Steamrolling into Autumn – LEGO City Magazine, October 2022

Blue Ocean really caught me on the wrong foot. Just when I was ready to ditch the LEGO City magazine for good, they start bundling them up with interesting extras that I can’t resist. So here we are again with the October 2022 issue and a very positive surprise.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, Cover

First things first, though. The comic is what it is – it’s certainly the most interesting across al those magazines in terms of how the visual style has evolved, but the stories really are for the 5+ generation and the flat jokes and repetitions just don’t land with me.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, Comic

The safety and security transgressions in this issue alone would make any building site’s supervisor hair stand on end. I also don’t quite get why we still have to put up with American style hard hats in for a European magazine. It seems like LEGO really need to fix this and create a new mold. It just seems weird, especially when they appear in mass like here.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, Comic

The posters are okay and at least have a sense of visual clarity and communicating their intent, not just being lumped together excuses. The frontal lighting on the one with the steamroller is a bit odd, though. Like they shot it in a studio and not on a construction site.

LEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, PosterLEGO Magazine, City, October 2022, ExtraNow for the goodie, the steamroller itself in miniature form. I so friggin’ love it! When I saw it on last month’s preview page I had to giggle. This is just cool. It makes good use of the 3 x 3 cylinder piece that came out last year and even better, you get four of them without having to buy e.g. a Star Wars X-Wing or similar where they are used as part of jet engine exhausts or intakes. That alone is some decent value and overall the vehicle just looks cute and believable. If they had thrown in some of these discs to cover the ends it would have been perfect. I guess they just didn’t want to go through the trouble, as it would also have required 7L axles and some extra 2 x 2 plates to offset the side skirts holding them. Anyway, it’s still pretty good even without that. I just had so much fun crunching up some cookie crumbs on the coffee table! ­čÖé

Of course this edition wouldn’t be much without the extra and it’s the major selling point. If I as an old guy can have fun with it, then your kids can definitely have it, too. I seriously recommend this issue for that reason alone.

Noodles in the Flesh – LEGO Creator, Downtown Noodle Shop (31131)

I would love to deck out my flat with LEGO‘s Modular Buildings as much as the next guy, but sadly I have neither the money nor the storage space to keep them all around. Therefore I have to settle on smaller fish and make do with the building-themed sets in the Creator 3in1 range and other series, but even that is an exercise in itself for similar reasons. There’s just an over-abundance of options, yet models like the latest Sanctum Santorum (76218) are out of my class, either, due to their price. For now let’s have a look at the Downtown Noodle Shop (31131) therefore.┬á

LEGO Creator, Downtown Noodle Shop (31131), Box

Contents and Pricing

Unfortunately even these smaller buildings don’t come cheap and so you’d have to invest at least 40 Euro MSRP. That is before the price increase as since this very September 1st you have to add 5 Euro more on top. The irrationality of LEGO‘s greed is a discussion for another time, but of course it sucks having to pay even more. For now this is obfuscated by many retailers still selling it for the old price minus their usual discounts, but after the transitional phase this no doubt this wear off and prices rise, regardless, once consumers have been conditioned to just accept it.

In theory paying 40 Euro for 569 pieces isn’t half bad, but as you can already see in the overview image this number also is made up by many smaller elements that are good to have to detail and enliven the scenery, but do not contribute much to the bulk/ volume of the model. Even the walls are actually to a good extent just 1 x 1 bricks to build support columns and frame the windows. Realistically, you only have around two thirds of “substance” with the rest being decorations. Of course this is not an unusual ratio and on some level even good compared to e.g. some City sets. However, the lofty impression is furthered by the overall very open structure and no real big parts giving the package some “weight”.

LEGO Creator, Downtown Noodle Shop (31131), Overview

With that in mind, hunting for discounts can be really worthwhile. Typically you will be able to find this for around 34 Euro, representing 20 percent off. I got mine for 31 Euro and at some point an online retailer fired it out for 26 Euro. This really helps, especially if you buy multiple boxes to either build all three models from the instructions or simply create a bigger house.

The Figures

There are only two minifigures in this set, which is a little underwhelming, given the subject. You cannot even fill the little noodle stand completely, much less add some bustling activity in other areas. At the very least this should have had four figures and five would have been ideal. That way you could add a customer buying some Asian food, place a child near the bike buying some ice cream and so on. The minifigs themselves are just run-of-the-mill. You’ve seen the individual pieces used a million times and they get just remixed a bit like the lady having one of the new heads with the hearing aid printed on. In addition there’s a buildable dog, but as you well know I’d much prefer having a molded animal. After all, there’s enough different breeds available, it just seems LEGO are too hellbent on keeping Dachshund, French Bulldog et al exclusive to their Collectible Minifigures series and it takes so long for these to appear in mundane sets (usually as other color variants, no less).

The Bicycle

The bicycle, or more exactly tricycle frame is another variation on the small food cart as already seen e.g. in the Heartlake City Organic Caf├ę (41444). Looking back at this set the green wheels/ tires look just odd in conjunction with the white frame (they may have worked better if the frame was Lime Green or Bright Green), so I’m glad we get “ordinary” Black tires here. The ice cone is an interesting build, but feels too heavy and overall whoever would drive this bike would be very unsafe, given that he barely can see anything. ­čśë This would likely work better on a classic roof on four poles.

The Building

Important preface: For this article I’m going to focus exclusively on the primary model, the noodle shop. The alternate builds, a bicycle shop and a small arcade struck me as stylistically too similar and/ or too small to be worth going through the trouble of rebuilding the one set I had at hand into the other variants. I may consider buying another one of these when there’s another good discount and maybe then I can give those secondary models a whirl. Now on to the good stuff.

A trend that as someone who never can have enough colors at hand certainly views positively is the fact that someone at LEGO must have realized that skin tones are actually “real” colors and could be used for regular pieces and not just minifigure components as well. This change came about around two years ago when they started doing the LEGO ART packages and had to recolor all those 1 x 1 round plates and studs, anyway, and shortly after that they released the buildable “huge minifigures” Harry Potter & Hermione Granger (76393), containing more flesh-colored pieces for the hands and face. From there it probably took on a life of its own and simply became a standard thing. I’m pretty sure, though, that there was some heated debate on the matter internally, given how long they refused or had not considered producing parts in skin colors.

