70620 NINJAGO City stood out among the most popular sets released in 2017, garnering a great deal of attention from seasoned NINJAGO fans as well as those who had little previous interest in the theme. Rumours of an accompanying set have therefore elicited considerable speculation over the last few months.
70657 NINJAGO City Docks was finally revealed in April and received a fairly positive reaction on the whole, although matching the exceptional standard of its predecessor presents a difficult challenge. Nevertheless, I think the set looks brilliant in official images so have been looking forward to constructing it and to discovering how effectively this impressive model can be integrated with 70620 NINJAGO City, as demonstrated on the back of the box.
This set is absolutely enormous, containing 3553 pieces, so we have decided to publish our review in two parts. The first is focused upon the minifigures and the building experience.
Box and Contents
The model is extremely colourful so looks superb against a background of architecturally diverse buildings. A stylised version of 70620 NINJAGO City is situated beside the docks which is interesting as this image gives the impression that 70657 NINJAGO City Docks will almost match the height of the 2017 set. In fact, there is quite a considerable difference between them, although the new set measures 28cm in height so is still reasonably large.
Opening the box reveals 24 bags which are numbered from one to nineteen as well as two dark bluish grey baseplates. These are packaged in a smaller white box along with some of the numbered bags, the sticker sheets and the instruction manual, reducing the chance that they will become damaged during transit.
70620 NINJAGO City came with three separate instruction manuals and these featured an interview with the designers as well as some information about the development of the set. Unfortunately, this 380-page booklet is devoted almost entirely to the build so contains no interviews or concept artwork, although you will find a few images from the film and a page which lists the NINJAGO letters alongside their Latin counterparts.
A total of 56 stickers are included, spread across two large sticker sheets. Printed pieces are generally preferable to stickers but I think it would be unrealistic to expect so many different printed designs in a single set. Thankfully, these are all fairly easy to apply and include fun references to a broad range of past sets as well LEGO's history.
Lloyd Garmadon is one of the most common minifigures across The LEGO NINJAGO Movie range and he looks fantastic, wearing a black shinobi shozoku with green trim. I like the metallic gold lettering on the band around Lloyd's head wrap and the torso features a subtle armour weave pattern that only becomes visible under certain light conditions. Like 30608 Kendo Lloyd, this version of the Green Ninja does not include arm printing.
However, the minifigure does come with a blonde hair piece as well as two different expressions and a pearl silver dao. Cole is not dressed for combat so is instead equipped with a printed mobile phone tile. His textured hair piece has only appeared once before in the Collectable Minifigures series so it is great to see it again here and I love the grimace on one side of the head which contrasts with a relaxed smile on the other.
Cole wears a black jacket over a dark blue shirt with an orange and lime green sound bar pattern on the front, reflecting his love for music. Part of the shirt continues onto the legs where one also finds a belt and some light bluish grey pockets. I expect this entire assembly will prove popular among those who enjoy creating their own minifigures as sound bar T-shirts are common in real life but have not appeared on an official figure before!
Garmadon first appeared during the pilot season of NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu and the character from The LEGO NINJAGO Movie feels like an homage to that original design. The minifigure features four arms, heavy chest armour and an elaborate helmet with prominent horns, known as kuwagata. I love the intricate printing on Garmadon's torso and his red eyes look very intimidating, as one would expect of such a terrifying villain. The evil warlord is armed with four pearl silver katana.
Private Puffer is not the only warrior who wears puffer fish headgear in Garmadon's army, although the minifigure in 70611 Water Strider comes with a lavender helmet rather than an orange one. I absolutely love its spiny texture and the pearl dark grey oxygen tank looks good, featuring a printed battery display on the front as well as some moulded tubing. The minifigure carries a chainsaw into battle which is complete with a fish-shaped handle.
Several peripheral characters from NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu make brief cameo appearances in the movie. Dareth is among them, wearing a black gi with gold highlights and a dragon symbol on his back. The letters on his torso read 'NINJA' which is nice, although I would rather the graphic designer had made reference to his occasional identity of the Brown Ninja from the television series. Nevertheless, it is brilliant to see Dareth in the universe of The LEGO NINJAGO Movie.
Lil' Nelson also appears in the animated series as a devout supporter of the ninja, despite having been injured while training with Dareth. The same seems to be true in this set as the character sports white training garb and a cast over his right arm. This element has only been used once before in 41318 Heartlake Hospital and Lil' Nelson's reddish brown hair piece is equally rare, having made its first appearance in 70615 Fire Mech last year.
This set also includes a selection of civilian characters to populate the docks. Betsy made a brief but memorable appearance in a trailer for The LEGO NINJAGO Movie, reacting with horror alongside her baby as Garmadon invaded the city! Her green attire looks rather plain in relation to some of the other figures in this set but I like the white spotted pattern printed across the front and back of the torso.
