I’ve always regarded Ninjago as one of LEGO’s best themes in recent history and at times, I do regret not immersing myself heavily into it. I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of Ninjago – I’m quite selective with Ninjago sets that I purchase but I dabble every now and then with sets that have cool designs or unique minifigures.
It’s been more than 2 years since I last reviewed a Ninjago set (70723 Thunder Raider) but my interest in the theme has recently been reinvigorated by recent subthemes such as 2015’s Ghost subtheme and more recently, the excellent Ninjago Skybound/Sky Pirates sets.
I’ve been absolutely smitten by the Ninjago Sky Pirates theme (I prefer this name to Skybound), so expect more reviews soon. What’s not to love about mixing up Ninjas and Pirates and steampunk? In the mean time, let’s take a look at one of the more exciting sets from this wave, 70604 Tiger Widow Island!
Name: Tiger Widow Island
Set Number: 70604
Price: AU$69.99 (AUS LEGO.com link) | US$49.99 (US LEGO.com link)
Minifigures: 4 + 1 Bigfig
Theme: Ninjago Skybound
Year of Release: 2016
Instructions: N/A at the moment
Tiger Widow Island did a few things right to catch my eye. Ninjago has had an exemplary track record of delivering some really creative vehicles and machinations, ranging from jet planes, mechs, tanks, motorcycles and even dragons but we rarely get “structural” sets outside of the rare (but totally awesome) Ninjago temples every now and then.
Tiger Widow Island’s main centerpiece is an elaborate island system which houses a Ninjago tower which doubles as a mission base. It’s currently under attack by Dogshank, a gargantuan Ninjago villain and Sqiffy, a paragliding pirate menace. The Dogshank bigfig was also another draw as I just couldn’t pass up on a hulking Japanese-themed bigfig to add to my collection.
Here’s a look at the sticker sheet for the set – most of these are quite easy to apply since they’re in fairly conventional shapes – rectangles and circles.
Tiger Widow Island features a respectable lineup of four minifigures which includes the likes of Sensei Wu, Cole (who is some sort of Ghost), Nya and a villainous sky pirate, Sqiffy. Together with Dogshank, I really like that there’s a great spread of “good guys” and “bad guys” which should provide plenty of role-playing potential especially for younger fans.
Let’s take a look at the good guys, Nya, Sensei Wu and Ghost Cole. The Ninjas feature the same masks as the 2015 Ghost-themed Ninjas. I really like the prominent coloured bands on their masks and how useful they are at differentiating the Ninjas from one another while still maintaining mostly black outfits.
Nya and Cole have almost identical outfit designs, except for the their trademark colour accents. The printing and details are amazingly crisp and capture the oriental Ninja fashion styles really well with the sash belts and shirt clasps. They each have their own insignia printed on their chests which bear the motif of a dragon (?) swirling in a cyclone.
Sensei Wu looks mostly like his usual self, garbed in sage-like white and gold robes but since Ninjago is taking to the skies this year, he’s got a very stylish old-style pilot goggles and leather helmet. I believe that his torso and legs aren’t exclusive to this set.
Here’s a look at their faces without the masks and beards obscuring their facial expressions and torso prints. Nya has a good-natured grin and Sensei Wu has a wizened look but the most interesting appearance goes to Cole with his greenish Ghost-like minifig head.
It looks kinda weird since the colour is a little hard to get used to but it grew on me after awhile. I don’t follow the Ninjago cartoon but a cursory browse of Cole’s wiki seems to point to a ghostly transformation in the fifth season of Masters of Spinjitzu. Spooky!
For weaponry, Nya and Cole are equipped with katanas, with Nya sporting pearl gold versions and Cole with a grey variant.They’re both equipped with new pearl gold sword scabbards that allows you to slot in their swords when not in use on their backs. Nya also carries a vial of Spider Venom that she probably extracted from that giant spider scurrying about Tiger Widow Island.