To get to a point: One of the things that attracted me to this set was the use of Light Flesh/ Light Nougat pieces. I just didn’t have any in my collection yet (yes, that price thing again preventing me from buying costly sets) and wanted to check out how it would look in person. To boot, there were some other interesting elements in useful colors like more Olive Green bricks, the Dark Red slopes and the flat “arch” slopes in Dark Green and Bright Green. At least my nerd genes would be stimulated and I could live out my obsession in that department.

The build overall is pretty straightforward, but also somewhat delicate. This is due to the building being very open to begin with and consisting of a lot of individual one brick thick walls that are not interconnected. This means everything is very wobbly and only stabilizes once you cap it off with the plates for the next floor or other transversal elements. Until you do so, things are prone to being pushed out of alignment again or snap off entirely. You have to have a tender touch to not apply too much force. In the end everything works out, but a little care goes a long way. The assembly order can also be a bit frustrating as it jumps across the model. It’s kind of structured in slices instead just finishing off one corner so you find yourself adding something to the noodle stand only to then be asked to add an Olive Green brick on the other side. Flipping a few pages ahead in the instructions every now and then can help to make this more efficient by doing multiple steps at once.

The default layout for this building is a sort of “cheat” square layout for a corner building. This is technically plausible with the main facade facing the main street and the noodle stand being tucked away into a branching side street or alley. However, this also exposes what perhaps is this sets biggest shortcoming: the lack of height. You never really believe (at least I do) that someone could live there above the shop and those rooms are at best a small business office for the snack bar’s owner. It’s also visually odd since in particular the right-hand side of the building with the stairs and the door has no thickness and doesn’t even pretend there would be something else. It’s like where there is the hollow in the back there should be the actual building and everything we see are just additions that were constructed later. Anyway, I think having a third floor would have helped hugely to avoid this impression and made things more functional and believable.

The small insert with the vending machine is only loosely attached with some pins and once removed you can play around with different configurations for the house. Because the model is built with hinges, you can just close it up. This would also be a good option for storing it since it prevents the interior from getting too dusty. In this closed state the kitchen sink under the stairs is at the back of the noodle shop and likewise, the second floor gets more logical as the previously unconnected door now acts as the entry to the living room. The big downside is of course that you cannot get inside and visibility of the interior is seriously restricted as well.

The second possible arrangement is simply forming a straight line. This looks nice, but all the same exposes the identical problem as the initial layout – the lack of depth. This really screams “Buy me a second set to extend the rear!”, a recurring theme with this package. In this configuration you would also have to adjust the width of the sidewalk for the building to be integrated into an existing neighborhood.

Since the building itself already is made up of mostly small elements despite a relatively high piece count, the interior isn’t hyper-detailed, either. Not that this would be too much of an issue, given that there isn’t much space, but you can somehow feel that the designers struggled and had to sacrifice one for the other to stay on budget. Not meaning to propagate stereotypes, but certainly a real noodle shop would be more cluttered and also have some more utilities. There isn’t even a fryer or a fridge anywhere in sight.

Incomplete as it may be, the living room on the second floor feels cosy. Similarly, the tiny hallway reminded me of those small British hotels – crammed and a bit stuffy, but always a table with fresh flowers near the window. The roof ladder/ emergency ladder also fits.

Concluding Thoughts

While overall this model is just fine and really captures that feeling of early 20th century American urban/ suburban buildings as you would find them e.g. in San Francisco or some areas of New York, the flaws/ shortcomings can’t be overlooked. They really show without looking for them even if you may not be able to exactly pinpoint what bothers you at first.

For one, the all too apparent lack of height by not having a third floor is felt immediately. As can be seen in the photos the building looks very square. Other buildings like the Townhouse Toy Store (31105) from two years ago were effectively not much larger, but never felt as vertically compressed. Arguably the balance just isn’t there in strict architectural terms. The second issue is the overall feeling of incompleteness. The building comes across as an half-finished skeleton of what it could have been. The many open spaces contribute to this feeling as does the lack of some “interior” when the building is at a 90 degree angle or perfectly straight. Certainly some inserts on the inside similar to the one with the vending machine would have made a huge difference.

All that being the case, the path to happiness most definitely is buying multiple packages of this set, but then it really becomes a question of whether this is still cost-effective. Buying two is certainly feasible, but adding a third already gets you dangerously close to the price of actual Modular Buildings or something like the big Sanctum Santorum (76218). Likewise, you could then find alternatives in other series and bash something together from multiple Friends sets or similar. In that regard one might even call this noodle shop a failure. If you get my drift: When it’s easier to cobble together a larger building from other sets, then the point of buying a dedicated set to that effect is defeated.

Unfortunately this set doesn’t quite know what it wants to be and the conditions when a purchase pays off will be very specific. Regardless whether you use it standalone or want to integrate it into your existing LEGO city you will have to put in some extra work to make it look nice. Therefore my view is that it would have been better had this been a slightly more expensive, but also more complete set in the 60 Euro range with at least some of the issues fixed. in fact even if they had just duplicated the second floor and given it a different interior this would have improved things a lot.

Explorer-ing… Monumental (?) Buildings – LEGO Explorer Magazine, July 2022

After a long six weeks the next issue of the LEGO Explorer magazine has arrived. The crooked release cycle is really driving me batty and not something I need in addition to Blue Ocean’s jumble for their magazines. It’s really getting confusing to keep track which magazine comes out when and spontaneous delays don’t help the matter, either. Anyway, on to the content of this mag.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Cover

This one is about “monuments”, architecture and building construction in the broadest sense, but of course you can’t expect too much depth on either here. The emphasis is on stuff that is available in some form as a LEGO set, anyway, so you’d be forgiven for seeing it as the shameless promotion that it is.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Info Page

I still like the comic for its clean colorful look, but the stories are getting weirder and you can see some flubs in the drawings where clearly the artist struggled to make it work.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Comic

In keeping with the overly promotional theme the poster depicts the model of the LEGO House in Billund, for which you’d actually have to go there to even be able to obtain the set, since it’s exclusive. More frustrating weirdness.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Poster

Aside from the usual small puzzles and quizzes there’s a simple board game which could be interesting for an afternoon if you throw a pile of LEGO pieces on the table and let your kids collect elements to build a house and master the small challenges.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2022, Game

The extra is a small excavator which feels a bit naff, to be honest. Nobody was expecting miracles, but this just looks a bit too out of proportion., especially on the driver/ operator’s cabin. What makes this even more incomprehensible is the fact that they actually emulate the steps to climb up and even the supports, but then did not use more parts for the cockpit. This most definitely should be at least on a 3 x 3 plate and have some bulk at its rear end for counter weight. Really not great.

