2019 appears to be the “Year of the Heart” for LEGO with those little buggers popping up everywhere in different styles, shapes and sizes, ranging from the tiny new 1×1 heart-shaped tile elements in sets like the Chinese Dragon Dance (80102) and of course several ones for The LEGO Movie 2 as well. The latter takes this even further with the buildable kind of heart in Emmet’s Piece Offering (30340) depicted here and of course the cutesy little heart character also appearing in the movie.
Of course the Friends sets are not left out and my, have they gone out of their way. For now there’s seven different types of hearts to choose from. Two different ones are contained in the Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359) and then there’s the Mia’s/ Andrea’s/ Olivia’s/ Stephanie’s/ Emma’s Heart Box (41354 to 41358) sets. In the interest of efficiency and due to the similarity I have consolidated all the products into one article, but let’s begin with the “big” stuff presented by the Friendship Pack.
This set is meant to be a play set in the sense that it contains a plethora of little gimmicks and doodads to dress up the two included mini dolls in a variety of outfits ranging from astronaut to firefighter and police officer to magician/ witch and pirate as well as any combination and derivation inbetween. Who’s to say there couldn’t be pirates with bullet-proof golden helmets? To that end it contains a number of minifigure hats plus a bunch of very minor minifigure accessories and buildable elements. None of this stuff is new nor is any of it made specifically made just for this set. It has all been gleaned from LEGO‘s back catalog of existing pieces and some of it may even be surplus stock from producing other sets.
Therefore outside of actually using these items in the context of the set for playing with it, the individual value of these extras will hugely depend on how useful they may be to customize your other minifigures. For me it was okay, as I neither have a pirate hat nor a golden helmet in my collection and as a recent custom build proved, there could always be a need for some fancying up a model with some minifigures even if like me you don’t collect them proactively, so I’m sure going to keep this stuff around, be it just as a prop for setting the mood in a pirate tavern or whatever should I ever decide to create something along those lines.
In contrast to what you may think, the actual highlight of this set is the smaller heart for the simple reason that it’s based on a new custom-shaped plate. at the same time, though, only one of those little hearts being included to me looks like a severe laps in logic. If the intention was to provide a small pocket box to pack up your doll and some accessories when going on the road, wouldn’t it have made perfect sense to actually include two – one for every figure? Imagine the fuss when two little girls battle over who gets to take the small container along…!
To me it just doesn’t make sense and allowing for a second such thing in a different color to be built should not have been that much of a stretch. It would only have increased the price a tiny bit and, which is my point, could have helped to roll out the new plates in larger quantities. You may think it’s not that important and I’m just obsessing, but in my head I already have a pretty clear picture how useful this new part could be as a creative corner piece and such when used in combination with other plates. For now it seems we’re limited to just buying more copies of this set and wait until this shape has made its way in other sets and sufficient quantities become available on Bricklink and elsewhere.
The large version is pieced together from existing elements based on eight units width, meaning a square plate, some half round plates and a two studs wide strip to extend the “ears” a bit. If you’re into that sort of thing, you could come up with it yourself. It’s really pretty obvious and doesn’t require any major engineering skills, experience or magic. That is, of course, up to the point where you need those damned tiles, round bricks (Macaroni) and also the straight bricks for the side walls. It would have been possible to build something like this, but not necessarily easily and in a consistent color scheme. Some parts were just not out there in larger numbers, others downright didn’t exist in a given color yet. At the very least the set solves this conundrum and makes things easy on you by providing all the pieces.
Simple and obvious as the whole thing may be, there is always major drawback to using round pieces: You simply stack them and they don’t share any interlocking with neighboring bricks. LEGO have yet to come up with some form of plate or special adapter brick to get a firm connection that takes care of these concerns. These heart sets would have provided a perfect test case for creating plates with extended tabs or adding a stud and anti-stud system to the butt ends of the Macaronis. Maybe we will see it one day. In this particular case it’s not a major issue du to the boxes only being two bricks high, but regardless it’s still within the realm of possibility that inadvertently the curved parts may break off. Your little girl could find a bunch of separate pieces in her pocket with all the contents having spilled out as well, so beware!
