LEGO Ninjago 71760 Jay’s Thunder Dragon EVO – A shocking growth spurt [Review]

We continue our tour of the January 2022 Ninjago EVO with the first of the “6+” age range offerings.  LEGO Ninjago 71760 Jay’s Thunder Dragon EVO will be available January 1st from the LEGO Shop Online for US $19.99 | CAN $24.99 | UK £17.99. LEGO designer Niek van Slagmaat shared on Twitter how the 6+ age range is the targeted demographic for the EVO line, a group that’s usually under-represented in Ninjago fans. This 140 piece set includes the Thunder Dragon and two minifigures – will that be enough to tempt the younger crowd? How about the (sometimes much, much) older Ninjago fans out there? Read on and judge for yourself!

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 set comes in a small thumb-punch box. The graphics, like all of the EVO sets, is a new direction for Ninjago Art. Gone are the cinematic vistas, replaced by a more cartoonish line-art style that really highlights the set’s contents. As mentioned earlier, the age range for this set is “6+”, which aligns just fine with the set’s complexity.

The back of the package features a plain white background, with a graphical depiction of the EVO concept – creatures and vehicles that are upgraded with additional parts to become more fearsome. Jay’s dragon is shown in both “Companion” and “Lightning Speed” modes, with a greyed-out “some assembly required” shot above each model. There’s also a small inset of Jay holding the set’s Wisdom banner – a “gotta catch ’em all” gimmick that spans the EVO sets. Each set has a unique printed tile that is meant to be rewarded after completing the set’s mission. That mission really isn’t defined anywhere, but it’s implied to be “beating up the bad guys.”

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

The parts

For such a small set, there are a lot of interesting pieces on offer. There are new “fixed hinge” plates in dark azure, the same shade seen in 71761 Zane’s Power Up Mech EVO. Unique to this set are new dual-molded dragon head and wings and the 2×3 banner tile with a flying dragon logo. There are also two of the new 1×3 clip plates that we first saw in 71766 Lloyd’s Legendary Dragon.

Also of note are a wealth of parts in bright light yellow and dark azure. These range from the unique recolor of the dragon’s jaw to more common 1×2 plates. The wide range of elements is sure to come in handy for after-market builders.

The build

The dragon’s build is quick and, as you’d expect, not particularly complex. The body has four main sections – the head, the next/torso, hindquarters, and stubby tail. The two main parts of the body are held together with a dual-hole/axle Technic brick combo; the head is mounted on a click hinge and the legs and tail use Mixel ball joints for a good range of motion.

There are two slightly different designs for the front and rear legs. The locked hinge brick at the knees is a mixed blessing. While it provides good support and a lively stance, it’s not as fun as an actual working hinge would have been.

The assembled dragon isn’t super-complex but does have good articulation in the mouth, hips, and feet. The box art suggests that this dragon is more of a runner than a flier, and it does have a nicely aerodynamic feel. The lightning effect in the head is reminiscent of the DC comics’ Flash speedster.

The box labels this version of the dragon as “companion.” It works well with the Jay minifigure, with the colors in Jay’s uniform echoed in the dragon’s body.

Lightning Speed EVO

The shared theme for these sets, EVO, is the concept is that you enhance the base model with extra parts to make a more combat-ready creature or vehicle. In this case, that means wings, a gold 2×2 round tile for the head, assemblies to lengthen the torso and tail, and a saddle with a banner.  The torso extender is a pretty clever idea. It slots into the Technic joint between the torso and hindquarters, adding bulk to the dragon in a unique way.

The powered-up dragon does feel a lot more menacing than the Companion mode. The elongated torso helps balance the longer tail, and the wings may not feel “flight ready” but do a great job of echoing the dual-molded colors from the head. I would have liked to see four lightning prongs on the tail topper, but I suppose it might have tipped the look into an “alternate element” Charmander.

The reward flag at least has a thematic tie to the set, with its flying dragon image. As far as unique tile prints go, it feels like it has good re-use potential.  I’m not a big fan of the magic Ninjago saddles that just adhere to the middle of the dragon’s backs. Still, it adds an easy play feature and a way to make sure Jay stays involved. I’m also mixed on the lack of reins or some other way of controlling the dragon. The suggestion that Jay’s just along for the ride seems less exploitive, at least.

Speaking of Jay, he gets his “EVO power boost” by adding a ninja cowl, nun-chucks, and shoulder armor/scabbard and color-coded sword.

This set doesn’t include any little bits of terrain to suggest a battleground, but you really don’t need any. The two minifigures add character drama, and the fully tricked-out lightning dragon should spark creative play. (Sorry.)

Compared to Lloyd’s Legendary Dragon, you can see that Jay got the short end of the stick this time around when it comes to lizard companions. Of course, Lloyd’s ride costs more than three times as much. And I’ve heard that size doesn’t really matter.

The minifigures

This set comes with two minifigures, Viper Flier and Jay. Both are unique to the EVO theme, but both also appear in other sets in the wave.

The Viper Flier comes with a backpack accessory with four wings. It has dual-sided printing on the torso and printed legs. The head design first appeared in the 2019 Pyro Whipper and Char figures, but gets new dual-molded colors here. You can acquire another copy of this figure in 71766 Lloyd’s Legendary Dragon.

For the heroic side, blue ninja Jay comes with both a standard hairpiece/head and a new dual-molded cowl. He has new printed legs and a new dual-sided print for his torso.  This version of Jay also appears in 71765 Ninja Ultra Combo Mech and 71776 Jay and Nya’s Race Car EVO, but this is the cheapest set to acquire him in.

Conclusion and recommendation

This set aims to tempt the 6+ age group, and, as a 50+-year-old dude, I can’t really tell you if it’s going to tempt the kiddos. However, I can say that this is a fun one for a Ninjago dragon. The colors are bright, the transparent dual-molded elements look great, and the EVO “upgrade” feature does create the feel of a powered-up secondary form. As you’d expect, the build is pretty simple but still results in a very articulated model. The minifigures are okay, and exclusive to this theme. The only real sticking point is the price – at $20 US for only 140 pieces, the price per part is very high at .14 cents-per. This is offset by two minifigures, new recolors, and unique printed parts, but I can’t help but feel this set should have been closer to the $15 range. So maybe wait for a sale (or at least a good promotion at before you pick this one up. But if $20 is in your budget, then you could do a lot worse than adding this dragon to your collection. Or maybe find a six-year-old and see if you can tempt them into becoming a Ninjago fan. ‘Tis the season to be mischievous like that.

LEGO Ninjago 71760 Jay’s Thunder Dragon EVO will be available January 1st from the LEGO Shop Online for US $19.99 | CAN $24.99 | UK £17.99. It may also be 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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