Here’s a look at the minifigs’ back printing, where you can see the Ninja’s symbols printed with a wing-motif for Skybound. Sensei Wu has his regular Japanese Imperial Seal-inspired logo printed, as well as a couple of shurikens sneakily tucked into his waistband.
Cole has an alternate face with a cheeky grin as well, which is a welcome addition. It’s a shame that the other two don’t have alternate expressions.
Each new Ninjago theme usually comes with a powerful and mystical new weapon. Skybound’s special weapons are called Djinn Blades (or Sword of Souls) which have the power to “trap souls” in them.
The Djinn Blades are pretty cool looking with a brilliant skull on the hilt, a brightly coloured blade (that’s made of floppy, flexible plastic) and a cute new printed tile which has a tiny Ninja face on it. These tiles look like Ninjago emoticons. The colour of the Djinn Blades and the “trapped element” corresponds with the Ninja trapped inside, with the one in Tiger Widow Island containing Lloyd’s spirit essence.
Anyway, cool new accessory although the Djinn Blade is comically huge! It’s as large as a minifigure!
The Ninjago Sky Pirates theme has everyone going airborne one way or another. Sensei Wu comes with a very basic but attractive hot air balloon. It’s a fairly minimalist hot air balloon, with a small white balloon keeping a bucket aloft, with just enough space for Sensei Wu to stand in. The bucket also contains several coconuts that you can drop onto unsuspecting enemies.
Note that the transparent bricks I used to take this photo aren’t included in the set.
I was a little impressed by how they managed to squeeze in all the parts into a wooden bucket. I really like the small propeller behind. It’s not the most amazing build but it feels fun and is a nice little complementary “vehicle” to the overall set.
This is Sqiffy, a Sky Pirate who comes with his very own “Pirate Flyer” a crude hang glider device that allows him to to fly around. Hate to say it, but Sqiffy is such a terrific looking Pirate that trounces any Pirate from 2015’s Pirates theme.
The details on his body is nothing short of spectacular, with plenty of sharp details such as a tattered shirt, a really cool-looking leather belt (it’s odd but it looks like he’s wearing two belts) and some armour padding on his legs. His attire is messy and chaotic – exactly what you’d expect from a Pirate.
Sqiffy’s Pirate Flyer clips on to his neck and features a surprising level of poseability – you can adjust and twist the wings around at several different angles which gave it a very nice bit of playability. You can actually flap it around if you’d like, which is a very cool play feature that they managed to include.
Here’s a look at Sqiffy’s back printing on his torso.
One of the best new accessories that the new Ninjago Sky Pirates theme introduces is this absolutely incredible cutlass. It has a serrated blade AND a skull moulded into the hilt. I was totally blown away by this new weapon – this is hands down one of the best minifigure weapons that LEGO have ever produced.
Here’s a better look at the Dogshank bigfig, which I believe is the very first bigfig from the Ninjago theme. I was totally surprised to discover that this big hulking beast is actually a lady as she looks ferocious as anything.
Dogshank wields a ship’s anchor as a weapon and has two spears bearing the Sky Pirates’ Jolly Roger flag attached to his back.
If I hadn’t read her bio, I would not have guessed that Dogshank was a female character. She’s got an absolutely terrifying and imposing appearance. I really like her samurai-esque head and shoulder armour, the skull fastened onto her helmet and her menacing stare.
The printing on Dogshank’s body is equally as impressive with the lower half of her torso covered in green armour. The contrasting and bright orange and green colour scheme works pretty well to make her stand out.
Setting aside her character, Dogshank is one gnarly and fierce looking Japanese-themed bigfig. Towering supernaturally over other minifigs, you can’t deny that this is one of the greatest bigfigs that LEGO have ever produced.
This is the completed Tiger Widow Island build. When I first assembled it, I was pleasantly surprised by how large and substantial it seemed. There’s plenty going on and I really love how the designer’s have managed to incorporate so much terrain with a small Ninjago tower/shrine.
