Thursday, August 17th, 2017 at 1:56am by Jason, BZPower Reporter
Before the new LEGO Ninjago Movie comes out next month, it's important to remember that the standard Ninjago theme got one round of sets out earlier this year with the Hands of Time theme. Today, BZPower Reporter Xccj looked at 70624: Vermillion Invader, one of the mid-priced sets featuring Zane and an enemy vehicle. Does this set strike just the right cord, or are you better off saving up for the sets from the upcoming movie? Read on and watch the video to find out.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
We have a nice red package featuring the treaded Vermillion vehicle cruising through a swamp, as the snake-like villains bring the fight to our favorite Nindroid, Zane. The upper corner features two Ninja heads this time; those of Nya and Kai. While this is Nya's first time in the box-art spotlight, it's actually the third time Kai has been featured. In the lower corners, you have the Hands of Time logo and a look at the three figs included. The back of the box shows off some alternate views of the vehicle and characters, which showcase some of the action features. There's an advertisement for the Ninjago television show in the top corner, while the bottom left shows off which collectible weapon comes in this set. Once the box is opened, you also get two bags of parts, two instruction booklets, some stickers, and the thread piece.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The build was actually more entertaining than I expected. There a lot of nice techniques used to get some interesting angles on the vehicle, and it came together rather nicely. It's not very complex, but I'd like to think it could give new builders some new design ideas for them to incorporate into their own creations.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
The set comes with 313 pieces, plus a few extras. Most of the elements are in black, gray, or red, but there are a few other neat colors mixed in. There aren't really any substantially new pieces, but there are a few in new colors. The wing blade piece, which originated in 2008 Bionicle sets, appears in dark metal gray for the first time, and you also get two complete cocoons in the same color. The relatively new 2x2 wedge plates also show up in red, so they're nice touches, and then we get a long blade piece in a cool copper color. Most of the new molds are used as weapons. This includes a nicely detailed snake hatchet blade as well as a gray and red snake sword (not pictured.) The other bronze sword is the type used by the orcs in the Lord of the Rings sets in a new color. We also get the dual colored Forward Time Blade. (It can be used to travel forward in time in short bursts.) The green and bronze might not be the best combination, but it looks alright and has a unique shape. Finally, we've got a new snake piece, which features a new head design and has a pin connection on the back, allowing it to be useful in snake-like decorations.
We get three minifigures here: Zane and two Vermillion warriors. This is the third time we've had snake-like villains in Ninjago, and the Vermillion are actually related to the Great Devourer, a terrifying enemy from the second year of Ninjago. In the show, the Vermillion characters are actually comprised of a bunch of smaller snakes coming together to form a single entity, and this is shown in the details of Slackjaw, who has random snake tails coming out of his legs and torso. He also features a two sided head and a new helmet with cool dark red snake horns. Slackjaw is actually a generic snake soldier, so he appears in quite a few sets but doesn't actually have any lines in the show. Still, you need your army building characters, and he fits that description well.
Commander Raggmunk is one of the few "intelligent" of the Vermillion, even if he does come across as a bit goofy at times in the show. His set of snakes were bred to lead the Vermillion, so he actually gets his own unique name and can speak. His torso and head feature dark orange snakes forming together to make one body, but he also comes with the new body armor and another new snake helmet. The armor actually bulks him up quite a bit, and has a very thick neck guard. Raggmunk shows up in one other set, but this would be the cheapest way to get him.
Zane is exclusive to this set, and is also the only Ninja to appear in only one of the Hands of Time sets. He comes with an updated outfit, with silver legs and torso but black arms and armor. His torso also includes a monitor to view some of his inner workings, because he is damaged during the season and his fellow ninjas need to access his controls to reboot him, so that's some nice details. His head is also new, and includes a bit of a crack to show that he's battle damaged.
The first part you build is a small landscape bit. And it is small, comprising of a small stone, some greenery, and a fence connected to a hinge. I suppose this is supposed to be some part of the Vermillion's base located in their swamp, but it's pretty unsubstantial. I thought the fence was some barrier that Zane could hide behind and shoot at the Vermillion warriors, but the hinge makes it fall over way too easily. But then I realized that was because it's actually a target, which explains it's loose function and general lack of details. However, what is irksome is that it uses the same right-sided wedge piece twice, so you have no left version pieces to add to your parts collection. (What, I like having the symmetry.)
