Another Pistol Jet – LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736)

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.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Box

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.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Overview

The Minifigures

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.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), MinifiguresLEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Minifigures

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 Jet

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.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Front Left View

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.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Aft Left View

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.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Aft Right View

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.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Front Right View

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Front View

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. 

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Top View

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.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Bottom View

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.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Detail Arrow Shooters

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).

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Detail CockpitLEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Detail Engine

Concluding Thoughts

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…

Red Pistol – LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son’s Inferno Jet (80019)

Everybody loves free shipping and pre-Easter I figured it would not be the most terrible idea to get an extra Easter Bunny carrot house on top, so of course when I ordered the White Dragon Horse Jet (80020) it wasn’t the only item in my basket at the LEGO online store. Red Son’s Inferno Jet (80019) found its way into my home as well and we’re here to have a look at it.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Box

Contents and Pricing

Let me cut right to the chase: Out of the two jets this certainly is the less attractive option. As usual I got it “for reasons”, but if you are looking for a good bang for your buck this is not necessarily the way to go. Between the ultimately relatively small actual jet, the limited selection of minifigures and barely any extras this isn’t the best way you could spend 30 Euro. Point in case: This set has officially 299 pieces, making for an almost exact 10 Cent per piece price, which these days is nothing to write home about, especially when many of those items are just smaller standard pieces. Even some of the larger pieces feel more like they had to reuse leftovers of stock from production runs for other sets.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Overview

With that being said, the value here really feels more like 25-ish Euro at best and if this were sold through regular retailers it could then drop even lower. This would certainly help to bring it to a level where at least it feels more in line with typical Ninjago offerings.

The Minifigures

As already mentioned, the choices for the minifigures are anything but exciting as they’re all ones you’ve seen in previous sets in the series already. There’s another grunt, Red Son and of course Monkie Kid. The figures are not at all done bad in any sense of the word with their complex and elaborate prints based on unique designs, they just lack that extra magical touch and within the series already feel repetitive. It feels like a non effort to just grab some existing figures and slightly modify them without advancing the story or tailoring them more specifically to the set. In particular this set would have benefited from having at least one mechanic for instance, the reasons for which I’m going to explain a bit more later.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Minifigures

The Rock

The small rock piece is just that – a section of the many mountainous areas Monkie Kid comes across in his journey. This probably would look just fine next to the The Legendary Flower Fruit Mountain (80024), but otherwise I don’t quite know how it fits into a set with a jet unless you interpret it as being the tip of a mountain high up in the clouds with the jet zooming by. It just feels a bit random and arbitrary and the pieces allocation could have been used for something that would fit the topic better …like some maintenance equipment. See a common thread here?

The Jet

To get it out of the way, allow me to resolve my ominous hints at that “mechanic-ing up” right away: The one thing that attracted me to this set is its boar-ish appearance in the sense that in particular the front section is reminiscent of old cylindrical piston engine designs from the World War II era, the Korean War and even the Vietnam War. Think Thunderbolts, Corsairs and Skyraiders. That’s why I regret that the set doesn’t build more on this with open cowlings and oil-covered mechanics.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Jet, Front Left View

The other reason that also furthers my point and becomes apparent at certain angles is that the plane isn’t level/ parallel with the ground. As such it would have made 1000% sense to have it perched in some sort of launch rig or maintenance platform. This, again, would have been a perfect excuse to include a mechanic and, coming back to my earlier point, use the pieces dedicated to the small rock for workshop details and the scaffolding/ trusses of the actual platform. This to me would have made a lot more sense and I’m sure it would actually result in some better play fun as well.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Jet, Aft Left View

A lot of these considerations of course would be totally unnecessary if the vehicle had not been designed in such an obvious way as an arrow shooter pistol. This is even more tragic since the shooter functionality with only two arrows is kind of useless and not much fun in an age where you can buy your kid a rapid fire Nerf gun with 60 shots. I don’t quite get why LEGO keep adding these features where they can’t compete with toys that do it better and safer, even more so when it has the ill effect of affecting and limiting the rest of the design.

I feel this is pretty much what has happened to the placement of the wings and engine cones. Everything had to be spaced far enough apart to allow the little rascals to wrap their hand around the handle at the bottom and pull the trigger. This makes for flimsy attachments and is not particularly plausible in terms of engineering and the underlying physics as well. Guess how strong those wing spars would have to be to transfer the thrust to the fuselage. makes no sense!

