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Hyperspeed Pursuit

Lego Space Police
by Artemis

Lego Space's degree of realism tends to swerve back and forth, like a drunk driver trying to walk the line while the cop who pulled him over makes cute comments that he hopes will make him seem cool when the security footage winds up on World's Worst Drivers 37. Sometimes - within the limits of what makes good toys - it's pretty reasonable, with serious thought given to representing life in outer space and/or the surface of other worlds. At other times, you get things like "Space Police."

Space Police alert! The Skull Twins are getting away with a safe full of gold in their hyperspeed Skull Interceptor. Hit the turbo-rockets and give chase in the super-fast Space Police VX-Falcon, but watch out for the Skull Interceptor's twin blasters... and twin alien drivers!

That's not a criticism, mind you, just a statement of fact - Lego, like pizza and sex, has very few bad permutations. Last season's "Mars Mission," for all its creepy aliens, was kind of plausible in its own way: if you stretched your mind a bit, you could imagine vehicles like those being deployed if NASA ever got really serious about extra-terrestrial colonization, and got a big enough budget to let their R&D teams go nuts. "Space Police," on the other hand, is realistic only insofar as the vehicles have enclosed cockpits - mostly. Still, any toy line concept that can reasonably employ the phrase "Mad Max with hyperdrives" can afford to ignore reality and use weapons-grade awesome as a power source instead.

Hyperspeed Pursuit is a little unusual compared to most plot-enabled Lego sets. Normally a set will contain one major vehicle - either hero or villain - with the other faction represented by a much smaller construct, thus providing some battle value while also consolidating the set's allocation of parts. This one, however, splits its brick count right down the middle, with the police and alien road gang factions each getting a medium-sized hot rod - this set is the second-largest of the current "Space Police" assortment (the third incarnation of them, if you're keeping count), right behind the ubiquitous mothership, so it can afford to divide its resources without short-changing the resulting spacecraft.

The VX-Falcon - which I'm inclined to think is a deliberate sneaky reference to Mad Max's "Pursuit Special" (a heavily modified Ford Falcon referred to as a "V8 interceptor", you do the math) - is a gleaming, sleek hunk of heavyweight engine power. Measuring 10" from nose to tail and not much less across its wingspan, it's a decent-sized craft, and it follows the traditional Cool Starfighter design tradition of being an atmospheric jet with rocket engines - although its heritage is camouflaged somewhat by the wide forward hull, which gives it something of the dimensions of a muscle car. Despite its considerable spread when viewed from above, it's actually only about four standard bricks from top to bottom, giving it a narrow, aggressive silhouette seen from the front (or, to put it another way, in the rear-view mirror of the outlaw craft it's chasing).

The Falcon isn't big on play features - excluding the detachable prison pod, there's nothing that does anything special - but it's got the one feature that counts the most, which is sheer badass looks, centerd mainly on the massive twin engines mounted on the wings. Each regular rocket cone is augmented with eight secondary thrusters, all tipped with translucent orange caps, and the final result is, I'd say, the most powerful-looking engine in the whole range, especially for the Falcon's size. For the rest of the craft, it sports a sealed cockpit - there's no opening mechanism, the canopy is just attached like a regular brick - with an elongated control stick, allowing the pilot to lean well back, and a pair of twin blasters out front. Various stickers adorn the craft, giving it the necessary logos and markings, and the alternating red and blue "light" bricks are a repeated motif.

The pilot is a regular Space Police officer, clad in grey SWAT-like body armour, and with a chinless helmet that uses the standard Lego helmet visor - the lack of a chin strap gives it the look of a police riot mask, although for extra badassery the visor is black rather than clear. The officer's head can swivel to either of two faces, one the confident smirk of a driver in pursuit who knows he's got the galaxy's biggest engines behind him, the other the panicked yell of the same driver realising too late that you need to allow extra braking time as a result.

His target, the Skull Interceptor, is (so far) the alien road gang's meanest and coolest vehicle, a supercharged hot rod with wings and rockets. It's even less plausible than the police Falcon, being literally a space-going road car - it's even got open windows - and its savage, battered but deadly appearance is a stark contrast to the shiny factory-new vehicles the law gets. Aside from omitting wheels and adding lip-service to spaceflight there's little to mention in the Interceptor's construction, although the use of red bricks to form the majority of the decorative stripe is clever - only the cabin roof uses a sticker to get the stripe in - and with the majority of the battle-damage on the stickers being rendered as black scratches, the lack of them on the un-stickered black bricks isn't that obvious. Besides the skull logo the stickers also get in a couple of cute jokes, with "I Insectoids" on the rear chassis, and a numberplate reading "ZUMBI". Finally, long red flames jet out of the twin engines, completing the cooler-than-cool future punk look.

The Interceptor has some features built in, too. Most prominent are the two spring-loaded missile launchers either side of the nose - the gimmick of the Space Police sets is that the police prison pods can be popped open by hitting their target discs with missiles (it works quite well if you get the angle right). The open rear of the Interceptor contains the stolen safe, inside of which are three gold bricks (metallic flat 2x1s), and the cabin roof lifts off easily for access to the pilot. Unfortunately there's only room for one minifigure in there, which begs the question of how the Skull Twins can both use the vehicle; maybe they play rock-paper-scissors before each heist, with the loser having to ride in the back, clinging on to the roll bar as they pass the hyper limit.

The Skull Twins are identical (duh), with snazzy black and red flight suits and rather spooky-looking skull masks, made of soft plastic that slip easily over their heads. They have two faces printed on their heads: one a standard annoyed-looking alien, white-skinned with ridged gill-like flaps in place of a nose, and large fish-like lips, while the other is slightly more annoyed-looking, and reveals a third eye opening up on the forehead. Being that they're twins, presumably they both have the same features, with the extra eye invisible when closed, rather than the two faces representing one twin each. It might be my imagination - there are few enough ways to tell with Lego minifigures, let alone when they're a different species - but I fancy they look female, too.

I've bought the whole 2009 "Space Police" series, and I have to say I'm impressed generally - not just by the construction and play features, but also the sheer coolness of its visual design - but this set is far and away the best despite stiff competition. Both the Falcon and the Interceptor are superior vehicles, nicely distinct but well balanced as a pair, and if you wanted to find a single set to embody the whole series at its best, this would be it.

-- 11/18/09

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