Yellow Emma? – LEGO Friends, Emma’s Fashion Shop (41427)

As much as I don’t like how LEGO keep screwing around with some of the aspects of Friends, I’ll likely always have a soft spot for the series for as long as it’s going to exist. Where others are turned off by the colors, I see lots of opportunities and crazy ideas almost immediately zap through my head. Emma’s Fashion Shop (41427) from this year’s second wave of sets is perhaps not that exactly, but I sure have long-term plans for something involving all those vanilla pudding/ custard yellow elements.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Box

Unlike in the past years, actually getting your hands on current sets is a bit of an exercise. LEGO‘s logistics are very apparently still impaired by (partial) factory shutdowns, shorter work shifts with less personnel and additional freight checks and quarantine procedures. That’s why ultimately I had to go with this set for the time being because my preferred choice, one of the new animal-based sets, wasn’t available anywhere. That’s quite different from other years where the June releases were sometimes already on sale or available for pre-order late April and then you had them on the first day even if you weren’t one of the privileged outlets that get free review samples directly from LEGO.

What thankfully hasn’t changed is the discounts you get even immediately after release, so I was able to pick this up for 20 Euro instead of 30 Euro. That in and of itself is of course getting weirder every year, too. Despite LEGO generally ramping up prices, sometimes to ridiculous heights, retailers just know that a lot of set won’t sell for the MSRP, firing them out for a lot less and barely making a revenue on them. Say what you will, this is certainly crooked and barely healthy and sustainable in the long run. anyway, for 20 Euro this set is certainly okay, but for reasons I’m going to explain a bit further down I don’t think the full 30 Euro would hold up.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Overview

Aside from the main build, the actual house, there isn’t an abundance of extras. the figures are ones already found in other sets and the kick scooter is the same as the one in Andrea’s Accessories Store (41344). It would have been nice to at least get that one in a new color, but I guess LEGO were playing it cheap and only used stuff and pieces that they already had in stock. This by the way seems to be the prevalent theme here, anyway: Keep it simple. It’s a very straightforward “no frills” affair. Not bad, just a bit unoriginal.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Building, Front Right View

Personally I don’t associate the Bright Yellow with Emma at all. This color is typically related to Olivia or more generalized building like the Heartlake Highschool, so it takes some getting used to. On the other hand there is enough of the Lavender, so on some level it’s still easy enough to draw the connection.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Building, Front Left View

The interesting thing about a lot of the Friends buildings is that they often contain interesting ideas, but suffer from those concepts being implemented poorly, incompletely or inconsequently. sometimes it’s the sheer lack of space due to the smallness of the sets, sometimes the designers just get carried away with cramming too much stuff in and yes, sometimes you just smell that evil corporate-mandated budget dictating how a set turns out. as far as all of that goes, this model is one of the better ones.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Building, Back Left View

As can be seen, the building is reasonably wide and deep and doesn’t look all too cluttered up on the inside. It nicely conveys both the ideas of a small neighborhood shop and a cosy living/ relaxation/ work area/ custom fitting room on the second floor. that is to say it is totally imaginable you might wanna live there and the building could fit into a small suburban/ rural street layout.

This is also helped by its simple build style and overall structure, which should make it relatively simple to expand the building and convert it into a larger one, be that adding an extra floor, making it deeper or wider or even changing it into a corner building with two facades. Buying multiple of these sets and putting them to use certainly isn’t that far flung an idea.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Building, Back Right View

However, the way it’s constructed is perhaps also a hindrance to that and perhaps the model’s biggest shortcoming. Instead of being built up from more regular smaller bricks it uses large 1 x 2 x 6 “column” bricks and equally large panels. This always is the point where I feel that these perfectly understandable simplifications for kids get in the way of broader acceptance and adaptation of Friends by more seriously-minded builders. That’s also the reason why I wouldn’t buy these sets at full price, as in order to make the most of them with customizations you still have to figure in the extra spending on Bricklink.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Ground Floor, Back Right View with separated Details

There are a few easily removable items like the sewing machine and a “mix & match your styles” column. The function of the latter only becomes clear when you apply the stickers, which of course I never do. The highlight of the sewing machine, if you will, is the use of a black lipstick minifigure utensil for the needle head, but other than that it’s just the same standard build you’ve seen in a ton of other sets. The same goes for the test fitting booth, which for all intents and purposes is just the same basic build also used everywhere else. At the very least I would have hoped they’d include the half-cylinder element in an opaque color so it works without a sticker.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Ground Floor, Back Right View

The mannequins are creepy and more than just a bit uninspired. This is one of those “If you can’t be bothered…” things that just upset and enrage me. Can it really be that hard to at least produce monochromatic mini dolls without any prints and minus the arms and legs or even better yet come up with a custom mold based on existing ones? I mean if such a mold existed, it would in fact even look good in City sets next to regular minifigures. Definitely time for LEGO to do it!

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Ground Floor, Back Left View

On a small, anecdotal note one of the things that stood out to me was the Flame Yellowish Orange bow. Yupp, it’s once again of those odd inconsistencies in the Friends universe that, while it should be easy enough to produce this item in all colors of the rainbow, it only exists in five colors and the yellow version is the rarest one only featured in a few sets that I never bought. Go, figure!