Moving on to the smaller sets, the heart boxes named after the girls are marketed as a separate line of sets. To me this feels like they are trying a bit too hard to milk the theme for maximum revenue, though. The reasons for this should become clear a bit further down, but first let’s have a look at a size comparison.
As you can see, the size is pretty much halfway there between the large box from the Friendship Pack and the small one from the same set. This already reveals one potential limitation: The amount of content you can cram into such a box and indeed this is a concern. I haven’t bothered to take shots of them, but each set comes with the umpteenth iteration of the girl who lends its name to any given set. This then would already occupy half the space in the box. The remaining space would – in theory at least – be filled up with the simple pedestal/ stand made from two clear sloped brick and a white 2 x 4 plate, barely leaving any room for something else. And there you have it: The inclusion of the useless mini dolls defeats the whole idea of using those little hearts as storage or gift boxes. Therefore I think disposing of the figures in whatever is your favorite cruel and funny method would be perfectly acceptable. Just make sure your kids don’t see it…
Make no mistake: Despite their inflated packages, these sets are basically just poly bags with a slightly larger number of parts. Arguably the cardboard carry bag or whatever you wanna call it could have been done away with, but of course it looks better on store shelves. Ultimately it’s okay, though, even if you are environmentally conscious, as multiple packs can be stacked quite efficiently in an alternating pattern. Not as much unused space only filled with air is being transported around as first impressions may suggest. In fact it looks bulkier on the photos than in real life.
There are five distinct sets of which I got only four. For the time being I passed on the Lime Green version for Mia since it did not include any other new colors for the plates and I wanted to avoid having a pile of redundant Dark Purple already found in the Emma set as well as Dark Azure tiles for the upper edge as they exist in the Olivia version. I’m reasonably certain that I will get it one of these days just for the fun of it, though. Incidentally, LEGO could have made this decision easier by offering a five pack/ bundle deal with a bit of discount from the outset.
Again the building techniques used in the sets are as plain on your nose as you can think and you could have worked them out yourself if you had the pieces. The same limitations as on the big heart box apply – due to some elements not overlapping and merely being stacked, the risk of breakage is not to be underestimated, especially with the lid off, which stabilizes things considerably. Overall those sets won’t win any prizes for outstanding engineering, anyway. With only two rows of bricks in all of them, it’s simply impossible to get enough robustness in there, try as you might. You would have to redesign this from the ground up. Regardless of these issues, the least they could have done is make the big heart in the Friendship Pack three or four rows of bricks high to increase storage volume.
The one thing that makes those sets at least a bit valuable for me is of course the fact that they are an excellent source for colored parts. As I mentioned earlier in my article, many pieces are for the first time even available in these flamboyant and crazy colors and trivial as it may seem, a Bright Pink 1 x 1 quarter round tile can sometimes be exactly what you need, not to speak of the many 1 x 2, 1x 4, 1 x 6 and 2 x 4 tiles. We even get the 1 x 1 round flower tile in Light Aqua in the Andrea set! In addition, every bit of writing you see on the boxes are specially printed tiles, so that’s fine, too. It just renders those tiles slightly less useful later on in your custom builds. Still, you could always pop them onto other sets like e.g. Olivia’s Cupcake Café (41366) as signage, so it’s not all a waste.
Within the very narrow corridor of what you can expect, those sets work okay-ish, but are not worth writing home about, either. Unfortunately it really seems LEGO are always falling for the same old mistakes and screw up a simple idea that could work otherwise. A girl just wanting a nice box for her trinkets isn’t going to care much about those ugly mini dolls and as an adult you feel it’s only an excuse to inflate the price. A more straightforward approach with selling the plain buildable items for what they are might have been better.
That being the case, if at all, you should see to it to get these sets as cheap as you can, since you basically always will be buying unnecessary useless fluff along with the buildable elements while the actual assembly is so simplistic, it will leave the true LEGO aficionado unsatisfied. Strangely, those sets are caught between a rock and a hard place and won’t satisfy either side fully. The are not LEGO sets in the traditional sense, but by that same token will also struggle to attract audiences that are used to simpler ways of getting plastic containers for their toys, the latter of which also being more stable when made in a single piece straight out of the injection molding machine. Too bad…