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Jet, Aft Right View

From the side the pistol shape is even more recognizable, though in fairness it looks rather elegant at least. This is yet one more case where with a little bit of effort (well, quite a bit, actually) you could build on the basic design and transform it into a proper plane by adding proper wings, getting rid of the handle and trigger and re-arranging the engine exhausts. If I were to do it, I’d bring them in closer to the vertical tail fin and, to make it look cool, I would love to have more of the thick metallic tubes connecting up to them. You could even insert some transparent colored 2 x 2 round bricks to hint at some sort of “plasma flow”. Does that sound like an idea? I’m almost tempted to really try this one day.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Jet, Right View

The front section is the stronger area of the model as already mentioned. Mind you, it’s nothing in the way of introducing some super cool new technique you wouldn’t be able to come up with yourself, it’s just done rather well. Inevitably some of that has to be attributed to the use of the new 3 x 3 rounded bricks with curved surface, here in Dark Pearl Grey for the first time. This makes for a strong, smooth “lip” of the cowling that previously would have been difficult to render with its color also reminding me of the metallic rings in this area used on some real planes, either for decorative purposes or to minimize damage to the actual cowling.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Jet, Front View

The forward prongs for the flamethrower feel a bit weird, but perhaps it’s just my scientific-oriented mind getting in the way and thinking “This could never work!”. Still, it’s an odd choice to bulk up the model in this region so much, when it barely even doesn’t have any wings. On that note: I had to redo some of the photos a number of the times because the small tail wings are attached using regular hinges, not ratcheted ones, so they change angles at the slightest touch. Yet another design issue that speaks against this model.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Jet, Cowl open

As mentioned earlier, there is an arrow shooter mechanism well hidden inside the model, but with only two arrows available it really doesn’t do much. This is even more so the case as reloading isn’t that easy. Either you fiddle around and try to insert the arrows directly via the hole in the front cone if you have small enough fingers or you open up the cowling, which is attached with clip hinges. This is in its own way clever, but has the distinct disadvantage that it will quickly wear out if you need to use it too often or the clips even break.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Jet, Cowl Detail

The underside is extremely barren due to the open shooter mechanism. They didn’t even have a few inverted curved slopes to spare to continue and emulate the curvature on the 4 x 4 plate, much less anything to create a smoother transition.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Jet, Bottom View.

Unique Parts

As mentioned here and there, there are a few new parts in Pearl Dark Grey in this set such as the rounded elements. The ingot/ gold bar in this color, already mentioned in the white jet review last week, also makes an appearance here. The dual molded flame piece with the Trans Orange transitioning into the “smoke” Trans Black is not exclusive to this set, but overall somewhat rare and having four of them is not a bad thing. The round brick with the spikes takes the cake, as I indeed thought this would have been widely available in some older Ninjago or Nexo Knights sets that I never had, given that the mold has been around for a few years, but no, it’s actually the first time we get this one in Pearl Gold. some people are probably drooling over that already.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Red Son's Inferno Jet (80019), Unique Parts

Concluding Thoughts

Sadly this is one of those LEGO sets where an interesting concept presumably has been trimmed and bent into something entirely different, less attractive. That whole gimmick with the pistol shooter functionality feels mandated by some higher up because of course the had to have some “play feature” other than swooshing the model around, but integrating it came at the cost of the overall appearance, which could definitely have been more refined and complete.

It has its strong points and if you build on them, you could end up with a rendition of something akin to a classic propeller plane, but it would at least require a minimum of work to fix the most glaring issues, let alone a full redesign of critical areas. I would only recommend it if indeed like me you have an inclination for Ninjago aerial vehicles and have exhausted most of the options there and/ or are looking something nice that blends in with an existing line-up of these aircraft.

Most others will very likely end up unhappy and dissatisfied. There are better “shooters” even in the LEGO world just as there are better planes at lower cost. That and of course you are a Monkie Kid completist who has to have every set. That, in my opinion, pretty much covers it and I can’t really see where this fits outside that. It’s simply not compelling enough otherwise.