All in all this is rather disappointing, considering that there have been many better editions of this magazine. Even if they had shortcomings, at least some part was always convincing, but I feel that this time they completely missed the mark.

Back to the Woods -LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679)

The supply chain and overall availability issues that affect so many products during the pandemic also persist for LEGO, so it still takes forever until you can get your hands on some products at all or they are more widely available at reasonable prices. That’s why the Forest House (41679) from the LEGO Friends series only now found its way into my home now, almost two months after its May release in these parts.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Box

Price and Contents

One of the reasons I did not rush to the store for this set on day one is of course the usual price consideration. With 326 pieces and a suggested price of 30 Euro the value of this set is not bad right out of the gate, but every bit of money saved helps, apparently. I got this for 23 Euro and would predict that eventually it will level off around the 20 Euro-ish mark.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Overview

No matter the price, as far as LEGO Friends sets go this is pretty good value. I certainly had a number of stinkers in my short time doing this, but you really can’t complain about this set. As you may already gather from the overview image you get quite a bit of bulk here. The tree house is sizable, there’s three minifigures and an animal plus an extra piece of river/ waterfall and a canoe. If every set for 20 Euro was that rich we’d live in a better world.

The Figures

The selection of the minidolls in this set is a bit odd, to be honest, given that Mia and Ava (the kid) were already in the Heartlake City Organic Caf├ę (41444) earlier this year. Even if this would count as a spare time activity vs. their professional occupation it seems strange how the girls jump from activity to activity without much logic and a consistent story behind it. If this was a movie, you’d complain about the plot holes, if you get my meaning.

An interesting observation also is that the khaki shorts Mia wears at the caf├ę would be much more adequate here. A bit of body swap surgery might not be a bad idea if you have both sets/ figures, respectively. Similarly, a different dress color for Ava would have been nice. On the bright side we are getting Sand Blue pants by ways of Ann, which could come in handy as jeans/ worker pants for the few male characters in Heartlake City. Oh, and anyone notice the all three-letter names, anyway?

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Figures

The figures are easily outdone by the single animal in this set, the raccoon. This is a new mold and for the time being can only be found in this set and the Forest Camper Van and Sailboat (41682) also associated with the forest excursion sub-theme. It’s just plain and simple cute and apparently also one of the motivations behind getting this set. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the inclusion of a second raccoon or a baby version of it, but I guess LEGO are going to wait with that to give us a reason to buy more sets next year. ­čśë

The Side Builds

There are two side builds, with one of them really being limited to plugging the round tile and the foot holder element into the canoe hull. The Magenta is a new color and expands the somewhat limited color options for this mold.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Canoe

The other extra is a piece of river put together from a bunch of simple plates and bricks. Though the wild water rapids are hinted at, it cannot accommodate the full length of the kayak, so it’s not that useful for this. It will work wonderfully as a place to put the raccoon, however, with him having a sip from the clear water or washing his food in it. This little island also features one of the pine trees created from the new Bright Green versions of some elements specifically produced for this series.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), River

The Tree House

The actual tree house isn’t really a forest tree house but rather a somewhat luxurious backyard tree house or lodge as you would build it in your garden. Most notably it includes several “luxury” extras such as the barbecue grill, the large couch and the gazebo-like structure that you likely would not have somewhere deep in the Alaskan woods or similar. Still, the overall design is not bad.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Front Right View

The frame construction also serves as a clever trick to provide extra stability to the whole model and prevent it from toppling over, something many “single pole” tree houses can be prone to if they get too top-heavy. Furthermore it also indirectly reinforces the connections of the plates used for the ground. In engineering terms, it’s more or less a box frame visually disguised. Clever as it may be there is one caveat here, though, as the build sequence isn’t always ideal.

One very critical thing is for instance the 2 x 4 brick used for the grill which according to the instructions will only be added rather near the end of the respective build for this exterior area. I would recommend you jump ahead a little and at least put the brick itself in place early to strengthen the connection of the plates underneath or else you may struggle with the green 6 x 6 round corner plate coming off again and again like it happened to me a number of times. Not a big issue, but one that could have been avoided by shuffling a few construction steps around.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Front Left View

The back of the model and thus the interior of the house loses a bit of fancy compared to the front. I’m not complaining about the shallow depth at only four studs – that was to be expected in this price range – but personally I’m missing at least one cool detail. For all intents and purposes it is very mundane and ordinary. Simple things as an (emergency) gasoline lamp hanging from the wall or a candle might have already enlivened it and then their could be all kinds of outdoor equipment like a butterfly net, a fishing rod and so on as well.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Back Left View

One thing I was pleased with is that the model uses “sensible” elements that are reusable well enough for my own projects. By that I mean that the designers have actually opted to give us as much to build as possible and foregone using those awful elongated 1 x 2 x 5 bricks and similar that you find in so many Friends sets. Instead indeed we have a good number of traditional 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 bricks to build real walls.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Back Right View

This trend is also visible elsewhere with the arch elements being properly embedded in the walls, the number of big “shell” elements to shape the roundness of the tree trunk to an acceptable minimum and some smaller plates and tiles being pieced together to add some texture as opposed to using larger, more monolithic parts. I even like that they used colored windows to make it less monotone. It would just have been preferable if the window frames were Dark Green or something like that.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Detail Grapes

The greenery stuff is adequate, but could be a bit more dense in my opinion. This again hearkens back to this being more of a somewhat luxurious holiday cabin rather than an actual tree house where presumably you’d have quite some thicket coverage after not having been there for a while. that also makes the blue grapes look a bit out of place even if you interpret this as being bramble vines winding around the wood frame.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Detail Toilet

The tree trunk contains a small toilet, which is a little gag, but really not much more. Would people even go out of their way to build such a room or wouldn’t your camping loo or a separate outhouse make more sense? Again this space could probably have been used for storing some utilities just as well. The attic and roof are serviceable, but a bit barren. There’s a single grey tile on the outside on which you are supposed to put a solar panel sticker, but not even a matching light on the inside or a small radio which would certainly have made more sense than a perfume flask. It’s not really logical/ plausible and can only be explained away with the usual “It’s for kids, after all!”.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Detail Attic

For the exterior of the roof it would have been nice if they included some 1 x 4 and 1 x 3 tiles with wood prints to make it look a bit more rugged and improvised as if it had been bashed together from used wood boards originally belonging to something else like a transport palette. just two or three of those on either side would have greatly helped to further this impression.

