THE CITY OF LANTERNS (80036) REVIEW

The City of Lanterns (80036) is one of the largest sets in the Monkie Kid theme. It features the bright colours and fun characters that this theme is known for. Most Monkie Kid sets include mechs and vehicles. However, this set features a bustling city centre. I really love the look of this set as it reminds me of Ninjago City, one of my favourite models. Although smaller than Ninjago City, there is a ton of detail packed into this set and so many little shops for creating fun stories. Let’s take a look!

NOTE: The LEGO® Group provided this set for review. However, the provision of products does not guarantee a favorable review. I will use the usual True North Bricks rating system (click here for more information) and provide my honest opinion.

The City of Lanterns (80036) fully assembled set, front view

THE CITY OF LANTERNS SUMMARY

  • NAME: The City of Lanterns
  • SET #: 80036
  • THEME: Monkie Kid
  • COST: $199.99 CAD
  • BRICK COUNT: 2187
  • MINIFIGURES: 7
  • RELEASE DATE: January 1, 2022
  • COST/BRICK: $0.091 (very good value)
  • BRICK-TO-FIG RATIO: 312 bricks/fig (not many figs for a set of this size)
  • DIMENSIONS: 38cm (h) x 43cm (w) x 23cm (d)
  • OF NOTE: 2 brick-built robot characters

THE CITY OF LANTERNS QUICK REVIEW

  • VALUE: 91% (very good value)
  • BUILD: 95% (stellar performer)
  • MINIFIGURES: 77% (satisfactory; could have used a few more)
  • ENTERTAINMENT: 80% (good value)
  • OVERALL SCORE: 86% (solid set)
The City of Lanterns (80036) brick-built monkey sign

THE CITY OF LANTERNS REVIEW

VALUE: 91%

The City of Lanterns (80036) was the largest Monkie Kid set until The Heavenly Realms (80039) was released this summer. With 2,187 pieces and a retail price of $199.99 CAD, The City of Lanterns has a price per brick of $0.09. This is off the True North Bricks charts for the Monkie Kid theme at over 100%. When compared to all sets reviewed by True North Bricks the price per brick value drops slightly to 96%. Still amazing!

This set is rated 9+ and took me just over four and a half hours (272 minutes) to build. This translates to a price per minute value of $0.74 or a score of 81% when compared to other Monkie Kid set. It does even better (85.5%) when compared to all sets reviewed by True North Bricks. Regardless of whether you compare the City of Lanterns to only Monkie Kid sets or all sets, the overall value rounds to 91%.

The City of Lanterns (80036) Pisgy Express coming through the tunnel

BUILD: 95%

The City of Lanterns (80036) comes in a super colourful box with great artwork. This is a nice change from the black boxes of the two 18+ sets from my last reviews (Loop Coaster and Holiday Main Street). Inside the box there is a cardboard envelope with two instruction books and three sticker sheets. There are also 17 numbered set bags and one un-numbered bag containing support beams and coaster track.

The City of Lanterns (80036) instructions and 3 sticker sheets on top of a cardboard slip

The base and frame

The construction of the base creates platforms for the shops. I really like the technique used to create the stairs. They are built using 1 by 2 modified plates with clips that attach to a small lattice leaning against an arch brick. I will definitely be using this technique in future MOCs. That said, the tile steps are partially obscured so the minifigures tend to fall off. But aesthetically it looks great!

Construction technique of the stairs

After completing the lower level base, you add the support beams and the base for the upper level. I thought it was quite genius to use the friction cylinder with bar as the support beams for the track. The bar adds an additional connection point by attaching it to a clip. Interestingly, there is a small compartment in the middle of the base that doesn’t draw much attention until the instructions tell you to dump a bunch of pins inside. This had me scratching my head a bit. Later it becomes apparent that these are for connecting the different modular shops together in custom layouts.

