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Review: 71310 Umarak the Hunter
He's big. He's bad. Umarak, as Ruby Friedman would put it, is gonna hunt you down. But should you be hunting him?
Umarak's box compares to the 20 dollar Toa, smaller than Kopaka and Melum, who are at 25, but the adornments are the same; actionable posing on the front, legalese on the back. The front makes it clear that this set includes the infamous Mask of Control, once worn by Ekimu's jealous brother. In a sense, it's a bit out of place (unlike the Mask of Creation, which was meant to be battled for), but it mimics the golden mask on the Toa's boxes in a way that I think Umarak himself carries overall; that he is a perversion of what the Toa are and are doing. Whatever his backstory ends up being, he's very clearly a foil, and negative to what the Toa represent.
That idea is also present on the back, where you can see (surprise) that Umarak can also "unite" with the creatures, although that terminology would more likely be "control".
Umarak has a large number of pieces (172, pretty good for the price point) but what really got me excited is knowing that they all go to one figure. Our big bads have been varied and interesting so far, but unfortunately lacking in the "build" department. Umarak has all of these pieces dedicated to him, and looks to be a lot more intense.
In terms of new pieces, there's the torso/waist assembly, the Shadow Trap parts (which don't appear to make a Shadow Trap on the box... OR DO THEY), the "Unity" piece, and the new eyestalk. Shoutout to the eyestalk, which comes in orange! This is currently the only other color it's available in, and the only set it comes in, so I'm glad they haven't entirely abandoned eye color so quickly after introducing it.
In terms of returning, but noteworthy, parts there's the assorted bone/horn/insect appendage pieces in dark tan, and a newly printed breast plate especially for Umarak. This plate is honestly more goofy than it is menacing (a problem shared by LOSS last year...), but thankfully is not the focus.
Of course, you might notice a gleam of gold under all those blacks and greens... yes, the second of our three legendary masks, Makuta's Mask of Control is included in this set. Public reaction has been a bit mixed on this piece, given its stylization in the BIONICLE Webisodes and how it looks a lot different now. Ultimately (GET IT???) I'm a fan of this version. Some of the pictures, especially the full frontal shot, don't actually do justice to the depth and angles the mask has, and it possesses the same amount of intricacy as the Mask of Creation, making it a worthy companion piece.
Umarak's mask itself, though, practically outshines the Mask of Control. The mottled greens and asymmetrical application of color injection make for a fearsome looking thing. I was worried that it might end up being too dopey, considering some of the faces Umarak makes on the box comics, but no, this is definitely an appropriate mask.
As I mentioned earlier, Umarak's design seems to be based around a corruption of the Toa's, and the build acknowledges that. The first thing included is the waist articulation assembly seen on all of the Toa; much like the gearbox of the previous year, this feature is definitely a highlight, although in this case, the connection on Umarak's hips seem a bit looser than all of the ones I've come across, so it's not a perfect system yet. Still, the ability to pivot on the waist makes for both good posing AND playing, so it's a win win in terms of functionality.
The rest of the torso is fleshed out with some custom shoulders and back armor focused around the Unity piece. On Umarak's lower back is a simple 4L shell, which looking back was never used in any of the other Toa despite how ridiculously simple it would have been.
Umarak uses the large beast foot as the base for his legs. Although it was really probably just the best to use in terms of the leg construction overall, I like that it, again, darkly reflects that none of the Toa this year (even Onua) used a beast foot, unlike last year, and that all of the creatures this year use the small variant.
So too are his legs less than humanoid; not quite digitigrade yet (we'll get there!), but definitely more animalistic than other bipedal villains. The hunter has a bit of beast blood in him, that's for sure. These legs, from various angles, tend to be a bit gappy, which is probably more a reflection of the price point than anything else; it's easy enough to add things in if necessary, but you do wish for an extra shell and ball joint or two. The legs also get a bit stiff at times, but thanks to the feet (and claws), they balance well.
What is hunter, though, without a weapon? At first, Umarak has what appears to be a simple hook blade (shout out to the returning hook blade, which was too good to leave in 2015!), but is quickly supplied with a holster for both the blade and an ammo wheel, which if you're paying attention means we have a rapid shooter to look forward to.
