Thursday, January 24th, 2019 at 1:00am by Jason, BZPower Reporter
The latest wave of Ninjago Legacy sets look to recreate popular products from the past, and 70669 Cole's Earth Driller recreates an iconic vehicle from the Ninjago's 2013 Final Battle wave of sets. Today, BZPower Reporter Xccj takes a closer look at the set and compares it to the original, so read on or watch the video review to see how it stacks up!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
It looks like they're recreating a scene right out of the Ninjago television show on the front of the box, as the giant Stone Warrior charges towards the Earth Drill. (Although I'm pretty sure the two never actually interacted, although they were both featured in the same season.) This is the new Ninjago Legacy series, which recreates previous Ninjago sets, and this time 70502 Cole's Earth Driller gets a revamp. The front of the box even features an advertisement mentioning the season it was from. (For the record, Season 2 covers the third year of Ninjago, which I always found odd. I think it has something to do with the episodes from the first year technically not being their own season, so Season 1 actually began in the second year with the Serpentine, and continues on from there with everything off by a year. . . anyway, I digress.)
The back of the box shows off some of the functions for the vehicle and giant character. You also get some screenshots of the Earth Driller from the show, and an advertisement for the four collectible golden weapons. (Hey, we're back to collecting the original four again!) When you open it up, you get five numbered bags of parts, another bag containing the big pieces, two instruction booklets, and one sticker sheet. Horray!
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The build is fun for what it's worth. The large figure of the Stone Warrior is a joy to put together, but it is reusing the base design first introduce with Giant Man in 2016. There's nothing overly complex about the Earth Driller, but you do get to work in some gear mechanisms in the body before you start building up the rest of the vehicle. One bit of interest that seems to be new for 2019; the instruction booklets advertise a QR code that will take you to the digital instructions, which can be loaded onto a tablet for easy access while building. While there's something to be said for having a paper copy in hand, I myself have started recycling my instructions for smaller sets (le gasp!) to save space, and it's great to utilize LEGO's digital archive of instructions in case I ever want to rebuild them. The QR code is on the box and the first instruction booklet, so easy to scan when you open the set and use later.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
The set has 587 pieces, plus your usual supply of extras. Not a lot jump out to me as super rare, but there are a few interesting colors I picked out, including lots of pieces in sand green. Of particular interest was the blue gear with the rod hole, which is apparently a brand new mold that was only used once in 2018, so it's cool to see it show up here in a non-Technic set. You also get another one of the awesome dragon hilts introduced in the Ninjago Hunted wave, and it's used to create the Scythe of Quakes. Another interesting bit is the new Ninja headgear. We moved away from the annoying two-piece design introduced in the LEGO Ninjago Movie, but this new style has a headband that continues down the back of the neck, making it impossible to add any armor to the back of the fig. The very first Ninja head wrap had a similar design (it had a clip to hold a katana extend down the back) so it's interesting that they're going this route, since every Ninja headgear since has allowed for back accessories on a fig.
You get four figs in this set: Cole and Kai on the Ninja side, and two Stone Warriors. Cole and Kai get updated outfits which feature cool dragon printing, which wraps around their Ninja symbols on their backs. Kai gets two katana, but Cole wields the powerful Scythe of Quakes, the Golden Weapon of Earth, which gets a fabulous update with the dragon hilt. The two stone warriors sport new torso and leg printings, as well as new shoulder armor in red. While the designs are unique (I believe) they still match with the general motif of the Stone Warriors, which have now appeared in multiple lines. The similar designs definitely help make them worthy army builders, although I wouldn't say they're the most exciting Ninjago villains ever. The two faces are new prints, and while one has an updated yellow design, I believe this is the first Stone Warrior with a green painted head. They come with red katanas and a purple stud shooting crossbow.
