Back in the day when I was transitioning from being a LEGO Technic guy to conventional brick-built stuff, the Friends “room” sets were among the first I reviewed (here, here and here). They were fun little sets at a decent price point (with discounts, of course). There hadn’t been something similar in a while, but with the overhaul of the series it seems LEGO thought it was a good way to bring this idea back and introduce new rooms for some of the characters as a way of building the character lore. I don’t particularly care much for that, but appreciate a good set on a budget, so I got them to have a look how things now turned out several years later.
Price and Contents
To begin with, those sets are bigger, more complex packages than the original ones. This is immediately made clear by them containing two characters as minidolls and the layouts recognizably always featuring a 8 x 16 plate as the base. This is not only necessary to accommodate everything, but simply allows more freedom in design. Currently there are four of those sets of which I only got myself three for the time being – Aliya’s Room (41740), Leo’s Room (41754) and Nova’s Room (41755). The fourth one, Liann’s Room (41739), struck me as the least attractive in terms of originality of design, so I wasn’t in a rush to buy it, but I may still get it if there’s a good discount.
Speaking of which – bigger sets inevitably come at a higher price and in this case it has basically doubled from the original 10 Euro MSRP to 20 Euro. On paper that doesn’t sound too bad for sets with 179, 202, 203 and 209 pieces, respectively, but of course you have to consider a) the overall economics of the price-per-part ratio and b) that these are just vignettes, not actual buildings, vehicles or whatever. With that in mind you should definitely be on the lookout for discounts. I got two of my packages for 13 Euro and another one for 15 Euro, but I’d wager that eventually the average price will settle around 12 Euro. possibly you could even get the sets for under 10 Euro during some special promotion, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Aliya’s Room (41740)
First in line is Aliya’s Room (41740), which she shares with Paisley. the way it’s presented both girls are into plant-based natural sciences such as botany, ecology or for that matter protecting the environment on a general level. This is of course driven home by the decorative greenery, but also by the windows in a natural “wood” color (Medium Nougat).
The minifigures are extremely fashionable and very influenced by popular culture and fashion, which is one of the better aspects of the reboot of Friends. For the subject at hand it feels a bit out of place, though, as environmentally conscious girls no doubt would give some consideration to sustainable clothing that isn’t so much tied to trends. Maybe I’m thinking too much in stereotypes here and perhaps I’m too accustomed to seeing Mia in drab khakis, but somehow it doesn’t feel “realistic” – whatever that could imply.
Apparently the girls like to have their film night once in a while and thus we get a small separate projector assembly. It has a small twist in that they are watching stuff from their phone, which is slotted in as a printed Orange tile on top. Naturally, without having applied the sticker this little extra looks a bit bland, but somehow LEGO seem completely unwilling to give us a t least a bunch of standard elements with contemporary prints. It’s really kind of weird that they hang on to printed tiles they introduced over a decade ago, but can’t be bothered to bring out some flashy new stuff to go with the times.
The white inserts in the door frame and panel should also have stickers, but thankfully even without those the room actually looks quite okay. That’s one of the things that really won me over with these little sets – they show a level of detail that would look good in actual Heartlake buildings and in a way those little vignettes almost surpass what is on offer there. Point in case: Those sets are very dense and very lively.
The set feels very cosy and is put together well enough. Indeed this could be a slightly crammed kid’s room and things get even more crowded when your best friend is coming for a sleepover. Interestingly, there’s a few unique and rare parts, but they are mot necessarily obvious on first glance. Well, the Sand Blue 8 x 16 plate is and so are the Yellow 2 x 4 modified plates, but others are better hidden. That applies for instance to the matching Yellow slider bricks that haven’t been around in more than twenty years. Two other notable pieces have camouflaged themselves in the Dark Blue trim line at the top, one being a 1 x 5 plate and the other a round corner plate in that color.
