This will be the first of a few entries of mine revolving around a specific set.
This time around, 7704 - Sonic Phantom.
Released in 2006, 7704 was one of the first non-mech released in the Exo-Force series.
It may be an odd duck to review first, but it's the first one that made me feel different about the series. While the 2006-2008 sets I've build so far have been awesome, 7704 is the first that seems mediocre, bordering on a disappointment.
That isn't to say that the set is bad, it just could have accomplished so much more.
First, let me detail the set's features, then I'll tackle them one by one.
1 - Light brick
2 - Rotating gigantic fan/turbine blades (x4)
3 - Green Devastator with red axle
4 - Rubber tipped missile and launcher
5 - Side aiming guns
6 - Gun grip with trigger (triggers missile launcher and light brick)
7 - Reasonably large vehicle footprint
1 - The light brick, the key to the 2006 sets. 7704 uses the light brick as a forward facing laser. In theory, it works. In practice, not so much. The light brick in sets 7700-7703 are secured in place, but in 7704 the brick just sits there loose. Bank the Sonic Phantom too far to port or starboard and you've got a jettisoned light brick. There doesn't even look like any effort was done to secure it in place.
2 - The turbines are a mixed bag. The front two do look useful and powerful, until you look at the whole vehicle from the side or underneath. There isn't much body to them, but some effort has been made to make the turbines at least look functional from some angles. I think my only legitimate gripe with the turbines themselves are that they overlap the front landing struts by about a stud's width.
The rear two, that's a different story. They're just kinda there. No big powerful motors, no exhaust, no armor either. The side aiming guns are structurally mounted through the rear turbines. These rear two look really weak, wings would have been much better.
3 - Green Devastator with red axle: got no complaints here. Except for maybe the lack of cockpit or controls. But hey, the robots aren't exactly irreplaceable, and they could also just plug directly into the vehicle. I'll overlook that since logic says I can.
4 - Rubber tipped missile and launcher - This feature seems pretty cool at first. You've got a real firing ranged weapon on 7704, allowing for extra play in knocking down other Exo-Force sets from above. But there isn't anywhere to store the missile when it isn't in the launcher, and the launcher's got a pretty sensitive trigger. It makes this feature more of a bust than a boon.
5 - The side aiming guns just wobble and swing back and forth on their own, they need some stiffer way to mount, like a ball or ratcheted joint. The way they mount also seems pretty spindly, but that I blame on the two rear turbines.
6 - The gun grip is a partial failure. While the grip itself is a good way to hold and fly around the Sonic Phantom, the trigger leaves much to be desired. The way the trigger is connected to the missile launcher involves a rubber band. This easily could have been accomplished with a pair of longer technic pieces, and a couple more connecting pieces. The rubber band just seems like cheating, it can break or be lost so easily. Also, it pulls on the hair trigger so much that the missile always fires as soon as you load it. The secondary feature is that the trigger also activates the light brick. It does, but it also helps to push the light brick overboard.
7 - The vehicle seems large, but is in fact quite hollow. In the fiction, the Sonic Phantom is said to be heavily armored and powerfully fast. I'd argue the armored point, but the front two thrusters plus the light and hollow nature of 7704 certainly make it look fast.
As I said before, the set bordered between mediocre and a disappointment to me. The alternate build actually looks much cooler and funner than the main build. Luckily, the flying vehicles in 2007 and 2008 were vastly improved.
Still, it is part of Exo-Force, and it does look like something the robots could design and build quickly, and without consuming much resources.
Fictionally, I can actually visualize the development progress from 2006 to 2008's flying vehicle sets, which more or less mirrors Lego's process to improve.
I plan on keeping the set and tinkering with it a bit to improve it, or leaving it as the alternate model when I get around to building that.
While the above review was from the eyes of an adult, the Sonic Phantom is the favorite Exo-Force set of my 4 year old nephew. He likes the large size of it, the light-up brick is amazing to him, especially with the trigger, its light enough for him to pick up and fly it around by the handle, and it has 4 big fan blades. Plus he got a big kick out of the wobbling rear guns. I didn't load up the missile or even tell him of that function, but I have a feeling he'd love that too. I think the only downside he saw was that the two rear fan blades kept falling off during play, which he'd regularly ask me to reattach them for him.
So there you go! It shows me that the things children look for in a toy can be overlooked by an adult.
It also tells me that this set really hit the mark for the target audience.