Wertman 8 Bionicle Review: Mask Maker vs Skull Grinder

It’s the ultimate battle between good and evil with Ekimu the Mask Maker and Kulta the Skull Grinder! Rounding up Bionicle 2015 with the big one; set #70795, containing 171 pieces!

As one might imagine for the biggest set of the year, this one has the most parts. It has a great range as well, including a lot of little technic pared with a good range of CCBS bones and armour. It has all of the weapons of the summer wave, including a launcher and the two new blade moulds. It includes multiple gearboxes, heads and three exclusive masks, one of which makes this whole set very sought after. It’s a must have for MOCcists!

Two of the three masks in this set are a gold/trans-blue Protector Mask and a humanoid Skull Mask, coloured in silver. The Protector mould is a simple, standard one, though the colour combination of gold and trans blue is interesting. The blend is strange, as the combination of the two colours does create this greenish tinge. I know a lot of people don’t like this, but I feel that it’s an interesting variation on the Protector Mask. Nothing to get excited about.

I’ve already talked about the Skull Mask in my Skull Warrior review. It’s proportions focus more on realism as opposed to stylisation, which is unique when you look at the other Skull Mask, or the Skull Spider Mask, or Witch Doctor’s helmet. I love the texture on this as well; it creates a rotten aesthetic and puts emphasis on the bio-mechanical, which is the central concept of Bionicle in the first place. Love it. Gotta admit though, I think the gunmetal grey variant is better than this, as that version looks a little more lifeless and ominous.

Note how I said second favourite when I mentioned the Skull Mask.

Ladies and Gentlemen, behold! The Mask of Creation! The iconic image of Bionicle 2015 finally available for consumption! This is an amazing mask! It’s not like what we’d normally associate with Bionicle masks; they aren’t usually this ostentatious in their design. This mask looks straight up royal with its crown like prongs, its beard like chin and stern expression. The symbols dotting around it is an interesting element; it reminds me a lot of the Anglo Saxon helmet at Sutton Hoo. This is an interesting new look for a Bionicle Mask which is wonderfully executed. Flawless?

Not really. Before I got it in my hands and saw the fineness of the detail, I expected to dislike this mask. Why? Because of the profile. The Mask looks very front heavy, mainly because the towers on the forehead. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the way that it cuts off so suddenly makes it look terrible. It really needed to wrap around the side of the head, like an actual crown would. Apart from that jarring flaw though, I really love this mask.

By the way, here’s how the stand was constructed. I was looking forward to seeing this, as I thought it’d be a handy tip as to how to build a custom head for this style of mask, but it turns out that it’s too loose and the mask tips downwards. If you move it a tad upwards so the sides align with the little slit between the pinhole and the axel then it will hold its place, but I’m a bit worried about it as it’s not exactly legal and may actually be damaging the mask, which is something I don’t want to do because I like it so much.

It appears though that I’m not the only one who likes the mask, as looming over it are the ones who covet it; Ekimu the Mask Maker and Skull Grinder!

So, let’s take a look first at Ekimu himself. The first thing that I want to bring up is that the colour layering on him is really well done. I love how there are big blocks of trans-light blue on the arms, legs and chest, which is covered by patches of gold. The grouping of the trans-light blue makes it appear much more bolder than it usually is, and the gold feels more ceremonious when patched together like this. The silver highlights on the hands, feet and lower jaw also help to provide brightness and to add a wider range of colours to the pallet, making this less bland. Simply a really cool colour scheme!

Okay, so let’s address the elephant in the room here; In most respects, it would seem that Ekimu is a recoloured version of the Protector of Fire set released earlier in the year; the legs torso and head seem to be designed in the exact same way. However, I personally do not think this to be a big problem, as many aspects of the design are improved with the Ekimu variant. First of all, his colour scheme is much more consistent than the Protector of Fire’s.

Secondly, Ekimu’s design is superior because of the inclusion of a gearbox, which not only helps to cover up his back, but it also allows him to swing his right arm and in turn his weapon.

Unfortunately this results in the one downgrade of the design; which is the chest. The Protector of Fire was the only set that held the chest armour close to the body, and the use of size four armour pieces for the breast created a really smooth and solid look. Unfortunately Ekimu’s chest sticks out further, creating a rather unflattering profile.

