MARS SPACECRAFT EXPLORATION MISSIONS (60354) REVIEW

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions (60354) is one of three new sets in the new City sub-theme called “Missions” that I will review for True North Bricks. And it is available now! I reviewed Wild Animal Rescue Missions (60353), the first set in this sub-theme, a few days ago. Missions sets require a free app in order to play with them to their fullest extent. I am not normally a space fan and have only built a handful of space sets, so I was curious how I would enjoy this set.

NOTE: The LEGO® Group provided this set for review. However, the provision of products does not guarantee a favorable review. I will use the usual True North Bricks rating system (click here for more information) and provide my honest opinion.

MARS SPACECRAFT EXPLORATION MISSIONS SUMMARY

  • NAME: Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions
  • SET #: 60354
  • THEME: City; Missions sub-theme
  • COST: $49.99 CAD
  • BRICK COUNT: 298
  • MINIFIGURES: 3
  • RELEASE DATE: June 1, 2022
  • COST/BRICK: $0.17
  • BRICK-TO-FIG RATIO: 99
Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions  set bags and insert

MARS SPACECRAFT EXPLORATION MISSIONS QUICK REVIEW

  • VALUE: 92%
  • BUILD: 85%
  • MINIFIGURES: 71%
  • ENTERTAINMENT: 95%
  • OVERALL SCORE: 86%
Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions shuttle and various mini builds and creative builds

MARS SPACECRAFT EXPLORATION MISSIONS REVIEW

VALUE: 92%

The price of the Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions is $49.99 in Canada. This is the same price for all three new Missions sets. This set has just over 50 pieces more than the Wild Animal Rescue Missions set. However, this set has no animals. With 298 pieces, the cost per brick is $0.17. This translates to a score of 69% when compared to all sets reviewed by true North Bricks. However, the cost of City sets tends to be on the pricier side. If you compare the cost per brick to only City sets reviewed by True North Bricks, then the score is 83%. This is slightly above average which is about $0.18 for City sets. Depending on how you want to make your comparisons, this is somewhere between passable value and good value.

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions  LEGO Instructions app

This set took me just under two hours to build and interact with. Unlike traditional sets, there is no straight building time. Rather, you interact with the app as you go through the story line. At times you follow instructions, but there is also a lot of free building involved. Overall, I spent 1 hour and 6 minutes building this set and interacting with the app. Although difficult to compare to a standard build experience, this converts to a cost-per-minute of $0.43. This translates to a cost per minute value of over 100% on the current scale used by True North Bricks.

Overall, this set has a lot of play value, especially as you follow along with the story in the app. Each mission has you building and re-building! Overall, the value of this set rounds up to 92% which is considered very good value.

BUILD: 85%

The City Missions sets are all about being creative. However, there are still instructions to help you build the main model as well as a few mini models. The largest model in this set is the space shuttle. The step-by-step instructions make it easy for younger builders to follow along. This set is rated 6+.

I can’t recall ever building a spaceship set before, and I thought the main build was decent. I did notice that the image on the screen appears to have either a sticker or print on the large white windscreen element. Unfortunately, there is no sticker or print on the actual set. In addition, the space shuttle on the screen appears to have large black wings up front. It even had me searching through the box to see if there were any loose elements I had missed. Although I am not a space fan, I do like that they included a 1×2 cheese wedge with the Space logo print. You can never have too many printed parts!

printed elements

The next mission has you adding additional elements to the shuttle to upgrade the boosters. There are a couple of different options though I found limited spots to place them on the actual shuttle. I imagine kids will have an easier time with finding creative ways to upgrade the boosters on their shuttle. Throughout the missions, you continue to add (and remove) pieces to help you with certain tasks. There is a nice variety of pieces as you go, though some are only available in later bags.

Mini Builds

There are quite a few mini builds scattered throughout the missions related to this set. My favourite is O-Jo, the space robot dog. It is a fantastic little build! You also build a laser welder, a Wexler claw, and a giant fire extinguisher. I thought the giant fire extinguisher was a bit odd, especially considering all the minifigure sized fire extinguishers I’ve seen in other LEGO® sets. You also build two asteroids and a section of Mars!

Unlike standard LEGO® sets, you don’t complete all the building at one time. Instead, you build a portion as you follow along the story, then do some free-building before playing out the mission. For each mission, there are three ideas icons to help with suggestions. I found these very helpful! Interestingly, suggestions even include other objects such as constructions paper. The extra pieces in this set were slightly less inspiring than those provided in the Wild Animal Rescue Missions set. However, it could also be that I am not overly inspired by space sets generally.

