I assembled my Exo Suit about a week ago and I’ve been deliberately sitting on my review to ensure that I had enough time to properly digest and get a better feel of this year’s most popular (arguably) LEGO set. Also because I really bought into the hype of the set when it was first unveiled that I felt it necessary to allow enough time for my emotions to settle down and to be as objective as possible with this set.
I was probably not the only one sent into a Classic Space frenzy which led to the Exo Suit selling out almost the instant it went on sale on the 1st of August. I don’t imagine any LEGO set will be able to live up to such astronomical levels of hype – will the Exo Suit pull it off? Read on to find out!
Name: Exo Suit
Set Number: 21109
Price: AU$49.99 (LEGO.com link) Currently back in stock!
Exclusive to: LEGO.com (for now)
Theme: LEGO Ideas
Year of Release: 2014
The Exo Suit is the 7th LEGO Ideas set, a love letter to Classic Space fans designed by Peter Reid with the final model completed in collaboration with LEGO designer Mark Stafford. Peter Reid is quite possibly THE authority on LEGO Space, having co-authored LEGO Space: Building the Future – a compendium of cosmic LEGO spaceships, astronauts and interplanetary exploration. [Note to self: Pick a copy up the next time I’m book shopping]
AFOLs across the board have always had a strong and romantic affinity to Classic Space, much like how older rich gentlemen enjoy collecting vintage sports cars – they both hearken back to their youthful days. In the case of Classic Space fans: LEGO in the 70s to the 80s. It was only natural that LEGO communities across the world anticipated this set as if it was the second coming of Christ.
You can’t review a LEGO Ideas set without bringing up the immaculate packaging. Decked out in a twilight/deep purple colour that is meant to channel space, the box looks really need with a detailed illustration on the front of the Exo Suit in action as well as the Exo Suit logo printed on the side.
Behind, we’re treated to another action shot of the Exo Suit set to the backdrop of a futuristic Space base.
The manual is another impressive collectible – a thick, matte-textured booklet which not only houses building instructions but also a wealth of information on the Exo Suit and designers behind it. It’s really thick, mostly because it contains content in other languages as well – another nod at how the popularity of Classic Space LEGO transcends geographic and linguistic borders.
One of my favourite parts about the instructions are these little factoids scattered throughout the build which label all the different and intricate parts of the Exo Suit. Nearly every facet of the Exo Suit has a really awesome sci-fi label, an impressive effort made by the designers to catalogue the Exo Suit’s characteristics.
It brings me back into my childhood where I would creatively imagine and make up distinct functions and features of any LEGO build. Double Defence Blasters? Hell yeah!
Meet Pete and Yve (named after the designer and his fiancee), the two Classic Space Minifigures included in the set. To me, this is by far the most groundbreaking component of the set as this is the first (and possibly last) time we’ll see Classic Space minifigures in Green.
The new colour has an interesting story behind it – the original colours for Classic Space minifigures were tied to their specialisations: Pilots were White, Explorers and Soldiers were Red, Scientists were Yellow, Commanders were Blue and Spies were black.
Green was selected because Mech Pilots didn’t seem to fall into any one of those categories. The Green space minifigures represent a monumental addition to the Classic Space family and are definitely one of the main draws of the set.
Staying true to their roots, the Green Space minifigures have minimal details, with only the Gold Space logo emblazoned on their torsos. Each minifigure is equipped with a green helmet with a clear visor and matching green oxygen tanks.
I really really really love the minifigures and will go as far to say that they were the main reason of me picking up more than 1 copy of the Exo Suit. My only complaint is that Pete and Yve have modern minifigure heads instead of the classic smiley face look which I feel gives the minifigures a more traditional appearance. I don’t quite like their expressions, especially Pete’s serious “Ninjago” face.
That said, LEGO being LEGO, it’s really easy to swap out the heads to the smiley faced ones so this is really a minor issue that is easily rectified. It would’ve been fantastic if LEGO included two classic minifigure heads to give us the option of swapping them out.
After the minifigures, the next thing you assemble is this awesome Robot Turtle – Pete and Yve’s futuristic four legged companion. Cobbled together using a clever mix of silver and grey parts, the Turtle is a delightful little build and a very fitting addition to the Exo Suit crew.
To me, the best LEGO builds tend to be the most simple ones, using only what is necessary to nail the design – something the Turtle accomplishes in spades. It literally looks like a Robot Turtle. You could show a young child the turtle and he or she will instantly be able to tell you that it’s a Robotic Turtle – the hallmark of outstanding design.
With menacing ruby red eyes and twin blasters perched above its shell, the Robot Turtle looks like it packs quite a punch and is probably not just a futuristic pet that tags along space missions to keep the astronauts company. I also really like the cute tail that protrudes from its rear.
If I have the right parts, I can definitely see myself making more turtles in a variety of different colours.
To supplement the set, you also get a simple platform which has two yellow barrels. The platform is a nice little addition that opens up more play options. While it’s not full fledged hangar or docking base, it serves its purpose of adding a bit more character, helping the set feel more complete.
On to the main course – the Exo Suit itself. I mentioned at the start of the review that I had to take a while to let my thoughts about this set simmer in my head for a very good reason, I was (and still am) quite torn with what to make of this set.
The Exo Suit is unlike any other LEGO set that I have assembled in my life. Utilising an erratic collection of parts to build an Exoskeleton just left me flabbergasted. It was a build that pretty much challenged everything I thought I knew about LEGO – something that I didn’t completely enjoy at first.