However, one advantage of having the gear box is that it raises up the shoulders, which allows for two segmented arms. I am so glad that Ekimu had this as opposed to the stubby arms that the Protector of Fire had, as that may have sucked all the presence out of him. Speaking of which, the raised shoulders emphasises the gold Chima armour extensions on his upper arms. Some may not like this, which I can understand, though I do personally appreciate the stylisation. I am reminded of the design of Optimus Prime from Transformers Prime, with his big shoulders and skinny torso. Considering this character is supposed to be royal, also, I feel it matches the theme.

Ekimu’s hammer is another thing that is really well designed, I think. I like the build of the head, though I feel the use of the stud shooter was gimmicky and kind of takes the purpose away from the a melee weapon. I was originally a little disappointed with how short the handle was, considering that in the Legend animation, Ekimu’s hammer is of a hefty length. However, I must say that it looks a whole lot better in person, though I kind of wish it was built in a way that he could hold it lower down the handle. I think it helps if you view this less of a huge war hammer and more akin to something like Thor’s Mjölnir.

The shield’s alright, though I am now sick to death of that saw/shield piece that we keep seeing over and over again. The only reason I don’t completely hate it is because of that golden dish in the centre, which is a really pretty piece. The shield as a whole is of a decent size, but it feels more supplementary really.

Here is how he looks wearing the Mask of Creation. It’s nice, it looks proper. I was worried that the Mask of Creation, which always looked huge in promotional artwork, would look too big for the Protector body, but fortunately the proportions are just right. The extra height of the crown works very nicely with the tall shoulder armour, also.

The flatness of the Mask from the side is unfortunately still a problem, probably even further emphasised by how much of the head is exposed.

Enough of Ekimu, now onto Skull Grinder, or as we now know to call him, Kulta!

Unlike the other Skull Villains, an attempt was at least made to cover the back of Kulta. However, the covering is so ineffectual that it would probably make no difference if it was taken it off. This annoys me, and the reason is this;

In order to have the armour fit on the back, the ribcage has been pushed out forward, without any additional pieces to fill in the gap. This really serves to ruin the chest design, and it’s a shame that this was sacrificed in order to include back armour that doesn’t cover a whole lot of the back.

The set included a gearbox, as most of them do. This one is interesting though due to the large round technic pieces that extend out the shoulders. I don’t know how to feel about this; while it does give him a nice broad look that you would really expect from your boss villain, the big smooth wheel type pieces really break the texture that is set by the really detailed mask and armour extensions. Some, including myself were worried that these big wheels would interfere with the arm movement, leaving him unable to bring his arms in. Fortunately however, the sides of the armour piece and the edge of the wheel never touch when you swing the gear or when you bring them in close. While of course it means you can’t bring in the arms across the front, I don’t think the pieces are a serious detriment to motion.

Something that I feel is odd is that while the legs are taller than the ones on Skull Basher for instance, these legs still feel really short, and so do the arms. While technically everything is in proportion, I think the spindly, regular sized legs don’t really look right with a bulky extended torso. I understand part budget, though I think that this guy should have been a titian as opposed to a Toa sized set; the torso would be fine but with huge beefy Black Phantom style legs. I understand the need to convey the skeletal look, but I feel that there were ways to portray that without having really weak looking limbs.

Skull Grinder’s secondary weapon is one of those Hewkii Inika-esque blades. While a lone blade isn’t very interesting, I think the mould is great, doing a good job of reflecting the old Bionicle aesthetic while maintaining the jagged, eroded look. It’s satisfactory for a secondary weapon.

The primary weapon is very impressive, with its huge scale, and seeing those three already fairly big axe pieces combined into three is also very interesting. My favourite thing has to be the three Bohrok eyes placed in the centre, creating this almost crystalline look. The only thing that’s a bit weird is that red Hero Factory spike on the bottom of the staff. I think that would have looked better in grey.

A nice touch here is that the prongs can actually hold the Mask of Creation as represented in the box art.

However, as nice as this staff is, there is one major problem; At least Gali could hold up her ridiculously massive trident; Yes, though there is friction in the gear function, the staff is so heavy that it actually cancels the friction out and leaves his arms swinging like a 2001 set. I think this should have had a set up similar to Onua’s, in which a ball and socket was used to maximise the friction.

