Review: Portal of Atlantis, set #8078.

This is the set that made me like the Atlantis series. I purchased it without much in the way of expectations, because I was only looking for something to use as a fortress for the Squid Lord’s army. An underwater set, with lots of dark colors and some mean-looking guardians, seemed to be the perfect choice. However, once I sat down to build the Portal of Atlantis, I found a pleasant surprise.

Among the main attractions in the set is the impressive shark’s mouth entrance, which opens to reveal steps leading to the main platform. Not only is the shark’s mouth visually interesting, it is also a mechanical trick that works very well. As for the portal itself, it has mounts for all five Atlantis treasure keys (included in the set), along with a mechanism to open and close the portal. Included are some unique Atlantis minifigs, like the squid and shark warriors, along with a pair of sharks that are easily removed to menace any curious divers.


The shark’s mouth entrance.

The portal itself.

The Atlantis minifigures show a good evolution from earlier underwater sets. Being a sucker for monsters, I especially like the squid warrior. The three human minifigs all come with utensils (two spearguns, one camera) and diving hardsuits that allow for some neat additions, like lights and propulsion systems. Something amusing to note is that all of the characters in this set are left-handed, the sole exception being the diver equipped with the camera.


Always put your cameraman on point.
That way you can use your spearguns to shoot whatever eats him.

At 1007 pieces and with 7 minifigs, this is a fairly large set. When you have that many pieces and minifigs, it is hard not to have some good things to say about a LEGO product. However, I believe that there are several reasons that the Portal turned out to be a pleasant suprise.

First off is that it is fun to build. There are three different sections to the building process. The first section is the central platform which is comprised of the entrance and the portal itself. The second and third sections are the walls to either side of the portal. The shark’s mouth entrance and the portal are both fun to build, though you have to exercise some care when assembling the portal until it is reinforced. Also, it might take a little fiddling or breaking in to get the portal’s sphincter to work correctly.

Building the the walls to either side of the portal did not become repetitious, despite being largely mirror images of each other. That is probably because each individual side (right or left) does not contain a lot of repeat work. If anything, I found myself looking over the sides of the portal and thinking, “You know, if I wanted to make these larger…”

The colors used go together quite nicely. I would not mind building up my selection of parts in the colors offered, so I will be watching for deals or sales on the 8078 set.


Squids need steps for some reason.

RIP Ken “Crab Crusher Crushing” Johnson.
The instructions are very clear and easy to follow. My only change would be to attach the black 1×1 round plates to the gates before snapping the gates into place, but that is such a tiny adjustment that it hardly bears mentioning. Favorite part in this set: (besides the squid warrior minifig) the dark bluish gray 1×2 logs. 42 of them come in this set. Least favorite part in this set: The big 3X6X5 ornamental archs, because using pieces like that feel like cheating.

For play, the design allows enough room to move minifigures around without knocking things off. It is more difficult to place minifigures in the hallways at ground level, but the walkways atop the walls are easy access. If anything, I wish the walls were a bit longer to allow for more minifigures atop them; the squid warrior takes up a lot of space due to his tentacles and makes it hard to place anybody else atop the wall. As for durability, I am happy to say that the set is rather rugged. The shark’s mouth entrance opens and closes, the portal works smoothly after a little fine-tuning, and the whole set also folds up for easier transportation and storage. My biggest complaint in the durability area is that the two sharks tend to lose their tails.


Why do I always get stuck fixing the sharks?

The Emperor’s quarters are rather spartan.
What would I pay for this set? MSRP, $99.99. Keep an eye on Amazon.com though, I’ve seen the Portal of Atlantis for as little as $80 new.

 

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