Ninjagopalooza’22: Ninjago Core EVO [71760,71761,71762,71763 Hands-On Review]

This past weekend, we celebrated the 11th Anniversary of the first episode of Ninjago going to air.

The latest drop of Ninjago sets does not specifically tie-in to a current series of the show, but rather returns to the core material of Ninjago: Mechs, Dragons and Vehicles, aimed at a variety of age groups

Today, I would like to cover several sets in the wave, all of which are aimed at a 6+ audience. They represent most of the collected EVO sets of the wave:

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  • 71760 Jay’s Thunder Dragon EVO
  • 71761 Zane’s Power Up Mech EVO
  • 71762 Kai’s Fire Dragon EVO
  • 71763 Lloyd’s Race Car EVO

One looking at these sets, the first thing that struck me was the Box Art: As well as a photo of the set, the background of the images are presented as a split tan and red comic book art, showing off the primary build as well as any enemies included. All of these sets include various snake enemies.

The Comic Style Art of the Ninjago Core series.

The EVO Premise includes the mantra: Train – Progress – Reward. Each set has a number of forms, and the ninja advance in these forms as they train.

The instructions include simple comic stories,following the hero’s journey. They all have pretty similar plot lines to the majority of 90’s action movies:

The hero heads out with their ride

They get beaten up by the bad guys

They undergo a training montage

And emerge victorious

Or… to look at the changes that we actually experience:

As each ninja advances, they move from being unarmed wearing only a headband to becoming equipped with a variety of weapons and gaining the full ninja robes.

And as they progress, their transport advances too: the mech becomes fully armed and armoured, the dragons grow wings and extend their bodies; and subsequently gain armour. The cars gain an extra layer of golden armour.

These upgrades are depicted in comic panels within the instruction books, and at the end, each character is presented with a banner by Master Woo.

These sets are aimed at relatively young audiences: 6+, and as such require a few elements to make their construction and play a little easier.

A New System Character and Creature Building System

Writing on Twitter, LEGO designer Niek Van Slagmaart (@toothdominoes) talks about the Core range being born of the need to create a range of toys that are the epitome of Ninjago, and are suitable for kids fitting in between the 4+ and 7+ audience. Specifically Mechs, Dragons and Vehicles. A number of elements were proposed that take on similar roles to the now defunct CCBS (creature and character building system – the core of constructable figures, including Hero Factory, Bionicle II, Ben 10, Superheroes and Star Wars) – but based on system, rather than Technic elements. A System Character and Creature Construction System, as it were.

Source: @toothdominoes on Twitter

These elements include the angled plate, discussed in our review of 80030 Monkie Kid Staff Creations, as well as a number of armour shell elements. Some elements that work with this system already exist. as shown in the bottom right panel above. We also see the arrival of new dragon heads and wings. It is quite possible that further elements shall appear in the future.

Lets take a quick look at some of these new elements:

The angled plate: this element is used as legs and arm in the mech, as well as the dragon’s legs. While it does not afford a lot of detail on its own, the use of brackets or shell elements can certainly enhance this. In defending the use of a non-bending hinge for this element, which forms the knee, Niek will bring critics back to the original brief, which is to be able to allow young builders around 6 years of age to be able to create a creature or mech which will stand unaided.

The Design Brick 2×5 No.1 forms a shell over a 2 x n plate or brick, bring a couple of studs to the side. In these sets, we see it in warm gold, white and also red in the Dojo set. It bears a resemblance to plate with bows 2 x 3 1/2. It’s wraparound nature bears resemblance to the shell elements seen in the CCBS, but there, the resemblance ends.

The chest of the mech is formed using the Design element 4x5x2, which features a bar at the bottom. Again, it is related to the chest elements in the Marvel mechs, as well as the nexo knight battle suits

There are also 2 new designs of stud shooters and their trigger, which appear throughout the range, as well in Superheroes and Monkie Kid Sets. One is hand held, while the other can be mounted flush with a surface.

The range also features a new range of dragon wings – these wings can stack end to end, to extend them, and even sit partially folded up. These dual molded elements are either azur/transparent yellow OR bright red/transparent orange.

The dragon heads include a new head for Jay’s thunder dragon, and a new, vicious jaw for Kai’s Fire dragon. The different head elements can be used either as a skull or jaw, allowing for different use depending on the printing. this is a place where stickers could be functional!

Between these sets, we are given a reasonable indication, as well as sufficient inspiration as to how all of these elements can be used together to create your own mechs or dragons – from the development and amouring of the leg designs, the type of head used and so forth.

Lets take a closer look at each of these sets:

71761 Zane’s Mech EVO

This set features 4 of the angled plates, in dark Azur, as well as shell elements in white and warm gold. In its most basic form, the shell elements are not applied, and neither are the gold elements.

The first phase demonstrates how the angle plates can be used: with small ball joints at each end, secured by a plate over the top. The mech did take a little adjustment to get standing in an upright posture, but it ws not as hard as it might be with one of the Marvel mechs.

Adding the shell and the weapons increased the menacing look significantly, as the mech is given a sword as well as a large transparent light blue spinning star to serve as a shield.

