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[REVIEW] 42118 Monster Jam Grave Digger

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Set Name: 42118 Monster Jam Grave Digger
Pieces: 212
Price: $19.99 | 
Year of Release: 1HY 2021

Welcome to my review of 42118 Grave Digger, one of the two pull-back sets for the 1HY 2021 wave, and also one of the two Monster Jam branded sets. Pullback sets have been released two per year since 2015, and this time around they get the Monster Jam treatment, a perfect matchup. But how do they stack up compared to pullbacks of the past? 

Thanks to Lego for sending us these sets to review. As always, all opinions are my own, and I will analyze this set from a few different perspectives. 

Box Front:


Grave Digger is at home in a stadium here, pictured alongside the Monster Jam and Pullback logos.

Box Rear


The back showcases Grave Digger along with it's real-world counterpart and some specs related to the vehicle. The B model is also shown, an off-road buggy. Something interesting to note is that the buggy doesn't have the stickers applied, unlike the Race Plane B-model. I know Lego has omitted stickers from B models at times in the past, but I do wonder whether this has something to do with licensing, since the stickers are unique to Grave Digger and using them on the B model may not have been permitted? That, and the stickers would look rather silly on this buggy, you'd have sideways flames on the spoiler for example.

Box Detail


The side of the box has more Monster Jam and Grave Digger logos, some specs of the real vehicle, and the tires as a 1:1 ratio. Unfortunately the specs are pretty messed up on the box here- when we get review sets, they often have some labels slapped on the box. I try to remove them as best I can, but the adhesive was a little strong on this one.



Sticker Sheet:


Nothing much to say on these yet. They look good, and this is one set where I think they are really necessary to bring the final look of the set together, as they introduce the pink/purple colors to the set.



Grave Digger has less pieces than Max-D (212 vs 230), but it makes up for it in two ways: First, more of the elements are larger, and second there are more interesting elements in this set - which we will look at next. First, though, I want to make a comment that Lego has steadily been packing in more elements with these pullback sets. Before 2019, these sets used to have around 130 pieces in each. Then, in 2019, we saw the count jump up to the 220's, though many of those elements were used in side builds. This time around, all 212 elements are focused on Grave Digger itself.

Anyway, let's talk about the elephant in the room (I've mentioned this same thing in my Max-D review, so feel free to skip if you've read that one first); Lego introduced an absolutely beautiful new tire this year with the Jeep Wrangler set that would be a perfect fit for these monster trucks...and then didn't use it. I'm quite surprised by this, not only would it be a good way to stretch the new mold, but it would also make these licensed vehicles even more accurate. One working theory I have seen is that the new tires are a slightly more rigid rubber, and due to the light weight of this set, they would not grip the ground as well when the pullback feature is being used, unlike the softer tires included in this set. I do not have the Wrangler yet so I cannot test this now, but I do hope to do so in time.

New or Interesting parts


As far as new pieces, we get the new 3x7 panel in black, definitely a versatile color. Recolor wise, I believe the 4L lightsaber bars and technic pin connectors in lime are both new, I couldn't find anything on Bricklink for these two. Last, an element that is not new but relatively rare (I believe it's only appeared in one other set?) Is the lime green wheels, which we get 4 of. 

The Build


The build starts off with mounting the pullback motor at an angle, this is to give the vehicle as much height as ground clearance as it can.



Similar to Max-D, this set is built like a brick, with every piece being attached and locked in. This is an ideal type of build for a set that will be sent into walls, off the table, etc.

Front end work


With that durability in mind, we add on a rather overkill front bumper.

Body Panels



Completed Set - No Stickers - Front


From here you can see the completed set and it's shaping without any stickers distracting from the view. Overall, it's not bad- the major issue we can see here is the front bumper. It's not on the real vehicle, and it really stands out in dark gray. But, again, it's there for durability to protect.. the headlights from popping off, maybe?

Completed Set - No Stickers - Rear


The pullback motor is more noticeable here than on Max-D, mainly because the dark gray stands out more against the black. 

Completed Set - Stickers - Front


The stickers help bring the set closer to it's real life counterpart. As mentioned earlier, the pink/purple is a key part of Grave Digger's look, though I feel even with the stickers it is lacking here. And, yeah, it desperately needs the new tractor tires.

Completed Set - Stickers - Rear


Another "feature" is that the flag at the back is mounted in such a way that it can freely bounce up and down.

Completed Set - Stickers - Head on


The shaping is definitely pretty basic here, and everything is squared off by that bumper - definitely not a good angle, this one.

Completed Set - Stickers - Rear


Interestingly, this hollow-back design is actually pretty accurate to the real vehicle.

Completed Set - Stickers - Profile


While Max-D focuses on adding some faux suspension, the unique aspect to Grave Digger is they created a bit of the under-body cage using the lightsaber bars. I should mention that there is some slight issues with lime green, similar to the Sian, you can see the green technic pin here is the main culprit, it's slightly more yellowish than the rest.

Size Comparison


Max-D has more parts than Grave Digger, but many of them go into smaller parts, such as the small spike details. Overall, Grave Digger ends up being slightly longer and taller. (The length is tough to see here, but it's about 1-2 studs longer)

Size Comparison


Grave Digger is quite a large vehicle, and definitely feels much larger than any of the previously released pullbacks. We can see here that it's quite large compared to a Speed Champions set, and even gets close to the Fiat 500 in size.

Function Video

Set Ratings (relative to other sets in this size class):

Visual Design: 6

Build Experience: 6

Variety of Features: 3

Execution of features: 8

Playability: 6

Parts/Value: 7.5

When I reviewed the 1HY 2020 sets, some people requested that I add some rating similar to many other Technic reviews; with these smaller sets, I find it's difficult to determine how to rate them. This is even more true when you look at a pullback set. Afterall, how do you rate "functions" for a set such as this? One one hand, you may give it a 3/10 because it only has one function, the pullback feature. On the other, you may give it a 8/10, because all this set promises is a pullback feature, and that feature works very well. 

So, I've made some modifications here in order to fairly rate this compared to other $20 sets. The visual design gets a 6, overall it's a little messier than Max-D and I think even with the stickers, doesn't quite hit the mark. Plus, the lack of the tractor tires and the unsightly bumper unfortunately take it down. Build experience is good, it's one of the most complicated pullback sets thanks to it's parts count. As far as functionality goes, it's lacking overall as mentioned since it only includes the one single pullback feature, but gets an 8 on execution; the main drawback is that front bumper which reduces the front clearance a bit. Playability also gets a 6 as it changes based on perspective- if you keep the target audience in mind; it's durable, and will stand up to the roughness it'll likely be subjected to. Although from an adult POV, compared to many other $20 sets, it's likely there are other sets with much better play features out there. Parts / value is decent- pullback sets now have been getting quite a few more pieces than in the past, an this one comes with a good selection of rare/new parts compared to the other small sets in this range. 

Compared with Grave Digger


From a parts perspective, I think I see more value in the parts that come with Grave Digger; looks wise, though, I think Max-D is visually a little more interesting and even slightly more accurate to the real vehicle than Grave Digger. 

What do you think? How do these sets stack up compared to previous pullbacks, and will you pick either of these up?

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Great review! I like the set, but I don't know why red pins were used...

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