Sticker challenge

The more I actually apply stickers in the sets I build, the more I don’t mind them. However, I feel like the designers of this set wanted to provide a challenge to builders. The first challenge I encountered was placing some translucent stickers on the 2 by 2 wall elements. Seems simple, right? Only if you notice that you need to put them on upside down! The second challenge I faced was placing a large sticker inside the 6 by 5 wall panel. Stickers are tricky to put on straight. When I make a mistake I typically use the the side of the sticker sheet to slide under the stickers so I can pull them off. Unfortunately, because of the lips of the wall panel, that isn’t possible for this one. So you have to get it right (or as close as you can) the first time.

Pigsy Express

I really enjoyed building the Pigsy Express. This is a super cute dual-direction mini train to transport the citizens of the city. Well, one per car anyhow. However, they really don’t have too far to go as the loop is rather short. But it is a fun feature regardless. Plus, who doesn’t love a train that looks like a pig!

Stairway to…

It might seem odd but one of my favourite aspects of The City of Lanterns (80036) is the inclusion of not one, but two staircases! One of the things I dislike the most about many LEGO® sets is that stairs are often missing. In this set there are stairs from the ground floor to the train platform on the first level, and there are stairs from the second train platform to the top level. That said, there is no way to the top floor of the Lotus Hotel. Unfortunately, the stairs prove a bit limiting when trying to come up with alternate layouts that make sense.

Below one set of stairs is the Bubble Tea Café. If you have built Ninjago City, you will find the construction of the front of the counter familiar. I found it a bit tricky to keep the round 1 by 1 tiles inside the column with one hand while trying to build the cap with my other hand. I suggest preparing step 268 before filling the column with tiles. But the end result looks great regardless of how you get there!

One of these things is not like the others

Most of the shops in the City of Lanterns (80036) sit on an 8 by 8 plate and are a single story high. However, there is one massive two-story building that is twice as wide as the others. The size is both important and limiting. The rooftop provides the sidewalk for the top level of the city. However, this means the building is best positioned on the bottom floor. This limits the options for custom layouts, especially if you want an upper sidewalk.

The building itself has a great exterior utilizing dark green ingot elements for the roofline. It also uses the ornamental lattice fencing in reddish brown (regular brown) as walls on the upper floor. This brings in some much needed light to the otherwise dark upper floor. Downstairs seems to be a bit of a market with a mix of items for sale. There is also a small vendor selling sticky buns. Yum! The upper floor is a restaurant with an inviting layout. Unfortunately, there is only enough room for three guests. This is a bit odd considering there are four sets of chopsticks.

Another feature borrowed from Ninjago City is the AC unit. It is constructed from three basic elements and the final look is very effective. That said, it is the only building in The City of Lanterns that has an AC unit. I feel like a few more would have been a nice touch. I am sure visitors to the ritzy Lotus Hotel would appreciate an air conditioned room!

Interiors fall a bit short

The interior of most of the shops is very small and fairly uninteresting with very little room for any furniture. The exception is the LEGO® shop. While it has no furniture, it utilizes the wall space better than the other shops. It has both a pick-a-brick wall and a wall of sets (just like the LEGO® Brand Store). Interestingly, there is a Galaxy Explorer and Yellow Castle “set”. Perhaps it was a hint about the 90th anniversary sets announced at LEGO® CON this past summer. Honorable mention goes to the karaoke booth. It has a little karaoke stand inside with two pink microphones. Unfortunately, my hands are too big to be able to place a minifigure inside. Perhaps kids will have better luck. It also has brick-built elements on the exterior. However, I am not super convinced by the brick-built microphone.

Awesome brick-built signs

Another feature of The City of Lanterns (80036) that I love is the brick-built signs. This also reminds me of Ninjago City. The LEGO® shop features the quintessential green dragon peeking around two brick-built LEGO® bricks on the roof. However, I wish the 2 by 3 angled tiles along the dragon’s body were printed rather than stickers. Trying to get them all the same was tough.

Both restaurants also include brick-built signs. The outdoor restaurant features a super cute prawn with a chef’s hat. And the indoor restaurant features a monkey with an adorable face. Somehow even guns look cute as eyebrows. I am not sure if the body of the monkey is the yin and yang symbol or if the monkey is peering around the plate of food. Either way, it looks great. Another adorable sign is the panda head at the Panda shop.

