Pros: Great design, play features, minifigures--an essential Batman LEGO set.
Cons: Instruction books are too dark; expensive set (but well worth the price)
his is the most money I've ever spent on a single LEGO set. Enough money that the clerk at Toys R Us actually did a double take and said, "are you really buying this?" ...which I thought was a funny reaction for a retail employee to have. But even spending $90 on this LEGO set--I don't have a bit of buyer's remorse. After spending the money (two months worth of Epinions payout) and almost eight hours putting the playset together, I realized that it was worth every penny.
The Batcave has been a part of Batman's mythos since the very beginning--a secret hideout beneath Wayne Manor, filled with trophies, computers, vehicles, and training equipment to help Batman and Robin fight their war on crime. There have been many toy versions of it, and having owned three others, this is the best Batcave by far.
The Batcave is enormous: more than two feet across and eighteen inches deep, and it's filled with play features. The LEGO set is composed of 1,075 pieces: enough that two instruction books with more than 100 pages of illustrated directions are necessary to put the set together. With so many play features, it's easiest to review the LEGO Batcave in sections: the playset itself, the vehicles, and LEGO minifigures.
The middle part of the Batcave is the computer and control center, and is the largest part of the playset. LEGO's design work here is fantastic, combining elements of the Batcave we've seen in movies, television, comic books, and animation for six decades. There are two impressive computer banks, two throne-like chairs for Batman and Robin to sit and trophies including a Joker Bomb, small dinosaur, and a samurai sword. There are tools for detective work, like the Joker's fingerprints under a magnifying glass, information about villains Two-Face and Joker on large computer displays, and even a "Batphone" atop a table concealing Batarangs and other weapons. The attention to detail is wonderful, and even though the bottom level of the Batcave is somewhat plain, the top level is amazing. There's a spiral staircase connecting the two levels, and unlike the staircases in other sets (the Hogwarts Castle is the best example) this one is pinned at both top and bottom so the steps don't shift out from under Batman's feet. Ladders swing out from both sides of the command center, connecting to the other parts of the Batcave with precarious walkways.
To the right of the command center is another platform. At first glance it's some kind of jail, but when you look more closely, it's packed with play features. Atop the platform is a sort of pod--a changing chamber so Bruce Wayne can store his Batman costume. It's ready for a quick change--both sides of the pod open, so you can rush Bruce Wayne into one side, and bring Batman out the other. It's sleek and streamlined, and looks like the kind of setup Batman would really have. Just beyond the pod is a trap door--pull a short rod, and the trapdoor opens, and drops unwelcome visitors into the barred cell below. There's also a small weight bench for those training sessions--gotta keep Batman in shape. Behind the jail cell is a round sewer tube that is a convenient escape route for either Batman or his foes.
The third two-story platform has as many play features as the other two: the bottom level is a dock for the Batboat--complete with a gas pump for refueling. A ladder leads quickly up to the top level, which features a rotating weapon: next to a Batsignal is a spring-loaded blunt-tipped missile that really launches: we've fired it up to three feet, and all of our eyes are still intact. There's also a net that can be packed into a cylinder and then launched--it doesn't fire as far, but clears the platform to trap criminals. There's also a zipline that connects to other pieces, and can be used by Batman with an included small pulley.
Sled Launching Platform
The Batcave is as well-known as Batman's garage as any other function--it's where the Batmobile and his other vehicles are parked when not in use. A parking lot's pretty boring, right? Well, LEGO included a platform that can be used to park the Batmobile, Bat-Dragster, Batwing, or anything else that happens to be home. It's large enough to accommodate any of those, but looks like it was meant to house the Batsled--a new vehicle included with the Batcave. The platform rotates via a geared mechanism, and connects to the command center with secure pegs.
Of the three vehicles included with the Batcave, the Bat-sled is the largest. Similar in design to the Batwing, it's a sleek black rocket sled with flames coming out the back. Batman likes those flames. It also has spinning guns on the front, and a semi-enclosed canopy cockpit. Despite all these features, and the cool skids on the bottom of the Bat-sled, I like it the least of the vehicles here. The front portion of the Bat-sled detaches too easily from the rest of the vehicle, and is only held together with two "studs." It's a fragile design, and is too fragile for kids (or adults) to play with without becoming frustrated. It's certainly too fragile for any sort of hot (or cold) pursuit.
This is the first appearance by Robin in the Batman LEGO line, and he gets his own tiny vehicle. It's a small Jetski, and is red, yellow and green like Robin's costume. It has pivoting fins and a rotating cannon of some kind, but other than that is pretty unremarkable. It's a nice little bonus, and fits in well with the Batboat and other vehicles. I may have preferred a "Robin Cycle" or other Robin vehicle instead, but I can't complain.
