I was really looking forward writing this review: the (at least for me) pinnacle of Ninjago’s flirt with dieselpunk sky pirates: The Misfortune Keep!
Ok, the name of this set is a bit weird, since the word “keep” is usually used more in a traditional castle-context, for the living area and last line of defence of its inhabitants. But this keep is clearly not a castle. Its an airplane. Of sorts. Well, VTOL-aircraft-carrier, to be precise and therefore a kind of mobile base. So the name actually kind of makes sense. Somehow. Anyway. Lets start at the start:
On my recent pilgrimage to a Lego Store I was quite enchanted by a number of sets which were on display there. No, not the new Death Star – and also not the Ghostbusters HQ. They are huge and opulent sets and accordingly expensive, but just lack chaos and insanity – something I highly appreciate. The Jokerland-set was better, but what really captured my attention was this weird “WW2-bomber-turned-into-a-post-apocalyptic-flying-fortress-set” I’m reviewing right now!
Sometimes timing is everything. At the same day I saw the set in the Lego Store (of course for its retail price of 89 Euro), I spotted it on the internet for… about half the price. This clearly helped me making my decision and it was ordered right at the spot.
The set comes in six numbered bags and a unnumbered one for the large engine casings. The instructions are one decent-sized volume with glued back. Very comfortable to use and to store later on. Sadly this also means that you cannot really build it together with your partner/wife/husband or (god forbid!) even child. At least not at the same time, as it would be possible if it came in several volumes. There is obviously no perfect way of how instructions should be like. As usual with Lego, the clarity of the instructions is excellent and shouldn’t overwhelm the builder even at more tricky steps. At the same time it also mostly avoids spreading out too many super-simple steps on too many pages, as it happened on other sets. Also bricks important for the internal structure are usually yellow or red to make them stick out and placed correctly – and are usually covered nicely once the build is finished.
Not so nice is the existence of a sticker sheet, but most of them were rather large, like the ones for the landing strip and the engine pods, and didn’t cause much trouble in putting them on. We’ve seen already much worse!
Speaking of seeing: visually it really pulls off a show. I think you can describe it best as hotrodded dieselpunk/postapocalyptic pirate airship. It looks really wild and evil with its WW2-bomber-style fuselage stuck on top of some improvised runway/shack, with its shoddy wooden planking everywhere, the propellers made from troll-sabres (what a cool idea!) – and the beautiful and surprisingly simple radial engines. This ship has so many great ideas – and it pulls them all off with style!
Additional to the main build, there is a detachable row-boat with anti-aircraft machine guns and a little airplane with foldable wings, which make it fit on the Misfortune Keep’s landing pad. It is a cute little build, but maybe a bit on the flimsy side. It really could use some refinement. A controller stick wont be a bad idea for example, as well as a more stable way to attach the rear half of the fuselage. It just appears a bit unfinished all in all.
Not as unfinished though as the green flyer-thing (Lego calls it booster-jet, it seems) Lloyd is supposed to attack the pirates with. I had already the same issue with the little flyer that came with the Raid Zeppelin earlier this year: I just can’t see any functionality in these things. Or any aesthetic reasoning, at least. They just appear as bulky and pretty random aggregations of bricks. Ah well, at least it got a winch.
Anyway. I didn’t buy the set because of that green thing and I’m fine accepting it as background noise, since the main build is just so appealing – and the pieces can still be used to build something actually nice with!
Back to the main build: it also has some nifty functions worth to mention here: its landing deck has two fold-out wings with a pirate-style cannon mounted on each. Sadly only with 3 (!) cannonballs in total. There is also a disc-shooter built in the front and the rear is protected by the little gun-boat mentioned above. The most spectacular function by far is however the mechanism to turn the engine pods from their airplane-style forwards orientation upwards to a helicopter-layout (hence the term VTOL I used earlier). I wasn’t really aware of that feature, until I took a closer look at the box. It is certainly a nice function to have. And yes, I must have been a completely blinded impulse-buyer that day.
While the overall design is just spectacular, there are some flaws with its functionality: it is relatively tricky to pick it up without making pieces fall off, the engine pods are quite wobbly and the disc shooter mechanism is pretty useless really. This wobbliness and pieces falling off doesn’t means it is a fragile build though. The structure of the ship is rock solid thanks to ample use of technic-parts. So no: the engine pods or other essential parts wont fall off, but smaller bits (often called “greebling“) might get simply knocked out of place. All in all though an acceptable compromise between function and looks, I would say. Instead of the disc-shooters, which are more disc-holders really, I would just use spring-loaded missiles. They work so much better.
The Minifigures are nicely printed and designed. I especially like Flintlocke (the pilot with the big moustache-piece). He looks like a proper flying ace to me! Nadakhan is easily the weirdest of the line-up. He must be some kind of evil djinn. At least his 4 arms and ghostlike lower body give strong hints towards that. He looks fun though. Like a proper boss-villain. Monkey Wretch, a cyborg, well – monkey (who seems to somehow has obtained Thor’s hammer) and Bucko, the most standard-pirate-looking character of the bunch (and who we met already at the Cole’s Dragon-set), complete the crew of the Keep. It is nice to see that the pirates are different and each has its own distinct character. That really gives them some individuality, even if I won’t have really needed a 4-armed samurai-djinn!
The Ninjas themselves look properly dashing and determined, with some really beautiful printing at their torsos and legs. Sadly Jay (the blue one) is the only of them, who has an alternative face. A cheerful one and the eye-patched one you can see on the picture. Ok, its not like Kay (red) would really have needed a second face under his hood, but Lloyd would surely look good with a less angry face. Of course this said, I don’t know the TV series, so maybe I just told you nonsense and Lloyd never smiles, who knows.
All in all the few flaws the set has can’t really affect my high opinion of it. It features a beautiful – and quite unusual – main build, lots of playing possibilities, and quite diverse minifigures. As for the price: I certainly won’t have got it at its recommended retail price, since I don’t buy sets at full price as a matter of principle. If you happen to find the Misfortune Keep at a decent price though – and you have a weak spot for dieselpunk and steampunk-style: this set will certainly excite you.
Here is an overview of the pros and cons of the set in short:
- Impressive looking, quite big set
- Well designed minifigures
- Amazing design
- Cool propeller-tilting feature
- Very playable
- Engine-pods are pretty wobbly mounted (but don’t fall off)
- The green flyer and the little airplane appear rather unfinished
- Barely functional disc-shooter
- Only 3 cannon balls
- Ragdoll-like behaviour of the figurehead skeleton (ok, this might actually be a feature, if its meant as a joke!)
Rating: 5/5 (-1 for the green flyer and the non-functional disc-shooter, +1 for the looks)