Betsy's head includes a smile on one side and a frightened expression on the other. The same piece is used on Ivy Walker in 2017's 70620 NINJAGO City which is a shame as the two characters might look strange when displayed together. I like the medium nougat hair piece though as it includes lovely texture and has not appeared in any other sets based upon The LEGO NINJAGO Movie. An aqua baby bottle completes the minifigure.
Betsy's baby wears a simple white bodysuit rather than the pale blue one seen in the film and in Series 16 of the Collectable Minifigures. However, these figures are a welcome addition to any LEGO set as they look absolutely adorable. It is interesting to note that the shape of the baby's head has been very slightly revised this year so it now includes a neck.
Chad is a student at NINJAGO High School and wears a branded dark blue jacket to prove it. This is a delightful design, featuring the school's initials on the left breast alongside a row of white buttons. His tousled dark brown hair piece is shared with the Zombie Businessman from the fourteenth series of the Collectable Minifigures and the head features two expressions, one of which looks calm while the other is terrified.
The entire world of NINJAGO blends traditional design with more modern styling and that is especially apparent when Chad and Chan Kong-Sang are displayed together. The latter character wears a unique reddish brown shirt with black frog fasteners across the front and a matching belt. A pair of shoes are printed on his feet which look marvellous and the double-sided head is quite rare, having only been used in three other sets.
Mystake owns a small tea shop in NINJAGO City and made her first onscreen appearance during the pilot season of NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu. This minifigure does not perfectly match the character from the animated series but her dark tan cardigan is immediately recognisable, featuring a familiar knitted pattern across the front and back. A brand new head reflecting Mystake's typically surly disposition would have been wonderful but I think this bespectacled component is a reasonable alternative.
The final three minifigures consist entirely of existing pieces from The LEGO NINJAGO Movie range and beyond. Runde sports a dark tan robe with a pouch hanging from his belt, sharing these parts with Shen-Li from 70609 Manta Ray Bomber. This does not bother me too much but Runde's bearded head also appears on Konrad in 70620 NINJAGO City, unfortunately. Perhaps they are twins, one of whom works as a fisherman while the other is a geographer!
It seems probable that Runme and Runje are also related to Runde given the similarity of their names. The two female minifigures wear sand blue and dark blue robes respectively, both of which have been used in previous sets from The LEGO NINJAGO Movie theme. New designs are almost always preferable to existing ones but these torsos and legs look excellent so I do not mind seeing them again here.
Runme features a double-sided head which shows a smile on one side and a frightened expression on the reverse. I like the beads of sweat printed on this alternative face and her hair piece looks good too. Runje, on the other hand, only includes a single smiling expression beneath her medium nougat coolie, suggesting that she has experienced so many of Garmadon's attacks that she no longer believes them to be a cause for alarm.
The minifigure comes with a wooden carrying pole that fits over her left shoulder. A similar accessory can be found in 70609 Manta Ray Bomber but this one includes medium blue fish at either end rather than pales of water so looks a bit more colourful. I like how the pole is attached to Runje using a reddish brown neck bracket and a clip, resulting in a remarkably realistic design which seems ideally suited to the dockyard environment.
70657 NINJAGO City Docks is constructed on a 32x32 baseplate and a 16x32 baseplate, both of which are dark bluish grey. The early stages consist of laying foundations for the buildings and the plates which will show through the water, as one would expect. It therefore feels similar to building 70620 NINJAGO City initially, although the higher levels of the docks feature some unusual techniques which differentiate this set from its predecessor.
However, the third and fourth bags show no evidence of that as they contain 319 trans-light blue tiles and a few foliage pieces which are laid over the black and dark green plates, just as they were in last year's model. Additional plates and tiles then cover the brick foundations of the docks. The light bluish grey parts will ultimately form external walkways while the dark tan plates represent the flooring inside each building.
The next stage is focused entirely upon the wooden dock which is primarily constructed using reddish brown 1x1 round bricks and Technic pin connectors. Once again, this might feel familiar to those who own 70620 NINJAGO City but I am pleased that the designers have maintained consistency between the two complementary sets.
A large 4x10x6 rock panel supports the cave towards the left side of the docks. Elements of this kind are frequently associated with a lack of detail but they also serve a vital structural purpose, as in this instance. It is neatly integrated with some smaller slopes so does not look out of place and I like how 1x1 round tiles with vertical shafts are used to fit a black lattice support upside down behind the cave.