Tiger Widow Island works on so many different levels, both as a display piece and as a playset. The combination of jagged rocky bits, generous amounts of foliage and striking red Ninjago architectural elements make for an incredible visual treat. Let’s take a closer look at Tiger Widow Island to fully appreciate what the designers have managed to achieve here.
This piece of suspended rock is incredibly eye-catching. Making great use of an inverted drill bit piece that was made popular in Power Miners and Rock Raiders, it just gives off a very fantasy and magical vibe to it which does a lot to create a very rich and unique atmosphere. There’s an adjustable ramp/ladder piece to serve as an entrance to the island system.
The clever use of green plates atop the grey rock structures make for a lush and believable tropical setting that perfectly fits the underlying “Piratey” theme of Ninjago Skybound.
The narrow bridge that leads to the Ninjago Mission Base seems like the perfect setting for conflict between Dogshank and the Ninjas. Only 2 studs wide, it also serves as a clever defensive chokepoint, if Tiger Widow Island ever comes under attack. Again, I really like the greenery used throughout.
If you’ve ever visited tropical islands like Phuket, you’ll instantly understand what the designers were trying to achieve as many of the island formations there are usually enveloped with lush greenery.
You know what my favourite thing about Tiger Widow Island is? This gorgeous coconut tree. This is undoubtedly THE most perfect coconut tree that LEGO have ever designed. Seriously, I’m not joking – I absolutely love this coconut tree’s design.
Everything is done right – the palm tree’s trunk leans very believably and has three palm frond leaves sticking out at just the right angles. They even managed to incorporate the spiky brown bits (no idea what these are called – I’m not a botanist) that you see emerging beneath the leaves.
I’ve always thought that these were old coconut leaves hanging there till they fall off. There are 2 coconuts attached to the leaves as well as a bright yellow crab just hanging out atop the tree.
There’s a tiny play feature built into the palm tree – pulling out a pin from behind allows it to crash onto unsuspecting enemies.
Seriously, this is the most realistic brick-built coconut tree ever and is such a minor but breathtaking addition to the overall set. It adds so much tropical island flavour to this set.
Situated below the Ninjago mission base is cave formation that looks like the jaw of some sort of terrifying serpent. The excellent-looking cave uses a blend of large rock pieces, slopes to give it a convincingly rocky and natural look. There’s a warning sign, alerting visitors that they may be giant spiders lurking around attached to the side of the cave.
Another thing I like is the use of light blue plates to create the illusion that the cave is surrounded by water – it’s really subtle but just like the use of green plates for greenery, it adds so much to give the model just enough realism.
Here’s a look at the cave from behind which reveals a fairly large and cavernous space filled with gold crystals (was very glad to get two of them) and some trans-green slopes which I’m guessing are supposed to be traces of spider venom. There’s a lever that’s attached to the mouth of the cave with a chain.
Tugging it allows you to open the top jaw of the cave and you’ll have to manually open the bottom mandibles to reveal the hidden location of the Djinn Blade. It’s a neat little play feature which gives this set some very welcome dynamism so it doesn’t just feel like a static playset.
I did find that the tugging cave-opening mechanism didn’t really function as well as I would’ve liked. I had to give it a few good tugs before the cave maw would open enough.
On to the Ninja Tower – this is a look at the upper half of the structure which utilizes a really nice blend of black bricks that are punctuated by bright red pillars and accents. Some really interesting elements are used to add detail to the tower, including a pearl gold frying pan and red megaphones. I also really like the two black swords that are attached to the roof.
There’s a minor play feature built into the roof of the tower, which simply involves pulling a long stick to release some coconuts. Not sure if its the pirate theme, but coconuts seems to be the weapon of choice by the Ninjas in Sky Pirates. The coconuts are quite fiddly and tend to fall out of place if you’re moving the set around, so I just removed them altogether from my display.
Here’s a look at the exterior of the Ninja’s Mission Base Tower. Again, great use of the bright red pillars and I particularly like the brown grill bricks which creates a very “bamboo” oriental architecture effect.
