Explorer blue fur hoodie and an orange visor on her face.
Removing her fur parka allows you to get a better look at her facial features which has feminine touches such as eyelashes and a very light lipstick shade. Unfortunately both minifigures don’t have dual sided face printing, but that’s pretty common when it comes to LEGO City minifigs.
Both minifigures have back printing, with the most interesting one belonging to the Helicopter Pilot who has a bright orange parachute. It’s too small to be a backpack so I’m sticking with it being a parachute. I like that the parachute is also bright orange and bears the LEGO City Arctic logo.
The Arctic Explorer also has a large logo on her back but other than the continuation of her attire’s printing, there’s nothing particularly special about her torso.
Here’s the real draw of the set – the adorable new LEGO Husky dog. When I first saw images of the Huskies, I instantly knew that I had to amass as many as I could possibly get my hands on. Who doesn’t want to construct their own husky race?
I also collect LEGO’s Winter Village theme, so Huskies seemed like an almost no-brainer addition to any decent Winter Village.
You get a small pack of 4 huskies in the Arctic Helicrane set. They’re really cute and exceptionally designed – they’re by far the best dogs that LEGO have ever designed. The designers improved on the regular dog mould by adding on a generous mane of hair, as well as rounded out the facial features and ears which really captures how a husky looks like in real life.
The Huskies are there to pull the sleigh that the Arctic Explorer uses to document her surroundings and help pinpoint ice blocks which she harvests to conduct more research into the mysterious silver crystals that lie hidden inside them.
One fantastic thing that I noticed about the huskies was that each individual dog is unique in its own way, with slight variations to its grey fur thanks to how the dye is injected in the moulding process. It’s a pretty minor feature but the fact that every husky has a unique fur pattern is very very impressive as it adds so much to the individuality of these animals.
The huskies are an indispensable part of the Arctic Expedition, tirelessly pulling the sleigh across the icy terrain. The Husky Sleigh is the focus of Bag 1 and is quite a charming little build.
For a compact sleigh, the designers have done a remarkable job fitting different elements on to it, such as this camera. The camera has quite a large lens, much like cameras that nature photojournalists use in the field. The huskies pull the sled along via a pole that is attached to the sleigh using a ball joint, which gives it a surprising level of flexibility as you can swivel it in many different angles.
The Arctic Explorer has a small space to stand in the front part of the sleigh.
The sleigh is used to ferry the Arctic Explorer’s field equipment – a metal detector, ice picks and a walkie-talkie that fits snugly in an open wooden crate. There’s also a pair of snow shoes lodged there, to help with traversing through the ice.
There’s a stickered tile with what seems to be a sonar or radar display, which I think is a gadget used to detect the location of ice crystals.
I really like the Husky Sleigh, as it manages to hold all the equipment that an Arctic Explorer would need. It wastes no space or uses any parts that don’t need to be on the sleigh.
Here’s a shot of the Arctic Explorer shooting some footage for a documentary on the relentless endurance of husky sleigh dogs.
In Bag 1, you’ll also find the Helicrane’s cargo container, which safely holds the ice block that encases the metallic crystals that are the subject of the Arctic explorers’ expedition and research. I quite like the generally clean design of the container, which can be hoisted up by the Helicrane.
The translucent blue ice block is a really cool part from the theme- I really don’t mind having as many of these as I can possibly collect.
Bag 2 contains the main course, the Arctic Helicrane itself. My first impression of the finished helicopter was that it was huge, especially the impressive span of the rotors. I also found the Helicrane’s shape to be very unique and very unlike conventional LEGO helicopters because of the large empty space where its body should be.
Like most City sets, the Helicrane is almost blanketed with stickers – and not even the good kind. It bears repeating that I’ve learned to tolerate stickers as a necessary evil these days. It’s inconceivable to expect LEGO to produce quantities of printed elements that reflect the level of detail that we’ve come to expect from sets. But dear me, would it be too difficult to give us transparent decals instead of the papery ones like you see in the picture above?
Transparent stickers have a higher level of quality, look better because the white space is almost invisible AND they’re not as noticeable when applied.
