All things LEGO Space sells well. It's been that way since LEGO first started releasing Space themed sets and so it will always be. Every time they bring out a new set in the LEGO Space range, they seem to push the boundaries of what we thought possible with bricks and bring out something that's cutting edge and sci-fi-y enough to satisfy us fans.
So, when LEGO announced they'd be recreating a LEGO Space set from 1979 as part of their 90th anniversary celebrations, we weren't sure what to think. Would it feel like a step back for LEGO Space? Or would it bring so much nostalgia that nobody would care? If you want to hear our thoughts, then stick around for today's LEGO Galaxy Explorer review.
Also read: Light Up Lego Galaxy Explorer 10497 Easily
Let's kick things off by saying that this 90th Anniversary celebration set is all about nostalgia, of course. They've taken a favorite among LEGO Space fans from 1979, and recreated it with a few modern updates. One of the most noticeable differences between set 10497 and the older model is the size. It's not quite twice as big, but there are more minifigures, more spaceship, and more things to do with this set than ever before!
You can build everything on offer here in 1254 pieces, and the finished model lends itself perfectly to either play or display, because it both looks great and feels sturdy once it's built. Can't wait to get your hands on it? Well, we don't have too much longer to wait because the LEGO Galaxy Explorer 10497 set drops on August 1st.
Before we jump into the review, we just want to repeat - this is a remake of an old set, so if things feel dated as you build or admire the set, remember that it's supposed to be. If it feels old, then LEGO has done their job right. And the only reason we're pointing that out is that many of our younger readers won't have been alive when the 1979 set dropped, and they may have only started building LEGO more recently where the build techniques, minifigures, and finished sets all have a different standard. With that out of the way, let's get to it!
Priced at $99.99, we're fairly certain that fans who remember the original will cringe slightly at the price tag, since our parents probably picked it up for 10 bucks back then... but that's inflation, my friends!
Seriously, though, by today's standard, $99.99 is pretty cheap, and considering you get 1254 pieces for that price, it's actually one of the better priced sets we've seen from LEGO lately. At just below 8 cents a brick, you're actually not paying extortionate prices here. Add in the nostalgia, the play and display opportunities, and the sheer size of the completed model and you get a set that we'd argue is well worth the price you pay.
But the completed model is just the final part of any LEGO journey, so what about the route there? Well, the building experience is legitimately one of the most fun ones you'll have. Why?
First, there's all the nostalgic elements, and this will kick off from bag one as you build the first red astronaut minifigure (more on the minifigures themselves later), and it only continues from there. The classic gray, yellow, and blue color scheme remains, and as you slowly put the model together over its 9 bags, you're transported right back to 1979.
But that doesn't mean there's nothing on offer for all you young'uns, though. Parts will feel familiar, and other parts will be completely new to all of us. Take the base of the model this time. It's very different from the original and is actually more akin to the more recent Creator Expert vehicle bases we've become used to lately. Let us assure you, nothing that technical with all its color and studded/studless pieces was available back in 79.
Then there are the build techniques themselves. By mixing nostalgia with innovation, we're able to get a model that looks very similar to the old one, but is in many ways is a lot better! 'Landing' is now much smoother, there's a retractable ramp, and the landing legs are retractable too - basically with today's building techniques LEGO is able to take an overall quite static model and make it a million times more dynamic, and therefore, a million times more fun to play with.
Overall, this build mixes classic and modern in a way no other LEGO set has been able to do this successfully - possibly ever! It's really remarkable to see LEGO achieve this, because it simultaneously takes you back to 1979, and shows you just how far LEGO has come in the years since because of the unique build techniques and bricks (like the unique yellow windscreen that you can move up and down - a first in any LEGO set), making it the perfect set for a 90th Anniversary celebration!
Minifigure Deep Dive
We just had to include this minifigure deep dive because we have a feeling, you're either going to love them or hate them. There won't be much of an in-between on these. Us? We love them, but let us explain why...
LEGO has reused the old style of minifigures here, with their one-dimensional smiling faces and nothing to distinguish them from any of the other old style minifigures.
To anybody not old enough to remember these old style minifigures, they'll almost certainly look lackluster and undeveloped, but to the rest of us this will take us back to simpler times when all we had was LEGO minifigures that all looked exactly the same but for the clothes they were wearing.
No expressions, no interesting make up or facial features - just simple minifigures. And whilst, yes, we can admit the new minifigures are all WAY better than the old ones, sometimes it's nice to revisit the past, and these minifigures have a novelty factor to them if nothing else.
Altogether you'll get 4 astronauts, 2 in white suits, 2 in red suits, and all looking completely indistinguishable from one another - so it's time to dust off your imagination if you want to give them any sort of personality like we all did back in the day! In addition to the minifigures, there's also a little robot, a rover that the minifigures can ride on, and the ship itself, all of which are fun to interact with for play and storytelling.
We understand why some will look at these minifigures, call them boring, and never bother with them again, but for us, nostalgia will out, and we're so glad LEGO decided to use the old style of minifigures here.
Let's round up all the best bits about this set, shall we?
- Classic in every sense of the word - the color scheme alone is incredible, with the blue, yellow, and gray scheme matching the old model perfectly and the classic minifigures taking us right back to those early LEGO sets.
- Modern twists - the windshield, moving ramp, landing procedure, and detachable jet engine rockets all feel true to the original, but bring modern building techniques to the table that show LEGO's progress over the years.
- Full of color - the old base was gray, as almost every LEGO base was back in the 70s, but this one is full of color (which some might complain about, but LEGO have only used colors that were already available back in 79 for this set and that feels like an update to the model that's in keeping with the original, too).
- Play & storytelling opportunities galore - the interior of the Galaxy Explorer is just crammed full of details and amazing play and storytelling possibilities that this set feels like something you'll have a lot of fun with.
- Two alternate builds - we know by now that the modern LEGO way of thinking is that alternate builds are a must wherever possible, but that wasn't how it was back in the day. Now there are two alternate builds available. What are they? Two more classic LEGO Space sets! The details on how to build these will be available digitally when the set drops on August 1st, and we can't wait to play around with them both!
There are, as always, a few areas that we'd have liked to see do better:
- The set is incomplete - controversially, LEGO decided to leave out the moon surface and the space station that was included in the previous set, focusing instead on the Galaxy Explorer and packing that full of extra details. But without the moon surface and space station the set feels incomplete compared to the original, and almost like you're not getting your money's worth... We'd have happily paid a few extra bucks to have seen this brought up to date with the spaceship itself.
- Legs are fiddly - the legs are retractable and moveable which is a definite improvement on the old model, but they're so fiddly that often you'll just leave them in or out and display the set permanently like that to save all the messing around you'd have to do to change it.
Honestly, we're fairly certain this will appeal to all LEGO fans, from the ones who can remember the classics to the ones who want to experience the classics for the first time. If you love LEGO Space sets, then we have absolutely no doubt in our mind that you'll love this set when it drops on August 1st, so make sure you don't miss out!
Bringing A New Kind Of Refresh...
Now that our LEGO 10497 review is over, let's talk about how the LEGO 10497 Galaxy Explorer can be taken to the next level, shall we?
As much as it feels like we here at Lightailing have been shining a light on your LEGO builds since forever-ago, we actually weren't operating back in 1979 when the original set released. In fact, we're pretty certain no LEGO lighting businesses were back then. That means you now have a unique opportunity to refresh the classic Galaxy Explorer in a different way - with your very own DIY light kit from us here at Lightailing.
Head to the Accessories page now to look at all our products so you can decide what you need ahead of August 1st so you can create a Galaxy Explorer that's totally unique!