As a LEGO user on a limited budget it’s sometimes not easy to find something to buy, strange as this may sound. Some sets don’t interest me right out of the gate, others I may actually want are out of my league and then there’s this weird thing where you have downright lulls when you have ticked off your “Must have” list and newer sets aren’t released yet or there’s no worthwhile discounts that deter you from buying something. In those situations, especially when the drought becomes too long and I get this nervous itch, I like to resort to my alternate “Would be nice, but only if…” list. This is sort of a random collection of sets that I might buy, after all, to scalp them for parts. This inevitably requires them to be cheap or offset the cost by being able to sell minifigures for a good price. The three sets featured in this article are exactly that. None of that means that they would be bad on their own merits, it’s just not the main focus of this review.
Pricing and Contents
Not being much of an actual diesel head or any other kind of car aficionado, the underlying logic for these purchases has always been the potential long-term usefulness of the parts vs. the price and the short-lived fun I might derive while building. As it is, I never got too worked up over the specifics of Ninjago lore or the The Batman movie’s details and the accuracy of the model. With that in mind, the motto of the day always has been “It needs to be cheap!” and so I was biting my time on each of the sets until my gut feeling told me to buy them at what logically seemed to be the lowest price realistically feasible.
That mostly worked except for the Street Racer (31127) where I missed my window of opportunity and had to buy it at slightly higher cost. This one was 15 Euro, which is not too bad, given that a 20 Euro set would not be discounted as much proportionally compared to others. Interestingly, this set seems reasonably popular, so the price is pretty stable and it more or less never was “dumped” anywhere for 10 Euro during a promotion or something like that. The lowest I’ve seen is 13.50 Euro, which really isn’t that significant compared to what I spent.
The other two sets have a regular asking price of 30 Euro, which quite frankly is ridiculous, especially for the Ninjago car. Sure, the number of pieces is there that would fit the usual piece count x 10 Cent per piece = price, but there just is not enough volume of stuff. LEGO are even giving away their game with the marketing photos. One can’t shake the feeling that only half the parts are actually being used anywhere. That said, of course you can rely on discounts, which kind of is the point when you want things cheap, so I ultimately got both packages for around 18 Euro. That’s so much more tolerable and feels more in line with what you would pay for a comparable Speed Champions car for instance.
LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd’s Race Car EVO (71763)
Perhaps the most disappointing of the three, Lloyd’s Race Car will be the first to get a look. It comes with 279 pieces, which on paper sounds good enough, but as mentioned before it just doesn’t feel that way. This isn’t unexpected or even untypical for a lot of Ninjago sets, as a good chunk of the elements are always swords, blades and other appendages/ decorations as well as side builds and minifigure add-ons. Once you strip them down and put them on their own pile, you sometimes already have 50 pieces that don’t contribute much to the bulk. In this case this is further reinforced by the EVO concept where you are supposed to upgrade a barebones base build to a fully decked out maximum version or vice versa. More on that later.
The minifigures in this set are very colorful with Lloyd having multiple shades of green and the snake warriors heavily featuring orange. This makes them almost look a bit too friendly compared to other iterations of these characters. Still love the snake head piece as much as back then, though. If LEGO were to produce Light Bluish Grey or Tan versions, they’d make for wonderful decorations of some similarly themed temple.
There’s a small buggy for the bad guys, but it’s basically one of those lazy lackluster designs I’ve criticized a million times in my LEGO magazines reviews. It’s an utter waste of pieces and simply not worthy of even being there.
The main vehicle as depicted here is the maxed out and leveled up version. Not only was I simply too lazy to take photos of the lesser variants with some pieces removed, but in my opinion this EVO stuff also just doesn’t really work that well. The base version looks rather underwhelming and a bit weird and one can’t help but shake the feeling that this was fundamentally designed the wrong way. By that I mean that my overall impression is that the car was designed as the complete version and only then they started thinking about which parts could be removed when in fact it should have been the other way around.
This isn’t helped by the modular concept not having been thought through. Whenever you try to remove the sub-assemblies there’s a good chance you also pull off other parts that are supposed to stay on or at least you loosen up some connections. This isn’t the end of the world, just sloppy design and it feels utterly unnecessary.
On a somewhat broader note, I really hate LEGO for doctoring their promotional images the wrong way. I was under the impression that the Green would actually be Bright Green, which would have made the car look a bit more aggressive but would also have been cooler overall. You can imagine that I was mildly disappointed when I realized that. As a Photoshop user myself I find it baffling that they don’t put much emphasis on a reasonably correct rendition of their own colors. It really cannot be that difficult, considering that no doubt they can easily afford all the bells and whistles of expensive photographic equipment and high-end calibrated computer screens.
The play value of this model is acceptable. The car is pretty robust and the cockpit is large and accessible. However, there’s not much else to do. Unlike some other Ninjago offerings this one doesn’t have some hinge-based transformation features or hidden functions that can be triggered with some lever. Even the stud shooters feel less than ideal, considering that the round 1 x 1 studs more often than not tend to be consumed by the carpet monster and are harder to retrieve compared to arrow shooters.
LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127)
I got this set somewhat reluctantly. It’s not that I totally disliked it, it just didn’t strike me as essential when viewed from the angle I was treating the whole operation. Arguably one could say that this is a bit of an acquired taste and my interest only grew when studying the digital building instructions and realizing that it would offer some unique Dark Turquoise parts and a few useful ones in Light Aqua as well.
The set comes with 258 pieces and they are put to good use, at least for the primary model. Apparently I haven’t built the Formula X racer and the custom dragster, which use less elements. I might have if the set had a different color scheme, which is a bit of a qualm I have with this. I don’t mind the Dark Turquoise, but I feel that other contrast colors would have served the set better. The Light Aqua could have been substituted for Yellowish Green or Dark Azure and if nothing else, at least the Red decorations should be Bright Light Orange. That and of course the exhaust pipes and the compressor intake would look way cooler if they were in a metallic color.
Building the model is pretty straightforward as unlike some other cars this one use mostly conventional building techniques and not fancy sideways or upside-down construction as often found on Speed Champions these days. This makes for a rather relaxing time and a quick turnaround. I’m a slow builder at the best of times due to often being distracted with other stuff like watching TV, but this was a pleasant build that didn’t drag on for a whole evening.
One thing you’ll notice right away is that this car is rather big and has a lot of usable volume. The downside to that is that it’s definitely not minifigure scale and any of the little guys you put in the cockpit and behind the wheel will look like an elementary school kid having hijacked his parents’ ride. The available space is really huge as evidenced by the images below. There’s even a well worked out stowage area, it’s just that in order to actually use any of that and make sense scale-wise you may need to find some dolls/ puppets/ figures from an alternate manufacturer like Playmobil.
LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181)
The The Batman movie came and went without much fanfare. It was barely marketed and then it felt like it was in cinemas for two weeks only. The short window of opportunity certainly hasn’t helped to compel me to drag my lazy ass to the movies, but I won’t use it as an excuse. I haven’t seen the whole thing and only know bits and pieces from trailers and isolated clips. Based on that, the model appears to be an adequate rendition.
The set comes with minifigures of Batman himself and his nemesis The Penguin. The decapitated head isn’t some unfortunate victim, it’s a replacement for Batman without the cowl. I guess for the realistic look of the film they’re okay, it’s just that they don’t look very spectacular, either. Bats doesn’t even have any weapons and for Mr. Cobblepot you can build a small rocket launcher (forgot to include it in the images), but that’s pretty much it.
The set officially has 392 pieces and they’re are used well. as you can see on the photos, it has a certain fine granularity with many individual details breaking up what otherwise would just be a sea of black. It even has the flames from the nitro charger to make things look more intimidating. They get a bit tiresome to look at, so if you want to keep the model around for your showcase, it’s likely better to remove those transparent blue parts.
The car in the movie is a custom build, though it has clear references to a Mustang, a Pontiac and some others, depending on which details you look at. Within reason that has been translated well enough to the smaller scale version, though of course some of the straight surfaces would be curved on the original. In terms of size this feels like an oversized Speed Champions car and it even builds similarly. You start out with a 8 wide chassis element which is considerably extended front and rear and then add the other elements.
One of the things I found slightly problematic is how fragile some assemblies are. It is inevitable that some of the flames will come off occasionally, but there’s also several other locations where pieces are only attached by two studs and you can break them off just by handling the model wrongly. The overhang of the front hood is the most annoying of those, but also some of the 1 x 2 slopes used for the sharp ridges tend to dislocate. Another weak spot is the “forked” suspension of the motor. With all that in mind you should handle the model carefully.
The interior details are sufficient. Personally I’m a bit irked by the shooter mechanism. It requires you to have the arrows in the model at all times or else the hinged mechanism will just drop down and stay at an angle, ruining the illusion of a solid surface on the hood. If I were to build this a second time I’d just forego the arrow shooters entirely and close up the gaps with regular bricks and tiles.
The motor is an interesting little assembly and sells the illusion nicely. Most importantly it does so by using some Flat Silver elements that have only been introduced in this color this year such as the 90 degree clip/ bar and the Fez cone. Definitely interesting pieces for anyone building machinery or designing Steampunk stuff.
Given that I bought all the sets under the premise that I would harvest their pieces and derive a little distraction from them rather than looking at them too critically for their originality, realism and other factors, I’m not that disappointed. Yes, they all have notable shortcomings, but I don’t find them too bothersome within my reasoning.
Of course my opinion would be most definitely different if I was more serious about the matter. I might criticize the lack of more minifigures on the Batman set and its less than robust handling and I might simply write off the Ninjago set as lame and unpolished in relation to the official retail price. In reverse this however also means that I really would not necessarily have bought those sets if they hadn’t been discounted massively. Such is the logic forced upon us by LEGO‘s crazy pricing.
To my surprise I really liked the Creator 3in1 race car and if you’re on a budget and can get over the slightly weird color scheme I would recommend picking this over the others. It’s just as robust as the Ninjago car while looking a lot better and at the same time it’s as big and reasonably detailed as both its alternative offerings. The Batman car would be last on my imaginary list due to its stability issues and boring black look. There simply are way too many other black cars out there.