REVIEW: Exo Suit

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GBP 29.99 / USD 34.99

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21109 Exo Suit promotional image

Bet you never expected to see this review so early on, eh?

Once again it’s SilentMode, reviewing one of the hottest sets to come out this year: the famous Exo Suit (no hyphen!), the first ever non-IP LEGO Ideas/CUUSOO release. People have been going nuts about this one since the teaser pictures, videos and interviews were first posted on the Internet.

Just to recap, like everywhere else: the Exo Suit is the work of famous AFOL Peter Reid, and this set is the realising of his most popular creation on Flickr. It may have taken longer than the other successful projects on LEGO Ideas, but this one managed to reach the coveted 10,000 supporters required for the review – and took out eight other projects to get the top spot.

If that wasn’t enough, Mark Stafford – the Mecha Man, the legend – was requested and chosen to take the Exo Suit from the original to a LEGO-sanctioned product.

Full disclosure

Under normal circumstances, the Community Engagement and Events team (CEE) over at LEGO send sets to a their list of top 20 LEGO sites to have them promoted and reviewed, and understandably ranks at around nineteen million. The only reason I have this set right now is because I was very fortunate to be part of the Exo Suit’s launch: I was invited by the man himself to be part of a group that came up with ideas for promoting the set.

This makes the Exo Suit the very first set I’ve received directly from TLG since this site began. (70801 Melting Room doesn’t count as it meant for The New Elementary.)

I have debated whether or not I should review this set, given my involvement in its promotion. In the end, as I felt I didn’t contribute very much, here we are.

The Packaging

Photo of Exo Suit

Immediately noticeable with the box is that it’s smaller than the boxes for both The DeLorean Time Machine and Ghostbusters Ecto-1, but it’s of the same quality. (Unfortunately mine was sent via regular mail in a Jiffy envelope and got crushed, while others got theirs pristine in cardboard boxes.)

Some rendered artwork, which the group had some part in developing, fills the front of the box. Actually, my first exposure to the rebranding of LEGO CUUSOO as LEGO Ideas came when seeing the artwork for the first time at one of the sessions.

Photo of Exo Suit

The back of the box shows another rendered picture of the Exo Suit in action, as well as the minifigures having names: they’re named after Pete and his partner Yvonne, who is an equally talented builder.

Different this time is that the steps to achieve LEGO set glory are on the back of the box instead of the side: just get 10,000 people to like your project to stand a chance. Simple…

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Pete: “Oi Drew, keep this review clean, yeah? We want this set to sell out; this is my baby! I’m counting on you!”

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The notices on the side of the box are slightly different, not least because there are no third-party copyrights to be concerned with.

The Contents

The instructions

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While I didn’t have an issue with pages falling apart that others experienced with the Ghostbusters set’s instructions, I did somehow managed to get the “folded edition” in my copy of the Exo Suit. I’m not joking; this is how the instructions came in the box! I guess this is TLG’s version of the white feather…

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This nondescript minifigure claims the title of “WIN” at the back of the instructions, though I’d have a hard time believing he was able to take on Gewinne!son, Lloyd from Ninjago, Emma from Friends or the City fireman I’ve also noticed getting in on the action. Then again, he is holding the Mug of Doom.

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The first spread in the instructions gives a brief account of Classic Space – the theme that influenced the Exo Suit – and some insight into the success of the Exo Suit. Two legends of the brick on one page brings a tear to the eye.

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I like back stories, and the next two spreads provide one for the Exo Suit: something I know the Neo Classic Space folk take very seriously. It finishes with an epic-looking picture of a small fleet of Exo Suits, much like in the promotional video.

In a first for a LEGO Ideas set, these three spreads are repeated in French and Spanish. For some reason that last picture also has text in Chinese with the English version.

Part outside the bag

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Like the other CUUSOO/LEGO Ideas sets, the bags in this one are unnumbered. The only part that isn’t contained by one of these bags is this 8×8 modified plate in Dark Stone Grey.

Transparent parts

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Trans Yellow, Trans Red and Trans Green are staple colours of Neo Classic Space. Five of those 1×1 round tiles in Trans Green make this set their best source.

Metallic/Flat Silver

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There are a handful of silvery parts in this set, which is always nice. A couple of parts (another octagonal bar plate and an extra tooth) went AWOL when picking these out of the bags.

Technic Love

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As you can imagine, there are quite a few Technic pieces involved in the main build, including some smaller parts not shown here. Ball and socket joints feature prominently here, as well as pneumatic T-joints.

Interesting parts

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Missing from this picture is an extra minifigure head in Medium Stone Grey, which I swear has become more common since my display at last year’s STEAM – but the rarity of Dark Stone Grey heads still has to be addressed!