This is by far the coolest vehicle included with the Batcave--the storyline and short comic accompanying the playset feature an invasion by the Penguin and Mr. Freeze--and they use a Penguin submarine to infiltrate the Dark Knight's lair. The LEGO designers got the sub absolutely perfect--it's a fine addition to the Joker Copter, Killer Croc's Jetski, and the other villainous vehicles in this line. The submarine looks like a swimming penguin, with a white underbelly, black top, and even a yellow beak. Two spinning flippers emerge from the sides, and there are yellow "feet" alongside the rear propeller. The submarine's roof and conning tower split so you can put Penguin inside the sub, which has controls and a periscope inside. If it were a few inches longer, the other figures would have fit inside it as well, but this mini-sub is perfect for the Penguin. It's cute, but still has a threatening air about it--if a six-inch submarine can be threatening.
All of the minifigures in this set are exclusive to the Batcave playset, and Batman himself is no exception. the other Batman minifigures we've had in the Batman LEGO sets have been grey-and-black, the way Batman is usually portrayed in comic books and animation. This minifigure is all-black, the way Batman has been seen in the movies since 1989. The helmet/cowl is removable, and helps to hold on the scalloped cloth cape. The Bat-logo is inside a gold circle on his chest, and matches the gold utility belt. Little muscles are printed on the torso to buff him up a bit.
The Bruce Wayne figure is honestly pretty bland--a standard LEGO minfigure wearing a dark blue suit. He does have a wry little smirk on his face, and his eyebrows are determined--there's nothing about him that screams "Bruce Wayne," but he's perfectly acceptable as Batman's alter ego.
The Robin minifigure was honestly a big part of the draw of getting this playset: in my crazy world, Batman needs Robin. The Robin figure isn't my favorite, but has some good features. The red torso piece is perfect, with the yellow utility belt, stylized "R" logo, and "lacing" running up the center of his torso. The yellow cloth cape works, although these days Robin wears a cape that's black on the outside and yellow on the inside. The designers had a tough compromise with Robin's arms, since they're usually short sleeved in the comics and television programs--but LEGO can't really do short sleeves on their minifigures. So they went with all-green--the color of Robin's short sleeves--and it works okay, but doesn't quite look right. They went with longish floppy hair for Robin, when I probably would have gone with either standard "boy hair" or even something spiky. But that's an easy fix. Altogether a good minifigure, and strong character for the set.
Alfred, Bruce Wayne's longsuffering butler, is also available only as a part of the Batcave set, and this version of him is perfectly faithful to the comic books. The fringe of hair around his balding head, the stern look, the pencil-thin moustache--all on a grey-and-black service tuxedo that makes it clear that he's more formal than your average manservant. I love Alfred, and this is a great, iconic version of him.
Mr. Freeze--a Bat-villain with a cold ray gun that can turn people into blocks of ice--is well-represented by his minifigure. The snow-white face, the red goggled eyes, the clear helmet--all work well. He has a small black backpack and chest unit with transparent blue highlights, and these combined with his large freeze gun really establish his presence among the Bat-villains. I may go back and replace some of his all-blue suit with some black pieces, to make him more like his appearance in the Animated Series, but he's a good minifigure here. There's even a sort of "ice capsule" that you can use to entomb a minifigure. It clamshells together and can be used again and again to freeze all of Gotham City. One person at a time.
Penguin (plus three penguins)
The Penguin is one of my favorite Bat-villains, so I was excited to see him as a part of this set. LEGO has given him "stubby" legs, rarely used in minifigures, so his legs are immovable, but it makes him a good head shorter than Batman and Mr. Freeze...which is as it should be. He's got a monocle and his teeth are clenced in a grin--LEGO probably didn't want to give him his trademark cigarette holder. Bad for the kids, dontchaknow. He's got his traditional tux and top hat (they dress so formally in Gotham's underworld...), and he's even got a little two-piece umbrella. The Penguin is accompanied by three small penguins built out of LEGO--each can carry a gun in their flippers, and they're short, but darn if they aren't the cutest part of the set.
there's one henchman included, wearing Mr. Freeze's blue colors, with a knit cap pulled down over his eyes, and some stubble to establish that he's really bad news.
My only complaint about the Batcave playset is that, like the other Batman LEGO sets, it's a lot of black and dark grey LEGO pieces. Which is fine--it's all very "Batman"...but it makes reading the instruction books very difficult. If they had a color key in the front of the books that lightened everything up a degree, the books would be more legible, and there would be less backtracking. So I figure I probably lost five years of vision straining my eyes reading the instruction books...but it was all worth it. I can be blind and play with LEGO, no problem.
I never thought I'd spend this much on a LEGO set--but I never thought my dreams would come true with a LEGO Batcave, either. There are always things to nitpick about--there are some elements of the Batcave, like a giant penny, giant dinosaur and giant playing card that aren't included--but to include them would have added more price to the set. This is easily the best Batcave any toy company has ever made, and when you consider it as a part of the larger Batman LEGO collection, it's the centerpiece of a great line of toys. Great for a big Christmas present or birthday, it would make any Bat-fan happy.
MORE BATMAN LEGO
Batdragster: Catwoman Pursuit
Batboat: Hunt for Killer Croc
Batwing: Joker's Aerial Assault