Review: Official Set 8549 - Tarakava
This feels like a really big jump up for the Rahi. The Tarakava are large creatures that roamed around water and would attack other Rahi or Matoran that would dare to come near them. They strike me as a posable threat to the Toa, and Matoran slaughterers.
With a suggested age of 8+ and a 401-piece count, the Tarakava contains almost twice as many pieces as the Nui-Jaga, making it the largest Rahi set review by a considerable amount.
The Tarakava box is easily the largest one we’ve seen so far. Something that really confused me was the background behind the Tarakava. The background looks to be the exact same as the Nui-Jaga background, the Po-Wahi looking landscape. This doesn’t make sense for the Tarakava as they’re mainly seen in the Ga-Koro/Ga-Wahi regions of Mata Nui. To me this was just a lack of rendering out a proper background, which is really unfortunate.
Inside of the box there’s actually a cardboard tray which holds all of the other contents, which are 4 numbered bags, two rubber treads, the instruction booklets, and advertisement material from 2001. The bags are split with Bags 1 and 2 belonging to the blue Tarakava and Bags 3 and 4 belonging to the turquoise Tarakava.
The builds are really quite nice. They don’t resemble anything I’ve ever seen before, which I love. The Tarakava are an example of a Bionicle set that draws me completely into the theme. The Tarakava are original, and darn good too. One thing that really stood out to me during the builds is that they are very similar, but different enough to not feel like duplicate models. This keeps the builds feeling fresh. This is also the first time we’re seeing regular LEGO® bricks being mixed in with “Bionicle” pieces, which is a fresh design technique this far into the 2001 wave. The only two concerns that I have with the base models is that the mouth on the turquoise Tarakava tends to flop around, and the models feel a tad open. I think adding 50 or so pieces to each model would yield a near-perfect result.
The play function included for the Tarakava is excellent. By pressing down two yellow levers, the arms punch out with great force. Unlike the Nui-Rama and Nui-Jaga, this attack feels lethal. The punches are quite hard and I can only imagine a group of Tarakava wiping out Matoran villages with ease. Even for a toa one blow from these guys would probably knock their mask off. There’s also a small stand on the bottom of the model which keeps it upright when it is being displayed. This is something I’m glad they included, it definitely strikes me as a necessity so that Tarakavas can be displayed and not just played with.
After such an enjoyable base model, the Tarakava-Nui really dropped the ball. This is supposed to be known as the “King of the Lizards” of the Bionicle lore (Godzilla much?) and it feels so forced in my opinion. The punch function is a lot more restricted and takes away one of my favorite things about the base design. The strength of the punches in the base model was one of my favorite aspects, but the punch function for the combination model is really weak and disappointing.
That being said the model is pretty large and immediately gives the appearance that it is above the Tarakava in the food chain. The face design here is another thing that stuck with me as a positive, as did the sturdiness of the model and the color balance between blue and turquoise throughout the model.
The Tarakava are definitely my favorite Rahi that we’ve reviewed so far, but there is definitely room for improvement. The base models are just about there with a few minor complaints, but the combination model really let me down here.
In terms of purchasing this set, go the used route or even just part out the set on Bricklink. This is not one worth the consideration of buying sealed unless you’re building a sealed collection. I would love to give this set a big-time score, but the combination model left quite a sour taste in my mouth.