The new LEGO Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone set is the latest addition to the company's 'Ideas' theme. The concept is ingenious; fans submit their ideas and original builds, and the LEGO community votes on their favorites. LEGO then converts a handful of these designs into official sets.
Many LEGO Ideas are eccentric: a Ship in a Bottle, a moving Typewriter, a miniature Grand Piano. For one of these sets to get the green light, a niche, enthusiastic fan community needed to co-sign it, demand it, and near-guarantee its success. It is easy to see why LEGO's designers would never have moved on these ideas independently, without those reassurances.
We Build LEGO Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone
I point this out because a Sonic the Hedgehog set is neither experimental nor eccentric. Did it really need to go through the screening and voting process to determine its viability? In my estimation, its viability is self-evident; the most surprising detail concerning Set #21331 is that it did not exist until now. Why else did LEGO partner with Nintendo beginning in 2020, if not to create nostalgia-heavy, adorable sets like this one?
Composed of 1125 pieces, the Sonic the Hedgehog set is a tableau of Green Hill Zone 1, the first level in Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) for the Sega Genesis. It is longer than it is wide; LEGO designed the set to give the impression of a 2D side scroller. It has floating platforms and golden Rings, held in place by clear bricks and supports. It has a Checkpoint Lamppost, which is reversible to blue or red. It has a lever-operated red spring that can launch a minifigure into the air.
It even has two Video Monitors with swappable visual elements of the game's powerups; you can display a 1-Up, Invincibility, Power Sneakers, a Shield, or a Super Ring. The set includes the level's iconic loop-de-loop, which serves as the perfect visual representation of Sonic's speed. The set's foliage and dirt have a tiled texture, mimicking the pixelated visual quality of the 16-bit era.
The set comes with four buildable characters. There are two minor enemies, a Crabmeat and a Moto Bug. The latter has a swappable face so he can look nonplussed or mad. There is a buildable Dr. Robotnik, along with a proportionally-sized Eggmobile that he can fly about in.
And of course, there's a LEGO mini-figure of Sonic himself. Clearly, the designers put great effort into making him look as cocky and precious as possible. The design is bright and colorful, and the dimensions of his face, from his arched eyes to his off-center smirk, are rounded and polished for maximum cuteness.
The Sonic figure is displayable on a black stand, which also holds seven Chaos Emeralds. Each new bag of bricks contains a single Chaos Emerald, and thus represents a new, sequential "Zone" of the build. It's a fun way to mark your progress. As for the build itself, it is straightforward and applies standard techniques. You build the set from left to right in sequential segments, and then connect them via pins and intersecting holes.
The recommended age for building this set is 18+, which is more about optics than an objective evaluation of difficulty. LEGO has recently pushed an "Adults Welcome" marketing approach, debunking the notion that LEGOs are for kids only. Many adults, in fact, use LEGO building as stress relief, or as a sort of meditation that is both relaxing and mindful. But even so, many would-be customers are put off by the prospect of buying a children's toy for themselves.
In a practical sense, the destigmatizing "Adults Welcome" approach amounts to more black, "adult" presentation on the set boxes, and a rebranding of the 15+ Creator Expert age to 18+. But there's been another, more subtle change in the last year or so. Increasingly, what LEGO considers "adult" is no longer tied to challenge or complexity. Instead, it's tied to the life experiences of an age group, regardless of the builder's experience. Clearly, the target audience for this set is 18+; people in their late '30s and early '40s would have come of age in 1991 when Sonic first debuted. But the difficulty of the actual build is significantly lower.
I built this set with my seven-year-old son, and with the exception of two or three missteps, he was able to construct the entire build on his own. Granted, he is advanced for his age; he began helping me with Expert sets when he was four. But a novice adult LEGO builder should have no problem assembling this. It is accessible to anyone who grew up with 16-bit Sonic, whether they're a LEGO aficionado or they're picking up this hobby for the first time since they were eight. And really, that's the set's greatest strength. It serves as a ready access point to anyone who wants to get into LEGO by providing an easier build experience that doesn't skimp on the company's famous attention to detail.
Each new bag of bricks contains a single Chaos Emerald, and thus represents a new, sequential "Zone" of the build. It's a fun way to mark your progress.
LEGO sets are expensive. It's difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars on something you don't even know if you'll like, for a level of difficulty that might be prohibitive. Think of this set as a test run, to see if this hobby appeals to you and is worth the investment of your time and money. And even if it isn't, you'll have a lovely piece of nostalgia on your shelf to show for it. The end result is that good.
LEGO Ideas Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone, Set #21331, is composed of 1125 pieces and retails for $69.99. It was originally conceived by LEGO fan Viv Grannell. It was then refined and designed by LEGO designer Sam Johnson.