Review: Jungle Exploration Site 
I have been super excited about the Jungle Exploration theme ever since the first images started to pop up from toy cons earlier in the year. I spent a lot of time considering which sets were most important for me to purchase on a budget. When the last double VIP points weekend rolled around, I made my first Jungle set purchase. To maximize my points, I went with the largest set available in North America, the Jungle Exploration Site. After building it, I can already tell that I am going to have a lot of fun photographing these sets!
Set Name: Jungle Exploration Site
Set #: 60161
Theme: City – Jungle Exploration
Cost: $149.99 CDN
Brick Count: 813
Of Interest: A leopard, a crocodile, two spiders, a snake, three frogs, a giant Venus fly trap, a motorcycle, and a kayak.
Release Date: May 29, 2017
Summary Review: 81%
VALUE: 70% (At $0.18 per brick, it is not the best value.)
BUILD: 93% (Nicely designed set, but there are some little design issues.)
MINIFIGURES: 96% (Fun Minifigs, loads of accessories, great brick-to-fig ratio.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 65% (This is an expensive set for the build-time, but really fun.)
Costing $149.99 in Canada, and coming with 813 bricks, sadly means that this set is not the best value. It works out to $0.18 per brick, which is one cent below the current City theme average, but four cents above the overall average for all of the LEGO sets in the summer 2017 catalog (click here to read more about it). This set earns 3.5/5 (70%) for value. If this set is on your wish list, wait for the next double VIP points event at the LEGO Store, as that will score you $15 worth of points. If you are lucky, like I was (click here to read about it), that double points event will coincide with a giveaway, making the purchase an even better value. Alternatively, a better savings would be to wait for a Toys R Us “20% off on all City sets” sale. It will bring the cost down to $0.15 per brick (an overall savings of $29.99, and a total price tag of $120). 30% off (or more) sales are rare in my Canadian experience, but not unheard of, so you could risk waiting for one of those… the key word is, of course, “risk”. This set will most likely be on the market for at least a year, if not more, so you have time to mull it over.
While there is a central sort-of structure to build in this set, it is still largely composed of smaller builds. The first instruction manual involves the construction of the giant carnivorous, Venus fly trap-like plant, a little camping burner, and an amphibious ATV. Initially, I would have left the “amphibious” out of that description, but watching the short webisodes that LEGO has put out in conjunction with these sets shows that it is based on such a craft.
The ATV is a fun vehicle that comes complete with a shovel, crowbar, and crate that can be hooked onto the winch in the helicopter and Unimog that also come with the set. I like that there is a printed tile behind the steering wheel with a speedometer and the engine temperature gauge. There is also a printed tile on the front with the expedition leopard logo. The Venus fly trap is a neat new feature, though I am surprised that Poison Ivy never got one in the Batman sets. It functions on a technic pin, hinged design that employs an elastic to get it to snap shut. It already has a spider, or “red prickler” as they are called the webisodes, in its clutches. Strangely, my favorite part of this first manual was the little camping stove. It consists of just a blue Minifigure head piece, a transparent orange stud, a pan, and a turkey leg. It is really adorable in its authenticity.
The second manual is all about the helicopter. Now, many of you are probably thinking that you don’t really need another City helicopter. It is true, almost every large City set comes with one. But, as far as helicopters go, this one is actually fairly substantial. I often find the helicopters to be small, fairly similar to one another, and a little flimsy. However, as soon as you pick this one up, you can feel it has substance, and is a sturdy little guy. It is built to look as if it lands on water, with two pontoons on the bottom. It also has a proper set of blades on top, and not the usual 1×10 plates. I am a fan of the built in winch for delivering supplies to the research team in dense, jungle terrains where a helicopter cannot land. I really like this little helicopter.
The third manual helps you assemble a Unimog style truck. It has removable roofs on both the front and rear compartments for interior access. You can attach the canoe to the roof, and the motorcycle to the back. There is a hydraulic arm that can be attached to the wooden crate that came with the amphibious ATV. I really like the front of the vehicle. The hood has the leopard logo again, and there are steps built into the sides to climb up into the cab. I am really happy that LEGO included doors to access the cab (which are sometimes forgotten in City sets). The rear compartment is a little bland and empty. It has a really nice map table, but that is about it. There is a poorly designed microscope that did not impress me much. The sides of the rear compartment are open, and I found myself wishing they had been sealed off with big windows. They did include bars over the openings, but they are not attached on the bottom, which I am not a fan of. I don’t really like needlessly loose parts. While I have not physically seen or held the Jungle Mobile Lab set, this set seems a little like the poor man’s version of that truck. I suppose the Mobile Lab is the fully stocked version, and this is the base model 🙂
The final instruction manual is the center piece of this set. It consists of two rocky outcrops with a small river in between. Atop one of the hills is a crashed airplane, filled with treasure. Atop the other hill is a ruined temple. The airplane looks neat, and many a story could be built around it in play. Underneath it, you have a cave for the leopard. There is a play feature here that allows you to launch the leopard out of the cave to simulate a charge or pounce. The temple, while small, looks decent, and is again a wonderful play piece to inspire the imagination. It has a ruby situated next to a trap door that empties Minifigures into the adjacent river. Another play feature allows you to launch a boulder off the top of the temple. Both of these are very nice builds that lend themselves very well to play. I also think that they would look amazing as part of a larger, custom jungle scene.