Parts a Plenty

On the subject of new, recolored and printed parts this set is a well of joy. Some of them are very visible in the photos and should require no further explanation. I also already mentioned the canoe and the parts for the pine trees:

The other parts are a little less visible because they are used on the tree trunk:

Personally I was once more stumped that the 2 x 2 Macaroni never had been done in this color in all those years. Goes to show that there is still room to surprise even for legacy elements. There’s also the┬á Tile 1 x 3 in Bright Green, an item you likewise would think has existed in this color for forever already, but no, it’s pretty fresh in this color, though not exclusive and not limited to this set.

Concluding Thoughts

This is by all means a nice model and even in my world as a very critical reviewer this would score an 8.5 out of 10 at least, give or take a few minor niggles. There is very little to complain about. The set is full of new useful pieces and color variants, it is very affordable and to top it off comes with a completely new animal. This is basically the kind of set that just by buying it once will give you ideas on what you want to do with the bits from it and it gives a major boost to your parts stock. Could some things have been better? Sure, but for around 20 Euro you can’t really argue.

This is one of those little gems that regrettably have gotten so rare in the LEGO world. Where other (Friends) sets feel they are merely created to deplete overflow part supply or sell expensive extras like animals at ridiculous prices, this one gives the impression that some thought and love was poured into it to make it well-balanced and worth your money. I can highly recommend this set as it hits all the right notes from being very playable and robust to just looking nice.

Not a Movie worth watching – LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448)

In my old life before my chronic illness struck I considered myself quite a bit of a film buff and would regularly go to the cinema, buy stacks of DVDs, write reviews of films I liked on my old blog and even attended official press screenings for yet to be released movies every now and then to write professional essays for some media outlets. These days the situation is a bit different for a multitude of reasons, but I still like to obsess about certain movies as much as I can. All the same, that’s why the idea of a LEGO cinema set appealed to me and I was pleased when the Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448) was announced late last year. Now that I finally have it, let’s see what it has to offer.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Box

Price and Contents

I had my eyes on this set from the day it was announced, but never had a real excuse to buy it. I thought the idea was cool and I wanted some of the parts in this set, anyway, yet it never became an urgent matter because otherwise the shortcomings this set would have were all too obvious. Even on the official promotional photos this does not look like you are getting a lot of volume for your money and the idea of using a smartphone as a screen was once more extremely off-putting, because it negatively influenced some of the design decisions that went into this set.

It’s that old thing of LEGO expecting six-year-olds to spend all day with a mobile device and integrating it in their models. True, kids do have access to these things and on the train and elsewhere I see parents letting their kids watch animated series on phones to distract them and soothe them all the time, but it’s not like you would want your pre-schooler spend their entire time doing that unsupervised while playing in their room. I have no kids, but having grown up in a different age and not being one to always chase the latest tech and social media trends I’m pretty much opposed to LEGO bastardizing their products in such a manner.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Overview

The set officially has 451 pieces, which sounds a lot, but at the end of the day it really isn’t. There are many rather large pieces like the rounded shells or the round canopy bricks, but also a lot of small pieces like the 1 x 1 quarter tiles or the Trans Yellow 1 x 1 studs for the marquee lights. In fact there is not that many regular pieces like 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 bricks, so right from the get-go you feel like there is not a lot of bulk. Given that, the original price of 50 Euro seems way, way too much. To me this indeed feels like it should always have not cost more than 35 Euro. Anything above that is a stretch.

Because of the inadequate pricing I leaned back and bide my time until some decent discount would come along. That happened very recently on Amazon Germany. They apparently really wanted to clear up space in their warehouse and wanted to get rid of some stock, so they fired this out in some sort of reverse auction scheme, i.e. one where prices are dropping continuously until the lowest bidder buys a product or the supply runs out. You could literally watch how this set dropped from its already discounted 37 Euro every day. I chickened out after four days and bought it for 28 Euro, representing something like a 45 % discount, but indeed I could have waited two days more and got it for 25 Euro, pretty much an exact 50 % off. Funny enough this pattern was repeating just this weekend on Amazon France.

For this low price the set is still not great, but it became acceptable and for me personally of course this brought it within the range where buying the individual parts on Bricklink would have been just as expensive.

The Figures

The number of figures is way too low for this type of set with only three being in the box. You know, while the promotional materials show the glitz and glamour of a red carpet premiere, in actuality this would be more like a poorly attended matinee. In addition to Andrea who can either be interpreted as a fan chasing for autographs or the organizer of the event, depending on how you feel about that, we only get Amelia in her Dark Turquoise evening gown as a genuine guest of honor.

The only guy in the room, Julian, is apparently one of them poor students who serve multiple functions at once in real cinemas, be that an usher, a cleaning maid, a snacks & drinks seller and whatever else needs to be taken care of. At least they gave him a decent uniform, old-fashioned as it may be. the practical value of the figures is limited, but you can at least some components for a bit of mix & match if you have other Friends or Disney Princess minidolls. It works of course just the same in reverse. The cyan dress would look nice for a ball at Elsa‘s palace or something like that. Other than that the only real highlight is the guy’s hair, which is a recolor of the Superman hair and so far is in fact only available via Friends sets (this one and the Heartlake City School (41682)) in the Medium Nougat color.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Figures

The Building

As you may have gathered already from my first few paragraphs I’m not particularly crazy about this set due to what I consider some serious design flaws. these become most apparent when viewing the assembled model from the top. The front section with the entry lobby and the signage looks actually okay and pretty massive, but the main screening room comes across as if it was merely plugged on as an afterthought.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Top View