Edgy Jet – LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020)

While I can’t judge the situation elsewhere on the planet, it seems to me that LEGO‘s Monkie Kid isn’t really taking off in a way the company would like. For my taste they are trying a little too hard to promote it through their LEGO Ambassador Network (LAN), throwing out free review examples left and right, yet the overall reception seems lukewarm, judging from comments. This lines up with my own feelings about the matter – would love to love it more, but something always feels off and it doesn’t help that some sets are a helluvalot expensive. However, there are some things I still like and that’s why the White Dragon Horse Jet (80020) still ended up finding its way into my home. Ironically it does so for feeling more like Ninjago instead of Monkie Kid, but more on that later.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Box

Contents and Pricing

As I mentioned already, the price policy for these sets is a problem – for me, anyway. That’s why I’m always extra wary when deciding whether to get them or not and this means that a set has to have either some desirable specific items or enough bulk so an investment feels justified. Since the sets at this point are exclusively distributed by LEGO themselves, there’s no wriggle room for discounts, making that an even more important consideration. In this case I’m happy to say that the math does add up. The set has 565 pieces and while many of them are small ones, there’s just as many larger ones evening out the balance. The overall usefulness and perceived value to someone like me is also greatly helped by the fact that many elements are unique to this set. There are some notable recolors, some entirely new parts and a good selection of standard elements that you can never have enough of. Always a good thing to have this stuff handy for your next MOC.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Overview

With all that in mind, I feel that 40 Euro is more than a fair price. This is on a level with some of The LEGO Movie 2 sets – after discounts – that weren’t all that bad, just pretty underrated because the film bombed so hard. In other words: You do get some good value for your money, both during the construction process as well as with the finished result.

The Minifigures

Unlike other Monkie Kid sets that are overflowing with custom figures tailored specifically to the series, this is perhaps the weakest part about this particular offering. The point here is that with Si, the leftmost figure, we get “generic guy no. 703” from the overall LEGO minifigure mix & match repository, with the individual parts having been used elsewhere already. Similarly, the spider army huntsman feels like every other generic Ninjago evildoer, with the effect being amplified due to the current jungle island series also having purple enemies. The distinction between Medium Lavender and the lighter regular Lavender after that becomes a minor one. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time, should your kids decide to mix figures from the different series. It could be confusing!

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Minifigures

Mei feels a bit like she actually doesn’t belong in this set with her clothing feeling a bit too traditional for a jet pilot. In fact this is a point where they perhaps should have included her twice or offer an option to swap out parts so she could be built with a fashionable flight suit or in this more traditional sword fighter outfit. Finally there’s Lu, Sandy‘s cat, that now also has already been included in several sets. I’m not complaining as it’s my first, but they may need to come up with a new mold or some different prints/ colors to keep it interesting.

The Hoverboard

Speaking of Lu – he comes with his own little hoverboard/ aerial drone. Apparently it’s armed, if only with two stud shooters, to fend off the spider army. It’s a cute and hyper-efficient small build consisting only of a handful of pieces, but does the trick quite well. It might have been a good idea to add a small launchpad or hide this in a small truck, though. It seems a little far fetched that this would appear out of the blue with no technical support anywhere to be seen.

The Spider Drone

The opposing faction does of course have its own little drone arsenal as well and so there’s this spider-like version in this set. It is similarly to the hoverboard built only with a limited number of parts and ultimately that’s only even possible because a new type of clip/ bar element has been introduced. Without the 90 degree bar piece constructing the legs would have been nowhere near as simple and stability would not have been that great if this was bashed together using multiple hinge bar/ clip combinations using existing elements. That being the case I’m pretty sure we are going to see this new element used a lot in no time.

The Vending Machine

Both Red Son’s Inferno Truck (80011) and the Monkey King Warrior Mech (80012) contain small extra builds of kiosks/ shops and sections of buildings as they may be typical in some densely populated Asian cities and many reviewers loved them to the point of lobbying for full building-themed standalone sets in this series. I can certainly see the appeal and would be all for it, so it’s nice that LEGO also have included one of those cutesy models here. It’s a somewhat generic vending machine, in this case one allowing you to purchase glass jars with fancily printed lids (Perhaps to capture spiders?), but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless. This literally could be standing at many a streets corners. As so often, of course the single biggest regret is that none of the tiles are printed. Especially the large banner on the side, represented with one of the new 2 x 6 tiles, would likely have been an extremely popular item for people looking to deck out their own LEGO Chinatown. Alas, ‘t wasn’t meant to be.

