The 2022 LEGO Ninjago EVO theme is an interesting one. Not tied directly to the animated series, this wave of sets is designed to capture the interest of the under-represented younger Ninjago demographic with a return to “core” Ninjago concepts. While many of the EVO sets are aimed directly at the 6+ crowd, one larger set earned a 9+ age rating – Ninjago 71765 Ninja Ultra Combo Mech. This 1104 piece set is available now from the LEGO Shop Online for US $89.99 | CAN $119.99 | UK £74.99. Featuring four ninja vehicles that combine into a giant mech, an enemy crawler, and seven minifigures, this entry to the line has a good chance to appeal to a very broad range of LEGO fans. Are you one of them? We picked up a copy to help you make an informed decision!
Unboxing the parts, instructions and sticker sheet
This set comes in a large tab-sealed box. The graphics, like all of the EVO sets, feature a line-art style that really highlights the set’s contents. As mentioned earlier, the age range for this set is 9+, which accounts for both the set’s complexity and the slight challenge inherent in combining the vehicles into their mech form.
The back of the packaging is pretty straightforward as well. A large, clear image of the combined mech is shown next to a callout of each of the four ninja vehicles. Strangely, the bad guys are missing, as is their crawler-vehicle. (They are shown on the front, at least.) The top edge has red ninja Kai holding the collectible “mission banner” for this set. We can only assume that the “EVO” part of this set is the combination play feature – the individual vehicles don’t have the same “upgrade path” as we saw in sets like 71762 Kai’s Fire Dragon EVO.
The side of the package has a bit more about the EVO theme – the slogan of “Train. Progress. Reward” appears, along with a yellow banner bearing Ninjargon text that reads “TRAIN AND PROGRESS.” The LEGO.com/beninja URL shown at the bottom edge of the package (with the “Be Ninja” Ninjargon above it) redirects to the Ninjago theme on the LEGO.com website. I had hoped they would have invested in a custom landing page for the theme, but I guess this link is a bit more practical.
Usually tab-sealed LEGO boxes open on the side, but this one opens from the top. Not a big deal, obviously, but it did catch me off guard.
Inside the box are ten numbered part bags spanning eight building steps. There’s also an unnumbered bag that hold the instruction manual and sticker sheet.
The manual is perfect bound and 192 pages long. It’s pretty standard, with clear instructions on a light colored background. I did find one problem with them, though. We’ll get to that in a bit.
The sticker sheet has some great designs. In particular, I like how some of the technical details are replicated across vehicles. The Iron Man-esque ARC reactor looking designs are repeated on three of the ships, and the small seven-dot pattern is used on all four The main complaint I have here are the #5 round stickers. They’re designed to be applied to 2×2 round tiles, but the die cut on mine were so off center that they were super difficult to line up so they “read” right. This is one spot where I think LEGO would have been better off finding a way to go for a printed element, since the placement really makes or breaks the look.
Since we’re a decent way into 2022 now, many of the parts that were new or exclusive to the EVO theme have begun to show up in the wider range of LEGO sets. Still, this set still offers a few gems you won’t find elsewhere. Primary among them is this windscreen panel in a new transparent-black color. New-for-2022 click-hinges also make an appearance, and they’ll add some great strength to the combined mech.
Making another appearance in the EVO theme are the new “locked hinge” plates in orange, and some armor elements in titanium metallic. More rare are the 3×10 curved slopes in dark blue. they’ve had only one other appearance – 2019’s 76126: Avengers Ultimate Quinjet
This set includes two copies of the printed “Mission Banner” featuring a throwing-star design. As we’ve seen in other EVO sets the graphic doesn’t have a lot to do with the set’s contents, but does looks suitably ninja-y. Finally, I wanted to call out the 2×4 domed brick that gets completely covered by a large sticker. If, like me, you struggle to get stickers aligned properly, be prepared for a bit of a challenge here.
We’ll be taking a look at each of the vehicles in this set in their own section. Building starts out with the small mech that forms the core of the larger combined form. LEGO missed an opportunity to give these smaller sub-sets clever names, as the text at LEGO.com just identifies them as “a mech, car, tank and jet”. The red color scheme identifies this mech as being aligned with the fire ninja Kai. Another hint is that his minifigure comes packaged with the parts for this stage of building. And he’s shown piloting it in the instructions and packaging.
…Okay, so maybe it was obvious who’s mech this is.
Anyway, the build is pretty SNOT-heavy, with a nice cockpit area with printed control tiles.
The mech’s leg are very beefy, and hold their shape thanks to bar and clip connection. The hips have articulation with click-hinges, and the shoulders are ball joints.
The red and gold color scheme is sure to evoke Iron Man in many minds, but that’s a comparison that often happens with Kai’s themed vehicles. The tiny ARC-reactors dotting the stickers don’t do much to distance things, though. The mech comes with a large golden sword that can be attached to a Technic pin in the palm of either three-fingered hand.