Leo’s Room (41754)
LEGO have been beating to death the fact that they want the new Friends sets to be more inclusive and representative and that also means they want to get away from making them too gender-specific/ gender-biased. Now I’m a weird old guy who has always liked this stuff for its crazy colors and have never let the series’ focus on teenage girls get in the way, but just as well I have been critical of it more than enough. Any effort to mitigate this onesidedness is therefore welcomed, but before you rejoice: No, we’re not there yet. Even the new Friends in 2023 is still 80 percent girl stuff.
Regardless, seeing a set that actually features two boys (and only boys) is a good start and of course as a gay guy I derive some twisted pleasure on whether they are just brothers or best buddies or whether there could be something more going on between Leo and Olly. 😉 Outside that of course the best part of the whole set even without deeper inspection is the fat grumpy cat. How effin’ brilliant is this? It’s one of the best ideas for a companion animal LEGO had in years!
The little obese kitty gets its own toy station, but not really much else. It could have benefited from having a tray or cat castle as an extra. On the bright side we do get a little goal for the two boys to play soccer/ footy, including an Orange ball. this could have come in a different color like Dark Azure with white decorations perhaps to make it more distinct. The model already has an awful lot of Orange and Coral parts.
The room itself is again quite stuffed to the brim with a small computer area beside the bunk beds, some surfing/ diving equipment and surprisingly enough a small kitchen area, including a camera setup to record videos for social media. That cooking/ baking/ cake decorating part feels a bit odd, to say the least. It’s not that boys/ men don’t spend time in the kitchen (I love baking myself), but I doubt many would have a setup to that effect in their sleeping rooms…
A standout feature of this set is the extra balcony, which adds some visual interest. This in particular makes you wish that the sets could be stacked together as if they were part of a modular building.
Nova’s Room (41755)
The third set is a bit of an outlier with its very dark and “cold” color scheme. Mind you, it’s not unrealistic, just a bit unusual. It’s more reminiscent of one of those dedicated gaming rooms with dark walls and neon lighting you see on respective streaming platforms and YouTube. As a regular sleeping room it’s perhaps a bit depressing or crazy-making. That notwithstanding, the color scheme in itself is tasteful enough and consistent.
The most interesting feature of the minidolls for Zac and Nova are the gamer-themed prints on the shirts. That is going to draw some attention, though due to the two using skin colors other than the standard Light Nougat it would not be easy to use the elements on other figures.
Playing video games all day is of course not always a fulfilling activity and for health reasons you have to have some other interests as well, so we get a little workbench that hints at the two possibly being involved in skating or other activities. It’s never really spelled out what it is, but at least those tools would come in handy to fix the cart of the paraplegic dog.
The gaming station is a beefy computer rig, which would become even more clear with the stickers. Those include those colorful RGB fans and some other details. Again the non-existence of some decent prints is biting everyone in their behind and in this particular scenario a printed 2 x 6 tile to represent an ultra wide monitor could have been pretty awesome. And even a mundane 2 x 4 tile representing a Windows desktop would have been better than stickers. It’s all about options, you know.
The seating is modeled after those gaming chairs, but in the end feels more like a captain’s chair ripped of a Star Trek ship bridge. It’s just a bit too bulky due to the limitations of building it with existing pieces. A side effect also is that it actually cannot be turned around without scratching the “table”. if you look closely you also see that this causes some sort of “hole” in the scene, i.e. an area where no real detail is placed. Adding some flowers on the right hand side of the table could have avoided that.
Part of the problem is also the retractable shelf and the hidden crevice behind it.this contributes to the empty feeling and while applying the stickers would improve things, it would have been preferable if there were a few built details, be it just a few colored 1 x 1 plates and tiles.
I really liked those sets. They nicely illustrate what’s possible in the Friends series if only you commit yourself and leave the designers some breathing room. Pretty much any of these separate rooms would look good in an actual building. At the same time that is of course the big frustration – actual building models never are this rich and you can see how corners are cut or the details are stretched out and distributed across multiple levels and rooms to fit the budget. It’s really a shame since if things were different, Friends could easily compete even with actual Modular Buildings (the specific design philosophy that sets the series apart notwithstanding). If you want to see what’s possible with LEGO pieces and a bit of love I would definitely recommend getting those packages just for that warm fuzzy feeling inside.