The Jet

The meat of the set is of course the jet itself. It immediately caught my eye the first time I saw pictures of it due to its color scheme and overall appearance. Clearly the LEGO designers were aiming for something completely different from the done-to-death standard designs we’ve seen over and over again in the Ninjago universe. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but the formula gets a bit stale after you’ve built your third plane with sweeping wings or spreading “feathers” (swords), respectively. In that regard it’s really nice to see something that hasn’t been noodled out as much. Arguably of course soem will recognize a bit of Nexo Knights in here with some typical elements being featured and the general faceted look, but even then at least the overall impression is still something else.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Front Left View

Despite its brute-ish appearance the plane is in fact not that large with only slightly above 20 cm in length and just shy of that in wing span (depending on the inclination of the wings you chose). Point in case: The plane looks large, but really isn’t. This impression is furthered by how much weight the thing has. This is kind of inherent in how it is built: The cockpit area alone consists of multiple rows of the 2 x 2 plate modified with studs on the side and those add up, minor as each individual piece’s weight may be otherwise. Likewise, the model uses a lot of other small plates and bricks in many places to create the necessary staggering for all those wedges and slopes to be plugged on or to create specific patterns with differently colored elements. This also includes a few extra parts used to connect the left and right halves of the tip and other such directional changes.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Aft Left View

The exhaust/ speed streak is an element should be familiar if you even remotely have had an eye on one of last years cyber-themed Ninjago sets where they were included in almost every set in Trans Neon Green and Trans Neon Orange. The new version is Trans Bright Green, matching the rest of the color theme. Usually I wouldn’t make much of it and the blade element is easily enough removed, but once you do so (well, actualyl already during the build) you realize that it is just a cheap disguise.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Streak detached

Yes, while recognizably a lot of love went into detailing the rest of the plane, the jet engine is a non-effort on the part of the designers. Exactly zero energy was spent on it other than walking to the storage drawer, taking the old wheel element out of it and plugging it onto the rear end of the plane. they didn’t even bother to at least build a recess/ some panels around it, much less anything that would seriously resemble an exhaust if a contemporary jet plane. The funny thing is that, given the overall style of the vehicle, it would have been simple to just use the spiked coverings of e.g. an F-22 Raptor‘s slit-like thrust-vectoring engines as an inspiration, blatantly obvious as it may have been, but it at least would have been a lot better than what we got.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Aft Right View

The lackluster engine is particularly painful to see due to the stark contrast with the surroundings, which have been meticulously detailed. the “gills” on the back of the engine on a real plane likely would even have small hydraulics pistons or servos to change their angle in order to regulate cooling and airflow. Or they could be some extreme form of air brake… The large 1 x 8 slopes for the vertical fins is okay, all things considered, but of course I still would have preferred if they were build up from smaller elements. That might in fact also have helped with covering up the atrocious engine with some transitional pieces.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Gills Details

The cockpit area uses an existing canopy, but mounted in the reverse direction, a tactic which lately LEGO have used a number of times to add a bit of originality into existing parts usage. Interestingly, for this part the Trans Bright Green coloration is also a first, something which I wouldn’t have expected. In my mind it feels like I’ve seen this a ton of times on Nexo Knights and other sets, but with so many different types of windshields out there it’s easy to get them mixed up.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Front Right View

The cockpit interior is parse and doesn’t really make a lot of sense functionally. The most apparent shortcoming here is the odd placement of the singular instrument panel and the awkward flat, lying position the pilot is supposed to have. This would never work, both in terms of battlefield awareness and sustaining g-forces. You know, there’s a reason why pilot seats in combat aircraft are almost always mounted at a very specific angle that has proven the most efficient. For a play fantasy it’s acceptable, though.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Cockpit Detail

One of the reasons for the very bed-like seating arrangement undoubtedly is the extremely recessed canopy not allowing enough headroom – literally. This is one are I feel could have been improved just as well with a more conventional mounting point higher up instead of placing the hinge directly under the wedge bricks constituting the tapered area in front of the cockpit. If I were serious about it and planned to keep the models around for longer I would likely seriously dedicate some time to changing and fixing this.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Front Right Lower View

The other thing that becomes apparent from this low viewing angle is the complete lack of an undercarriage. I would not consider this essential for a model that is primarily meant to be swooshed around, but it would have been nice and given the structure there would have been room for it to the point that it might even have been integrated so well, that it could have been hidden under some panels and then only unfolded/ deployed if and when needed. This is yet another area I definitely would look into if I were to customize this model.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Front Left Lower View