The overall assault vehicle is interesting. It's nicely designed and functional, but my first grievance is that it doesn't actually look like anything. Previous Ninjago vehicles, especially those involving the Serpentine, have had cool snake-like designs, and similar animal motifs were also prevalent in Legends of Chime vehicles. But this Vermillion invader doesn't really resemble anything; it's just a tread surrounded by armor and blades complete with a couple of catapults. Maybe the triangular shape is supposed to be some sort of viper head, but I'm not really seeing it. The in-show explanation is that this is another construct made up of many Vermillion snakes, and this detail is clearly visible in some of the stickers and the snake heads popping out of the middle of the vehicle. (The stickers are a nice design, but are a bit hard to apply.) The end concept is kind of cool: it's a mound of snakes that come together to make a rolling catapult. But I guess my expectations have been set by some of the previous Ninjago sets in 2012 and 2015.
Looking past that one issue, this is actually a pretty well designed model with a lot of great design techniques. There are a lot of great, nonstandard angles used here. First of all, there's the technic frame for the tread, which creates this vertical triangle. Then you have the side blades which are angled using swivel hinge bricks and various wedge bricks that create a neat horizontal triangle shape. Next, a clever placement of the wing blades create a smooth transition between the vertical and horizontal triangular shapes. These designs really make the model flow together and look like a single solid shape, and I like it very much.
The color scheme is a bit repetitive, as the red, black, and gray combination has been used multiple times in Ninjago. But the colors do work, and match the look they've given the Vermillion. The bronze colored blades on the edges are also a nice touch, although I would've liked to have seen that color used a bit more. One other aspect of this model is the sound it makes, which is not usually a criterion on which I judge LEGO sets. The instructions have you fill each of the cocoons with three loose studs, and when the move the vehicle around with the cocoons in the catapults, they rattle. And it sounds a bit like a rattlesnake. I don't know if that was intentional, since the Vermillion aren't specifically designed after rattlers, but it's a cool feature that I was pleasantly surprised by.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
The most important part of any vehicle is how it moves. I'm not the biggest fan of treaded vehicles, but this Vermillion Invader has a loose enough tread that it will roll over most surfaces with ease. This is helped a bit by the small wheel on the back, which helps balance it. My biggest complaint was that it didn't have a clear driver's seat. (Maybe this isn't important when you consider this is just another snake construct that has a mind of its own, but I still want my LEGO vehicles to have a driver's seat.) But it turns out that two panels near the back can be lifted up to reveal a platform where Commander Raggmunk and Slackjaw can stand. It's not necessarily a driver's seat, but it works well enough.
The main function is the catapults, which the Vermillion Invader has two of. (No stud shooters or flick fire missiles to be seen, which is unusual but also kind of refreshing.) The arms are made up of technic elements, and the spikes on the end perfectly hold in the cocoons. (You can even attach the cocoons to a stud on the catapult, in case you want to hold them on securely while traveling.) The actual rubber band powered catapults do a decent job of launching the cocoons a couple of feet, and the cocoon's spherical shape allows them to roll even further. They generally don't hit with enough force to break opened, but you still get the rattling sound effect. This is also where the landscape piece comes in handy, because it's fairly easy to launch a cocoon and knock over the target. Since previous Ninjago and Legends of Chima sets have included targets that are very difficult to hit with their respective projectiles, the Vermillion Invader's catapult is another pleasant surprise.
This is perhaps not the best set for roleplaying, since Zane is pretty outmatched by the vehicle. But the Vermillion Invader would go nicely against the Ninja's vehicles from another set, like the Samurai VXL or Destiny's Shadow. However, since these vehicles only made a minor appearance in the TV show, they may not be the most desired product to purchase.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
A good amount of nice pieces
Neat minfigures, including an exclusive Zane.
Cool angular designs
Functional catapult launcher
Cocoons make a cool rattlesnake noise
Not too expensive at $29.99 USD
What's not to like?
Doesn't generally look like anything
Landscape piece is underwhelming
Red and black color scheme is a bit unoriginal
Zane is outmatched without a vehicle of his own
Overall, the Vermillion Invader is a bit of a mixed bag. The overall model has some excellent building techniques includes, as well as a neat catapult action feature. However, it doesn't really look like anything remarkable or stand out, which hurts the model compared to some of the other Ninjago products. It includes some nice pieces and the Vermillion figs are cool, but the real draw is the exclusive Zane minifigure. I wouldn't recommend this as the first Ninjago Hands of Time set to purchase, but if you are interested in picking this set up, then the pieces, figs, and general design tricks will be well worth it.
Thanks again for watching and / or reading another BZPower set review. Many thanks to LEGO, who generously donated this set for review. The thoughts and opinions in the review and video are entirely my own. Stay tuned to BZPower for even more LEGO set reviews coming soon, including models from The LEGO Ninjago Movie!