Here’s a view of the Helicrane from the side, which further illustrates its odd shape and the cavernous empty space right after the cockpit ends. It does look quite odd and if I may dare say, quite bare and skeletal. The Helicrane is quite long, with an extended tail section to compensate for its massive rotors which further accentuates the look.
The rotors, while impressively large also leave much to be desired. I like spinning the rotors of LEGO Helicopters because the spinning motion is usually quite fluid and smooth. The Arctic Helicrane’s rotors spin smoothly at the start, but as soon as it slows down, the rotors start to stutter and wobble in a very awkward manner.
I really didn’t like that about the spinning mechanism – it just doesn’t feel very well thought out. I’ve built several LEGO Helicopters in my life, and this is the first time that I’ve ever encountered a flaw like this.
Put simply, the Helicrane’s body is mostly taken up by its cockpit. I really like the “ski landing gear” below the cockpit as it’s a pretty unique feature and it serves to enhance the Helicrane’s unique look.
The cockpit easily detaches to reveal rather modest set up inside. It’s pretty bare, only consisting of a brown chair, an antennae rod to steer the vehicle and a black printed control panel.
I was honestly expecting more stuff – a fire extinguisher or even a bullhorn would’ve been great additions to the cockpit, but there’s really nothing stopping you from adding them to it if you have spare parts.
Another great looking feature of the Arctic Helicrane is its ‘legs‘ which stick out the side just under the rotor which allow the Helicrane to stand on its own two feet. Like the cockpit, it also has ‘ski feet’.
Sadly the legs are pretty rigid – you can’t move them much, apart from the feet which to me was a little disappointing as I would’ve liked to extend them upwards after take off to make them look like wings.
There is a little hook that you can use to hoist up the grey container through the use of an old school winch. All you do is twist the winch to retract or lengthen the piece of string to raise or lower the cargo. It’s fairly primitive and is one of the only play features baked into the Arctic Helicrane. I wasn’t really impressed by it, to be honest.
I also didn’t like how the container was designed. If you lay the Arctic Helicrane of the ground, the container doesn’t fit under it because of the piece attached to the top for the hook to latch on. It’s quite clunky and even when you fully retract the winch, the container sticks out quite noticeably.
Final Thoughts: To be completely honest, I was quite let down by the Arctic Helicrane – mostly because I had rather high expectations for this set and I really wanted to like it. I’d still consider the set a good buy and it’s boosted by great elements such as the Huskies, the sleigh as well as the great use of orange parts for the entire helicopter.
It’s also a uniquely designed helicopter, modeled quite accurately after a very iconic transport vehicle. You don’t get Helicranes very often, in fact the last one that I can recall was from 2012’s Dino theme, but that one of course was a much larger version.
The great thing about this set is that you get a lot of value out of a very affordable set. The minifigures, animals and orange helicopter parts all make this set a very very good buy and you should definitely get one if the Arctic theme appeals to you. It’s also the cheapest way to get the new Huskies, which is great since you don’t need to shell out for the Arctic Icebreaker or Arctic Base Camp if you want some sleigh dogs.
Aside from very niggling faults such as the dodgy rotors, I can’t objectively say that this is a bad set – it just didn’t draw me in or inspire me as much as I thought it would.
I actually went and bought two Arctic Helicranes when they were selling for $25 at Kmart, but I think I will give my second set away to my church’s annual Christmas toy drive. A second set of huskies would be nice, but I’m quite happy with owning just one Helicrane. I might get spare huskies off of Bricklink when I get the urge to shop there again.
What I liked:
- It’s an orange helicopter with massive rotors
- The sleigh has a pretty tight and clean design
- A very budget friendly City set
What I didn’t like:
- Helicrane rotors don’t spin as well as I’d like them to
- Cockpit was kind of plain
- The ’empty’ shape of the helicrane
Thanks for reading my review of the LEGO Arctic Helicrane! Will leave you with this picture of the adorable husky dog, because I just can’t get enough of them. Up next, I’ll be reviewing the Arctic Base Camp, so stay tuned for that!