My big complaint about this build is the river that was placed in between the two rocky hills. The hills connect to it on a diagonal, leaving visible gaps that are ugly and unrealistic. The trap door from the temple is also supposed to drop Minifigures into the river, but the river is clearly lower inside the cave than in the river bed. In real life, that would cause water to flow into the cave, trapping the Minifigure inside, not causing them to wash downstream. I know I am being picky here, but it just doesn’t look nice.
Overall, I like the amphibious ATV and the helicopter quite a bit. I don’t have any complaints with them, and give both 10/10. The Unimog build is nice, but the back is really empty and a little too open, so it earns 8/10. The jungle scene is a lot of fun, but that river in the middle should have been designed better, so it gets 9/10. Averaging these scores gives the Jungle Exploration Site a total build score of 93%.
There are seven Minifigures in this set. In addition, you get a leopard and a crocodile, which are substantial, articulated, and detailed enough to get Minifigure status in my opinion. If we look at the actual Minifigures first, they are able to earn a total of 105 points collectively (15 points each using my rating system. All of these Minifigs come with more than just a generic face print, but only two come with double sided faces. Their torsos have amazingly detailed front and back print in all cases, but only one (the pilot) has leg printing. So, just for basic design, this crew already earns 66/105 (63%). However, there are also all of the accessories to consider…
This set comes with a canoe, a motorcycle, two machetes, a printed tile compass, a rock pick, a shovel, a crowbar, an extra motorcycle helmet, three frogs (though two a decorative), two spiders, a shovel, a crowbar, a crystal, two jewels, a backpack, a life vest, a map, a walkie talkie, a frying pan, a turkey leg, a camera, and a wrench. I don’t think I forgot anything… But, either way, I am sure that you get the point. There is a lot of stuff in this set. These wonderful little accessories bring up the design score to 94/105, which equates to 90%.
Then we have the animals. The crocodile appears to be the same design as the one that was available in the Swamp Police theme a couple of years ago. It is still much more detailed than the crocs from the ’90s pirates sets (which is all I had up until this point). The real piece-de-resistance is, however, the leopard. This series marks the first time that big cats have been made into LEGO. The leopard is nicely detailed, and features a moveable neck and hind legs. The tail forms part of the hind legs piece, and moves with it. Both of these get a full 100% in my books, and bring the Minifigure design score up to 92% (124 out of 135 total points).
With 813 bricks in this set, and seven Minifigures, you are getting a brick-to-Minifigure ratio of 116:1, which is a solid 90% in my book. However, you also have the leopard and crocodile. Including those brings the ratio down to 90:1, which is and excellent 100%. Combining the design score and the ratio score earns the Jungle Exploration Site an overall Minifigure score of 96%.
This set took me 173 minutes (2 hours and 53 minutes) to build. At $149.99, that means that each minute of build time cost me $0.87. That is not a very good value considering that my current average cost per minute is $0.74. The Jungle Exploration Site earns 40% for build-time value.
I have to say, I really like this set despite the expensive build time. However, I am really biased towards this theme, given my background in wildlife biology. I don’t have space for this set in my LEGO city right now, because I do not have a jungle/natural area. One day, when I have more space, I might build a mountain with a forested side. In that event, I could see myself incorporating this into the forest. If I end up getting the Mobile Lab set, I probably would not keep the Unimog that came in this one. I would also modify that river between the two cliffs. I give this set 90% for enjoyment. Averaging that out with the build-time value gives this set 65% for overall entertainment.
The Jungle Exploration Site is a worthwhile set. You get lots of Minifigures, animals, and accessories. The builds are nice, and have fun play features. The downside to the set is the value. It is expensive both in terms of the cost of each brick, as well as in terms of the build-time. Waiting for this set to be on sale for at least 20% off would bring the per brick value and the build-time score up to 80%, which would bring the overall score up to 89%. So, my final verdict is that I do recommend this set, but make sure you get it on sale.
I would love to hear what you think of the Jungle Exploration Site in the comments below.
Until next time,