Firstly, I have to acknowledge the amazing work that went into designing the Exo Suit. While it may feel like a completely alien build to me, I am able to fully appreciate the level of thought AND detail that went into this absolute beast of a model. I came across a new (to me) term, greebling – a building technique that is embodied by every section of the Exo Suit.
Building the Exo Suit however, was a nightmare and an incredibly unpleasant experience. 95% of the parts used to build the Exo Suit are grey and incredibly tiny which meant that half my time spent building it was taken up by staring at a chaotic mess of small grey parts trying to find what I really needed.
The build was tedious but at the very least it was punctuated by many unconventional build techniques. It felt nothing like a regular LEGO build which annoyed me a little. Despite my grievances, at the end when everything came together I couldn’t help but feel awed by the final result.
The Mech Pilot (either Pete or Yve) fits in comfortably in the ‘cockpit’ even with their oxygen tanks strapped onto their back – a very clever design consideration. There isn’t anything for the pilot to hold or steer and it would’ve been cool if they had some sort of printed tile as a control panel.
The Exo Suit is satisfyingly sized, with a height just under 7 inches (not counting the antennae that sticks out the back). In the comparison picture above, you can see that it’s about the same height and size as Metalbeard from 70807 Metalbeard’s Duel which seems to be the default size for exo skeletons or medium-sized mechs.
One of the best things about the Exo Suit is how posable and flexible the entire build is, thanks to a ton of articulation packed into its limbs. Playing with the Exo Suit and posing it in a variety of styles is quite fun and I had a great time seeing what it could actually do.
Yes, it can even do a headstand.
Or crawl on all fours.
The Exo Suit’s flexibility and playability is also its greatest downfall. The one thing that I really hated about the set was just how fiddly and loose some of the connections and details were. When playing with it and posing it around, parts (especially this little sucker in the picture above) would fall off at the lightest touch.
Because of how flimsy it is, it was infuriating having to deal with parts or limbs falling off when moving it about – something that frankly shocked me since LEGO is supposed to be a children’s toy and models are usually able to withstand slightly vigorous play. The whole thing felt like it would smash into a million pieces if I were to drop it.
Despite that major flaw, the Exo Suit is still incredibly detailed and quite a wonder to behold. For example, the legs are wonderfully nice to look at. I have the Exo displayed on my desk at the moment and I often catch myself admiring the intricacies of the model when I’m at my computer.
Interestingly, there is a printed tile on the Exo Suit’s butt which I’m guessing are supposed to be thrusters?
The arms are also equally as impressive and add a lot of playability to the whole package. The grey barrel has been quite divisive among LEGO fans but I quite like it and think that it adds a lot of weight and structure to the arms so that it doesn’t look so skeletal.
The Exo Suit’s clawed fingers are great as they’re able to grasp different objects quite effectively.
The yellow barrels are an obvious choice.
You can also pick up minifigs like Yve, who won’t stop jabbering on the phone.
Final Thoughts: After a week of thinking about what to write about the Exo Suit – I finally arrived at an epiphany that helped me put my finger of what the Exo Suit was all about. The Exo Suit is a set designed by AFOLs for AFOLs.
In a myriad of ways, the Exo Suit is a lovingly crafted love letter to Classic Space – an ode to a simpler time when LEGO men were content to explore the depths of the universe. The Exo Suit is a marriage of old and new, a synthesis of the hallmarks of Classic Space fused with modern LEGO building techniques – all wrapped up in a shiny grey hulking exoskeleton.
When I say that the set is designed by AFOLs for AFOLs, I really mean it. The fiddly bits and general unfriendliness of playing with it just jives with how most AFOLs use their LEGO – for display or in static scenes as opposed to how younger kids would naturally and literally play with their sets. And I’ve come to realise that it’s not a bad thing per se – just a paradigm shift that took awhile for me to comprehend.
While the build was gruelling and tedious, the end result thankfully sits on the amazing side of the spectrum. The Exo Suit is truly a magnificent design feat, an achievement that Peter Reid and Mark Stafford should feel extremely proud of. Despite its glaring flaws, such as the fiddly bits which fall off at the lightest touch, I’ve come to like the set more than I dislike it – something that was not immediately apparent to me.
The Green Classic Space minifigures and Robot Turtle are the real stars of the set, oozing flavour, character and charm – the real reason for you to want multiple copies of this set. Amassing an army of Green Space minifigures to bolster the Reds, Whites, Blacks, Yellows and Blues would be a top priority for any Classic Space enthusiast.
I feel that the Exo Suit truly embodies the spirit of LEGO Ideas – empowering builders to submit designs that would normally not feature in LEGO’s repertoire of sets. It pushes the envelope by taking bold design cues and is truly one of its kind when compared to regular LEGO sets.
Now that we have a schematic for an Exo Suit, there are literally unlimited ways that we can build and improve this set by modifying and augmenting it with additional parts or colours – something that I believe adds to the overall appeal of the set.
I highly recommend picking an Exo Suit up if you can as I believe that we won’t see anything like this for a long, long time.
What I liked:
- Green Classic Space minifigures are an excellent addition to the Classic Space family
- Eye-opening interesting build techniques that I would never have thought possible
- Extremely playable and posable
- Looks magnificent on display
What I didn’t like:
- The build was an absolute horror since all the parts are grey and virtually indistinguishable from each other
- Fiddly bits means elements and parts will fall off when you play with it
- Availability issues when it was first released
Thanks for reading my review, I really hoped that you enjoyed it! The Exo Suit is now available on LEGO.com for AU$49.99. Get it while you can!
Do you own the Exo Suit? Let me know what you thought of the set in the comments section!