In all of this I have one more peeve with the model: It looks awfully militarized by LEGO‘s own standards. The thing is that as someone who is still proactively interested in military aviation and occasionally also watches some gameplay footage of shooter games I do not strictly have an issue with weapon-laden vehicles in the general sense, but here it just doesn’t feel right. This is a kids series, after all and yes, Ninjago has cannons and rockets, too, but here I feel they overstepped that fine line between tolerable and too much. If your entire wing is a gun array and then there’s extra stud shooters something is wrong. If this were another manufacturer I wouldn’t be surprised, but for LEGO, who like to endlessly go on about their toys being creative and kids-friendly it comes across as if they operate on inconsistent rules and will break them if only it serves as a means to an end.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Underside

Finally a small little gripe with the underside, also slightly related to my comment on the landing gear: It would have been nice to have at least the central fuselage section covered with inverted slopes. While it’s not that visible and the colored stripe pattern is done well enough, it might just have been nice to add that little extra touch and in fact it might have been a good opportunity to do a version of this element, just with straight angled faces to match the overall style.

Unique Parts

As mentioned already here and there this set comes with a good selection of new and not so common parts that boost the value for potential alternate uses later on. As a structural part that solves many construction problems the 90 degree clip/ bar is perhaps the most noteworthy. The “cosmetic” items, however, don’t disappoint, either. as such the shield piece in Bright Light Green is exclusive to this set for the time being, but I have no doubt it soon enough will be used more widely elsewhere as well more important to me are the Metallic Gold grille and the ingot piece in Pearl Dark Grey. Both components will be extremely valuable to anyone occasionally building vehicle and machinery stuff.

On that note, of course I also like the new 1 x 2 tile with the control panel print. The clearer, more generic graphical style may not be everyone’s thing, but it’s always good to have options. That extends to the round 1 x 1 tiles as well. thanks to them being used as the lids for the glass jars in the vending machine you get a good selection of them that you would have had to source elsewhere otherwise. The golden eye so far only appears in the Monkey King Warrior Mech (80012) and the ladybug has been included in the respective collectible minifigure. The spider symbol is the mark of the evil guys and appears in other Monkie Kid sets as well.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Unique Parts

Concluding Thoughts

All things considered this is a good enough set, if a bit of a weird one. The overtly militaristic look and feel is definitely going to rub some people the wrong way and takes some getting used to even for me. I also can’t shake the impression that within the Monkie Kid series this doesn’t quite fit into the general design aesthetic and story. Mind you, it’s not bad, but I view it strictly on its own merits decoupled from the rest or at best as a different spin on what potentially some Ninjago aircraft could look like. If you can see it the same way, you might enjoy it. The build is reasonably complex and satisfying plus it looks interesting. The price point is acceptable, too. It’s not perfect, mind you, but you definitely could do worse. If you have those 40 Euro and feel like killing a bit of time with an enticing model, this could be your thing.

Autumn-Tinted November – LEGO City Magazine, November 2020

Full throttle ahead into autumn! Was that too obvious? Perhaps, but nonetheless it’s more than appropriate for the November edition of the LEGO City magazine. Why? Of course because we get another motorbike. That’s why.

LEGO Magazine, City, November 2020, Cover

To make things even more odd (or perfect, depending on how you see it), the bike comes in the most autumn-ish LEGO color one could imagine – Dark Orange. That’s clearly not a coincidence, even more so since even the helmet of the driver is in this color. This makes me alternate between “WTF?” and “This is just brilliant!” in the sense that no matter how flabbergasted you are, it is definitely kind of awesome on so many levels.

The motorcycle frame so far can only be found in the Tuning Workshop (60258) and is the same new mold type as the ones in Pigsy’s Food Truck (80009). The good news here is that if you never had any intention of buying the rather ridiculously priced LEGO City workshop set you can expand your collection of bikes nicely just by purchasing the mag. I’m at least always amazed how many different types have amassed over the last three years in my collection already without ever having bought an actual bike-themed set.

The minifigure is similarly nice and somewhat unique. The torso with the Dark Green hoodie and black T-shirt with the digital VU-meter print also originates from the aforementioned set and will make a nice addition to any scenario where you are going to need a set of reasonably “hip” teenagers/ young adults to populate your city or whatever.

LEGO Magazine, City, November 2020, Extra

As you would expect, the bike and its driver are featured massively throughout the issue, be that in the comic or on the poster. As you know, I like this kind of consequent carrying through a specific motto/ theme, so I’m quite pleased. As they say: “This one’s got style!”.