When I first saw the flags that were hanging on the building, my heart skipped a bit as I immediately thought it was the Islanders Logo snuck in as a Easter Egg. Upon closer inspection, I realised that it was a spider logo, but I still can’t quite shake the similarities with one of LEGO’s most beloved themes. It’s definitely not a coincidence!
The set also includes this brilliant glass pane which is gorgeously printed to look like a Japanese screen. I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t a sticker and it’s a beautiful piece which bears a really cool Eastern-style painting of trees, mountains and a shrine. Again, it adds so much flavour to the overall build.
Here’s how the tower looks like from behind.
The Ninja Mission Room is where most of the action takes place. It’s tastefully decorated with some cool looking maps, as well as a mission diagram which has some childlike scrawls about what the Ninjas need to do to reclaim the Djinn Blade and get the magical crystals in the cave.
There’s also a bust wearing a pirate captain’s hat and a moustache piece. No idea what this is meant to be, but I guess since this theme is all about Sky Pirates, the Ninjas might need some sort Pirate disguise?
Here’s the giant brick-built spider that guards Tiger Widow Island. It’s a fairly simple spider but it contains some interesting parts such as “reindeer antlers” in pearl gold.
Interestingly, the spider makes creative use of a Samurai Helmet for its stinger. The orange minifig head there is also quite a nice element to own. The giant spider doesn’t really interest me as it doesn’t really add to much to the set. I can certainly see the play value of having another adversary for the Ninjas to fight off but it kinda pales in comparison to all the other fantastic elements of the set.
What I liked:
- A great looking display set with just the right amount of playability
- One of the best terrain-heavy sets in recent times
- Great bunch of minifigs and the Dogshank bigfig
- The most beautiful LEGO coconut tree
What I didn’t like:
- Absolutely nothing
Final thoughts: As someone who doesn’t really collect a lot of Ninjago, I enjoyed nearly everything about Tiger Widow Island. For a medium-sized set, Tiger Widow Island packs a mean punch when it comes to value. To LEGO fans who might not have a lot of exposure to Ninjago or think that the theme is slightly “childish”, this set does plenty to dispel that notion and has something for most LEGO fans to enjoy.
Minifigures are usually the strongest selling point of most sets, but even with a pretty awesome lineup of minifigures, they somehow take the backseat to the overall model. That doesn’t mean they’re bad – the selection of 3 main Ninjago characters, one baddie and Dogshank should be a treat for Ninjago fans. All of them sport some excellent designs, with the details printed on in exquisite detail.
For LEGO fans that are into Eastern and Japanese-style MOCs with a dash of fantasy, Dogshank is a must-have. The massive Samurai-meets-Hulk behemoth has some really outstanding details printed on him and her imposing presence (and size!) makes for a worthy adversary to Ninjas.
Tiger Widow Island’s greatest strengths lie in the way it seamlessly blends influences from Pirates and Ninjago into a tight package. It’s been awhile since I’ve built a set that just feels so… organic without relying on a massive part-count.
Subtle details like light blue plates for water, and green plates for grass elevate Tiger Widow Island’s visual identity and appearance way above what you’d expect from a normal LEGO set. I’m glad that LEGO wasn’t stingy with the lush greenery sprinkled around the set.
In today’s LEGO landscape, where vehicles and machines dominate the overall design mix, it’s refreshing to own a set that has a setting, terrain and a cunningly designed structure as the centerpiece. It’s quite ironic, but looking at 2016’s wave of Ninjago Sky Pirates, I get the feeling that this theme is a much better Pirates theme than 2015’s Pirates reboot.
I loved everything about Tiger Widow Island. If you’d like to give Ninjago Skybound a shot, Tiger Widow Island makes for an excellent introduction to the theme.
This set has no discernible flaws, comes in at a very attractive price point (especially if you can get it on sale!) and delivers a completely satisfying LEGO experience – which is why it is fully deserving of the first perfect 5/5 set rating of 2016.
Thanks for reading this review! Would love to hear your thoughts on the 2016 Ninjago Sky Pirates theme in the comments!