The front facade is clearly based on classic 1950s/ 1960s American cinema designs as you probably still can find them in many small towns across the country even today, assuming they haven’t been replaced by a large multiplex. That’s a neat touch and the use of Light Aqua is a nice touch, not just because it’s one of my favorite LEGO colors. It’s subtle and classy enough that a restored old cinema could be painted in this shade without looking too crazy.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Front Right View

The front is divided into three distinct sections, with the box office/ ticket booth being on the right of the building, a central entry section with dual doors and a small “celebrity photo stage” on the left side. While visually it looks nice enough, I got miffed here for the first time. the small protrusions in the middle and the fenced-off pedestal are only attached by a handful of studs and fall off as soon as you move the model. This is for all intents and purposes just bad engineering. Such things are barely tolerable for collectible models for adults and shouldn’t even have been approved for a set aimed at children.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Front Left View

You would be correct in guessing that many of those large areas are supposed to be covered with stickers, but as you know I never use any of those. This also goes for the marquee area. Personally I don’t mind, but it’s not much of a stretch to conclude that at least some parts should be printed. Either that or they could and should have included a solution where some posters or marquee text could be dynamically substituted by stickers applied to flag/ tapestry elements, a technique used extensively for instance in the big Ninjago City (70620) set.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Front View

The back side or interior by comparison looks extremely simple and barren. The lack of actual walls on the side is one thing that contributes to this feeling, but not using the space on the top and housing in the film projector are too blame just as well. that and of course the absence of am actual screen box/ stage and only some flimsy Technic liftarms serving as the holders for a smartphone.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Back Left View

I’ve already criticized this, and it becomes even more upsetting the more you look at it. It’s not like they didn’t have options here – a slide frame into which to place some printed cardboard screens with famous film scenes recreated in LEGO style sure wouldn’t have been too much to ask and could by itself have added quite a bit of coolness. If the graphics were done right, people might even have hung them up as posters or used them as postcards and LEGO could have made a quick buck on selling extra packs…

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Back Right View

Another thing that bothered me massively is the overall fragile construction due to the hinge mechanism. It’s not done very well with only two hinges on either side and, which is the real problem here those hinges barely being locked in by other bricks. As a result the model is prone to warping when opening the sides to the point where you can literally just break things apart by applying too much force and Archimedes‘ law of the levers taking effect. I found myself pressing stuff back in place way too much for my taste.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Open Wings

The details intended for play scenarios are sufficient, but not great. There’s simply not much to do and for instance the box office/ snack bar has far too few items. Even just adding a few ice cones would have gone a long way, not to speak of things like a popcorn machine, chocolate bars and so on.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Detail Box Office

The bathroom is also devoid of details. Don’t mind the toilet being placed so oddly, that’s entirely my own mistake. Anyway, they’re not using this space very efficiently, as most of the curved space remains open.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Detail Bathroom

Once you study the details and put your mind to it you also realize that LEGO have been playing it cheap and not recolored elements specifically for this set. Having all arches in Light Aqua as well would have made things a bit more harmonious at least.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Detail Screening Room

Concluding Thoughts

This is by no means a good set by any measure. The idea is actually great, but the execution suffers from that nonsensical mobile device integration at every turn. Unfortunately it’s also not as simple as saying “Buy a second set and create a better model.” because many things would need major restructuring and you still need to dig into your own parts supply. It’s really regrettable, as this could have been something really great, but LEGO completely squandered the opportunity.

I can hardly justify buying it for the massive discount I got it for and would definitely not at all recommend it at full price. This is once more a case of where the math worked out for me because I wanted the pieces, but this wasn’t much fun building, it’s not much fun to look at and quite likely it wouldn’t be much fun to play with, either. Your money is definitely spent better on other sets.

You’re not welcome? – LEGO Friends, Andrea’s Family House (41449)

Despite the general shortages in LEGO supply, sooner than I had anticipated an opportunity opened up to get Andrea’s Family House (41449). Yes, it was one of those unpredictable late Friday evening Amazon discounts that spontaneously made me make a purchase, but who’s complaining? I’ll take whatever I can under these circumstances.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Box

Price and Contents

I snatched up this set for around 52 Euro, which equates to a 25 percent discount. If things ever get a bit more normal I would expect it to go below the 50 Euro threshold, but not by much, given that it’s actually a pretty large set with enough meat on its bones to warrant its price. The suggested retail price of 70 Euro is perhaps stretching it a bit, but in this particular case I think anything below 60 Euro is actually more than reasonably fair.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Overview

You get around 800 pieces, many of them large ones, and five minidolls, some of which are also pretty good. More importantly, however, you have to figure in that this set is a treasure trove of uniquely new or recolored parts, some of which could be ample justification alone to get this set – assuming of course you have a liking for the colors and/ or a specific use case. So without further ado, lets have a look at them.

New Pieces Galore

It is clearly going to be the year of Dark Cyan for LEGO with many sets featuring the color prominently or more to the point new or existing elements as recolored items. This set is no exception with several items being included in this color for the first time. Most notably of those is funny enough the most trivial one – the 1 x 1 round brick. It still surprises me that this simple, versatile element still does not exist in every LEGO color out there (Light Aqua, anyone?). It should be a no-brainer to produce at least some test batches and sprinkle them in in sets, be it just as structural elements in invisible positions.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Parts

Another thing that LEGO seem to go a bit crazy about recently is their iridescent coatings introduced last year, so there’s a number of elements featuring this optical trickery here as well. From this crowd the Trans Dark Pink dome pieces stand out that indeed look like pink pearls. However, most people will likely be more drooling over the Satin Trans Black 2 x 2 window glass parts. So far those have only been found in the Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse Buildable Characters (43179) where they are used as film frames, quite successfully mimicking this shimmery color shift effect that actual chemical film indeed has when held at different angles against the light.