Although less of a sign, another nicely constructed brick-built feature is the telephone pole. I really like the look of it and will likely use a similar idea in future MOCs. In addition, there is a billboard below that sits at an angle which is quite unique. The mini-build attaches to the side of any of the modular shops. I also really like the construction of the large lantern hanging off the front of the Lotus Hotel. The rooftop also features a brick-built lotus flower. In addition to these features, the use of curved sand blue windows looks great on the upper floor of the hotel.

Final thoughts

Overall, the build experience for The City of Lanterns (80036) was very enjoyable. There were a lot of fun surprises and great mini builds. The brick-built signs were a definite highlight. The only downside is the lack of interesting interiors in most of the shops due to the small space. That said, I rate the build experience at 95%.

MINIFIGURES: 77%

The City of Lanterns (800360) includes seven minifigures and five are unique to this set. It also includes two brick-built robots. Therefore, the brick-to-fig ratio for this set is 312.4 brick per minifigure. This translates to a dismal score of 59% when compared to other Monkie Kid sets. Including the two Citybots improves the score to around 71%. Unfortunately, the score is even worse (52% for the 5 minifigures and 66% including the Citybots) when comparing the brick-to-fig ratio to sets across all themes. Thankfully, the characters themselves have a bit of, well, character!

Minifigures on the top level of an alternate layout

Mr. Tang and Han

Mr. Tang is one of my favourite minifigures in this set. I love his glasses and his secondary facial expression is perfect! I also love that he is wearing a tank top with an image of his favourite food. He also comes with a red scarf, chopsticks, bowl, and what appears to be a dumpling. Han also has a wonderful facial expressions with a huge grin and closed eyes. Her second expression is a pretty standard smiling face. I really like her outfit – a red and orange flame jacket over a lime green shirt with an orange lightening bolt. I also really like her straight cut bangs and long black hair. Han also comes with a brick-built LEGO® bag. The inclusion of money tile would have been a nice touch. Interestingly, no money is included in this set despite it being a city of shops and restaurants.

Mei and Monkie Kid

Mei is also one of my favourite minifigures in this set. Mei’s cool green tipped hair and double buns are super cute. The green hair matches Mei’s green jacket. The back of the jacket includes a green dragon flanked by two white horses. Mei has a dual-sided head with a smirk on one side and an open-mouthed talking expression on the other. Perhaps this is for her only accessory – a cell phone. Monkie Kid has a similarly casual outfit with a red and white hoodie and a yellow fanny pack. He also has a dual-sided head. One side has a wide toothy grin with large sunglasses, and the other has a smirk with furrowed eyebrows. His hair is a bit disheveled with a red headband. In addition to his large red and gold staff, he carries a large map on a scroll as well as a compass (not in photo).

Train driver and Huang

The train driver is a fairly bland character with a neutral expression under a grey moustache. He definitely has the conductor look with semi-formal attire and a dark red hat. He does feel a bit generic compared to all the other colourful characters of the City of Lanterns. A small Pigsy Express emblem on his vest would have been a nice touch. Huang has a nice bright flame orange jacket over a light coloured shirt. I like the inclusion of a necklace and a belt. She has a standard smiling face and black hair pulled back in a ponytail. Neither minifigure has a second expression. While the train driver has no accessories, Huang has a brick built lantern.

Pigsy

The Pigsy minifigure is one of the reasons I first started collecting some of the Monkie Kid sets. While Pigsy’s expression appears to be the same as in other sets, his outfit has been altered somewhat. His messy chef’s uniform now has gold accents including a gold outline of his face on the back. His back also shows some printed chopsticks tucked in his sash. His outfit is completed by his usual chef’s hat. Additionally, Pigsy also has a mobile kitchen that he wears on his back. It comes with a pot, pan and two sauce containers. And that isn’t all! Pigsy also comes with binoculars and a megaphone. To help Pigsy get around, he also has a brick-built “hat” air balloon (the balloon is loosely shaped like a chef’s hat).

Pigsy in his brick-built "hat" air balloon with the balloon part shaped like a chef's hat

Citybot A05 and Citybot A16

The final two characters are not minifigures but robots. Citybot A05 and Citybot A16 are brick-built characters using mostly white and light grey elements. Both have a trans light blue head with a robotic facial expression. There is additional printing of circuitry on the back of the heads. Citybot A05 has a trans pink “hat” and Citybot A16 has a trans lime green “hat”.

