I’m a big fan of LEGO mechs, so I was pleased to get the chance to review the latest effort from LEGO – Set 70500 Kai’s Fire Mech.
My enthusiasm for a third Ninjago mech was however somewhat tempered by the realisation that Kai’s Fire Mech is by far the smallest set in the 2013 Ninjago line-up, and I was curious whether at only 102 pieces it would be able to live up to previous efforts.
So how did it turn out ?
The box is nice and compact, with the same footprint as last year’s Ninjago Set 9440 Venomari Shrine although it's a bit fatter. You can see a picture of the front of the box above (click pictures to see larger versions); the red Year 1 Ninjago branding evolved into a green colour scheme in Year 2, and LEGO have stuck with green in Year 3, albeit without last year’s snake-skin pattern. The front of the box is adorned with the words “The Final Battle”; for a while LEGO seemed to be suggesting that Ninjago would be phased out after 2013. Then they seemed to have a change of heart, and it looks like we will be getting more Ninjago in 2014. I assume they’d already printed the boxes by that point, however…
The back of the box (above) is superficially similar to the front, featuring a picture of the mech in action, but closer inspection reveals some arrows which half-heartedly illustrate the mech’s ability to articulate at the wrist and ankle. There’s also a thumb tab which provides access to the contents, although I hate to damage my LEGO boxes any more than necessary and hence chose to open the box with a sharp knife under the end flaps rather than puncture a hole in the back of it.
You can see the contents of the box above – three bags of parts, a sticker sheet and a small instruction booklet. The 35-page instruction booklet (below) was folded in half in order to fit in the box. As well as the building instructions themselves, the booklet contains a parts inventory spread over two pages and advertising for the six 2013 Ninjago sets, the Ninjago website, the LEGO club and of course the obligatory LEGO survey. There’s also a nice stylised picture (below) of the Mech plus minifigures.
I found the sticker sheet (below) floating free in the box. It’s small but still manages to cram in eight separate stickers. These are quite fiddly to apply, or at least they were for an ageing dude like me….
The set contains two minifigures – Kai and Garmadon’s Scout. Kai has of course appeared in a number of Ninjago sets to date, but this version (pictures below) with its unique and rather nice torso and leg prints, hasn’t previously appeared elsewhere. The back of his torso features the same design that you’ll find on the mech, which is a nice touch, and I also like his red headpiece with the gold crest at the front.
The Scout (below) isn’t exclusive to this set and can also be found in two other 2013 Ninjago sets. He’s got a detailed and quite ornate torso print which extends to the back of the torso, and a fearsome face. The Scout comes with a conical red hat, but since his face is hard to photograph while he’s wearing it, I’ve left it off for the pictures below.
Some of the less common and/or more interesting parts in the set can be seen below. The black 1 x 2 – 1 x 2 bracket is new for 2013, as is the Scout’s red conical hat and the trans-yellow ice sword with red shaft. The sword appears across the 2013 Ninjago range in a variety of colours, just as the variously-coloured circular 1 x 1 tiles with Constrictai pattern were a feature of the 2012 Ninjago sets. It’s great to get a couple more 2 x 2 inverted tiles – these are set to become a firm favourite I think – and if pearl gold’s your thing then this is definitely your set, with around a quarter of all the constituent parts of the mech being this colour.
The build is quick and easy – neatly applying the stickers probably takes as long as actually building the mech itself – and you can see the finished model below (click on the pictures to enlarge). I think it looks great from the front - squat, agile and generously tooled-up – although the back is rather bland, with only an inverted 2 x 2 tile covered with a sticker to improve the view.
The Fire Mech isn’t afraid to delve into the Hero Factory parts bin in a search for elements. Hero Factory Armour and Hero Factory Arm with Ball Sockets are both used in the build, but that having been said, the use of these non-system parts isn’t excessive in my opinion and the model benefits from using them, both in terms of appearance and function. Certainly the presence of ball and socket joints at the shoulder, wrist, hip and ankle mean that the Mech can be readily posed, and a wider (and smoother) range of movement is possible compared with those LEGO mechs which utilise Technic Rotation Joints.
Something which stands out is the similarity with 2012’s larger Ninjago Set 9448 Samurai Mech (which I’ve previously reviewed here) – there’s obviously the colour scheme, plus the use of black modified 1 x 2 plates with angled handles and gold mechanical arms for hands and fingers, not to mention the profusion of gold bling stuck all over it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of the over-the-top Samurai Mech, so you’ll hear no complaints from me, but it might not be to everybody’s taste. Below you can see the Fire Mech next to its big brother, the Samurai Mech, for comparison.
The verdict ? I like the Fire Mech – it’s better than I thought it would be given the lowly piece count. The designers have given us a nicely designed, readily poseable little Mech, and the inclusion of two minifigures, one of which features a new printed torso and legs, makes this set decent value at £7.99 / $9.99. Overall, if mechs, Ninjago or better still both are your thing, I can confidently recommend this set.
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