One of the most expensive Lego City sets, the Ocean Exploration Ship set costs an eye-watering £125. At 63cm long, it's impressive in size – but sadly that's about it.
One of the newest sets to enter the long-running City range, it's part of an ocean exploration sub-set. To go alongside it is an Ocean Exploration Base, an Exploration Submarine and a Mini-Sub, but while those all have prices more in keeping with Lego's Definitely-For-Kids sets (£55, £25 and £9, respectively), the ship takes a huge jump up. Sure, it's big, and it comes with an array of accessories, but I'm not so sure it's in any way worth the asking price.
The most interesting part about this set is something that doesn't really pay off in any meaningful way, beyond an icon on the box. It's part of Lego's 'Explore the World' initiative, which is a partnership with National Geographic. According to the website, it's a partnership that offers "unique insight into how we're exploring the world's wildest terrain and discovering new creatures in the depths of the ocean". But the Ocean Exploration Ship doesn't do much to offer any enlightening information. There is literally zero information about Nat Geo, the partnership, or any promised 'unique insight' about exploring the ocean. It feels like a wasted opportunity; even just one page of information in the instruction booklet could go a long way into educating young Lego fans.
As it stands, the Lego City Ocean Exploration Ship is no more than an oversized and overpriced playset. I'm no stranger to expensive Lego RRPs; I rarely bat an eyelid at handing over £160 for the latest Expert modular set. Yes, Lego is expensive, but generally, I feel like you get what you pay for with the larger, pricier sets. But with this one, I'm struggling to see the value in it.
The majority of the 63cm-long boat is a solid plastic shell which comes in two pieces. The set is comprised of 745 pieces altogether, but even when you've finished building the boat, it looks rather barren. Most of the detail is in a three-storey structure, which comprises of a living quarters and control room. There are a few nice touches here, like a fish tank (stickered) and a coffee machine.
Despite looking a bit bare on the deck, there are a few nice features. The shape of the plastic base allows for two hollowed-out segments. One is used as part of the living quarters, and another becomes a cargo hold with a trapdoor. The stand-out feature is the movable crane, however. It can slide backwards and forwards by pushing it, and a winch will lower or raise the arm. The chain can then be winched up or down to lower or raise whatever cargo it's holding. It's a nice touch, albeit a pain in the arse to put together thanks to the string which makes up the chain. Trying to tie a damn knot in it took almost as long as it took to build the whole thing.
Along with the huge boat itself, there are a few smaller structures and vehicles. There's a basic helicopter (it's a City set; don't expect realistic detail), a neat little submarine and a yellow dinghy. There's also a small standalone pirate ship wreck. Its scale is completely dwarfed by the huge Exploration Ship, but it's a fun touch for a playset.
There are also eight minifigures – a helicopter pilot, three divers, and four boat crew members:
The real stars of the show, though, are the Lego stingray and a huge shark. Both are new for this year, and while the stingray appears in a couple of the current Lego City sets, the Ocean Exploration Ship is the only place you'll find sharky. He's probably not worth the asking price alone though, but he is cool.
Oh, and the ship floats. Which is something, alright. Though it seems rather big for a child to use it as a bathtime toy – it certainly wouldn't leave much space to have a soak if it was floating around in my own tub. Plus, going by the price of it, I'm not even sure I'd want to voluntarily plunge it into water. I can't imagine the stickers on the side of the boat would take to it very kindly.
But floating and giant sharks aside, the Lego City Ocean Exploration Ship fails to excite me in the way that a £125 Lego set should. Granted, it is a playset, so it's one squarely aimed at kids as opposed to AFOLs and those looking for pretty display sets. This one isn't much to look at, despite its sheer size. And while I'm sure kids would have a lot of fun playing with it, there is little to justify the cost. In comparison, the recently-released Lego Ninjago ship is the same price and has over 1,000 pieces extra. It's not quite as big (44cm) but is a hell of a lot more interesting to look at. Lego City sets seem to be creeping up in price in recent years, but this seems the most extravagant of the lot, which is a shame really. It's not a bad set, but it should be at least £40 cheaper. At the very least.
However, it does allow you to create your own shark movie action scenes:
Lego City Ocean Exploration Ship is available now from Lego.com and all usual Lego retailers.