While the minifigures that are included are pretty great for the most part (around 91%), this set could have used a few more. Unfortunately the brick-to-fig ratio really brings down the minifigure score for this set. Overall, The City if Lanterns (80036) earns a minifigure value of 77%.

ENTERTAINMENT: 80%

The City of Lanterns (80036) is a vibrant city with lots of playability. There are four levels for the minifigures to explore with stairs and walkways connecting the shops in the layout provided in the instructions. The Pigsy Express provides additional fun though the short circular track gets a bit boring, at least for adult fans. That said, I think kids will love it.

There are so many opportunities for story-telling in this set. I love all the different shops (even though they are small) including the karaoke booth, Bubble Tea cafe, LEGO® shop, Panda shop, restaurants, Lotus Hotel, and more! There are so many fun signs and accessories that take this set to the next level. This is definitely a city that never sleeps!

A tight squeeze

The most challenging aspect of this set is accessing the interior of the different shops. Even tiny hands will have a hard time trying to place minifigures inside the large two-story building in the heart of the city. When accessed from the back the track and support beams get in the way. Additionally, the building is set so far forward that it is hard to reach. I also found it really difficult to pick up this set without buildings detaching or the track coming apart. It would have been nice if the instructions provided an image of the suggested method for carrying this set similar to what was included in the Loop Coaster instructions.

Rear access to the two-story building impeded by the track and support beams

Customizable layout

Remember those pins hidden in the base of the city? Those will come in handy when customizing the layout of the city. Both sides of each shop have Technic bricks for connecting to other buildings. I was really looking forward to trying alternate layouts but quickly ran into problems.

Although you can connect the different shops to the side of the bottom level of the city, I found it leaves an odd gap where the building once stood. Therefore, both my attempts at an alternate layout kept all the buildings in the main area of the city. As mentioned in the “Build” section of this review, the large two-story building is best kept on the lower level so that it can provide a platform for the minifigures to get around on the upper level.

I utilized the outdoor prawn restaurant as a courtyard on the lower level of my first alternate layout. The result worked fairly well though access to the stairs over the Bubble Tea Café was a little trickier. The biggest downside was this left the upper level without a platform.

For my second alternate layout, I kept the bottom level the same and moved around the small shops on the upper level. The result was much more successful in terms of playable space for the minifigures to go about their business. Although this set is less customizable than I had hoped, I think it would be better modified with some extra pieces.

Bustling second story of an alternate layout

Final thoughts

Overall, The City of Lanterns (80036) offers a lot of value in terms of playability, especially from the front and when put together according to the layout in the instructions. Although the back of the shops are open, they are either too small to be able to fit your hands into (less of an issue for kids), or they can’t be accessed easily. While the customizable nature of the modular shops adds to the playability, the specific construction of some of the shops and other features limit the possibilities. That said, this set is still a lot of fun to play with and it looks great on display. For these reasons, I rate this set at 80% for entertainment value.

OVERALL SCORE: 86%

The City of Lanterns (80036) offers a great build experience and very good value which can be hard to find in a LEGO® set these days. It offers great entertainment value for kids, and decent entertainment value for adults. It is likely best as a display piece for adult collectors or as a set for modification (beyond customizing the layout). The minifigures that are included are fantastic and they have loads of accessories, but it could have used a few more characters. Overall, this set has a final score of 86%. Have you come up with a unique alternate layout? Have you modified this set to make it even more unique? Tell us all about it below or on our social media!

Play well folks,

-Krista (she/her)

Pigsy Express coming around the front of The City of Lanterns (80036)

Want to support True North Bricks?

If you like the content at True North Bricks, please follow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or YouTube for regular updates. Additionally, you can support True North Bricks by making your LEGO® (and other) purchases using the links in the main menu. As an affiliate of those retailers, we earn from qualifying purchases. These earnings come at no extra cost to you but help to keep the content at True North Bricks free. Thanks for your support!