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Top Floor, Back Right View

The upper floor is dominated by the couch and that’s another thing I take some small issue with. It essentially blocks the door to the balcony. The kids won’t mind it, but it’s not exactly the most plausible placement. I also feel like the curved balcony only exists to provide the railing onto which the signage is clipped. They could have added a potted plant at least or included a minifigure bird or cat to perch on the railing as a gag. Regrettably, the ruler on the signage also isn’t printed. It would make so much sense to have such a 1 x 4 tile and it could be used for anything from school scenes to being an accessory in a handyman’s toolbox…

LEGO Friends, Emma's Fashion Shop (41427), Top Floor, Back Left View

All things considered, this is a good enough set to be worth your money – at a reasonably reduced price. While utterly unexciting, it still looks pretty decent or even nice and provides a solid basis on which you can expand and improve upon. Of course it would be nice if LEGO would put in a bit of effort and also worked on the typical issues that plague these sets like flimsily piecing together plates with barely any overlapping elements to hold them, but I guess that is too much to hope for and I guess for the rating we have to settle on a “perfectly acceptable” rather than “great” or “outstanding”…

No-Good Octopus – Funny Octopus Ride (41373)

Being a lover of oceanic sea life, LEGO sets themed around this subject are of course high on my list even if they are only tangentially related. That’s why the Funny Octopus Ride (41373) from this years alternate-ish boardwalk fun park series in LEGO Friends ended up on my table.

First Things first

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Box

To get the obvious out of the way before digging into the details, given the title I chose: No, this set isn’t good. So many things with it are so wrong in so many ways, that I’m going to sound like a negative Nancy all throughout this article. Of course it’s up to you to make up your own mind and draw your own conclusions, but perhaps consider this a sincere warning about what you may get yourself and your kids into.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Overview

I myself had been pondering whether to get this set on and off so many times. The pro argument to pursue a purchase was of course once again my desire to get some good parts for my stock and funny enough the set delivers on that front. there are a number of unique parts in the form of re-colored elements that didn’t exist before, there’s a lot of Dark Pink elements, some of which like the smooth pin connectors are also a first and of course then there’s the balloon shells which I wanted to add to my collection, being that I didn’t have one of the older Friends or Elves sets they were featured in in the past. I have vague plans for a model in my head that I might actually need them one day.

It also so happens that quite incidentally the set also contains the exact four rounded plates in White that I might need to rebuild the smaller promotional Gingerbread House (40139) from 2015. With the official Winter Village Gingerbread House (10267) available and me indeed considering buying it eventually, this seems almost inevitable. I also like the transparent tubes. They could be a great way of decking out a better Hidden Side ghost lab or something like that. And finally there’s that printed 1 x 1 popcorn brick. I never bought the small Popcorn Cart (30364) polybag even when I had a chance, so it’s good to catch up on that, too.

Engineering Degree Failure

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Front View complete

The actual construction of the model is super simple and ultimately that’s the biggest failure of the set. It’s really not pretty to look at and as someone who started out with Technic and through his 3D work has a working understanding of some of the finer points of mechanical engineering (at least that’s what I like to think) it just feels wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure, it’s for kids and the build needs to be straightforward and easy, but it still doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Point in case: Someone forgot that there is this little thing called friction and ultimately the whole “system” (in the physical/ engineering sense) is totally bogged down by it. No, unfortunately it’s not as easy as turning the knob at the top of the octopus’ mantle. I as an adult struggle to overcome the initial “stickiness” (static friction), my mom can’t do it easily and I don’t even want to imagine how a first grade school kid will have to make quite an effort to even get this going.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Front View separated

There are two main issues here: First there’s the Technic elements used on the arms themselves and by extension the internal axis inside and turntable below the balloon-y body. It’s all a case of the overall forces becoming to strong no matter how much you wiggle the bushes around to loosen up the connections and reduce tension just like there is no good way of dealing with a 10 units and 12 units long axle plugged together and sticking them into stacks of axle holes at the top and bottom. This, BTW, is yet another exercise that requires so much force that it may be beyond a kid’s capabilities. There’s just no way to get this perfectly balanced so everything moves lightly and without getting stuck.

The second and by far just as critical an issue is of course the corrugated hoses vs. the arms themselves. If you think about it for a second, what you are creating here is a ratcheted mechanism with four (!) “teeth” burrowing themselves in the crevices of the hoses. Even if they do so only superficially it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how this adds up to considerable resistance. What’s worse is that even if you assume that part would work, there’s still this little problem with plastic sliding on plastic. Ironically the friction here is too insignificant to ensure that the connectors actually smoothly roll on the ridges of the hoses, and when they don’t, they just scrub along. After a while both the connectors and the tubes will get dull and show scratch marks. That much is certain.

Animal Pods or Pod Animals?

