LEGO Ninjago 71761 Zane’s Power Up Mech EVO – Now with a frosty icing of extra weapons [Review]

Historically, the LEGO Ninjago theme has been based on the animated series – with released sets providing real-world playtime for what you saw on the screen. In 2022, however, LEGO is taking a different approach. As LEGO designer Niek van Slagmaat shared on Twitter,  this wave is meant to be “a line of Ninjago that [will] not only stand on its own without content but also be the epitome of Ninjago toys.” That means no series tie-ins and a celebration of the “core values” of Ninjago. There’s  still a unifying theme to this new group of sets – EVO. The idea is that a base model is upgraded with additional weapons to become more formidable. Sounds interesting, right? But how does it work out in practice? We’ve taken a look at LEGO Ninjago 71761 Zane’s Power Up Mech to find out. This 95 piece set will be available on January 1st for US $9.99 | CAN $13.99 | UK £8.99, but you can read all about it right now!

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Unboxing the parts and instructions

The EVO sets have a new aesthetic for Ninjago packaging. In the past, the front box art has been very cinematic, with highly-rendered backgrounds, visual effects, and an emphasis on “how cool can we make this set look?” Now, the artwork has been scaled back to very clearly show the distinction between the product and the imaginative world they inhabit. Here, the backgrounds are flatter, in a line-art style, with more muted colors. The Ninjago logo is prominent, but there aren’t a lot of series tie-in graphics to clutter things up.  The age range on this set is 6+, a deliberate attempt by LEGO to lure in a specific age-range of fans according to one of the theme’s designers.

The back of the small thumb-punch box also has stark changes from previous design choices. The background is plain white, and the “EVO” concept is spelled out with side-by-side shots of the Mech in “Companion” and “Battle Ready” modes. The small graphic on the upper left shows the other “EVO” hook – printed 2×3 tiles that commemorate each of the missions in the set. There’s no information in the set about exactly what “the mission” is here; that’s left up to your imagination.

Inside the box are three numbered parts bags and a small stapled instruction booklet. There are no stickers this time around.

The parts

There are a number of new molds in this set – a surprising range of unique parts for a low-cost offering. A new “solid hinge” plate appears in dark azure, and we get new flared armor parts in white and gold. There’s also a new chest plate element in white that has similar ribbing to the armor plating we first saw in the 2020 Ninjago sets.

There are two new printed elements, a 2×2 round plate with what appears to be a bit of Ninjagon on it. (I’m not sure what it says, though. Any ideas?) The 2×3 “victory flag” is a print unique to this set. The giant trans-light-blue throwing star has appeared before but remains scarce in this color.

The final new part is a new hand-held tile-shooter. It uses 1×1 round tile for ammo. I like the boxy design here, as it suggests a lot of other custom building uses beyond just “another gun.”

The “Companion” build

The base mech uses Mixel ball joints at the shoulders and hips, and bar-and-clip connections for the flag mount and chest plate.

The legs have limited articulation thanks to the new fixed-hinge element, but are very sturdy. The ball joint at the ankle and hip give a good range of motion allowing for some good action poses.

The arms use gold-toned 1×1 plate with clips for the hands, and more of those fixed hinged for the elbows. The black clips on the left arm are the connection point for the large throwing star accessory.

The completed “Companion” mode feels very well designed, and a lot less fragile than the similarly-priced Marvel Mechs.  The white and blue color scheme here does a good job of tying the base look into Zane’s icy theme.

From the back, the view isn’t as great. There wasn’t much done to disguise the construction of the torso. A couple of 2×2 inverted tiles might have been a nice addition here, just to smooth out the look.

The companion mode is obviously light on weaponry, so when the Cobra Mechanic bad guy shows up, Zane takes off at a trot.

EVO Power-up

As mentioned earlier, the unifying theme of the EVO sets is “powering up” the base models into something more ready for combat. In the case of the Power Up Mech, that means slapping on a bunch of extra gold-toned armor, adding a sword and spinning saw blade, and upgrading to a swanky chest emblem. Zane gets his ninja hood, too.

And, really, the upgraded mech does look a lot more menacing. The gold accents work, and the back-mounted banner adds a nice Warhammer 40k feel. My only wonder is the choice of design for the flag. The image of a ninja obscured in mist doesn’t seem to match up with the mech. A better choice would seem to be the throwing stars design from 71766 Lloyd’s Legendary Dragon. While there still aren’t any minifigure-scaled throwing stars, the saw blade here is at least thematically similar.

The view from the back, sadly, is even worse than before. The connection point on the 1×2 clip plate to the flag just looks terrible.

The Cobra Mechanic, however, is not looking at the mech’s back. That’s right, punk. You better run…

The minifigures

This set comes with two minifigures – Zane and a Cobra Mechanic. Neither is exclusive to this set, but both are new for the 2020 EVO theme. This set is also the cheapest way to acquire these two figures.

Zane features a new hood, a new dual-sided torso print, and a new leg print. His face and hair are standard-issue, however.

Since there isn’t a story tie-in for these sets, we don’t know much about the snake-like foes that populate the theme. We do know that the Cobar Mechanic’s head design first appeared in the 2019 Pyro Whipper and Char figures, but gets new dual-molded colors here. The dual-sided torso and leg prints are also new.

Conclusion and recommendation

Designer Niek van Slagmaat describes the 3 cornerstones of Ninjago as “Vehicles, dragons and mechs.” And, for a $10 US set, this set really delivers on that mech core value. The EVO “power up” play feature is well integrated, the minifigures are interesting, and the general build experience is fun without being complex. Two theme-exclusive minifigures, new parts, and new printed elements all make this 95 piece set a solid value. I don’t know if the “gotta catch them all” flag aspect is going to attract too many customers, particularly since it’s hard to figure out it’s a thing at all from the packaging. But the aim here was to produce a Ninjago set that could help capture the 6+ age range, and I think they nailed that. Even as an adult Ninjago fan, I’d be happy to add this one to my post-holiday shopping cart.

LEGO Ninjago 71761 Zane’s Power Up Mech twill be available on January 1st from the LEGO Shop Online for US $9.99 | CAN $13.99 | UK £8.99.  It may also available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

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