The Skull Mask fits very nicely around the head, though it’s unfortunate that the eyes don’t quite line up perfectly. However, some of the red does actually shine through the nostrils, which looks awesome. My view of the chest plate is very much the same as my opinion on the other prints; it has a lot of detail and is very pretty, though I subjectively don’t quite like the cartoony nature of the printing which conflicts with the aesthetic of the plastic detail. To be fair, the colours are a little bit more in cohesion here with the colours of the set than some of the other ones, and it’s not quite as distracting.

Something that is unique to Kulta are these ram-like horns that he has. I think these look nice, though you do have to suspend your disbelief that these curl around like ram horns do. It should also be noted that like with Skull Basher, hitting the horns from below can result in the mask flying off, though it’s not quite as bad here as the horns are much smaller. Also, it’s definitely a nit-pick, but I think that if the horns were gunmetal grey then it would fit in with the colour scheme a little better.

I do like the colour scheme. Though it’s a little more basic and more common than the other sets, but I think it’s nice to have one character that’s a little more simple in his choice of colours. My only preference would be if there was more gunmetal grey in this set, particularly in the face. In fact, I think that if you swap the masks from Skull Grinder and Skull Warrior then it would improve the looks of both.

So, all done!

I’m going to rate this set in three different categories; Toy value (how good it is to play with and pose etc.), Design Value (The design, including the colour scheme and how it was built) and MOCcist Value (The amount of good pieces).

Toy Value: 9/10 (It’s got an equal conflict between both factions, including a cause to fight over (obtaining the Mask of Creation) with a range of the different functions, like the launcher, swinging arms and interchangeable masks. It’s all you can really ask for with a toy like this.)

Design Value: 7/10 (Ekimu is great, with the exception of a few minor nit-picks that can be easily overlooked. Kulta isn’t as well designed, what with the skinny limbs and the huge gap in the torso, but he does have a nice aesthetic, so I’m happy with the set as a whole.)

MOCcist Value:9/10 (Five points for the largest parts count, four for a good range of stuff, and the Mask of Creation.)

Mean Score: 8.3/10

Comments: This is a great set. While not amazing, especially as the only titian set of the year, It still features a great conflict scenario with two decent characters. Heck, Ekimu alone makes the set worth getting. Not much to say really, it’s just good.

Now onto the overview!

So here’ s all of the Skull Villains together. So what do I think of them? Are they are good as the Toa? *Manic Laughter ensues* of course not! These guys are the opposite of the Toa; while they were thick these guys are spindly; while they were smooth these guys are messy; while they were bright these guys were dark. I do kind of think that’s not the point though. While the Toa are technically better, I don’t think these guys are bad. They each have a lot of variety between each other while maintaining a team cohesion. I love the use of translucent and metallic colours to create colourful characters while also making them look grey and lifeless. I also like how the colours are made to reflect their respective Toa rivals, yet their colour schemes still look very different from the Toa. I personally think that although they look pretty bad at first glance, I think there’s a lot to like about them.

The other major thing that we get is Ekimu the Mask Maker. It’s strange that they’ve decided to reveal their Deus Ex Machina character so early, but it’s good that this story isn’t in direct parallel with the original Bionicle story, and it leaves me curious for what direction the story’s going to take next. I like how we’re beginning to see a build-up of Protector/”Okotian” characters. I hope this carries on throughout the next couple of years, getting a villager here or there, and eventually we might be able to create a little Okoto civilisation.

The other factor of the summer line is the masks. Of course we get the Mask of Creation, and that’s obviously great, but what of the gold/translucent Toa masks? It’s tricky to make any judgement because as of the time of writing we don’t know what these are. Are they infected versions of the Toa’s masks? Are they powered up Toa masks? Or are these completely different masks? I can say that each one looks nice, though it’s annoying that we didn’t get all six Toa masks. All in all I’m fine with it for now, but I don’t want this to be a reoccurring trend; I don’t want six different Masks of Ice or Masks of Jungle in different shades of gold or something.

Okay; so the whole year, what do I think? Really effective; a wonderful re-introduction into the Bionicle world, with some really innovative and fantastic sets. I guess I only have one problem, that I think the villains are a little weak. Don’t get me wrong, the models are decent for the most part, but with the exception of Kulta, all we’ve gotten so far are these non-sentient monsters, which seem rather small and pathetic. I’m hoping that 2016 will focus more on the villains in terms of sets. For now though, I’m more than satisfied.

If you like what you see, then you can check out more stuff from me at http://www.mocpages.com/home.php/67499


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