His arms, unfortunately, are both with the fixed elbow joints rather than a simple ball joint for a more versatile attachment, but that tends to imply that the weapon is heavier, and since we know it's going to be a rapid shooter, it makes sense. Honestly, I applaud the designers for taking those steps for more ranged articulation at all; what started as the occasional one-off in Hero Factory or BIONICLE has apparently become the standard now, which makes playing that much more accessible.
The two shadow trap halves act as shoulder pads for Umarak. While the connection is a little straightforward, the shadow trap piece itself is shown to be multipurpose, and only further cements it as my favorite new piece of the wave.
The Skull Army torso plate from last year also sneaks its way in here, and matches well with the new printed chest plate. It's hard to call Umarak's color scheme "cohesive", because there's a fair amount of colors included, but by that same token he doesn't really need a "primary" or "secondary", as much as the Toa do, and works with the collection he has.
Far from letting the wicked mask piece serve as the focal point for Umarak's face, the head has a massive assembly of horns and offshoots to create an undead deer appearance. It's almost comically large, (certainly not restrained in any manner) but it actually works with the mask and the final build when all is said and done. I actually quite like the Nordic inspiration, and hope they use that for some future sets as well.
As large as his knife is, though, what any real hunter needs is some sort of ranged weapon, for silent stalking. Compared to some of the other variations of the rapid shooter we've seen so far, Umarak's bow is almost tame in comparison, but the construction is elegant and simple, and does not use too many spinning parts for unnecessary purposes (okay, maybe one).
The lack of any real weight to the bow is a boon for posing, too. The premolded hand joints look as awkward here as they have on most weapons like this in the past six or seven years since they've been introduced. These are one of a few pieces that have not had any significant retooling since their introduction, and at this point, I think it's time for a change, LEGO. Either include an axle slot on the side for some added utility, or just create a new type altogether and just throw them all in, like action figures often do.
And like that, the hunter is ready to find some prey. If there's anything to Umarak, it's that he feels like a raptor. Lean, mean, and smart. He might not be quite the big T-Rex people were hoping for, but this is definitely the villain we deserve for the winter wave.
Despite his excellent form, though, he doesn't quite pull of the Mask of Control as well as Skull Grinder did the Mask of Creation. (Side note: Kulta wearing the Mask of Control. Do it.) The gold is off-putting, and the extra horns don't gel with the ones he already possesses. A shame, but given how fearsome his standard mask is, no great loss besides.
Oh, you thought we were done? Hah. Nope. Though I would have preferred a few extra pieces for a mask stand (I'll just make my own stand... with blackjack!) Umarak opts to combine the few remaining bits along with his existing pieces for... a Shadow Trap! I shall call this one... TJ. Trappy Jr. The Shadow Traps themselves are ingenious little creations, so being able to have the chance to play around with one of those in the set is a solid addition. That said, the construction of TJ is actually a bit of a pain; disassembling the pieces in the right way, then re-attaching all of them into the trap form is usually more trouble than it's worth, and there's no place to store the extra bits when you don't. Still, the thought is appreciated, and in theory you actually HAVE to remove the shoulder pads for the next part, so it's fun that they gave him something to do with them.
Aforementioned "next part" being what he does best: BEAST HUNTING. I mean, not really "hunting" in the "killing for sport" sense, but looking for them, seeking them, to add to his collection. This is very much where Umarak as an evil counterpart to the Toa really shines (right word choice?). While the creature heads on most of the Toa's masks were occasionally hard to pose, here they fit snugly over the horns of Umarak's head, like they were meant to (and probably designed to do just that).
Umarak doesn't look that great with all of them, although that's in large part the form factor of the beasts themselves. In particular, Ikir and Uxar ended up being my favorites (the two "air types", vs Terak and Melum's "ground type", Akida's "water type" and Ketar's... whatever type), though Melum was surprisingly fun too. Uxar is advertised as the primary connection to Umarak, and meshes in best with the colors, so no surprises there. A fitting way to make Umarak able to be on par with the individual Toa, and give him a similar sense of purpose.
The Brass Tacks
Coming off of last year's intriguing but ultimately underwhelming antagonists, Umarak whelms and then some. There's a rigidity in some parts, and you can see they they were hobbled by the price point in certain unarmored areas, but none of it actively works against him. Between his ability to merge with the six (six!) creatures, the subtle inclusion of an actual shadow trap, and the exquisitely designed masks, Umarak is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the new year. Those looking for a villain will have exactly what they want, and those just looking for something to toy around with by himself have all sorts of interesting secrets to uncover.
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