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Shark Pod What makes this so sad is that the passenger pods on the merry-go-round are actually quite neat they nicely illustrate that if the set wasn’t betrayed by its shoddy cheat mechanics it could have been something great. The shark is particularly nice and if you replace the foothold piece for the figures with a tile you could re-use it in many scenarios once separated from its mounting plate. It would even fit into the Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378) as a shark circling the ship wreck just as it might fit e.g. as decoration on the Pirates Theme Park Rollercoaster (31084). The highlight here is of course the little 1 x 1 modified hinge plate in Dark Blue, a new and thus still relatively rare and expensive re-color of this element.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Clam Shell Pod

The clam shell isn’t nearly as complex, but for what it is supposed to represent sufficient plus you get another load of the Bright Pink 1 x 1 heart tile.

 

 

 

 

 

On first sight the crab looked a bit weird to me until I realized what this was actually supposed to represent. Aside from the way too short “legs”, which really are only stumps, I guess the failure is the lollipops/ paddles not being in Yellow plus there being no claws. In a way this makes the whole thing look more like a bug.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Crab Pod  LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Crab Pod

The turtle is basically just another variant of the one in the Turtles Rescue Station (41376) and the poly bag variant mentioned in the article or for that matter even the Elves oneLEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Turtle PodDepending on how you interpret it, the basic ingredients are always the same as is the building style and whether one’s shell is Dark Azure and the other’s Reddish Brown ultimately makes little difference. in the end it’s probably down to there only being so many ways to skin a cat, i.e. building this model, if you want it to be at a specific size. Similar to the shark here at least another re-color of that little round hinge in regular Green making this worthwhile. A small complaint would have to be that they easily could have included angled 1 x 2 wedges (29119, 29120) to represent the flippers, given that they already have the 1 x 1 modified plates with the clip in Bright Green in place. This would not have interfered with the rest of the model and made it so much more “realistic”

Stranger in a strange Land

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Fluke PartIn yet another anecdote of LEGO‘s quality going down the drain these days, this time I actually had a completely wrong piece in my set, meaning an utter fluke that doesn’t even remotely resemble any item that the set actually uses. The part in question is a 2 x 4 curved slope part in Dark Orange from the Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control (60228) set in the City line of products where it is used on the large central booster sections.

The irony here is that this single piece gives me so many ideas, I almost wish they had mixed up an entire bag that contains all the eight slopes used in that other set. If you look at it long enough, you just can see how this would make a perfect padding for an ocre-ish colored leather sofa or padded seating bench in a restaurant, bus or train. With this yet again being a new re-color of this part for the first time exclusive to the set you can see how this would be valuable to a guy like me who’s always thinking about the next possible project.

and what was the part it was actually supposed to be? Of all things a Dark Bluish Grey 4 x 4 round plate used on the socket of the octopus mantle! See how neither the shape nor the color relate to one another? Those sorting cameras at the LEGO factory really must have had a bad day. Anyway, thankfully I had a few of those pieces in my stockpile and in fact the color doesn’t even matter because the parts are mostly invisible and any of them would do, but if I hadn’t, I couldn’t have finished the model that evening. It’s one thing if some small 1 x 1 tile is missing that you can add on later, but it’s a different thing when a critical structural part is missing from a bag.

No Fun in the Fun Park

While I’m certainly not a fan of entertainment parks and fun fairs, I can get behind the concept as a technical and artistic challenge in the LEGO world. In fact I have been tinkering with such mechanisms on and off and if I ever finish them, one day some pretty awesome contraptions might come of it. Yupp, it sounds like self-indulgent  boasting, but at the very least it’s going to be better than this. A lot (presumably). It shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to surpass the hacky cheat mechanics, if you allow me to put it that way.

Overall I don’t know how to sum up all my frustrations with this particular set. It’s neither a good example for overall design and aesthetics nor for engineering. It just falls short of even the lowest expectations and is for all intents and purposes quite terrible. Unless you have a specific use case like myself for scalping the parts and/ or are willing to put in some major work to improve the details, you are not doing your kids or yourself any favors. I paid 25 Euro during an Amazon flash sale for this, but at the end of the day this feels too much for such an awful set. Paying the full 40 Euro would be totally crazy.

didn’t want to look at this abomination for much longer and couldn’t disassemble the set fast enough to salvage the components while they still were pristine. That’s how bad it is. Clearly the mess with the missing/ wrong part did nothing to improve my mood, either. The only things that gave me some joy are the little pod creatures, but that’s just not enough, unfortunately.

No real Talent – Andrea’s Talent Show (41368)

Do you know that weird feeling of wanting a LEGO set and at the same time being extremely reluctant and skeptical about it? That was pretty much the case with Andrea’s Talent Show (41368), so let’s see what’s to love and what not and also explain my inner struggles a bit.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Box

In my life as an graphics artist working in a small media production company the subject of the set wasn’t that alien to me. Occasionally I would even help out with pushing buttons behind the scenes on trade shows and open house events for our clients so the screens wouldn’t remain black. That and of course I knew a few people who were in the stage show business, be that riggers, audio engineers, lighting people and so on. Combined with my own interest in elaborate shows from the likes of Cirque du Soleil or our very own Friedrichstadtpalast the subject on some level appealed to me. at the same time, though, I totally despise those awful “talent” shows on TV, so this caused me some trepidation to actually commit to it.