The set comes with Zane, who adjusts from his warm silver buzz cut to his white ninja robes.

Zane has a Cobra Mechanic to confront, who is armed with a new design stud shooter.

71760 Jays Thunder Dragon EVO

Jay’s Dragon has 2 forms:, and is predominantly Dark Azur, Earth Blue and Cool Yellow in its colouring. In its ‘companion form’ the body consists of 2 segments, built up around 4×4 round bricks, and joined together by 2 connector pins. The body is formed using a number of triple curved stloped wedge elements. Some connector pins/bush elements are insered into the front ‘knees’ of the angled plate.

The dragon’s head is in two parts – a new Dark Azure and transparent yellow upper head, and a cool yellow jaw. This jaw element has some small teeth, and antistuds on one side, and a horn, as well as some studs on the other. It is a recolour of the jaw element first seen in 71754 Water Dragon from the Seabound wave in 2021. The ‘inner workings of the heads in both dragons are pretty simple: the head and jaw are attached to each other using a 1×3 modified plate, with vertical clips at each end; and the head is attached to the body of the dragon using a clip hinge, and connector pin to the dragon’s head.

When the dragon ‘levels up’ we addsome additional body sections, as well as single panelled wings, which connect to the front knees of the dragon. It also gains a saddle, and an end to its tail, which appears to shoot lightning.

Jay wields nunchuks, and upgrades with a hood and sword. His figure is blue, with cool yellow details.

Jay confonts a Viper Flyer.

71762 Kai’s Fire Dragon EVO

This is the more impressive of the two dragons, with 2 upgraded forms. Kai comes with 2 adversaries.

The first iteration of the dragon is bulkier than Jay’s- 6 rather than 4 studs wide – and the legs are again built around the angled plate.

The upper part of the head is a red recolour of the head from the 711746 Jungle Dragon, as well as 71754 Water Dragon from 2021. The jaw is a new element, and again, the mould could be used either way up for additional variety. It is connected to the body in a similar way to that from Jay’s Thunder Dragon.

The first iteration sees the body grow a segment, perhaps in a more effective way to 71760, as well as gaining wings, and a tail segment.

The next iteration sees the wings grow, a fire elememnt added to the tail and a saddle, as well as golden armoured elements added. This includes the use of the conical hat element in gold to the back hips, and the new shell element to the forelimbs.

Kai is equipped with a chicken drumstick, but upgrades to a sword and scabbard with the first upgrade, and gains his hood in the second.

There are two adversaries: Cobra Mechanic and Boa Destructor. The Box seems to label them correctly, but has their roles confused. Despite what the website says, the Cobra Mechanic is controlling a neat little drone, while the Boa Destructor is flying a jetpack, and armed with a grappling hook. The box is labelled correctly.

This set embodies the EVO Spirit really well, and is probably my favorite of the 2 dragons.

71763 Lloyd’s Race Car EVO

Finally Lloyd’s Race Car: This vehicle is based around the 8 stud wide speed champions chassis, but using extra wide wheels. I enjoyed this build, but it was certainly more sticker dependent than the other builds reviewed today.

Lloyd sits centrally, with a single 1×2 45º slope to lean on. SNOT elements allow curved slopes to be attached on the fron fender, as well as on the sides, giving this a sleek look. The ‘EVO’ upgrade here, however, is a little disappointing, only adding a couple of armour elements, along with a spoiler (admittedly, one kick-a** spoiler!) and bonnet mounted stud shooters.

Lloyd starts with a spanner, and upgrades to a spanner and sword, along with his ninja hood.

There are two enemies for Lloyd to face: The Cobra Mechanic is back, this time on a quad bike, while Python Dynamite comes equipped with a stud shooter and…dynamite.

The car is fun, but looks pretty mundane before it gets upgraded. Overall, it is still a solid set, but the EVO concept feels a little lost on it.


At the end of the day, these sets are aimed at kids, aimed 6 and up.

Overall, I quite like this wave: Focussingthe core nature of Ninjago, with builds suitable for younger builders, I found them to be quite fun. The car zooms, the Mech stomps and the dragons are quite swooshable, with the knowledge that if I drop them, they wont take long to fix!

I can see potential in the SCBBS, and while it won’t really be the successor to BIONICLE or the CBBS that some people would like to see, it equips younger builders with the tools to put together creatures or mechs that might otherwise be frustrating to attempt. It might not be for everyone, but it is not setting out to be that.

My favorites would be Zanes Mech and Kai’s Fire Dragon. – I give each of them 4/5 Arbitrary Praise Units; and 3.5 out of 5 to Jay’s thunder dragon, and Lloyds Racing Car.

The Mech and Dragons are especially open to exploiting the new system – the cars, perhaps less so. While these are essentially sets for 6+ builders, there are more sophisticated builds in the 2022 range, aimed at older builders, including Lloyd’s Legendary Dragon, and the Ninja Dojo Temple (both of which I shall be reviewing in the future) as well as the Ninja Ultra Combo Mech.

What do you think of these sets? Does the new building system hold appeal for you? How about the ‘return to basic’ approach this year?

Why not leave your comments below, and until next time, Play Well.


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