In addition to those items there is a number of others. Again the most important one will be the curved windows, a completely new mold for 2021. In the past these kinds of bay windows were occasionally emulated using old train window parts. This didn’t necessarily look bad, but was still often unsatisfying. So now that they are here at last it really becomes a question of “What took you so long, LEGO?” In the interest of making it easier to follow, here’s a short, incomplete list for you:

The above parts are further complemented by some more recolors in Magenta and Light Aqua, which are nice to have, but nowhere near as important or exciting. Would you really have been lost without a 10 x 6 plate in Magenta? I don’t think so, either. There would have been enough alternatives to piece things together or use a substitute in another color. Where things like those damned elongated 1 x 2 x 3 bricks and similar are included, I find myself wishing they’d just settle on the old way of doing things by stacking up conventional 1 x 2 x 1 bricks, anyway. I get that they are doing it for simplification (this is, after all, aimed at kids of a certain age), but this is one of those things where LEGO just doesn’t feel like LEGO to me.

The Figures

As mentioned further above, this set comes with five minidoll figures, which sadly enough qualifies as a rare event in the LEGO Friends world these days. That they are actually good to a level that even satisfies me is even rarer, so it’s definitely worth noting. Even if that weren’t the case, there is yet one more significant point about this: It’s the first time we ever actually get to see Andrea‘s family. That includes her younger sister Liz, her father (Or much older step brother?) Martin and her mother Donna.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Figures

The latter is easily my favorite of the lot and reminds me of Michelle Obama or a young Oprah. Even without those references she simply looks nice in her Yellowish Green dress which against the darker skin really pops. The same applies to LizBright Light Yellow dress as well, of course. As already noted, Martin leaves a bit of room for interpretation, since he’s somewhat too young-looking and too perfect for a dad fitting Andrea‘s age. It’s not as bad a fail as Marcel in the Heartlake Organic Caf├ę (41444), but still noticeable. Perhaps they really need to sit down and develop different head shapes to better accommodate older males.

Stephanie also stopped by, though she isn’t really worth mentioning, being that her figure doesn’t offer anything fresh or new and she’s just wearing one of her usual “Sporty Spice” outfits.

Sticker Overload

Before we move on to the actual build, one more thing. This set is without a doubt the one with the most stickers I’ve ever come across in the Friends universe. That’s why I had to include this in my review. The number and size of these stickers is insane and only outdone by bigger true premium sets like the Harry Potter Diagon Alley (75978) or various recent LEGO Technic┬ásets plastered with renditions of sponsor signage and cheat elements like printed-on headlights.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Stickers

My point here specifically is that this is a set for kids and you can’t simplify the build with large panels on one hand while expecting them to apply large stickers correctly. This doesn’t compute in my tiny little brain even if I work up the understanding for the rationale behind this. Yes, stickers are cheaper and there’s a whole lot of other reasons, but when you have them to use to this extend, I feel something is wrong. In a funny way this in fact harks back to my point with the parts earlier on – LEGO should be about trying to build as many details as possible, not faking them.

On that note: I unfortunately ended up with the older versions of the few printed pieces in this set, so I have a “milk” brick that still has the cow, not the more neutral newer version that also appeases vegans and the same goes for the letter in the mailbox. No big deal, it just would have been nice to get the modernized examples.

The Pool

As usual, somehow LEGO can’t seem to go without those weird side builds that ultimately often are mostly useless and so this set has its own heart-shaped kids pool. Due to its super-simplified construction it’s neither here nor there, as they say, though. For a toddler basin it’s just not cute enough and for a deeper pool it at least would have had to have a second row of bricks to make it taller. This is, for all intents and purposes simply a forgettable non-effort on the designers’ part.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Pool

The House

The main component is of course the house, which is actually quite a sizable villa as it’s indeed built on a full 32 studs wide and 16 studs deep array of plates. For Friends buildings, which usually tend to be a lot narrower and more shallow that’s really not bad, even more so since the space is used quite efficiently with lots of stuff being built onto the available surface area. Not exactly on the same level of Modular Buildings, but not bad, no matter what.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), House, Front Right View

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), House, Front Left View

The building is divided into three (or four if you want to be super exact) visually distinct segments spread across two floors with the big garage and the tower-like rounded window front dominating and to some degree making the middle section appear narrower and less prominent. The top floor is then further divided into two separate modules, each containing two rooms, that can easily be removed to provide easier access to the facilities on the ground floor for play and exploration.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Modules, Front View  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Modules, Back View

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), House, Back Left View  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), House, Back Right View

On the right hand-side of the building there is a small overhang with a balcony/ roof terrace on top and some space underneath, which in summer you would probably use to put up a table and some chairs for barbecue. Otherwise it is perhaps a bit underused in this set, as clearly they could have put some details in there like a swing hanging from the ceiling or at least a little bench. Might also have been a good idea to put some bicycles there or a lawnmower. as it is there’s only the vines to talk about, which have some blue grapes even similar to the Heartlake City Restaurant (41379).

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Front Right View

The garage likewise feels a bit empty and underutilized despite the musical instruments being stored there and a tiny washing machine/ dry tumbler having been placed at the rear end. Something is simply missing and including at least a small scooter or something like that might have enlivened the scenery.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Front View of open Garage  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Back View of open Garage

The central doorway directly takes you into the kitchen area, which at least from my point of view is pretty unusual. Living areas tend to be structured differently here, with most people preferring to separate their functional rooms from the hallway. The kitchen also exposes the one big problem I have with this set as a whole to a T: The ugly, dark colors abound here with Dark Purple stool legs, Dark Turquoise table base and the surrounding Magenta from the walls and chairs’ backrests.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Front Left View

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Back Left View

On their own, each of the colors are okay when used in moderation, but I feel that for this model the designers went a bit nuts. Since they are very strong, dominant and contrast-y color, they are fighting for the spotlight and it makes the whole model unnecessarily noisy. This is then even further escalated once you add the Dark Blue for the roof into the mix. At least I have a mild psychological reaction to all of this and it feels kind of unfriendly, uninviting or even a bit depressing to me. At least one of the colors could easily have been eliminated (the Dark Purple, pretty obviously) and the others dialed down massively. There isn’t even a reason why the two arches used under the table would need to be in the teal color.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Ground Floor, Back View of open Kitchen Area

The other thing about this is the simple question of “Where’s Andrea’s Yellow?”. Bar the bed covers, the pool’s edge and the hairbrush it is nowhere to be seen except for the flowers (and some of the stickers which I didn’t use). It would have made things a whole lot friendlier if it had been used e.g. on the Window blinds on the first floor instead of the Magenta or some of the decorative striping. Then they could have used the flower elements in nice Bright Light Pink without losing anything. Or perhaps even adding a tree or hedge? So many options!

