The best kind of LEGO is the affordable (or cheap) one, so I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to get stuff with a discount. This also includes painstakingly browsing through the flyers of our regional grocery and drug stores and checking their web sites plus actually checking out their physical shops whenever the opportunity arises. You never know when that last leftover set that nobody bought yet ends up in the bargain bin.
Anyway, it’s that time of year where school is starting again, so many food discounters have a plethora of writing utensils in their weekly promos plus, since it’s tradition to shower first-graders with gifts as they get inducted to school, all sorts of small-ish toys that can be stuffed into their Zuckertüte as well. Lucky for me that included some LEGO Friends sets and while I wouldn’t say that I urgently had to have them, I still jumped the chance as a way of self-pampering and a small distraction in-between, being that I also seem to always find interesting uses for those crazy colored parts and don’t mind having them.
Mia’s Room (41327) and Andrea’s Room (41341) are part of a series of “rooms” for all of the Friends girls based on the same principle – you basically always build a heart-shaped base plate from a 8 x 8 studs plate with matching half circle plates and then add some details on top. Most of them have an MSRP of 10 Euros, so at a 20% discount I got them for 8 Euros. That’s okay, but clearly, given the limited number of parts there would be room to bring it down to 7 or 6 Euros even for the regular price, though of course you will have to allow some room for packaging, printed instructions and distribution.
Mia’s Room in my view is the simpler, less attractive of the two, though arguably the lime green elements would be more useful for future custom builds. As it is, it pretty much merely repeats the “wild child” (nature-loving, adventurous) theme also found in Mia’s Tree House and doesn’t really add much to it.
Basically the set repeats every beat from the tree house with only minor variations. Rabbit bunny pen? Check! Skateboard? Check! Walkie-Talkie? Check! “Tree Bed Castle”? Check! Flag on top? Check! It’s really like the designers ran out of ideas. The differences are limited to the bunny this time being the larger version (I put the small one from the tree house next to it, so it looks like mom & kid) and some color variations of the parts, but drawing from the same palette.
The bed post single-foot wide latter is an interesting detail, that would have made a nice idea for a climbing pole on the tree house, but aside from that this is as simple, mundane and obvious as it gets. Even a kid with no experience could have hacked together something similar, given the parts.
What bothers me the most, however, is the total lack of that “room” feeling. There’s not a single large element (a panel, a column) or a bunch of stacked bricks that would convey that idea. For all intents and purposes, Mia‘s bed could indeed stand next to the tree house on an open lawn and she could fall asleep staring at the stars. That’s not a bad concept in itself, it just doesn’t fit the subject of what this is allegedly supposed to be.
Andrea’s Room fares considerably better. to begin with, the build is slightly more complex and intricate, which ramps up the enjoyment factor while assembling it. In particular it is more focused on actually building stuff that makes sense and offers some play features rather than just letting it sit there statically, meaning you can actually rearrange the keyboard and the speaker and swivel the tiltable bed to change the scenery.
Most importantly this feels like an actual room. The colored glass panels used for the window in conjunction with some simple column-like white bricks provides a nice edge on one side, so the scene doesn’t “fall off” into infinity. On the other hand it’s still somewhat odd that they didn’t add the other wall on the right hand side.
Why should that even matter? Well, it does once you raise the bed into its secondary make-up table position where it would have reflective stickers on the underside to represent a mirror. The point here is that in its upright position it looks like it will tip over any second. Backing it with a wall would have avoided this vertigo-inducing sensation. It also would have allowed some extra room e.g. for a small shelf with more cosmetics vessels.
What I also didn’t like was the somewhat too simplistic way the plates are connected primarily with the two 2 x 4 tiles. It seems like a wasted opportunity to not use more tiles and create a whole carpet, which incidentally also could have served as a “stage” for Andrea‘s performances.
As a final small niggle I would have to complain about the colors of the golden lamp-post not matching with the lightsaber handle in particular being oddly transparent and too light compared to the rest. This feels like a “Let’s use our leftover 2nd grade quality items here and reserve the better stuff for Star Wars and Ninjago.” and just doesn’t fit what you expect from LEGO – consistent coloring.
As with all LEGO Friends stuff – this certainly isn’t for everyone. For the most part these sets do not represent good value for money and to myself I could only justify the purchase with almost definitely having a use for the parts in the future. If that’s not the case for you, you probably should stay away from them entirely and go for the larger sets right away.
If your little one keeps bugging you for one of those on a casual shopping spree, regardless, I’d pick Andrea’s Room. It simply has more to explore and play with in a kids-friendly manner.