LEGO Magazine, City, November 2020, Comic

The comic is a detective story playing out through the night and therefore predominantly tinted in blues, something which we in Europe call “American Night”, as it’s derived from a film technique where blue filters are used on daylight footage to make it appear as if shot under moonlight a.k.a. day-for-night. I got a lot of flak once for this because someone from the US felt insulted, but there’s really no reason to be upset. It’s just a common term in professional circles.

LEGO Magazine, City, November 2020, Poster

All things considered, this is probably the most perfect LEGO City issue I’ve ever seen. I doubt there would be much room to improve this even further in terms of stylistic and the content’s consistency, so this may indeed be as good as it ever gets for adults. This is one to remember and shows how good the magazine can be, if only someone pours enough effort and consideration into it instead of just dumping disjointed content. I would highly recommend snatching this up, especially if you have any use for the bike and the minifigure.

Porker Van – LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy’s Food Truck (80009)

LEGO‘s new Monkie Kid series has only been out for two weeks at this point and due to some favorable circumstances for once I was able to hop onto the bandwagon of just-in-time reviews, so here’s my take on Pigsy’s Food Truck (80009). Before we delve in, some more general thoughts on the series as a whole, though.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Box

Monkie Kid who?

As should be now be widely known, Monkie Kid is a modern spin on the old Chinese Journey to the West tale that revolves around the adventures of a band of mythical creatures and heroes, including the Monkey King. That’s pretty much where my knowledge ends. I’ve never seen a movie, not one of the older animated series that apparently exist nor read any books or comics. feel free to call me totally culturally ignorant. 😉 This is not made better by LEGO’s own animated series tie-in not having come out yet, so the models can only be rated on their own merits out of context.

That being the case, I have to say I don’t like most of them. Not only had I hoped for a more traditional approach to this series to begin with, potentially giving us some interesting historically inspired stuff, but my real problem is that most sets look like a wild mix of Nexo Knights and poorly done Ninjago. That is they use way too many large, compound parts where one might have preferred to build up things from many smaller pieces, lots of exposed Technic elements and an overall aesthetic, that’s not necessarily appealing to adults with lots of intense colors like Dark Purple and glowy oranges.

The other major turn off is simply the crazy pricing. No way to dance around it, but it really seems with this series LEGO are reshaping their own reality and reaching new heights. It’s not per se bad that sets cost a certain amount of money, but keep in mind that this series is not a collector’s edition, but is genuinely meant o be used for playing. Funny enough it will serve the latter purpose just fine, as most builds in their own way appear to be done well enough to live up to that, but the insane cost will be prohibitive and put it out of reach for many.

On the positive side the series introduces a ton of new parts or parts in previously unreleased colors and brings back some legacy pieces even that haven’t been available for a while. That alone will be motivation enough for some potential buyers. I would in particular go so far and say that the Monkey King Mech (80012) will be extremely popular in the MOC-building communities just for its many Metallic Gold parts and similarly the Dark Green Technic parts in the Monkey Kid’s Team Secret HQ (80013) as long as they’re not available elsewhere.

Finally there’s of course some interesting new minifigures. Even if I don’t actually pro-actively collect them, you have to give props to some of the new designs. They look fresh and truly like they add something new with new color combinations, new hair pieces and overall rather elaborate designs and prints.

What the Pigsy…?!

Based on the factors mentioned in the previous paragraph and some additional ones I opted for Pigsy’s Food Truck (80009) for a hands-on look at at least one set from the series. The reasoning behind this is pretty straightforward.

First, my brother and I have this weird running gag of anything to do with pigs and piglets and as a consequence anything to do with certain shades of pink. That’s why I had to have this for the pig on the roof of the van and Pigsy‘s minifigure alone. On that same note, I’m of course also somewhat into LEGO Friends and thus already have a reasonably large collection of pieces in these colors which I’m always looking to expand and complete in the hopes of one day pulling off some gorgeous custom builds with them.