While the shuttle model isn’t my favourite, I think kids will love the build experience. And who doesn’t like swooshing a ship all around the room! This set provides a nice balance of instructions, suggestions, and creativity. Unfortunately, I do think it could have used a few more interesting pieces and the shuttle needed a few more attachment points. Overall, l give the build experience 85% as I think they did a fantastic job with this new hybrid style set that will definitely appeal to kids.

MINIFIGURES: 71%

There are three minifigures in this set. You build the first two from bag one. I do like that you can mix and match the minifigures however you want. These minifigures also come with lots of accessories including tools, food, and head gear. Interestingly, there were step-by-step instruction to put together the helmets. Perhaps it isn’t obvious where the visors go.

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions bag 1 minifigures and accessories

One of the biggest omissions in this set is the lack of a Dr. Wexler minifigure. He is quite prominent throughout the story so it would have been nice to include him in minifigure form. Interestingly, they do include his red cup. However, it does not have a space logo print as it does in the app.

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions - Dr. Wexler screenshot

Uniforms

The minifigures from bag 1 both have printed torsos, front and back. However, the dark azur torso has minimal printing. It appears to be a space track suit style jacket. However, the white torso has space suit printing on both sides and dual coloured arms in dark azure and white. This set also include plain dark azur legs and printed white legs. This set appears to have one male-coded head and one female-coded head, just based on the eyelashes and lipstick. However, I decided to mix it up and keep it more true to life since not all women have long hair and not all women wear makeup! Both heads are smiling and one has eye glasses which is awesome!

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions minifigures front

Double-sided Head

The third minifigure is found in bag 2 which you open during the second mission. However, you aren’t prompted to build the minifigure until mission three. This minifigure has an awesome space suit in bright light orange (I call it Chima yellow) with dark azur accents. It has both front and back printing and a space logo on the front. As I will mention in the next section, I do think it would have been awesome to include an additional set of legs with a cast pattern with signatures printed on it. The head for this minifigure is double sided. It includes an open-mouth grin on one side and the always fantastic puking expression on the other side. Perfect for a space mission gone wrong!

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions  minifigures back

Overall, I like the minifigures in this set. I particularly like that they included the double-sided head for one of the minifigures. However, I do think they should have included the fourth character from the story, Dr. Wexler. The inclusion of three minifigures earns this set a score of 71% when compared to other City sets. This is considered satisfactory.

ENTERTAINMENT: 95%      

Setting up the Story

I really enjoyed the story-telling aspect of the Missions app. In fact, I found it much more cohesive and engaging than my experience with the Hidden Side app and the LEGO® Vidiyo app. The Missions sets work through the existing LEGO® Instructions app which is already a big win as there is no additional platform to keep up to date. Unfortunately, you do need access to a device to download the app to fully experience this set. Consequently, this will exclude some LEGO® fans from being able to enjoy this set.

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions 
 - Team One astronauts Lt. Rivera and Lt. Jamie screenshot

Once you select the Missions set of your choice (there are currently three), then the fun begins. The Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions beings with the obligatory countdown to lift-off. However, it is immediately followed by the warning, “Error. Error. Error.” It turns out it is just a mission simulator, and you are the cadet invited to be the backup astronaut. I was immediately pulled into the story and invested in what was going to happen next. You then meet Lieutenant Rivera, the narrator of the missions. Lt. Rivera then introduces you to Lieutenant Jamie. Together, they make up Team One astronauts for the mission to Mars. Similar to the Wild Animal Rescue Missions story, the characters bring some really great humour to the screen. It reminds me a lot of the humour we saw in The LEGO® Movies.

The Missions

There are eight missions, although they aren’t all missions in the typical sense. The first mission is to build two of your minifigures and practice in the anti-gravity room. And the second mission is to build the shuttle and take a test flight.

This brings you to the third mission: to build better boosters! Other than the minifigures, this is the first free-building experience. I really like how Lt. Jamie encourages you to build how you want. He even says, “there is no right or wrong.” After all, it’s all about being creative! Similar to the Wild Animal Rescue Missions, Lt. Jamie also says, “Let’s make awesome” just as Maya did. I wonder if this might be a phrase associated with all Missions sets.

shuttle with boosters

Star Cruising – Mission: Build shuttle wings

Mission four begins with Lt. River in a hospital bed and there is a cast on her leg. I sure wish LEGO® would have included legs with a cast print with signatures. How awesome would that be!