From the back, the mech looks pretty good, too. Golden ingots suggest a spine of sorts, and the large pins in the shoulder area and the backs of the feet are capped with 2×2 transparent boat-tiles, suggesting jet thrusters. The only real weak point is the spindly looking upper arms – they look underdeveloped when compared to the heavy armor on the legs and gauntlets.
Putting Kai into the pilot’s seat, the little Mech is ready for action. This is a pretty solid model on it’s own, and makes for a great centerpiece for the set.
Zane’s Tank (Car?)
Zane’s ice-themed vehicle is either the tank or the car listed in the set’s specifications. I’m going with “tank” since it has treads, but I think you could make a case that Cole’s drill rig (up next!) is equally tank-like. This vehicle will eventually form the lower legs of the combined mech, and as such is designed to split into two sides, one for each leg. The ankle joint is made from the new, strong dual-click hinge connectors, and they’re build to allow for a slight pivot. This will allow the feet to be better positioned and allow for better balancing.
The two sides of the tank are closely mirrored, but only one side has the transparent black windscreen. There are are a couple of stickered details and some nice golden elements to upgrade the overall look from a dull monochrome.
And here we come to a possible error in the building instructions. The tank treads are supposed to require 27 of the tread elements -but that amount causes a huge sag and doesn’t match the illustrations. Changing to 26 creates the snug look seen here, and lets the treads work a lot more reliably. Interestingly, the parts back for the second “leg” had just 26 treads in my copy of this set – so maybe the “27” is indeed a typo.
The second leg has an “open air” cockpit, as the Wu-Bot that rides here is too tall to fit behind a windscreen. A little bit of asymmetry usually doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t add much here. The black Technic pins that connect the two halves together are functional, but will be a bit of an eyesore later.
The completed tank does a fair job of disguising the bisected build. It rolls easily (with the tighter tracks, anyway) and is in no danger of splitting apart by accident.
The tank’s “cannon” is supplied by the dual turrets on the top of the Wu-Bot. This is a clever way of avoiding adding a brick-built cannon (or spring-loaded missile shooter) onto the non-pilot side of the craft. You get the “pew pew” battle action AND an extra minifigure. A great design choice!
Cole’s Car (Tank?)
As mentioned above, Cole’s vehicle is probably the “car” listed in the set’s specs, but could easily be described as a second tank. As this craft will form the arms for the combined mech, it is also built to split into two parts. The elbow and shoulder joints are made with large click-hinge assemblies. This half of the car has the pilot’s station, complete with the same printed control surface we’ve seen in the other vehicles.
The other side of the craft has the stickered engine block highlighted earlier. In a bit of Rock Raiders nostalgia, the front of the car has two huge golden drills. The last bit of building is adding four hefty wheels to the sides. The 1×1 gold cones echo the big drills on the front, a cute touch.
I’m still a little iffy on calling this a “car”, but I guess it has wheels and that keeps it from true tank status. The black and gold color scheme works well, and the stickers add just the right touch of additional glitz. Part wise, there’s not much to this build, yet it feels very solid. It rolls well, too.
Fitting Cole into the pilot’s seat, you get a cool low-profile attack vehicle. I don’t know if I would want to sit that close to whatever is being torn apart by the drills, but then again, I’m no ninja.
The fourth vehicle in the set is Jay’s fighter. It’s a dark blue gem, with highly posable wings and a bit of nostalgic transformer construction that hides the combined mech’s head. The cockpit area shares key design elements with the other vehicles – the trans-black windscreen and printed control surface make the different ships feel like part of the same fleet.
As mentioned, the nose of the jet conceals the combined mech’s head. The sides of the craft have attachments for the mission banners.
The wings are attached with ball joint connections. They look a little bland from the underside, but the tops look great with a couple of stickers and a gold ingot detail.
Assembled, the jet has a very interesting shape. The ball jointed wings are surprisingly sturdy, and hold their positioning well. The flags are probably not very functional if the jet is flying at top speed, but they do look festive.
Putting Jay into the pilot seat reveals another slight weakness – the cockpit area is so small he has to sit upright instead of leaning back. This wrecks the aerodynamic look of the craft a bit. Maybe it’s just meant to fly around at slower speeds than the swooshability would otherwise suggest. Or maybe I’ve completely overthinking things, as sometimes happens.
Before we get to the combination stage, let’s take a brief pause to look at the bad guy’s mech. This small vehicle isn’t heavily touted on the package, but it’s a fun build with some great looking and unusual parts. The legs are mounted on Mixel ball joints, providing a good range of motion.