As usual the “right” price would help to convince me, so I took the opportunity when it dropped below 30 Euro. I think I ultimately got it for 28 Euro or something like that. The original price of 50 Euro is just ridiculous, so stay away from this set if you can’t get it cheaply enough. It’s definitely not worth that even if you allow wiggle room for the many large parts that by their nature are already a bit more expensive. Case in point: Due to the unusual colors e.g. even those eight Magenta plates in the set could be had cheaper on Bricklink than what they would cost you when buying the set. I’d definitely not spend more than 40 Euro on it even on a good day.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Overview

The set itself is reasonably large and comes with a number of little side builds, yet you always feel like something is missing. More importantly – to me, anyway – the assembled stage looks very uninviting due to the extensive use of Black. For a Friends set this is pretty uncommon and unfortunately doesn’t really elevate the set. I understand why they did it (more on that further down), but I still don’t particularly like it. Using Light Bluish Grey at least for some of those parts would have been preferable and incidentally also more “realistic”, as e.g. most trussing for portable stage construction is just plain aluminium, zinc coated lightweight steel or stainless steel.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Stage InsertHow unsuitable the Black is can easily be determined by just looking at the images of the little turntable inserts for the stage’s front area. The larger parts simply look like a mush, which is something you would avoid in a real scenario, at least in this way. Of course lots of Black are used on real stages to hide things in the background. Anyway, as the center pieces the inserts do not look particularly convincing. For all intents and purposes they should be flamboyant and stand out with strong colors. The singer pedestal could be Medium Lavender, the magic trick table with the rabbit could have glittery parts and the drum kit could at least have had its supports in Gold or Silver.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Stage Insert LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Stage Insert

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Jury Table

The judges’ table feels equally unimpressive and underdeveloped. Naturally there would be at least three jury members in most shows, so it feels way too small. They should at least have aimed to include two seats. how they undermined their own intention in fact becomes apparent by the elaborate construction of the buttons. They use rubbery Technic connector elements underneath them to give the effect of touch buttons rather than permanent switches as would have been the case with a simpler, more straightforward approach. It’s really odd to “waste” this idea in such a manner.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Dressing Rooms

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Dressing Room Connectors

The “dressing rooms” share a similar fate in that they are way too small and thus just don’t feel “real”. They plug into the back of the stage at the sides if you choose so, but in that case feel somehow quite misplaced. In my view they would have to have some panels then to give the idea of some physical separation even if only with paper-thin walls.LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Front View

The front view of the stage looks okay, but ultimately empty. aside from my usual not using the stickers in the set this can be attributed to the total absence of a background or for that matter the stage having no real depth. this brings us back to one of my previous points – the stage is black because most mobile phones and tablets have black frames and you are supposed to use one of those devices as a large background LED screen/ projection.

That’s all well and good if you have one, but there are at least two flaws in this plan: First, LEGO don’t tell you where to get those show-y backgrounds and how to get them on your device. In the end you might spend hours scouring YouTube trying to find a suitable clip and then struggle to somehow download/ rip it to your phone or tablet. I’m not even going to begin debating the legal implications.

The second flaw in this plan sure is that even if you have a mobile device available you might not want to give it to your kids to play around with. Therefore it seems to me it would have been inevitable to include some printed cardboard as an alternative to put in place. I mean they know how to do it with their Movie Maker sets and some others, so it sure wouldn’t be too much to ask, or would it?

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Top View with Insert

The shallowness of the stage is even more apparent from a slightly angled top-down view. This also shows that the stage is by no means a contiguous surface. It’s a missed opportunity that could easily have been remedied by including some of these new inverted round plates in White. That would have nicely hidden away the underlying gear construction for the turntable, of course.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Top View with exposed Gears

Sadly, this part doesn’t make much sense, either. If you look at the picture of the backside and imagine your phone being slotted into the yellow Technic holders, the driving gear might be very difficult to reach it would have been much smarter to construct a longer drive train using multiple gears and have it be accessible from one of the stage’s sides.

If that wasn’t enough, what also wouldn’t work with a device in place are the score boards. If you do the math in your head, you should come to realize that in their up position where they are supposed to be held in place by the grey axles they would also rest on the edge of your device and never drop down once you pull out the stoppers. This is such a glaring oversight and lapse in functional logic.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Talent Show (41368), Back View

All things considered, this is far from a great set. I got what I wanted from it for the low price I bought it for, but I sure wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. This set is full of unnecessary mistakes and shortcomings and my resounding feeling is that the designer(s) were totally clueless how traditional stage design or design for TV shows actually works. Most annoyingly, though, the almost inescapable requirement for some sort of stage background makes the set feel lifeless without it. The Black color doesn’t help, either, even more so in light of the absence of more bling that it would contrast with. It really feels sort of drab and dreary when it should be exuberant and colorful…

No checkered Flag – The (failed) Friends Kart Racing Series

Something that has been on my mind for a while is that I always wanted to do an article on what I consider the LEGO Friends failed kart racing series. I know, these are strong and bold words, but before digging into the details, allow me to elaborate on why I think this sub-theme has bombed – strictly limited to what I can determine from my own observations as an adult here in Germany.