The other reason to get this set are the many white parts, in particular the arches used on the wheel wells and the large modified tiles constituting the upward-swinging doors on the sides. There’s quite a few of them and if nothing else, they may come in handy as snow-covered roof elements for Christmas-y builds when it’s that time of the year again…

With that in mind, the economics added up and I wouldn’t have to worry about a total write-off even if the model itself disappointed. Knowing that these sets will very likely be exclusive to LEGO stores for a while, I ordered it right away from their online shop. Lo and behold, despite all kinds of horror stories of packages getting stuck in distribution centers due too overwhelming demand in the current crisis, everything worked out just fine and one week later DPD dropped the box undamaged on my doorstep.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Overview

Unwrapping the Van

The set comes with a pretty sizable van, five minifigures and two motorbikes, which even despite my initial criticism makes for a good value. In fact I would argue that out of all the current Monkie Kid sets this is perhaps the one with the best price-to-value ratio overall. I’m not sure if 60 Euro is the best price it could have, but given how surprised I myself was at how large the food truck actually turned out, I feel that it’s still fair on some level. If it only cost 50 Euro it would of course be even better, yet I don’t feel I have paid too much, rare as this is these days.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Minifigures

As written earlier, the figures are pretty nice. Monkie Kid himself (center) stands out the most with not only a unique torso print (apparently he’s employed at Pigsy‘s, if only as a disguise), but also the most elaborate legs I have seen myself to date. They are dual molded wit ha red upper section and black shoes and printed from three sides. Technically this is nothing new, but figures with such complex leg prints aren’t found in every set and i never had one before. My only criticism would be the slight lack of opacity on the white portions.

Pigsy uses a new unique head mold and looks just fine as a comical interpretation of a pig. The single customer is a bit run-off-the-mill and the Red shirt/ Sand Blue pants combo feels a bit overused. Simply too many figures in City and Creator sets use it. The evil guys, called Grunt and Snort in this set, are just clones in the truest sense of the meaning. they all look the same and are contained in every set, so similar to Star Wars you may indeed be able to build a clone army once you have bought enough of them.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Motorbike, Left View  LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Motorbike, Right View

The motorcycle/ bike is a completely new mold and is reminiscent of certain older types like wartime messenger bikes or the somewhat rustic-looking generations after that until the 1970s mostly. What makes them great, aside from having another alternate design, is the fact that LEGO had the good sense to do them in decent, realistic colors. They are a combo of Pearl Dark Grey , Pearl Grey and Black, making them unoffensive and integrate well into any scenario. even the spoked wheel hubs have that nice metallic sheen.

It’s an ordinary World (very ordinary)

Moving on to the truck itself, you’re kind of immediately taken out of the Monkie Kid world again as – with all respect – it looks very, very mundane and ordinary, give or take the few extras. That is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. It’s good because of course this would allow you to use the model in other scenarios easily with only minor modifications. It’s bad because somehow it just doesn’t seem to fit the slightly more crazy other sets from the series.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck, Front Left View

Most notably the lack of any variation in the overall White color scheme makes it just look boring. Yes, you can insert the same platitudes about me just not using stickers, but I still feel that this could easily have been mitigated somewhat even without those. Had e.g. the large 6 x 12 tile been substituted with multiple smaller ones and some colored items been sprinkled in to imitate patched or rusty spots, it could have looked more interesting to begin with.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck, Aft Left View

And make no mistake – even if you were to apply the large stickers it would not necessarily look better. Both Bright Pink and Dark Cyan are “cold”, not very vibrant colors that do little to enliven the model. The lack of contrast can be extended to the mudguards or the rounded sections of the roof as well. Would have making the roof Light Bluish Grey been boring, too? Admittedly yes, but it would at least have given some contrast and a nice demarcation line.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck, Aft Right View

I feel that the the mudguards likewise could have been grey or in the Bright Light Orange/ Flame Orange Yellow as the middle strip on top of the roof. On the bright side, though, they are constructed from the new 3 x 3 rounded bricks first introduced in the latest Star Wars – Rise of the Skywalker Resistance X-Wing (75273) for the jet intakes. That opens up potential for using them in a million different ways on other builds as opposed of having more single-mold pieces with limited alternate uses floating about in your stock.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck, Front View

The various appendages, i.e. the red horns, bull catcher and lights to me merely feel like a half-baked, uninspired attempt to make the vehicle look even a tiny bit menacing, but ultimately it does not. In terms of “branding” this seems weird, anyway. Wouldn’t those pieces by Dark Cyan or one of the pink colors, anyway? This also wreaks havoc with the red sausages/ hot dogs. They just don’t stand out enough. I also wish for once we’d get those Wieners in a different color. would it have been too much to ask for veggie spinach sausages in Dark Green?

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck, Sausage Grill

Don’t be so tense!

When inspecting the driver’s cabin/ cockpit, we have to talk about one fundamental problem with this model. There is a lot of overall tension/ friction and by that I really mean a lot.