At the back is a printed inverse tile, which will probably go unnoticed as it sits on the underside of the main build. For fans of the newer bow parts, we get eight double bows in Dark Stone Grey, and four baby ones in Medium Stone Grey. Fans of the “bowl” parts will find four of them in Medium Stone Grey, pictured at the back.

We also get five of the new 2×2 round tiles with a hole, which we remember from Jungle Falls Rescue, and are still only available in Dark Stone Grey for the time being.

Finally it wouldn’t be a Space-themed set without some old school robot arms (bottom left). Immediately noticeable about them were the variations in colour, with some appearing to be made of a different material altogether: some have even suggested these are Old Grey parts.

GREEN Spacemen

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The huge news concerning this set, which the team were adamant about keeping a secret, was the introduction of Green spacemen to join the others that make up Classic Space. All the different colours of the original theme were assigned different roles, and somewhere along the line it was decided that Green spacemen represented Exo Suit drivers.

The Pete minifigure uses the same head as Zane from Ninjago, while Yve appears to use a more generic female head; both heads are single-sided.

(Someone over on Brickset suggested that Yve should have a more skin-tight Classic Space outfit, since she’s female. I don’t know whether to call them perverted, or gift wrap them some imagination. Vote now!)

The Build

The Signature Turtle

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Pete is also famous for his turtle builds, shown above, which is a surprise addition to this set. Pete has a whole collection of turtles, with the restriction of the 3×3 dish being the same colour as the minifigure heads used for the legs.

This one breaks the restriction by having a Metallic Silver 3×3 dish in combination with Medium Stone Grey heads, but at least the feet are Flat Silver. Another option would be to wipe some of those robot minifigure heads that come in The LEGO Movie theme.

As mentioned in the Brickset review, the newer 1×2 plate with clip replaces the 1×1 plate Pete usually uses, which allows this turtle to have two “eyes” instead of one.

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More information about the turtle, pictured here in its Metallic Silver finish with double defence blasters, can be found in the Anodyne Systems catalogue.

Dock and barrels

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The 8×8 modified plate is used to create a docking bay, where these two Yellow barrels are placed; these barrels are simply something for the Exo Suit to pick up and play with.

Originally these barrels were designed with small Yellow rubber bands wrapped around them, to create the illusion of ridges. They probably would have been deemed too dangerous to include in the set, but if you have some lying around you can recreate the effect.

Exo Suit (core)

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Now it’s time for the meat and potatoes of the set, and it all begins with the foundation. If you’ve built one of the Mixels sets before you’ll be familiar with the process, just on a larger scale. Within the first few steps most of the Trans Yellow parts will be used up.

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The back of the Exo Suit looks like a giant proton pack! Imagine the Ghostbusters having something like this, eh?

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These wheel things attach to the back of the suit, and are referred to in the instructions as “Excess Heat Radiators”.

Sir, those are buttocks.

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This is at around step 25, and you can see how much detail there is with so many small parts. This is “greebling”: using smaller parts to create authentic detail, usually on the outer surface of a model. Believe it or not, we have people over on Brickset who claim not to know what “greebling” is, despite being fans of the Exo Suit/Classic Space/Neo Classic Space. No comment.

Exo Suit (legs)

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We then get to work on the suit’s feet and legs: although it states so at the beginning, you could easily miss the fact that both legs are identical builds, forcing you to go back and start over.

After building the first foot, I noticed that it almost looked like a little Tron car (right). All that’s missing is some kind of light trail behind it, which I couldn’t quite recreate with the parts in this set.

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Here’s the first part of the leg, which is where the large ball joints come into play.

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Once you’ve created both identical legs, complete with greebling to look like heavy-duty pneumatic legs, they’re attached to the core to make the suit stand up.

Exo Suit (arms)

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Like the legs, the arms are identical builds and are immediately attached to the core. The infamous Dark Stone Grey barrels hide a Technic connector for attaching the hands seamlessly: they take a while to get used to, but they give the suit a Donkey Kong feel.

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You’ll notice these two little bits used to mimic shoulder joints, which are also used for the shins. I had a problem with both building and connecting these to the arms, as the robot arms have a very loose stud connection. Fortunately the T-joint just about holds everything together.

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Even Friends parts come into play: two of the handlebars found in Friends sets are used to make the protective cage. One end clips to the front of the suit, and the other end is left unsupported.

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These monstrous hands are virtually identical, but are pictured as different builds in the instructions. Unlike other mechs I’ve seen from LEGO, this one has four fingers and a thumb, complete with a manicurist’s nightmare.

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Finally, to bring this suit online, a communications antenna is added to the back.

The Completed Set

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This is it! If you were excited about the animated video, you now get to be part of the action (minus the massive hangar if you don’t have one). Doesn’t that Exo Suit look huge?

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Yve: “… It’ll take some getting used to, but… … it’ll be great, Pete!”

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Pete: “Come ‘ere, you!”
Yve:Hey! Put me down, that tickles!”