To that effect I have packed the reviews of the Service & Care Truck (41348), Drifting Diner (41349) and Creative Tuning Shop (41351) into one article to make it easier to follow my arguments and draw your own comparisons. I will also share my thoughts on the remaining two sets based on studying the digital building instructions, photos and having seen them (and in part played with them) in stores.

The Reasons

As with any such thing you have to consider both the economic side as well as the actual contents and quality of the sets because they are intrinsically linked. Detractors will of course be quick to point out that a lot of that is subjective and I’m not going to deny that, but with a bit of common sense it should not be too hard to follow my arguments. Let me begin with the business stuff.

The sets don’t appear to sell well at all and as far as I can tell never really have ever since they were released last year. There are a few strong indicators for that:

  • Prices for these sets slumped immediately after release.
  • The sets are still sold on permanent relatively heavy discounts.
  • At this point several online stores and retailers already do no longer even list them, despite their being part of the current catalog still.
  • Whenever I’m out and about in stationary stores, sets seem to recognizably sit on the shelves for a long time, i.e. you can find out individual boxes based on damage marks you already saw a few weeks ago.

All of that can be seen as a sign that if it weren’t for the continuously ongoing promotions and low prices those sets, they likely would sell even worse. The counter thesis to prove this even further would be that even something as popular mundane LEGO City sets sell at higher average prices due to stable demand.

Since a basic rule of economic science is that demand drives prices, yet it seems the general public doesn’t really care for this series, the pertinent question naturally has to be what could be wrong with the design and contents of the sets that makes them unappealing. There are a few common themes to that as well.

  • Despite discounts, the sets often feel like you may not get your money’s worth. A lot of the pieces are smaller standard parts that don’t justifiably contribute to that perceived volume for money thing.
  • The designs appear hugely inconsistent. Aside from some shared standardized stuff the whole thing doesn’t feel like a proper series at all. It’s like literally every set was designed by a different person, completely ignoring what their peers did.
  • Construction wise, a lot of the builds feel unsophisticated and flimsy. In addition to posing structural problems while handling the models this also impacts play value. It just doesn’t make sense how some elements have been put together.
  • The sets lack internal logic as in “That’s not how this stuff works/ should work in the real world.”

On top of all that one could add the more general dislike of Friends prevalent in certain crowds, too, naturally. Middle-aged men with no kids around just can’t get get behind the crazy colors and re teed off, even if they may appreciate the underlying overall concept. Which brings us to a point…

The short version of summarizing the kart racing theme would be: It’s a neat idea, but it has been done as part of the wrong product line. That is all the flaws I already pointed out notwithstanding, of course. Unfortunately, a lot of the good stuff is hidden in details whose ingenuity you only realize when actually building. It also stands to note that personally I appreciate how at least they were trying something fresh. It’s just that they were way too often inconsequential to go through with their ideas and also likely were too constrained by budget and marketability considerations. Before I lose myself in even more pondering, let’s delve into the actual contents.

The Karts

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Kart Left View LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Kart Left View
LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart A Left View LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart B Left View

One of the better parts across all the sets are the actual carts themselves – strictly speaking in design terms. If you were to purchase all the sets, you’d have a full eight of those little vehicles. As should be evident from the images, the basic construction is always similar with variations of colors and elements used thrown in to add individual distinctiveness. The colored elements are plugged onto black chassis plates that already have pins attached and also include the vertical studs onto which the bumpers go. This allows for an extremely flat, yet very sturdy construction. Except for the protruding parts, most of which are attached using clips, this should make the models very safe and prevent them from falling apart too easily even if kids throw them around like crazy.

A major shortcoming are the steering handles in the sense that no matter how you bend your mini dolls they remain out of reach. There is simply no position where they fit perfectly into the hands without the figures looking like they have a broken spine. This may seem like a non-issue, but here’s the thing: The karts have no real driver’s seats, either and in fact it’s just a white curved slope, so without anything to hold on, they just flip-flop around loosely and will of course fall off easily. It’s hard to fathom how nobody seems to have noticed this during testing, even more so since by their nature mini dolls have no stud holes on their legs/ buttocks that would allow them to be affixed this way.

Service & Care Truck (41348)

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Box

I got this set as a gift from my beloved brother who picked it up spontaneously during his grocery shopping. It’s a well-meant humorous stab at my LEGO obsession that has become sort of an insider gag in my family. The set was – once again – on discount during a weekly promotion and you can get it for as cheap as 13 Euro, which given that the next lower tier of LEGO sets is the 10 Euro range makes this actually a good proposition in terms of what you get for your money. On the other hand I wouldn’t necessarily consider it for its full price of 20 Euro. It’s a bit too scant for that.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Overview

The truck on first sight seems simplistic, but well-executed nonetheless. It’s apparently kind of based on a low-rider pick-up truck mixed with design elements found on many cars from the 1960s, in particular the protruding snout/ motor hood. It’s a welcome deviation from the more conventional trucks found e.g. in the City series that are typically based on more modern designs.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Truck Left View

While it looks okay, the set is not without issues and little annoyances. due to the large side openings the cockpit at first glance seems quite accessible, but actually getting your mini dolls seated inside is another matter entirely. It’s basically the same issue as with the karts: How do you get a small rounded bum to rest on a smooth surface? The figure tend to topple over and then you spend your time fiddling around.