The cause of this is easy to pin down – the model uses some very long plates and equally 1 stud wide long bricks on top of a chassis frame that derives its main stability from several 6 x 8 plates on top of a Technic brick frame wit ha few pins. To me it’s all too obvious why this can’t work out. The cumulative shear forces will eventually get so great, you struggle to plug on another row of bricks. This is particularly bad with the yellow decorative strip running down the middle of the roof. Here the issue is exacerbated by the strip being build from 1 x 6 bricks that just won’t fit right due to too much lateral friction. Adding the turntable for the pig figure was a battle. This is definitely not for kids and you may need to have a wood hammer handy.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck, Cockpit

The roof of the driver’s cabin is not completely as bad, but still not really good. I guess the most fitting description would be that it’s a case of “It will jiggle itself into the right position”. You literally have to bend and twist the model ever so slightly at the step where you’re supposed to insert the roof and once the bricks have loosened themselves again and released some tension things will work. regardless, it’s just not ideal having to work this way.

Boring™ inside

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck Interior, Front Left

The boring-ness of the design continues with the interior. One can’t help but feel that you’ve seen this a million times in every Friends or City van of similar ilk already. There’s some boxes, the usual mustard/ ketchup/ salt & pepper dispensers and a workbench. The only real highlights are a fridge and an extra overhead storage cabinet in the roof which admittedly uses a cleaver on-the-side building technique, but even those feel like they merely fill too much space that otherwise would not be used.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck Interior, Aft Left

Don’t get me wrong – those elements are just fine for what they represent and even the “sterile” grey colors make sense, it’s just not what this model would have needed. If I had anything to say about it, this would be some insane stuff where once you open up the upward-swinging side panels/ doors you’d see a completely different kind of shop, be that some Chinese pharmacy or mystery items outlet or a full weapons store/ armory. At least the latter thought seems to have crossed the designers’ minds for a minute, as there’s a hidden weapons compartment in the freezer.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck Interior, Fridge Secret

The mechanism for the roof swing doors kind of works, but occasionally it does not. More to the point you need to be pretty careful when to push it up and when to swivel it around. This is again an issue with the panels being rather flimsily constructed from only a few larger tiles with some 2 x 3 plates bridging the gaps on the backside. In addition, the actual hinge mechanism doesn’t use any of the inverted curved slopes usually associated with creating a strong connection, further complicating matters.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck Interior, Front Right

The matter isn’t helped by once again severe tension problems in the roof. There’s simply too many bulky bricks up there like the big slopes in the middle. Funny enough, though personally I consider it sloppy, it may actually help that those pieces along with some of the arches have their ends loosely hanging in the air. Were they fully counter-locked with extra plates underneath, the friction issues would probably multiply even more.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Truck Interior, Aft Right

Pink Sculpture

As mentioned in the introduction, one of the contributing factors I wanted this set is all that pig stuff and the advertising figure on the roof is part of that scheme. It’s reasonably well put together, though again I wish it would have been a bit bigger and more elaborate. It would have been nice if e.g. the ears had been actually pointed by building them from symmetrical pointed curved slopes. Given how the model is designed in that area already, it seems it would have been easy enough.

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Pig, Left LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Pig, Aft Right

LEGO Monkie Kid, Pigsy's Food Truck (80009), Pig, Face The stud shooter forming the snout is okay, but I’d preferred some more realistic shaping over functionality still. it might even have been funnier to build the pig as a container and have a separate gun inside or at least hide the gun behind a panel on a hinge. Farting out bullets from the opened butt has its own weird appeal, if you get my drift…

Final Thoughts

Overall the set is perfectly okay as a traditional/ conservative van. It’s quite large and there are enough play features and accessibility to keep kids busy. It’s also a pretty good source for some unique and useful parts if like me you disassemble your models again after a while and use the pieces elsewhere. On the other hand there’s a lot of amateurish, bad construction used, which makes the assembly a bit of a pain at times and would have me worried about long-term damage to some of the elements. All that creaking can only mean something is going to budge one day.

With regards to the Monkie Kid series this doesn’t do much to spike my interest. It squanders its potential by being way too conservative and it just doesn’t feel crazy enough. For all intents and purposes this could just as well be a Creator 3in1 model and you wouldn’t notice much of a difference. So ultimately how worth buying this is depends on some very specific details. It’s still good value for money, though, just perhaps not in the same way for everyone…