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Front Right View  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Back Right View

The rooms on the upper level feel a bit more balanced in terms of colors, though their use is kind of hampered by the large panel-based walls inbetween. I would have preferred if the living room was just as large an open space as the kitchen below it. The bathroom is acceptable, but perhaps not really necessary. The same could be said about the nursery/ sleeping room with the bunk bed. Both rooms feel rather lackluster compared to other, more richly detailed things. and yes, there’s of course the balcony/ terrace which is just as empty. It’s like they either didn’t have any more budget left to at least add a sun chair or they were really ignoring it.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Front Left View  LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Back Left View LEGO Friends, Andrea's Family House (41449), Top Floor, Back View of Bathroom

Concluding Thoughts

Despite the weaknesses I pointed out and my criticisms that is actually a pretty nice set. Light Aqua is one of my favorite LEGO colors, anyway, and this set delivers plenty of elements in this color fur future creative uses. The same can basically be said for the Dark Turquoise/ Dark Cyan elements as well, though to a slightly lesser extent. And well, then there’s the obvious point: The new curved window elements and the tinted dark glass inserts for the regular small windows alone could make this desirable if you’re into building houses. That is, of course, until LEGO lump them into every set in more colors and they cease to be something special.

The sticky point ultimately is, that some things feels like they stopped at the 90% mark and the model could have used some more refinement. The many empty areas are kind of baffling and could have easily been populated with some small details and no matter what, I still would have loved to see a more educated, more balanced use of color. Something simply feels off. And then there’s this sticker excess, too… Suffice it to see that this set could likely have been my personal “best ever LEGO Friends set”, but due to its shortcomings and quirks falls just shy of that. I would still recommend it, but with this experience in mind would do some things differently, were I to build it a second time.

Medium Azure Joy – Toy Shop Town House (31105)

At the beginning of my LEGO career only a few years ago I was deeply entrenched in Technic and didn’t care much for the traditional System based sets. Only when things took a turn for the worse and the Technic models began to get less interesting did I expand my horizon and it was at that time that with much regret I realized what I had missed out on.

In particular the buildings in the Creator 3in1 series (Bike Shop & Caf├ę [31026], Toy & Grocery Shop [31036], Corner Deli [31050] and Park Street Town House [31065]) piqued my interest and only through sheer luck was I able to pick up the last item during a clearance sale way back then. The others are still on my dream wishlist, but since prices have exploded for those sets, it will likely remain an an affordable pipe dream.

All that being the case, and finally getting near a point, I’m of course extremely happy that LEGO decided to pick up where they left off and include buildings again in the 3in1 series that had been missing so noticeably. Last year’s Pet Shop & Caf├ę (31097) perhaps wasn’t the greatest example, but the new Toy Shop Town House (31105) is pretty excellent.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Box

I’m not revealing any secrets by pointing out the brilliance of this little set, as it is actually quite apparent just by looking at the box art. It has exactly that lovely vibe that made the older sets so endearing and desirable. It’s oozing with charme, one could say. in addition to the main building the set comes with a little side build in the form of a kids’ rocket ride and two minifigures.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Overview

The figures are pretty much standard and represent a kid and a female toy store employee. Notice how I made a mess by not plugging in the kid’s legs tightly enough. The employee is interesting in that it uses the relatively rare yellow torso with the LEGO logo artwork on the back. Such figures are often only included in limited promotional sets, but even then not always, so if you ever wanted to build a genuine LEGO branded store as a model here’s your chance to get matching outfits for your mini people in a relatively straightforward and cost-efficient way that doesn’t involve buying overpriced collector’s items on Bricklink.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Minifigures, Front View LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Minifigures, Backside View

The rocket ride no doubt represents a reminiscence to the quite similar and only slightly larger Space Rocket Ride (40335) that was available as a Gift with Purchase (GWP) promotional item some time last year. Its rocking function even works thanks to a small crank mechanism. The only issue with it is that the model has no actual provision for nicely fixing it in place somewhere owing to the building being to small to permanently put it inside and at the same time the pavement not being fully extended. If you are thinking of integrating the building into your existing town you may have to create your own solution to that admittedly small problem.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Rocket Ride, Left View LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Rocket Ride, Right View

The main building itself just looks nice from pretty much every angle. this being a corner building with consistently butted-off side walls could indicate that the next building in this series might be one to go left and right of this to form an actual street layout.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Front Left View

Of particular note is of course the second floor due to its use of the Medium Azure color. This especially means that a few of the elements like for instance the 2×2 round brick become available in this color for the first time ever, which is always a bonus. It’s funny, though, that an element that basically existed since the dawn of LEGO time never was never produced in a specific color in 40 or so years.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Front Right View

In addition to the Medium Azure pieces the other interesting new entry in the parts department are the 3×3 windows in Tan. I still haven’t gotten around to starting my project with the Dark Purple versions from the Harry Potter Knight Bus set (75957), but it’s good to see that this wasn’t just a one-off and the part is proliferating across the portfolio in colors that will be more palatable to most users.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Back Right View

Other than that the build uses pretty much only standard parts as is typical for most Creator 3in1 sets. That being the case, the one thing I’m not happy with is the buildable bird. I know it’s tradition in the series, but in this case I really feel that for reasons of scale and overall cuteness this set would have benefited from the inclusion of a few of the small bird minifigure add-on. The model just screams to me that there should be a bunch of sparrows perched on the edges of the roof, before the main door and even on the balcony. doing the little birdy in a color like Medium Nougat or Dark Orange would then have provided even more incentive and made this super awesome.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Back Left View

While it’s not an actual Modular Building, of course the set borrows a bunch of building techniques and overall takes a similar approach. This is not only sensible in terms of building things step by step without having to worry too much about handling large chunks at once, but it also is the only way to be able to fully access the interior, especially on the ground floor.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Modules

Said bottom level features the eponymous toy shop from which the set derives its name and its stuffed wit ha few mini builds of assembled models and also comes with a number of printed tiles representing LEGO set packages. If it were up to me, they could have included even more of those to plaster the entire wall and give the impression of a seriously crammed, but cosy small toy shop like they still exist in many smaller cities.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Module, Ground Floor

The second floor contains a small bedroom and while it doesn’t introduce anything revolutionary, it benefits from the Medium Azure color and the small bay. One can almost see oneself snuggling up in the bed while looking out of the bay windows on a day with perhaps not such great weather.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Module, Second Floor

All things considered, this is an almost perfect set. There are a few minor structural issues that can be annoying during the build (that old thing of some walls being flimsy until you shim them over with plates at the top for instance), but it never gets in the way of your enjoyment. Many people seem to feel similarly and there’s already lots of larger builds based on two or more instances of this set. I’m eventually planning to do the same and might build something matching the size of a genuine Modular Building.