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions 
 - screenshot of Lt. Rivera with cast

You then open bag 3 and follow painfully slow instructions to build O-Jo, the super cute space robot dog. Lt. Jamie suggests adding stability to the shuttle. There is some more free building to add wings and fins. At the end of this mission, you are surprised with a mini build – a laser welder.

shuttle with extra wings and O-Jo

Moon Slingshot – Mission: Build a navigation system

The goal in this mission is to build a navigation system to help you slingshot around the moon and off into space. Again, I really like the positive messaging. You are encouraged to build the way YOU want. As always, you can hit the three idea icons if you get stuck. I know I certainly did.

Back in the gear room, Lt. Rivera shows you the pieces you’ll need to make a Wexler claw. She then walks you through the instructions to build it. At this point you open the cardboard box to reveal a small white elastic band. This adds resistance to the claw so it can grasp things, like Lt. Jamie! I did find it a bit odd that you are not shown where to install the claw, but perhaps that isn’t the intent just yet.

shuttle with navigation upgrades

Asteroid Alarm – Mission: Build an asteroid defense

At the start of the sixth mission, you are instructed to open bag 4. Your first task is to build two asteroids according to the instructions. These include two awesome rock crystal geode elements. As with previous missions, the positivity continues – “You come up with great solutions for tough situations”.

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions  - Lt. Jamie positivity screenshot

Lt. Jamie then asks you to build something to deflect the asteroids. This mission ends in the gear room and another reveal. This time it is a space jetpack. However, this time the surprise is just the single jetpack element rather than additional suggestions of what to put on it.

Shuttle with asteroid blasters

Space Rescue– Mission: Build to catch Jamie

Mission seven is about saving Lt. Jamie after his tether snaps. Now I see the use for the Wexler claw! I was less interested in the free-building part by this point though I did attempt to make some blaster boots. I probably spent far too long on these as I didn’t have the exact pieces I needed. I think the combination of story and building will keep kids entertained and engaged. Back in the gear room you have another mini build to put together – a strangely large fire extinguisher.

shuttle saving Lt. Jamie

Crashing – Mission: Build landing gear

The final mission begins with breaking news from the space shuttle. It is in danger after it was struck by asteroids.

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions 
 - Breaking news screenshot

You are then instructed to open bag 5. Instructions are provided to help you build what I think is a part of Mars. I was put off a little by Lt. Jamie referring to me as “buddy” and I am not sure how relatable it will be for all the young female builders out there. Your mission is to build landing gear so you can safely land on Mars. There aren’t too many pieces for this one. Thankfully they include the obvious wheels. However, I’m not sure how useful they would be for a Mars landing. The mission ends in the gear room for a final reveal. This time you get a flag pole and a flag with the space logo printed on both sides!

Closing Scenes

After completing mission 8 you are invited to participate in some bonus play. The three ideas icons appear on screen with suggestions to set up your Mars base, play on your new home, and research Martian terrain. I really like that the game doesn’t just end but that it encourages the builder to continue playing and being creative.  

Overall, I think the entertainment value of the missions and build experience is really great. I enjoyed the story and I think kids will too. I could see this set appealing to kids from 6-11 years old, especially if they like space. The missions are interesting and I love the positive messages and humour throughout. Overall, I give Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions an entertainment score of 95%.

Custom bonus builds

OVERALL SCORE: 86%

Technical Difficulties

For a review of the general technical difficulties that are likely similar across all sets in the Mission sub-theme, check out my earlier review of Wild Animal Rescue Missions. In addition, during the first mission the closes captioning disappeared even though I didn’t turn it off. I tried turning it off then on again, but that still didn’t work. However, it did return during the next segment. I also noticed that when the ideas icon is first introduced, you can click on it but it just loops you back to the beginning of that segment. It would have made more sense to show an example or to not have it be clickable at all. Lastly, running the app for almost two hours resulted in my battery dying before the end of the game. Although I didn’t start the game with 100% battery life, typically my battery lasts almost two days.

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions - screenshot showing glitch without closed captioning

Final Thoughts

Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions provides a nice balance between story telling, instruction based building, and creative building. Even though I am not particularly interested in space or space related LEGO® sets, I still enjoyed the various missions. The app is engaging, and the story line moves along at a good pace. I also really like how it feels like a mini cinematic experience with the various touches of humour throughout. If people are willing to pay $50 for a set with under 300 pieces, then I think the City Missions sets will do very well. Overall, Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions earns a final overall score of 91%. Will you be picking up one of the City Missions sets? Which one interests you the most? Let us know below or on social media!

Play well folks,

-Krista (she/her)

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