Removing the roof is also not always a good option. Ironically, by using the grey plate as an intermediate, the clutch power becomes too strong. That’s good for stabilizing the whole thing, but slaps you in the face once you need to remove the piece. It tends to drag either the windshield or the back along due to them being made up of large parts, too, that are not fixated any further on the chassis. It’s certainly not ideal.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Truck Right View

The roll-on ramp is a functional feature, yet it doesn’t exactly make sense due to the absence of a winch. At that steep an angle you could neither push a kart onto the platform nor would it be able to get up there under its own power. This is a strange design decision, even more so since likely in reality you would lift the vehicles using a small crane or a forklift onto regular trucks of this class with removable side boards.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Truck with lowered Ramp

What totally rubbed me the wrong way with this set is the poor construction of the chassis especially in the aft section and the hinges for the platform. If you’re not careful it’s way too easy to break off the clips when lowering the ramp or causing gaps in the stack of plates forming the beam when you push down the flatbed again. This is certainly not ideal.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Truck Bottom View

While it’s by far not the worst of the lot, the little flaws in this set pile up and make me go *grmpf*. It’s one of those cases where the set easily could have been a lot more elaborate and better and not squandered its good premise. Had they targeted the 30 Euro range and included more parts, they could have achieved this and perhaps even succeeded to the point of making it relevant for people who don’t typically buy Friends sets (assuming they also used a little less crazy colors and omitted the pink parts). The image of the kart is for reference, so you know which set it belongs to.

LEGO Friends, Service & Care Truck (41348), Kart Right View

Creative Tuning Shop (41351)

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Box

Where do I even begin with this one? It’s full of lovely little ideas, yet a total mess in terms of execution.

Let me be clear: I got this set strictly for parts. I have a project I’m working on where I’m potentially going to need a bunch of large transparent panels, so I got it into my head to kill two problems with one stone, so to speak. Rather than buying separate parts on Bricklink I wanted to use the opportunity to also get another set for potential reviews on this very blog. The question you may immediately ask is whether the economics add up, and yes, they do.

This set is perhaps the most stand-out example for the almost ridiculous discounts you get with this series. All I had to do is wait for the right moment and then snatched it up for just shy above 20 Euro. Mind you, the MSRP is 40 Euro. This translates to something like 47 percent off, or in simpler terms half the original asking price. That being the case, it’s easy to see that even the large panels will reach a price level that is near equal to what you would have to pay on Bricklink, anyway, with the other parts then becoming kind of a welcome bonus on top.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Overview

The biggest issue with this set is literally “easy to see through”, i.e. this being a glass palace with the transparent items simply having been plugged together without any additional structures in-between. While this type of construction might certainly be possible using modern types of sandwiched glass, it’s probably not used that widely due to the associated cost (I would imagine). Regardless, even then there would still have to be some extra load-bearing columns or beams somewhere IMO.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Front Left View

Worse still is the fact that this is just a facade in the most negative sense. I would even argue that if the curved panels wouldn’t require a certain depth, they would have made it just six studs deep instead of eight. The problem here of course is that this is supposed to be some kind of show room/ VIP area/ driver’s recreational zone with a small customization workshop, but completely feels like you wouldn’t actually want to visit it. In other words: It feels cheap and as if the designers couldn’t settle on one subject.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Right Left View

If you get my drift: A square show room with no roof – fine. A twelve studs deep show room with a celebrity center on the second floor – be my guest. A fully decked out workshop – absolutely. All of the above as a half-assed mishmash – not so much. I really feel there’s at least two separate sets to be had here and splicing them out would have allowed for much better execution of the theme.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Back View

As far as those interesting details I keep mentioning go, the signage (the wrench and spray can) is pretty cool and the sliding garage door is not half bad, either. If you adapt the concept using more mainstream colors this could possibly even look nice on the latest Corner Garage (10264) Modular Building. The corrugated panels in Light Aqua could be used for a small back alley shed, a garden house or even a large special purpose dumpster. Interestingly enough, this set also includes the 1 x 1 yellow Post it! tile, which oddly enough aside from the Old Fishing Store (21310) always only appears in the weirdest Friends sets. Go, figure!

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart A Left View LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart B Left View

This particular set comes with two karts – one matching the main color scheme for Emma and an alternative one for the male protagonist, Dean. As a side build there is a repair ramp that actually can be elevated and lowered with the turn of a knob. This boosts the play value notably, though it’s not really the set’s saving grace.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart A on Service Ramp

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart A with Service Ramp

Tying into the customization workshop theme there are a bunch of extra parts that you could swap out on your carts. In my personal opinion it’s kind of superfluous because why would you even want to do that? Given the smallness of the bits and bobs it would be hugely disruptive to the flow of whatever play scenario your kids are involved and ultimately parts would get lost in the long run – either the ones you rip off the kart or those on the bar. Somehow it doesn’t make much sense even though I’m happy to have those extra parts.