Now for the question that many want to know the answer to, but only we have the balls to answer…

Can a minidoll fit inside the Exo Suit?

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Not really. Though it looks like Olivia is comfortably seated inside, there isn’t enough foot room inside the suit: there’s a one stud gap where a minifigure’s legs go, and minidolls’ feet are wider than one stud.

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And for the complainers: here’s Yve inside the Exo Suit as well, getting her Saturday Night Fever on. Imagine the suit in White, with flares and a gold rollcage. Someone make it happen.


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Almost forgot to mention: the set comes with yet another Hollywood brick separator, complete with its own web site, but it would have been cool to have one in a different colour this time around: whether Green to match the minifigures, Medium/Dark Stone Grey to match the Exo Suit, or Blue for Classic Space.

We also get a spare Green pair of air tanks, which is currently exclusive to this set. Yes, this is indeed the first time Green air tanks have been introduced; even in the old Town sets they came in Classic Space colours.

The Verdict

Did you spot any of the clues to the introduction of Green spacemen?

exo-suit-video  wami

So we’re all wondering what I’m going to say about this set: whether or not I’ll be biased because I was on the committee, or due to some kind of loyalty toward Pete or Mark.

First thing I’ll say is that this is the kind of set that LEGO Ideas was made for, IMO: the realising of someone’s own model, which they’d obviously spent loads of time and energy on, as an official LEGO product. Without any disrespect to Team BTTF or Brent Waller, I’ve always felt that LEGO Ideas/CUUSOO should be more of an arena for non-IP projects.

People are going on about how great the Exo Suit is as a complete model, making comparisons to the original and being split down the middle as to which is superior. For me, what makes the Exo Suit great isn’t just the set as it is, but it gives an insight into the building style of two of the web’s most popular builders: looking at how the suit was designed and constructed, how the small parts were used to create detail, and incorporating functionality.
Most of the time we just see pictures of these grandiose sets on Flickr and elsewhere, and they’re photographed professionally and look effortlessly clean and all that, but usually – if you don’t already build like those people – we’re left in the dark as to how those models were built, and as far as I know there hasn’t been many (or any) tutorials on greebling. The Exo Suit may not be a greebling tutorial, but it’s a good place to start.

The suit itself can be posed easily thanks to the large ball and socket joints, particularly with the legs and feet. Those joints provide the right amount of stiffness so the model is able to stand and hold a position, but flexible enough that bits don’t fall off when moving it around. It may even be suitable for stop motion animation, although it can be difficult to make stand, and one may have to use tack or double-sided tape to keep it held down in various poses. At first I thought there wasn’t enough articulation with the arms, but the model is truer to the original design than a generic mech.

As far as the parts in this set: points have to be taken off for the flimsy robot arms, which already look like they’re inferior quality. In my case, the sections that use them fall apart when trying to adjust the arms at the shoulder joints, and there’s a huge risk of losing a few parts during play. Other than that, there hasn’t been much of an issue with parts falling off the suit, despite all the greebling and some less sturdy connections than I’d like. This isn’t a set I’d part out for anything in particular.
I would have liked the Bionicle eyes, as pictured in the World Cup version of the Exo Suit, in place of the teeth on the Exo Suit’s hands.
Mark had mentioned he would have liked Blue elements in the suit as an homage to Classic Space; I think the suit works without Blue elements, but anyone who wants to give it a go may be able to. The suit was kept in Medium/Dark Stone Grey at the insistence of Pete and LEGO Ideas.

Obviously the standout factor in this set is the Green spacemen (spaceman and spacewoman), which is what has people going crazy. Just because of these figures, expect the Exo Suit to be bought up by unscrupulous scalpers and resellers, with those figures being sold for crazy prices in your favourite grey market, and the sets themselves being hawked for even more. If you don’t get one within the first couple of days of its release, prepare to be disappointed.
In addition, there’s likely going to be a surge of interest in Classic Space spacemen, particularly for those who don’t have the originals. The Minifigure Presentation Boxes set has been discontinued for the re-release of the Blue spaceman, and the White spaceman was recently in a minimum spend promotion; getting hold of all five classic colours, originals or not – unless LEGO makes a move – is going to be tricky, but hopefully sites like Project Swapfig can help you out.

No more beating around the bush: this is my favourite CUUSOO/LEGO Ideas set to date, and worth getting hold of if you’re a fan of Pete, Mark, Classic Space, Neo Classic Space or CUUSOO/LEGO Ideas. It’s a must have if you want the Green spacemen at a reasonable price. I’m giving the Exo Suit 8.2/10, which means that SilentMode silently approves.

A big shout out to the CEE team, to the rest of the group and especially Pete for bringing me along for the journey: I’m honoured to have been a part of the whole thing, and I wish I could have done more.

Photo of Exo Suit