At long last, BIONICLE is back! Well, sort of. Today the LEGO Group launched its latest gift with purchase, and we’re going hands-on to see just how the modern-day remakes of Tahu and Takua stack up. Available now as a free add-on to select orders over $100, the latest promotional set has been long-awaited by fans of the heroes from Mata Nui. Now to see if the promotion is worth your cash, I’m taking a closer look at BIONICLE and its 2023 comeback.
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Hands-on with LEGO’s new BIONICLE gift with purchase
First detailed by 9to5Toys back in October of last year, we’ve known that the LEGO Group has been cooking up a reboot of sorts for BIONICLE for months now. The day has finally come where builders could get their hands on the model, but it’s not like your average creation. Instead of being able to go to the LEGO Shop Online or your local brick-and-mortar store and buy one off the shelf, LEGO is making you spend $100 on select sets to score this one for no extra cost.
The gift-with-purchase formula has been widely criticized as of late for locking must-have kits behind a paywall in this way, and the new LEGO BIONICLE set is, of course, no exception. Making matters worse, the LEGO Group is limiting just which sets will count toward that $100 threshold. Locking out fan-favorite themes like Star Wars, Marvel, and even adult-focused builds like Architecture and Icons, only kits from the following collections will count toward your purchase: City, Monkie Kid, Ninjago, Friends, Classic, DOTS, and Creator.
That begs the question of just how worth it the LEGO BIONICLE set really is. Do the remakes of Tahu and Takua really deserve to be locked behind a $100 spend amount, or are you better off just skipping this nostalgia-fueled release? I’m taking a closer look.
Straight out of the early 2000s and now making their grand debut for 2023, the new LEGO BIONICLE set recreates two iconic heroes from Mata Nui out of 219 pieces. Alongside the figures (which I’ll, of course, circle back to in a moment), the set also includes a little display stand for one of the figures to stand on as well as another small build. But it really is the two figures, Tahu and Takua, that steal the spotlight.
Tahu, the Toa of Fire, arrives as the larger of the two and is rocking a LEGO System design for this one-off recreation. He sports a classic red color scheme to complement the fire weapon and an all-new printed price for the mask. It would have been fantastic to see the LEGO Group actually make a new molded piece to give Tahu his classic appearance, but using a printed brick is at least more in line with the System design. And I mean, at least it wasn’t a sticker!
Once assembled, the main aspect of the BIONICLE gift with purchase stands a bit shorter than the original counterpart released by LEGO all the way back in 2001. Still, there is plenty of pose-ability and a design that still packs plenty of charm. It’s a faithful recreation that isn’t perfect, but with the limitations that the set designer was up against, it is still a really neat little remake. Tahu rides on a surfboard that sits atop a display base which has some lava elements to really tie into the original theming of the character, which honestly is pretty well done.
Alongside Tahu, the LEGO Group is also including Takua with the BIONICLE gift with purchase. He is a much smaller aspect of the kit but still a fitting addition to the build. I really enjoy that, despite being on the smaller side, the figure still has posable arms and legs as well as a head that can be positioned in various poses. He can be displayed all on his own, of course, or by clipping onto the back of the Toa of Fire for a more cohesive collectible.
BIONICLE is something that is very near and dear to so many fans of LEGO. It’s the theme I get asked the most about by friends and anyone who hears that I write about LEGO for a living. It’s a meme among the most dedicated builders and collectors, much like it is from people who still remember getting the original kits as kids and haven’t touched any new models in years. There’s really something to all of the lore and characters that have kept fans interested, even two decades after the theme first launched, which makes the promotional set’s launch all the more exciting.
Though what really sells the set to me is that it is more than just a nostalgic cash grab. Set designers Nick Vás and Niek Van are both extremely passionate about LEGO’s history, including all things Mata Nui. Just a quick scroll through either Vás’ or Van’s Twitter pages will show how excited they both were for the build to finally release, and that passion is evident in the final model we builders are to actually get our hands on. Not all kits come from the minds of LEGO designers who share the same love and affinity for the themes as fans do, but the BIONICLE gift with purchase shows that the creators really do love the heroes from Mata Nui as much as we all do.
Despite all of the overwhelming fandom and love of BIONICLE, it still seems unlikely that the LEGO Group will ever bring back the theme. Sure, there’s a chance that this could finally be an opportunity for builders to put our money behind all of the jokes, #BringBackBIONICLE campaigns, and other cries for the theme to officially hit store shelves again. But this seems more of LEGO just giving fans a little love by bringing back Tahu and Takua one last time.
Some will say that a System version of the once great Technic theme is sacrilegious. And to that I really do hear you. But I see it as a fun tribute to the Mata Nui heroes that we’ve all loved over the past couple of decades. The blocky designs aren’t going to be for everyone, but this isn’t a reboot of the original kits. It’s a celebration of them, and a unique refresh that turns the buildable figure line into a more modern LEGO set.
Aside from the set itself, the only thing that leaves a sour taste in my mouth is that I have some serious issues with locking the gift with purchase behind a very limited number of themes instead of the LEGO catalog at large. But if you can find some creations in the themes that do quality, spending $100 isn’t the worst we’ve seen from a promotion. I walked away quite happy from the LEGO Store this morning with a new addition to my Ninjago collection all bagged up alongside the BIONCLE gift with purchase, and as long as there is something you like on store shelves right now, the promotion is definitely worth the cost of entry.
The freebie just went live today and will be available until February 9 or until stock runs out. There’s no telling just how long it will be around, but spending $100 on any of the sets noted over on the LEGO Shop landing page will lock in the promotional set while supplies last. If you do end up picking up some new builds to earn yourself the BIONICLE gift with purchase, make sure to let me know on Twitter just which kits you bought.
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