LEGO Friends, Creative Tuning Shop (41351), Kart Replacement Parts

Overall this set is quite a disappointment on its own merits. However, admittedly it did work for me as a parts source and no matter how shoddy the set is, I still learned a trick or two in building it. If you consider buying the complete kart racing series, perhaps this could and should be your lowest priority item. I’d always consider it the most dispensable as it really brings nothing to the table that couldn’t be had by buying other sets.

Drifting Diner (41349)

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Box

The Drifting Diner is easily the best model in the whole series. It’s not extraordinary or special in any way, but its generic nature plays to its strengths. It could just as well be a burger stand in your little non-Friends city and with a few modifications and color swaps would fit a lot of themes. Of course that applies to many of the restaurants/ diners we have seen over the years. The overall level of innovation to be found here is pretty low, but then again there’s only so many ways to skin a cat.

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Overview

The side builds are well intended, but not really in any way meaningful or essential. The video screen is more or less just a glorified bookend/ stand for a mobile phone, but without such a device at hand is pretty useless. Even if you put the sticker on the large grey slope the appeal is low. Perhaps it would have been better to build this as a billboard advertising the restaurant rather than – again – muddying the waters by mixing the idea of an open air cinema with that of the diner.

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Details LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Video Screen

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Kart with FlipperThe color scheme is based on Andrea, which is my least favorite of all the girls. In particular the extensive use of Magenta somehow always ruins these sets, as it’s a very “heavy” color that tends to overwhelm everything. Especially on a small build like the kart this stands out even more.

 

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Kart Left View LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Kart Aft View

The building follows the pattern of a ninety degree corner built on a 16 x 16 plate with the interior being therefore entirely open and accessible. The burger signage feels a bit too large for a model of this size. The front would have to be wider and taller to really accommodate this monster and ideally it would be offset from the roof by placing it on a protruding platform or some sort of truss at an angle. In fact I think one of the main reasons it feels so heavy is the perfectly perpendicular alignment. Perhaps then even the flags and decorative elements left and right would have made more sense?

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Exterior Left View

Inherently due to the support columns being built from inverted slopes you have to be careful during construction and the model will be rather unstable. Only when you insert the window panels and cover their edges withe plates will this stiffen up. The same could be said for the checkered wall made from 1 x 1 bricks. To say some delicate handling may be required somehow seems redundant.

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Exterior Right View

As usual, the interior is rather sparse and just hits all the stereotypical beat you’ve come to expect – a coffee machine, a grill/ stove and some seating. I really wish they’d make these buildings larger and outfitted them with genuine separate kitchen areas and full height walls. At least the kid’s seat based on a small car piece is something original this time around.

LEGO Friends, Drifting Diner (41349), Interior

One thing that bugged me about this set is its “noisyness”. The intense colors are quite distracting and get annoying after a while. I would have preferred some parts in more soothing colors like the Bright Light Orange roof bits being conventional Blue or Dark Blue. I also think that the White and Light Aqua parts on the columns could have been made more distinguishable by adding a separation line in a similar dark color.

Once more the original price of around 30 Euro seems unjustified, but you typically can get this set for around 20 Euro. I got mine for even less around 17 Euro, again strictly based on the idea that I would be using the parts for something else later. Whether that’s worth it to you is entirely your decision.

The Rest of the Lot

Finally let’s have a few words about The Big Race Day (41352) and the Spinning Brushes Car Wash (41350). When the series was new last year the former was put up in some places as a showcase model together with the service truck. I looked at it and decided that it would not be worth a second thought.

Having looked at the building instructions and marketing photos again for this article has reaffirmed this view. It simply feels too much like an add-on set that isn’t essential. The start tower is tiny and I don’t think anyone needs an arch for the finish line when you can simply draw it on with chalk, pencil or mark it with sticky tape.

The car wash is a set I might consider still buying yet if the price drops just a little more to what I would be willing to pay. This isn’t meant to say it’s particularly good or that I’d endorse it, but for my way of thinking it makes sense due to some parts it contains that are not that widely used elsewhere. Could make sense.

I got a chance to play with the set a bit when it was propped up in the play area of a toy store way back then. Unfortunately actually playing with it doesn’t work that well. As you may already have guessed, trying to get the kart through the washing mechanism without it getting jammed is pretty hit & miss. Even minor misalignment can block the toothed gear mechanism or get the vehicle stuck in the rotation brushes because the mechanism doesn’t move out of the way.

Conclusion

As I wrote in the introductory paragraph already, my biggest issue with this series is that it tries to be more than it can deliver. Many of the ideas behind it are barely fleshed out, others are only executed with a minimum of effort resulting in those huge differences in appearance and quality of the sets. Ironically some of them would be halfway decent if you took them out of the context of kart racing and just sold them as bog standard Friends fare sans the vehicles and extras. It’s this forcing them into this sub-theme that doesn’t work at all…

Empty Shop – Andrea’s Accessories Store (41344)

Due to my budget limitations I’m sometimes caught between fire and flood when it comes to my LEGO obsession. Higher end, expensive models are out of reach and on the other end of the spectrum after a while the lawn has been grazed, leaving little choices to explore. Add to that the lull between product cycles and it’s easy to make some stupid buying decisions that you regret later. Andreas Accessories Store (41344) is one of those.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Accessories Store (41344), Box

