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Tiger Shark Attack

Lego Aqua Raiders
by Artemis

We're an inquisitive lot, humans, which leads us to many places we'd never have gone otherwise - often, into the digestive tracts of species which normally wouldn't get the chance to eat us. Well, good for them, I'm sure they appreciate the variety in their diet.

The divers have come across an old gold plate and some diamonds in a shark-infested area! To keep himself safe while he investigates he brings along his harpoon canon, and for extra safety his buddy circles above him in the super-fast shark killer sub. But what is that giant shadow coming from above? It's a shark, ready to attack!

The story of Lego's Aqua Raiders line is that there's a huge treasure trove beneath the Bermuda Triangle, the remnant of some ancient king who sailed where he shouldn't have, and a team of intrepid deep sea divers are intent on hauling it back up to the surface, regardless of the dangers posed by practically every lethal marine animal that ever existed all congregated in the salvage area. According to one of the promotional videos, they may be Australian; that'd be right, we're always pestering dangerous animals to see what they'll do. You'd think living on a continent where practically ever life form from microbes upwards contains enough venom to drop a herd of elephants would teach us better, but no.

Today's set of wheels (or rather, fins) for raiding the seabed is the Shark Killer sub, a nifty little 9"-long runabout well-stocked with pointy weapons to discourage attention from the denizens of the deep. It's basically a rectangular hull, with curved bricks fitted on to give it a streamlined look, and its toys tacked onto the sides.

The prow contains the big gun, Lego's standard spring-loaded missile (or torpedo, I suppose) launcher, which delivers a hefty kick when fired; on either side, beneath the maneuvering fins, are gas-powered trident launchers (fixed in place, not fireable), and clamped alongside the cockpit canopy are two rifle-sized harpoon guns. The tridents connect via segmented hoses to their propellant tanks bolted onto the sides further back, and beneath and behind those are a pair of rotating propellers, with a rudder situated centrally between them on the stern. There's also an engine-looking piece mounted on the hull behind the canopy, just rear of a pair of blocks that I think are intended to be intakes - maybe a magnetohydrodynamic propulsor (Hunt for Red October's "caterpillar drive").

The rudder, propellers, and maneuvering fins are all mobile - the rudder has about 30° of turn to either side, the fins are good for 45° up or down, and the propeller housings have a full 360° travel, making this a zippy little craft. The sealed cockpit has room for one diver in full gear (sans fins, though there's room to stow them behind him), sitting at a control station with a bunch of gauges as a readout, and two levers to work the engines. All in all, for a mid-to-small Lego vehicle, it's quite a realistic, well-engineered design.

The set comes with two divers, identical besides their faces - one is frowning, with messy hair, the other has a level gaze and a beard. Besides the standard Lego body (black with sky blue trim) they have special air tanks with rebreather hoses that go around their necks, and the standard visored space helmet is turned into a diving helmet with a special clear blue goggles-and-snorkel "visor". The set includes two pairs of fins, which plug into the bottom of the feet, and are flat so the figure can remain standing on them.

Since there's only room in the sub for one, the other diver has to make do with a measly harpoon cannon (not "canon") to protect himself. It's based on the "space rifle" (the one that works best as a bazooka), turned sideways and backwards, with extra bits tacked on to give it a handle and spear, and a four-footed base. Mounted properly on its base (don't push the claw all the way into the Technic plug), the gun swivels freely, but its tilt is limited by the targeter mounted low on its side.

The aim of these intrepid idiots' quest today is an antique plate full of diamonds, allegedly - there are three of them, red, green and blue, so I'd hazard a guess that the people putting the set together and the people writing its text may have had different ideas there. It's nothing fancy, just a 4x4 plate with "rocks" on one side, and a couple of seaweed strands waving in the current.

Now, one could argue that it's a bit mean to go snooping around a shark's natural habitat with a purpose-designed "shark killer" vehicle, just because you happen to want some gems that someone dropped down there. Mother nature evidently agreed, and decided to even the odds a bit. I was pleased to see, in the Lego Agents "Speedboat Rescue" set that Lego had made themselves a new and larger shark since my childhood, when the Pirates sets had titchy little baby sharks. Well, to paraphrase the great Paul Hogan: that's not a shark, this is a shark.

From nose to tail, the shark is 12¼" long. To put that in perspective, tiger sharks (of which this is one, at least according to the set name) generally grow to 4¼m at most, and the "giant" great white in Jaws was 8m long. Using a Lego figure to gauge scale, this monster would be about 14m long. Rather than being a custom-made Lego shark, it's composed of various smoothly angled bricks - mostly the result of recent Space and Star Wars sets - and although you can see its construction, it's overall a pretty damned convincing shark. The underbelly is white, there's a light grey layer amidships, and it's dark grey over the top, with silver speckled "stripes" on its forehead, as well as three scars just ahead of its right eye. Two sets of 1x1 angled bricks represent its gills, and the interior of its mouth has red bricks for its gums, and wicked rows of white fangs.

It's well articulated too, especially for a Lego creature. The jaw opens on a hinge (although the teeth prevent it from ever closing completely), and the head is mounted on a ratcheted swivel/peg balljoint. The side fins are on ratcheted hinges, and the tail segment is attached via a clever little construct of an internal rod mounted in rubber segments, surrounded by a c-frame that makes it a giant ratchet joint - the tail can swing from side to side on its own, with the rubber clasp bringing it back to its central position, but push it far enough and it'll click into a locked position to that side, until you manually move it back.

Now granted it's clearly a Lego shark, in the same way that Lego people don't look like real people - but look at that thing, it's a really good shot at a sleek, curved living creature. Only the forehead piece is specifically made to be used as a shark bit, and even that would work just fine as part of a plane or spacecraft, with the stripes and shark eyes representing nose art.

The set's good value all around, with a capable little submarine and neat accessories in the gem outcrop and the harpoon cannon, but the shark is undeniably the star of the show. If only it had a frickin' laser beam mounted on its head...


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