The first build is the giant Stone Warrior. (I guess these aren't technically big-figs, since that term applies to a different style. "Big Brick Built Figures" is a bit long to say. Maybe B3F?) It reuses the basic design first introduced in giant Ant Man, but it extends the torso to allow for two pairs of arms. I especially like the layering of the wedge plates to give the muscular armor some texture. The sticker elements on the belt and legs look great, although the legs feel a bit short for the fig as a whole. (Still, he's a bit wobbly as is, so longer legs might've just made it worse.) The arms aren't super mobile compared to what I expect from a CCBS figure, but there's a fair amount of mobility that beats the standard minifigure, and the sword elements are just the right size. The head is really where it's at; the cool use of the pieces do a great job of recreating the samurai helmet. I especially like the layering effect on the back. The rest of the figure's back is less pleasing; there's a whole lot of ugly anti-stud showing. The only way I can really see for them to cover this up is to introduce a bunch of inverted tiles, but I don't exactly see that happening any time soon. Until then, just best not to view this guy from behind.
The main build is the Earth Driller, and it looks great. I like the use of various rocky pieces to give texture to the sides, and then it has some decent engine builds on the front and back. The black and brown color scheme with sand green and gold highlights really works here, and is a bit more cohesive than the original. The back wheels are also extended out with an extra piece, to make them appear larger, and it works. The cockpit piece is printed, but the inside features some nice control stickers and seating for both ninjas. (The vehicle in the TV show could fit the whole team and then some, but I guess we're not quite ready for that model yet.)
I put together the original model (mostly) so we could get a side by side comparison shot. The 2019 model benefits from newer elements and design techniques, but the higher price point also helps. More effort has gone into creating the texture on the sides, and while the back is notoriously empty on the 2013 model, it's nicely filled in on the 2019 one. Plus, the newer design can hold two figs while the original only sat 1. Still, the 2019 Earth Driller easily conveys the shape and appearance of the earlier set, from using the same pieces for the front drill and wheels to having the angled golden blades off the side. It's not just a recreation, but an improvement on what was already a decent set. I was a fan of the original, and the new one measures up.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
The main function of the Earth Driller is very obviously the drill, and it's a fun design. The main mechanism for the front drill remains unchanged from the 2013 version; while one gear turns the links on the inside of the large casing, a second gear rotates in the opposite direction and turns the golden drill. I know this technique has been used before in various mining sets, but it still works well, so no complaints from me. The 2019 Earth Driller has the gear driven by one wheel only, and the central bar actually uses some rod connections (like through the blue gear) which allows for less riditity than we'd get from a pure axle setup. This extension also goes to the back of the vehicle, and spins the back engine, which features golden clips at odd angles. This makes it look like the spinning engine in the back is actually what's powering the drill, although it's really coming from the movement of one of the wheels. Best of all, this whole gear design is well hidden inside the body of the Earth Driller, so you're not distracted by the mechanics when you're pushing it around. It's a great function.
Oh, and it also has some stud shooters attached to the side, for what those are worth. They're not a big deal for me, but they are technically an action feature.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
Great recreation of a classic Ninjago vehicle
Nice selection of pieces
Two Ninja figs and two Stone Warrior figs balance out nicely
Giant Stone Warrior looks very intimidating, and has a great Samurai helmet design
Earth Driller has a good elemental texture
Also the function is awesome
What's not to like?
Giant Stone Warrior's legs feel a bit short
He's also a bit top heavy and falls over easily
Earth Driller can't fit a whole Ninja team like in the show
Rear wheels don't have great traction on smooth surfaces
A bit pricy at $49.99
I'll admit, I am a little biased here because the original Earth Driller was one of my favorite Ninjago vehicles, so nostalgia factors in. But unlike some of the other Legacy Ninjago sets, this is not a mere recreation with modern pieces, but a vast improvement that pays tribute to both the original set and the vehicle from the show. And the Stone Warrior works well using the brick build design. This set is a worthy way for some to enjoy a classic Ninjago set or for newer fans to get introduced to the design. I would easily recommend this to even a modest fan of the series, although I recognize that it's not perhaps the most affordable set.