3. Experience Zones
Coming down from the Gallery, you head into the experience zones - the four coloured areas representing different themes within the house.
Each zone has its own terrace area on the roof, covered in the rubber surface typically found in playgrounds, with different activities to let the younger visitors let off some steam from climbing frames to steps.
Most of the core areas (World Explorer, City Architect, LEGO Brick Builder and the Critter Creator especially) have DUPLO areas so that everyone can join in with the creative building - and you are certainly encouraged to build and share your creations!
Green - World Explorer, Character Creator and Story Lab
I started in the green World Explorer zone, taking in the impressive city builds, filled with both little jokes that most will get to various AFOL in-jokes that might not be as obvious! Around the edge of the zone are a number of displays of MOCs from the community, with different rooms and items in various scales, but all excellent builds.
After admiring the city, I made a couple of characters in the Character creator - massive selections of minifig parts to make your personal figure - and this was the first real opportunity to use the wristband - once you've made your characters, there are "photo booths" around the space with some handy studs to place your figure on and take a photo, with optional frames that you can then tag to your band for later.
Next it was on to the Story Lab - here up to 18 people (or pairs) can spend 10 minutes making a stop motion animation. You check-in before you start and are assigned a stage: each stage has three fixed cameras and a core stage set (currently a river front in the city, with a farm off to the right) along with a number figures, vehicles and props for your scene. The software gives you a nice onion-skin view of your scene and the previous shot as well as playing your animation each frame to see how it's coming along, and some special effects can also be added. Once the time is up you view the animation with intro and credits, and it's stored to your band for later.
Blue - City Architect, Robo Lab and Test Driver
Moving into the Blue City Architect zone you're confronted with a physical LEGO SimCity environment - a number of tables covered in square holes ready to accept 6x6 plates, with an interactive projection over the top - lots of little minifigs can be seen scurrying around the bare spaces asking for different types of buildings (red homes, green parks, yellow industrial/office and blue municipal) as well as some larger stadiums. Around the tables are building zones - filled with bricks and elements to create the different types of building. As you place them on the table the roads join up and the figures move gratefully into their new zones.
The Robo Lab, similar to the Story Lab requires a pre-registration process to assign you your robot, and then it's your turn to go and try and rescue the Arctic team that got trapped in ice while they were trying to locate some woolly mammoths! Your robot has a number of simple commands (forwards, backwards, rotate left or right, flamethrower and ice cannon) and it's your job to program a number of moves that will hopefully free the mini-figs. As you'd expect, chaining a number commands is more efficient, but any errors with the amount of turn can rapidly add up!
The robots are based around an EV3 heart, but interact with the projected landscape, refusing to cross water, celebrating the release of each mini-fig and so on. The assistant even had a LEGO Claw arm for separating any "boisterous" robots.
Finally for the blue zone is the Test Driver area, where you can build a car to attempt two different challenges - a 4 way race and a fairly tough jump through a hoop! You can grab a photo of your creation at one of the booths scattered around the area which are again added to your wristband.
Red - Brick Builder, Creative Lab and Library
The Red LEGO Brick Builder zone is dominated by the LEGO Falls - a massive "waterfall" of bricks cascading down from near the ceiling, with many troughs of bricks to rummage through and build with.
Off to one side is the "Creative Lab" where a themed collaborative build is taking shape - the theme we were working to was "A graffiti castle", making bricks and gargoyles to build up the sculpture. I think my attempt to create letters on a one stud grid when all I had were 2x4 bricks was a tad ambitious!
The library showcases a number of LEGO publications, including most of the Dorling Kindersley books and single issues of various magazines (including Blocks, Bricks and Bricks Culture).
Yellow - Flower Artist, Critter Creator and Fish Designer
The last main zone moves into the natural world, starting with Flower Artist, once again allowing visitors to create their own flowers from a huge selection of elements and display them for others to see alongside the static builds. Around the walls are more displays animal MOCs - again some familiar, others new to me. As with many of the build zones, you can capture your builds to your wristband.
The Critter Creator has a couple of fun build areas - one to make some dancing bugs (once you've built them, you pop them in a dance zone that then vibrates as the music drums through it) and some racing bugs that have either a fairly easy run down, or have to avoid a couple of dangerous snakes on the way to safety!
The Fish Designer builds on the LEGO Life of George concept of creating a "flat" creation from your bricks before scanning it in and releasing it into the aquarium with all the other creations. The scanning is fairly robust, and is activated by touching your band to the controller so again you have a memento of your build, before you add it to the display wall.