The completed crab-like mini-walker has two disc-shooters and a load of transparent orange 1×1 tile as ammo. As fond as I usually am of teal accents, they do feel like an odd choice here. Silver (or even light grey to match the Mixel joint bricks) might have unified the design a little more.
As far as bad guys “bonus vehicles” go, this is one of my favorites. It’s a small build, but it’s clearly different from the other ships in the set, and adds a nice animalistic feel to the snake’s choice of mech.
Ninjago has a long history of mechs at all sorts of scales. And LEGO has had a “combiner” type mech set in the now classic 21311 Voltron. But this is the first combiner Ninajgo mech, and that makes it extra special. The ninja’s fleet of vehicles don’t look like they have much in common at this point, but just you wait!
The first bit of transformation requires the red mech to fold back the bar-and-clip connection point in the leg. The white tank splits in two, and snaps into place. It locks into both sides of the previous bar/clip combo, creating a very solid link that’s still easy to get apart when you want to reverse the process.
And if you’re a fan of the obscure Marvel villain Stilt Man, you could stop here. But let’s keep going!
Lifting up the shoulder armor on the red mech, the connection pin is removed. Cole’s (cough) car splits in two, and the shoulder joint is locked in place with the just-removed pin.
It would have been nice to hide the red mech’s arms, but just having a four-armed mech isn’t unheard of. Heck, this isn’t a bad look for a combined mech if you wanted to stop here. But there’s still one more vehicle to go!
Jay’s jet loses its wings, which are attached to make even more massive shoulder armor. The central body of the jet folds down and clips onto the back. The center of the jet becomes the head and the nose becomes a chest guard that overlays the cockpit area of the red mech.
The neck join on the head is a little flimsy, and the head is maybe a little small for the giant bulk of the combined mech. But these are minor complaints as the mech does look like it could have been lifted directly from an episode of Power Rangers.
The combined mech is surprisingly stable – able to handle many poses and quite a bit of rough handling without breaking apart. A small downside are the exposed Technic pins in the legs and arms, but you could pop those out and set them aside easily enough.
Keeping the ninjas seated gives you that “Voltron pilot” feel, but I think the mech works equally well if they were to abandon ship and let some sort of AI take over. (Or maybe just leave a single pilot in the red mech’s area, since that cockpit is heavily armored once the mech is combined. And that’s just how much this set makes you want to play with it – normally I’m not overly concerned with writing the fanfic that can explain this mech’s backstory.
Comparison with other Ninjago Mechs
How does the Ninja Ultra Combo Mech fit in with other recent Ninjago mechs? Pretty well! It feels like a mechanical leader to me.
The Ultra Combo Mech’s imposing height is kind of a trick, though. As you can see here, the Fire Stone Mech would have been just as tall if the legs hadn’t been built in a permanent crouch.
This set comes with seven minifigure – four ninjas, a Wu-Bot, and two evil snake foes. Of them, three are unique variations for this set – Kai and Zane’s shoulder armor makes them “new”, and the Wu-Bot now sports twin forehead cannons.
All four ninjas have dual sided expressions, dual sided-torsos, and leg printing. The heads are all common, and the bodies are repeated across the EVO line.
The ninjas also come with a rainbow of weapons, with new theme colors for the swords.
The Wu-Bot has has replaced the hat seen in the 71756 Hydro Bounty with two golden 1×1 round tile shooters. The provided tiles are opalized trans blue – a fun color that matches the Wu-Bots association with Zane’s ice powers in this set.
The two baddies are Boa Destructor and Cobra Mechanic, snake-themed foes common to the EVO line. The shared head design first appeared in the 2019 Pyro Whipper and Char figures, but appears here with two inverted metallic black and orange dual-molded color schemes.
If you want just these two snake baddies, you can also get them in the 71767 Ninja Dojo Temple. (The Cobra Mechanic has a cool backpack in that set that you won’t get here, though.)
Conclusion and recommendation
When The Brothers Brick received their early review copies of the EVO sets from LEGO last year, I was pretty disappointed that this set wasn’t among them. And when I finally had a break in my schedule where I could find some time to build and review it, it was out of stock. But eventually the stars aligned I was able to add one to my cart, and wow am I glad I did.
For only $90 US, you get five great vehicles and seven fun minifigures. That alone would have made this a good buy, but when you combine the four ninja vehicles into the mighty Ninja Ultra Combo Mech you find yourself with a truly superior level of fun. All of the builds are fun and distinctive, and the transformation features work well both building the robot and taking it back apart. The price for part on this set is just over 8 cents per, which mean you can also use this as a reasonable parts pack if that’s your thing. The only complaints I have for this are very minor – the stickers weren’t quite die-cut correctly, the neck/head of the big mech are a little undersized. It would also have been nice to see Nya included in the mix, even replacing the enemy mech with a vehicle for her. But overall I’m very happy to recommend this set. It’s worth the trouble to track down.
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