Construction becomes even more interesting during bags eight and nine. A curved flight of stone steps is built beside the cave, making ingenious use of dark bluish grey A-frame plates. The same technique appeared in 70751 Temple of Airjitzu but the idea of using shovels to form roof tiles is brand new and works brilliantly! I appreciate the subtlety with which some Technic parts have been used in this area of the model too.
The mason's shop next door is simple by comparison, although its windows are cleverly constructed using 1x1 clips. The resultant design loosely resembles a smaller version of the fence pieces that were introduced last year and they form windows on the upper levels of this set. In addition, two light bluish grey chickens can be found inside the shop which are very rare in this colour, having only appeared twice before.
A cartographer has taken up residence on the other side of the docks and this part of the model is quite similar to the last, consisting of a reddish brown frame with white bricks between the posts. I absolutely love this technique, particularly on the front corners where 1x8 tiles create some texture in relation to the surrounding walls. The rice paper door is neatly constructed as well, nestling between two 1x8 plates with rails.
Yet another timber-framed building is the focus of bags thirteen and fourteen. However, this example is far more elaborate than the others and includes a couple of brand new 1x1 brackets! These have the potential to be incredibly useful and seem to be fairly common across the summer range, fortunately. Four of each variant are found in this set, securing a round window frame to the side of the building.
New pieces are always welcome but I also enjoy seeing how existing parts can be used in innovative ways. The hanging baskets in this set are a perfect example as the Joker's hair, originally created for The LEGO Batman Movie, forms some foliage. The overlapping flags on the roof are impressive as well, creating a wonderful curved shape with each tile course at a different angle.
Masonry bricks are extremely versatile so have fulfilled a wide range of different functions since their introduction in 2012. Laying them on their side, as shown below, is an interesting innovation and forms a unique textured layer within the walls of Dareth's Mojo Dojo. This structure is assembled separately from the rest of the wall and feels rather fragile until it slots into place around a frame of pearl gold lattice panels.
An additional layer of bricks and plates is then fitted over the masonry bricks, anchoring them in place. This construction method is remarkably effective and I have no doubt that we will see it again in future sets. However, not every aspect of the dojo is new as the scroll inside is similar to those found in 70606 Spinjitzu Training and 70618 Destiny's Bounty. The white air conditioning unit is familiar too, matching 70620 NINJAGO City.
Mystake's tea shop is located on the other side of the docks and be reached by climbing a ladder. This ladder is attached to the external wall using two clips which are separated by the height of three bricks. They line up perfectly with the rungs on the ladder, exhibiting the ingenious geometry present across LEGO's entire parts palette. Unfortunately, there is slight colour variation between the sand green bricks which is disappointing, although this only becomes visible from a few angles.
Three garage door panels form an awning over the entrance to Dareth's dojo. An identical technique was used at a larger scale in 70751 Temple of Airjitzu and I am glad to see it return as the roof looks fantastic. The decorative structure on the arcade wall above the awning is equally impressive, consisting of a parabolic dish which is attached between two medium nougat 1x3 bows and a corresponding 1x6 arch.
Almost every building in NINJAGO City is topped with a black roof so one might expect some repetition in a set of this size. In fact, the designer of 70657 NINJAGO City Docks has found yet another unique method for creating a pitched roof, assembling the entire structure upside down and then attaching black snow plough pieces to hinge plates. The result is very distinctive within both this set and 70620 NINJAGO City.
An enormous balloon, shaped like a pig, floats above the arcade. This is constructed around a core of octagonal rings and pink 2x2 sliders are fitted on every side, forming a complete sphere! A similar balloon appears in 70620 NINJAGO City but this version is more advanced as the two rings are offset, thereby allowing room for the sliders to knit together tightly. Gaps do remain but I believe it would be almost impossible to improve upon this design.
Bag nineteen contains the pieces for the roof covering Mystake's tea shop. This traditional design feels very reminiscent of the central building in 70751 Temple of Airjitzu, including eaves that protrude a long way beyond the walls and ridged tiles. The angled supports at each corner are particularly interesting as they are tightly fixed in place using not only studs but also pairs of pearl gold 1x1 round tiles with vertical shafts.
The building experience is an important aspect of any LEGO set but larger models like this one inspire particularly high expectations. 70657 NINJAGO City Docks does not disappoint, including a wonderful selection of unusual techniques and some rare pieces. There are similarities to 70620 NINJAGO City which may disappoint some fans, although that seems inevitable as the two sets have been designed to connect. The minifigure selection is also very impressive, including a sufficient number to adequately populate the docks as well as several popular characters from the animated series.
Ultimately, I found construction of the entire set to be thoroughly enjoyable and I hope I have provided you with a flavour of that in the first part of this review. Let us know by liking this article and share your thoughts on the set in the comments below.
This set was provided for review by The LEGO Group but the review is an expression of my own opinions.