Right after I had finished my review of Red Son’s Inferno Jet (800019) another not quite dissimilar model found its way in my home. The Boulder Blaster (71736) is a remake of the 2015 model of same name (70747) which apparently was prominently featured in series 4 of the LEGO Ninjago animated TV series. That’s why this modernized and optimized re-issue appears under the Ninjago Legacy sub-theme.
Before you think I have gone completely OCD over those pistol-like planes I have to clarify something: No, I haven’t. The only reason you even get to see a review of this set is because I won it in a raffle in the run-up to the Easter holidays. Aside from this super-weird coincidence, both in the timing and subject, there’s really not much more than that to it.
Contents and Pricing
As just mentioned, I got this set for free, so the pertinent question becomes whether I would actually ever have bought it and if so, at what price. The set officially retails for 40 Euro. Within the Ninjago universe that is not a bad price for 450 pieces, but not exactly a bargain, either. There have been sets with a better price-to-part-ratio when you break it down to each individual element. In addition you have to consider that it’s just a remake of an older set that people who may be interested in also purchasing this new variant may still have floating about.
That’s why right off the bat I think 35 Euro would have been a better price. With discounts that could have brought the cost further down to around 25-ish Euro as opposed to the 29 Euro which at this point appear the best discount you can get anywhere. As usual this is of course quibbling over something that you can’t control, anyway, and all things considered 40 Euro plus whatever rebate you get that is still not really terrible in the weird world of LEGO. Still, the plane may not be attractive to many people and aside from the totem pole there is not much else except for the four minifigures. It’s the old gag of the set missing that little bit extra that would make you feel okay or good over what you pay for it.
While four minifigures isn’t a bad deal for such a relatively small set at first glance, the not so great news is that none of them are particularly special. If the Kai figure wasn’t golden and thus coveted by collectors looking for a complete set the metrics would be even worse. Lloyd, Cole and Eyezor have either been featured in other sets or don’t deviate much from their standard appearance if you don’t count the specific vest prints. far be it for me to complain too much, but maybe they could at least have included some exclusive weapons or another little gimmick. On the bright side their ordinary nature means that the minifigures will be available in abundance on Bricklink and similar sites for minimum cost – except for the golden boy, of course. On the merits of the figures alone this set would not be worth buying even for a die-hard collector.
The Totem Pole
The only extra build is a basic totem pole/ cage contraption. The black disk is supposed to have a sticker with a shield pattern, which obviously I did not use. You are supposed to “shoot” at the shield/ snip you finger at at, so it tips over and unlocks the bars. this works well enough and you can place a minifigure behind the ladder in the closed position, but it does not have any studs for fixation.
The bulk of the set is of course the model of the eponymous Boulder Blaster jet. in terms of design it is based on a Canard style plane, with smaller fins, the actual canards, in the front and the wing moved far aft. There are advantages to this design, but equally as many disadvantages, so it never made huge inroads on actual aircraft (like so many other things) if you don’t count super-sonic planes with delta wings like the Eurofighter and a few others. For sub-sonic planes I more or less only remember the MiG Utka and some experimental Italian Piaggio planes. I’m sure if you research it a bit you could come up with a few more examples, scarce as they may be overall.
The proportions are credible and the whole layout even makes some crude sense from an engineering point of view, though the plane would probably be terrible to fly in the real world. The pistol-like nature of the thing is disguised a bit better, not least of all because the large main wings obscure some areas that otherwise would be more visible and also visually distract by themselves.
The grip handle and the extra bits for the firing mechanism of the arrow shooter array only become noticeable at certain angles and otherwise blend in more or less nicely. Of course there’s still room for improvement and LEGO could easily have substituted the few grey pieces for black ones as well. Still, within reason perfectly acceptable the way they are.
One of the areas lacking a pinch of finesse is once more the main jet exhaust on the tail. At least its in Pearl Gold and being a proper wheel hub/ rim element it has some structure, so it doesn’t entirely come across as a non-effort like the one on on the White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), but there could definitely be some more details to spice things up.
The front section is extremely bulky, which only in part feels like it’s owing to the design. It’s just as much a limitation of the mechanism and the gearbox having to fit in there and the way the shooter array is constructed. In that regard Red Son‘s jet offers the better solution, though with not nearly as many shooters. Admittedly even if they had opted for a similar approach the likely could only have squeezed in four shooters, not eight. There would only be so much room even in the largest cowling.
The wings are built surprisingly simple, yet effective by using the relatively large 4 x 10 plates on the undersides and the large curved slopes on the top. In addition with the Orange trim line this provides a nice “frame” for the whole area and a believable structure. After all, the smooth sections could be ailerons, air breaks or some other type of the many flaps you find on an airplane. The wings are plugged into the fuselage using pins and locked in place using two 4 x 4 plates on each side, with the new pauldron-like wedge element behind the cockpit sealing everything off.
The underside view once more underline the odd decision to use grey elements on an otherwise almost completely black model. Swapping out those bits for Black versions would not be much of a problem if you have the parts and most likely I would take it one step further even and get rid of the T-shaped Technic liftarm that is part of the wings’ socket construction. I’m confident I could come up with something that’s a bit less obvious and would allow me to create something smoother, including also removing the 16 units long Technic bricks. I know why they did it this way for strength, but I would gladly sacrifice the shooter functionality and some stability for a better look.
On that matter: I found the arrow shooter rather unsatisfying, not only because it makes the front section look so bulky. The mechanism is a case of “It works sort of, but not very well.” the rear ends of the arrow are supposed to “ding” against the small wheel hub piece underneath the big golden one so they are released from the spring-loaded bricks, but this doesn’t really work to a degree where you would feel happy. There is too much resistance and overcoming it comes at the cost of poor targeting. This is yet another area that would need major rethinking and re-engineering.
The cockpit is a minimalist affair, but serviceable for what it’s supposed to represent, but not more than that. And now for the big one: For the time being the new canopy piece is exclusive for this set. Before you get too excited, however, here’s some news for you: According to leaks of the upcoming next summer wave of Ninjago sets it will be used prominently there. The series has an underwater theme and on the images I have seen, this canopy/ windshield piece is literally in every set, be that on a small submarine or another vehicle. So certainly there is no rush to get this set just to get the cockpit element. Still, it’s a nice one with its integrated, dual-molded golden frames and should proof popular (among other things like an actual black & white Manta Ray based on the new mold from last year).
If I hadn’t been lucky enough to win it, would I have bought this set? It’s still a tough question to answer. This is by no means a bad model, but at the same time it doesn’t get me excited enough that I would have lost sleep over it. This one is more or less “for fans” who actually watch the animated series and may get a kick out of seeing the vehicles shown there as real counterparts on their shelves.
For most others it will be too much of a “your mileage may vary” thing as once you strip out the shooting functionality, you have a nice, but imperfect model that could use some work to bring it up to code. I might have only picked this up during a really good sale if nothing else was around and/ or I really wanted to scalp it for parts, but even in that department it doesn’t do much for me. It relies mostly on established standard pieces and does not include highly desirable exotic new parts or color alternates. At least it netted me 17 more of those sexy 1 x 2 ingot pieces in Pearl Dark Grey and some Dark Bluish Grey minifigure pirate pistols.
From where I’m sitting this is not an essential model and unless you want to relive the nostalgia of the old Ninjago days you could easily ignore it and save your money for what’s coming now that you’ve been told about it…