If there is Lego set based on Scooby-Doo that you really should have, it is the medium-sized “The Mystery Machine” – which features the iconic Mystery Machine, a van-based vehicle those meddling kids use as their transport and operations centre. Stuffed with gadgets for hunting ghosts and ghouls (and preparing Scooby snacks). And quite well represented in brick form, though it has to be said that this is maybe the Scooby-Doo set most removed from classic Lego.

It also seems to be the most desirable set of them all, judging by the public’s response – it was almost immediately sold out at the Lego online store (don’t panic just yet, new supplies came in swiftly). Three reasons made this inevitable: the set is the one that instantly captures the essence of Scooby-Doo, it has immense play value, and it is still in the lower medium price range.

So without further scooby-dooby-ado, let us have a closer look at Lego’s version of the Mystery Machine …

“The Mystery Machine” – a First Look

The set is presented in a sizeable, sturdy box, once again in the eye-catching design of Lego’s Scooby-Doo series. As usual, the box shows us the contents, a small line-up of several Scooby-Doo minifigs, plus the common links to apps. Once you open the box, you get three big bags of Lego parts, just over 300 of them in fact, a large sheet of stickers, and two instruction booklets. Very much a standard Lego set, you might say.

The Mystery Machine and a mysterious tree ...

The Mystery Machine and a mysterious tree …

Again, the parts included are a wild mix of standard Lego bricks, with some are in unusual colours, and a number of special parts – after all, building a comic-adapted van from standard bricks in mini-figures size would end with a very clunky, not play-friendly job. Mentioning mini-figures, four are included in this set. They are Scooby, Shaggy, Fred (who owns the van), and a zombie.

Also part of the set is a rather spooky dead tree, which perfectly captures the ambiance of the comics in brick form. And, true to form, it turns out to be a gadget, not a real haunting. A great idea to spruce up (no pun intended) the set.

Lego’s “The Mystery Machine” contains the mini-figure of Scooby-Doo we already encountered in the first set (“Mummy Museum Mystery”, reviewed here), but with a small twist – the head is printed with a bashful smile (or scared expression, you decide). So three sets in we have three variants of Scooby.

Scooby-Doo, now with a crooked smile.

Scooby-Doo, now with a crooked smile.

Shaggy has the same body parts and hair as seen in both the first and also second set (“Mystery Plane Adventures”, reviewed here), but he has a slightly different facial expression this time. Well done, Lego, as I was getting concerned about five identical Shaggy figures.

The new faces of Shaggy.

The new faces of Shaggy.

Fred is done in his standard get-up of jeans, blue shirt, white pullover, and an orange cravat, plus exquisite blond hair. On one side of the head he wears a slightly superior smile, on the other side a less suave expression. He comes with a clipboard of clues, and a looking glass, which is actually functional.

Fred, dapper and boring as ever ...

Fred, dapper and boring as ever …

The zombie looks the job and, for the first time in Lego’s Scooby-Doo series, cannot be unmasked. But the print at the back of the head makes it clear that he is less undead than under cover … you can clearly see the seam of his mask, complete with the two buttons holding it together. He could be based on Zeke from “Which Witch is Which?” (available on DVD as part of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete First and Second Seasons).

What's in your head? Zombie won't tell ...

What’s in your head? Zombie won’t tell …

Building the Set

Construction starts with some mini-figures, then you are off to construct the Mystery Machine, then the tree – and this time construction is more than a simple succession of stacking and combining bricks, a lot of twisting and turning of the model is involved. Which makes this the most challenging set of the series so far. But no major problems, and after around 75 minutes everything was finished (though I should have taken a minute more or so when affixing the stickers).

Lego's "The Mystery Machine" ... out of the box.

Lego’s “The Mystery Machine” … out of the box.

Once again, kids will more than likely need some adult help with the stickers – there are a lot of them, and most need to be neatly lined up for best effect. I rushed the job a bit too much on one or two, which may not be readily apparent, but bugs me a bit. And leaving the stickers off is not really an option, unless you want to end up with just a weirdly coloured van.

A lot of thought has gone into the overall construction of the van, and the play value. This is evident in the rear sides folding out to reveal the interior (complete with two computer screens, a reel-to-reel tape machine kids won’t recognize, a cooker, a wash basin, a ham-and-cheese sandwich, plus a camera and a torch). The roof can also be easily removed, another bonus.

Details, details ... the magnifying glass actually works, but kids might be stumped by the reel-to-reel tape recorder, and the radio with the chunky buttons and analogue display.

Details, details … the magnifying glass actually works, but kids might be stumped by the reel-to-reel tape recorder, and the radio with the chunky buttons and analogue display.

Overall the Mystery Machine is quite a hefty model, and sure should be able to hold its own well in play. And the eerie tree certa‌inly looks the job, too, albeit with the help of a decal creating the “face”.

At the end of the build, you’ll find that you have a few random spare parts for the storage box, nothing unusual, and always very welcome.

The Good and the Not-So-Good

Nobody, I assume, will buy this Lego set without the explicit intention to add the famous Mystery Machine to the collection. And this is where the set fully succeeds. As I mentioned before, this is the must-have Scooby-Doo set, and it is the best of the lot too (at least in my opinion).

The Mystery Machine, Fred in the driving seat.

The Mystery Machine, Fred in the driving seat.

On the “Meh!” side I have to mention the wheels, or more precisely the hubcaps, again. Yes, they look the job on the finished Mystery Machine. But start making vroom-vroom sounds and pushing the van around, and the look immediately sucks. As in “the wheels don’t move”. They do move, but your eyes are deceived by the stationary hubcaps, glaringly obvious by their colourful design. Okay for collectors, but Lego is a toy first and foremost, and for this such a deficiency should be avoided. In the TV episodes, when chase scenes were often created by stationary figures against a moving background … at least their legs moved.

And a minor niggle … once you have the whole gang assembled, they’ll have a hard time all fitting into the Mystery Machine. Not saying that it can’t be done, but it will be very cosy.

A Note on Versatility

Provided you can use the colours, the parts of this set might well be useful for cannibalization, with the special parts potentially coming in very handy for some projects. That’s the good news.

The slightly less good news – this set builds the Mystery Machine, and the Mystery Machine by any other name will still be the Mystery Machine. And stay firmly planted in the Scooby-universe. Unless you are planning a wild cross-over, like “Scooby-Doo Awakens the Force in Smaug“, you are pretty much stuck here.

The rear of the Mystery Machine opens up for better game-play.

The rear of the Mystery Machine opens up for better game-play.

Having said that … the set is very much in the tradition of one-offs of past years, like the Back to the Future or Ghostbusters sets, and a lot cheaper to boot. Plus there is a whole series of Scooby-sets around it. And you can, obviously, always use it for a live-action film shot setting in Lego City. Ms Gellar, obviously, is still in her trailer.

Where to Buy?

Generally, I advocate to buy local, and if possible not from large chain stores. But that might not always be possible. Lego, however, will dispatch their products to your home (go to the Lego website for details). And it is always worth to try Amazon – where you will find Lego’s “The Mystery Machine” on offer as well.

Just remember – if you buy everything on the internet, the local economy starts to go downhill, shops will not stock what you want, and you have no right to complain about that.