In my quest to own all of the LEGO big cats, I have acquired the second set in my “must have” Jungle Exploration set wish list. This week, I will take a look at the least expensive method of owning a LEGO jungle cat, the Halftrack Mission set. The feline included in the kit is what many people call a black panther. From a science perspective, black panthers are not a species. In fact, the black panther can refer to a cat from more than one species. Black variants of both leopards and jaguars have been documented in the wild and in captivity. The black colour results from a gene mutation that causes an overproduction of melanin, the pigment responsible for dark colouration. Appropriately, this condition is known as melanism. While never scientifically proven, stories also exist of melanistic lions, tigers, and cougars. The cat in this set is, in my opinion, a melanistic leopard. I came to this conclusion because there is also a tiger in the theme. Tigers and leopards do co-exist in the wild, while tigers and jaguars do not. But, I digress…
Name: Jungle Halftrack Mission
Set #: 60159
Cost: $44.99 CAD
Brick Count: 378
Of Interest: You get a melanistic leopard (black panther) and spider
Release Date: May 29, 2017
Summary Review: 80%
VALUE: 90% (Very good value for a City set.)
BUILD: 63% (Mostly a decent set, but the small buggy is a waste of bricks.)
MINIFIGURES: 92% (Good Minifigs, lots of accessories, awesome panther.)
ENTERTAINMENT: 75% (Very good build-time value, but just an ok set overall.)
With a brick count of 378, and a price tag of $44.99 in Canada, this set clocks in at $0.12 per brick. On average, the city sets in the summer 2017 catalog have cost-per-brick of $0.19 (click here to read my review of the summer 2017 catalog). That means that this set actually has the best value out of all of the City sets released this past summer (click here to see the best value City sets of the summer). It also falls below the average cost-per-brick of $0.12 for all of the sets in the catalog. The Jungle Halftrack Mission earns an overall value score of 4.5/5 (90%) on my rating scale.
The Jungle Halftrack Mission comes with three small builds: a small pick-up buggy, the ruin of a jungle shrine, and the actual halftrack vehicle. The buggy is nothing special, and lacks any real distinguishing features. It has an open top, and a removable crate on the back to carry equipment. I think a smaller windshield would have suited this build better. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with this buggy, but there is nothing I really like about it either. These pieces should have been allocated to make some scientific equipment, or maybe give the jungle shrine a little more substance. If I was reviewing it alone, I would not take off any marks for it, but I wouldn’t give it any either, landing it a 5/10.
The jungle shrine is small, but could be combined with other sets to make a little city ruin or something. It has a sliding play feature which allows you to attach the chain from the halftrack vehicle to a small hook. When then chain pulls on the hook, a ruby slides out of the ruin, while simultaneously dropping a spider onto an unsuspecting Minifigure. The front of the build looks nice when complete, and goes well with the jungle exploration theme. I do think that the piece count from the buggy would have been better used here to add a little more “umph” to this build, particularly in making the back look more complete. I would give it 7/10 on its own.
The halftrack vehicle is nice. It has a big cargo space in the back (which also negates the need for the little buggy), and a great front grill and spotlight design. I don’t like that there are no cab doors, but there is a nice step-up from the ground on each side. The design around the front tire is a little too empty in my opinion. Again, the piece count from the buggy could have been applied here for a little more of a full and sturdy look. I really like the look of the rear tracks, but I do not find that they actually work all that well. There are some hidden friction gears under the chassis that are meant to roll on the ground as you push the halftrack vehicle along. The friction gears are supposed to transfer the motion to the tracks. On carpeted surfaces, where there is more friction, the feature works well. But on smoother hardwood floors or tile, it only half works. It is not a big deal, but a design flaw none-the-less. I give it 7/10.
Overall, I do like the build for the halftrack vehicle, and the shrine is alright too. I think the buggy was a waste of bricks though. Overall, if I look at all three builds and average them out, the Jungle Halftrack Mission earns 63% as a build score.
There are two Minifigures included in the Jungle Halftrack Mission: a male, and a female jungle explorer. The female explorer has the same double-sided head piece that came with one of the characters from the Jungle Exploration Site (click here for my review), but the male Minifig’s face is a new one (for my collection at least). Otherwise, both have the really detailed front and back printed torsos, identical to those seen in the Jungle Exploration Site. Their legs are plain blue. The female explorer comes with the same hairpiece as Abby from the Ghostbusters Ecto 1 & 2 set (click here for my review), which I really like. The male explorer has a baseball cap. In terms of accessories, you get a spider, a frying pan, a chicken leg, a camera, a metal detector, a walkie-talkie, a machete, a crate, and a ruby. Based on these designs and the abundance of accessories, I give these Minifigs 27/30 (13/15 for the male researcher, and 14/15 for the female).
You also get the black leopard (panther) in this set. This was the whole reason that I purchased this set. While the sculpt is the same as the leopard that came with the jungle exploration site, it is still a unique color variant. Given its size and articulation, I believe it should count as a “Minifigure” in terms of scoring this set. While I cannot grade it on the same scale as a proper Minifigure, I love it so much that I am going to give it the completely biased score of 15/15. Combing this with the design score of the actual Minifigures means this set gets a design score of 42/45, or 93%.
The brick-to-Minifigure ratio (including the leopard) is 126:1. That is not great compared to other City sets in the summer 2017 catalog (the average ratio for City is 73:1), but it is still very good compared to the average for all LEGO sets in the catalog (201:1). The Jungle Halftrack Mission earns 4.5/5 (90%) for its ratio score. Combining this and the design score gives the set an overall Minifigure score of 92%.
This set took me 73 minutes to build. At $44.99, that means that one minute of build time costs $0.62. My current average build-time cost is $0.74 per minute, meaning that the Jungle Halftrack Mission is actually a pretty good value in terms of the time you will spend assembling it. It earns 4.5/5 (90%) as its build time score.
As for my enjoyment of the set, it is ok. I would not keep the small buggy assembled, and I would probably re-purpose the shrine pieces to expand on the temple in the Jungle Exploration Site. I do like the halftrack vehicle, and it would certainly give kids a lot of play time. I am not sure if I like it more or less than the vehicles that came with the Jungle Exploration Site. But, I think I might end up making my own hybrid of all of these vehicles simply because I do not have room to display them all, and there are features that I like and dislike on all of them. I give this set 3/5 for enjoyment (60%). Averaging the enjoyment and build-time scores gives this set an overall entertainment rating of 75%.
Overall Score: 80%
The Jungle Halftrack Mission is a good set all things considered. It has a great value for a City theme set both in terms of brick count, and build time. I was not a fan of the small buggy build, and really feel that those pieces should have gone to making a more detailed shrine and halftrack vehicle. The main reason that I bought this set was for the panther figurine, which is awesome. The actual Minifigures are nicely detailed and fun, but are not that different from Minifigures included in the other Jungle Exploration sets. I recommend this set for the panther figurine alone, because it is the cheapest way to get one of the new LEGO big cats, and it is a good value set. The play possibilities are ok with the halftrack vehicle. But, if you have more than one Jungle Exploration vehicle from other sets, then then rebuilding options are excellent.
If you have the Halftrack Mission set, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Perhaps you feel differently about the set and can give another perspective to help people considering this set!
Until next time,