Naturally I entirely have to blame myself. I specifically asked my brother to pick up this set during his weekly grocery shopping in a big supermarket because after having had built the sets I got as Christmas presents all too quickly, I was just a bit bored and wanted something more. With little to choose from I opted for this set, as at least it contained some parts like the large window panels and arches that might be useful in future projects. It also contains a number of those sexy but rare 4 x 1 masonry bricks in Medium Dark Flesh, so I could at least be certain the parts weren’t a complete fail.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Accessories Store (41344), Overview

The contents by volume and parts count are okay. Since I was impatient and my brother picked it up in a physical store I paid full price (30 Euros), which is way too much, but if you pick it up for the 23 down to under 20 Euros it is being sold for currently, you could possibly justify a purchase despite the criticisms I’m about to lay out.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Accessories Store (41344), Extras

The build starts with some small extra parts – a sewing machine and a test fitting booth. The latter looks rather naff without the stickers for the mirror and glass part applied and while I will admit that it’s my own fault, perhaps it would have been better to choose a different construction and differently colored parts. A “mirror” could sufficiently have been hinted at using a colored 2 x 4 tile and the rounded booth wall could have been in a fancy color like Light Aqua like the base of the sewing machine or just White. The sewing machine is funny enough the wrong way round and would only work for southpaws, so are we to assume Andrea is a left-handed person?

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Accessories Store (41344), Front

The exterior is just another of those ever same facades that unfortunately have become so prevalent in the Friends universe. The proportions are actually okay and with its arched windows it could indeed be some sort of boutique inside some older historic building, it’s just nothing special. in fact the more I think about it, the more I wish they had made the upper section in crazy colors and with awnings so it would at least look like those apparel shops and cafés with a fake supposed Southern European feel they built into malls.

That also would eliminate the need for the rounded entry section, which is only held in place by that one 2 x 4 tile used for the door mat and naturally breaks off every time you handle the model. The same old sad gag of LEGO not counter-locking those pieced-together plates from underneath or building real foundations. Similarly the side walls and in turn also the main storefront feel a bit wobbly, because there is simply not enough that would stabilize them, with the parts having been built from those tall 6 x 1 x 2 bricks and similar instead of stacking regular 2 x 1 bricks with overlap. Overall this isn’t a very stable model and it requires careful handling.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Accessories Store (41344), Back

The biggest aggravation is the interior. Not only is it with only six studs deep way too shallow to genuinely stuff it with details, but to put it straight, it also simply doesn’t know what it wants to be.

The loudspeakers in the corners could hint at some fast fashion brand store for youths, but then the rest doesn’t add up. Similarly, it can’t convey the feeling of one of those extremely stylized and clean designer outlet shops. All the same, it doesn’t make sense as one of those rustic, stuffed-to-the-brim hand-crafted or second-hand clothing shops, despite the sewing machine possibly hinting at such a thing. It really feels weird and is neither here nor there.

Just as upsetting is the utter shortage of actual accessories. The re-colored Catwoman hair is a highlight, sure, and exclusive to this set (which is also the kick scooter vehicle, BTW) and there are some custom textile parts for the wings and the cloak piece, but that’s about it. They didn’t even manage to include the hair bow in the Dark Cyan color at least. In my opinion this should be overflowing with stuff and be full of either

  • a wide selection of minifigure hats similar to the Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359) or the Ninjago City (70620) hat shop
  • a good number of shoes – The feet of the mini dolls already have prints, don’t they? So what’s stopping them from producing some chopped-off ones to place on shelves?
  • a full selection of bags and baskets in different colors
  • jewelry and trinkets, including possibly re-colored versions of Elves pendants and other trinkets

You could of course mix and match each and any of these things and for good measure you can always throw in some of those “perfume” bottles built from transparent 1 x 1 bricks and cones, but in any case it would need to be a lot more. Point in case: Even I would struggle to scrape together all those pieces despite collecting Friends sets for a while and an average user simply shouldn’t have to put up with it just to enliven the shop.

Once again I can console myself in the fact that I always have a use for the parts, but unless you seriously have a need for the set-exclusive items e.g. to put that kick scooter in front of your Modular Building and also use the remaining parts for enhancing details, you may want to skip over this entirely. It’s just not good. Even the play value is questionable with so few things to work with and a somewhat fragile construction of the building. There are simply better sets to be had, especially now that the first wave of new 2019 sets is out…

Heart of Hearts – Friends Heart Boxes (41354 to 41359)

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Emmet's Piece Offering (30340), Front2019 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.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Box

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.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Gimmicks

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.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Overview

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…!

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Overview

 

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.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Overview

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.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Lids Undersides

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!

LEGO Friends, Heart Boxes (41354 to 41358 ), Packages

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.

LEGO Friends, Heart Boxes (41354 to 41359), 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…

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Heart Box (41357), Package Front LEGO Friends, Olivia's Heart Box (41357), Package Back

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.

LEGO Friends, Heart Boxes (41354 to 41358), Colors LEGO Friends, Heart Boxes (41354 to 41358), Stacked

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.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Heart Box (41357), Lid Topside LEGO Friends, Olivia's Heart Box (41357), Lid Underside

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.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Heart Box (41354), Flowers

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…