On that note of course we have to talk price. While I have no objections over the original 50 Euro retail price given the merits and quality of the set, by sheer volume it still doesn’t feel justified. After all, the building is still pretty tiny. Therefore to me the average 40 to 35 Euro street price feels a lot more realistic, even more so if you plan on buying more than one of these boxes. You can’t defeat the arithmetic and in a bad scenario this would then be more expensive than a genuine Modular Building while still having less pieces. It definitely won’t hurt to keep an eye out for sales and promotions…

Last Room with no View – Emma’s Room (41342)

With the other rooms already being part of my collection there was only one left and it didn’t take long until I got my hands on Emma’s Room (41342) as well.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Room (41342), Box

Bought from the same drugstore chain I got it two Euros cheaper just like Olivia’s Room, but of course you can get it for an even lower price of around 10 Euros in most online stores, so it could be a perfect option for padding out your purchase to be entitled for free shipping when you buy something else.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Room (41342), Overview

Of the five room-themed mini sets this is in my view easily the best. There’s several reasons for this. The most apparent is that for once it feels like an actual room. The four-poster bed with its hinted-at canopy overall occupying a good chunk of the room provides a nice framing that almost makes you forget there’s no genuine second wall. This also makes the room feel crammed, but in the positive, “homely cave” sense. The only shortcoming is that the bed’s dressing is perhaps a bit too simple. This would have been the perfect opportunity to build it from rounded slopes like in so many other sets just to make it look like one of those high box-spring mattresses.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Room (41342), Front

The second reason why I think this set is nice are the many cutesy details. The old-style dial phone made me giggle right away. The little bed chest is also lovely and can actually be opened to throw in some stuff. As someone who occasionally still dabbles in the traditional arts I don’t quite agree on the drawing table, as you wouldn’t necessarily use it for paintings in this manner. To me it would have made more sense as a drafting/ sketching table with a pencil and a ruler instead of some paint jars and a brush. At the very least they could have included the scissors as an element instead of printing it on the sticker (which of course I never use, so you have to check other photos than mine to verify it).

LEGO Friends, Emma's Room (41342), Sculpture

The separate external details consist of a bust on a workbench and a kitty play area. The sculpture again doesn’t really make sense from an artist’s point of view. Is it supposed to be a clay model or a marble statue being chiselled out of a block? The details could indicate both, but for a clay model you don’t use a hammer and you can’t add back lumps of clay onto a marble/ sandstone/ concrete torso. It’s inconsistent. Also in both cases there would be a bucket of water nearby to either keep the clay moist or wash of dust and cool down tools. That is to say I appreciate the good intentions, but the details are perhaps a bit wrong. ­čśë Of course this won’t be much of a concern to kids and I’m being nitpicky, so I guess it’s okay, after all.

LEGO Friends, Emma's Room (41342), Kitty

Finally, and that’s my third point for liking this set quite well, the elements themselves are very reusable. While there’s still a bit of the typical Friends vibe with some Dark Purple and Lavender, these colors tend to be much less annoying than e.g. Magenta or Bright Pink┬áand have much greater potential for integrating them in “normal” sets. There’s also the White and Tan parts that fit a lot of use cases. The only part that really stands out is the Pink 4 x 4 plate used as the blanket on the bed.

Overall this is a lovely set – within the restrictions and limitations of any Friends set of course. It’s pleasant to look at, offers some good play value and will provide some useful parts to be used elsewhere if you so desire. It doesn’t save the series as a whole, but perhaps this set together with Andrea’s and Olivia’s Room can provide a good basis to build something that halfway works for you.

For me personally it also reinforced the desire that LEGO would actually do a big “Emma’s Art Studio”┬áor something like that one of these days instead of always only doing bits and bobs reflecting Emma‘s artistic inclinations scattered across many smaller sets. Compared to the other girls’ activities this would be a total no-brainer and you could fill even a big house to the brim with all sorts of arts and crafts.


More Rooms with no View – 41328 and 41329 – Stephanie’s and Olivia’s Room

Buying stuff that is part of a series always triggers this weird “completist” urge in me, so ultimately I became a victim of my own OCD when I snatched up Mia’s and Andrea’s Room in that grocery store promo sale. I just had to get the other ones as well and that opportunity came when I was once again out and about for one of my many regular medical appointments.

LEGO Friends, Stephanie's Room (41328), Box

First, there’s Stephanie’s Room. She’s the sporty one, which in the set is visualized by a golden trophy and a mini golf field, the latter of which is complemented by a hockey (!) stick. This ultimately makes absolutely no sense in any way.

LEGO Friends, Stephanie's Room (41328), Overview

The failure here is the golf lawn being way too small to count as anything other than one of the carpet golf things that a kid may have in his nursery. Here it doesn’t add anything beyond getting frustrated about the missed opportunities that might have been. Yes, I clearly think there’s a simple idea here that would have made this an awesome play set if only they had implemented it.

LEGO Friends, Stephanie's Room (41328), Closed Position

For all intents and purposes, the golf course, which can be swung open, BTW, could and should have been at least a full 8 x 16 plate and should have come with some extra parts to build a ramp or sloped terrain with a hole on top with everything faired over with smooth tiles. Then throw in a little marble or “ball” and you have yourself a nice little 5-minute desktop put-put challenge actually trying to snip the ball in the hole with your fingers or the hockey stick. With a few extra parts thrown in it could even have been a reconfigurable course for more challenges. That would have made a nice distraction on a boring day at the office and might perhaps have led to some interesting competitions with colleagues during lunch break.

LEGO Friends, Stephanie's Room (41328), Open Position

Since we never got any of this, the set as it is being sold is as bland as it gets. It’s in fact even worse than Mia’s Room and offers nothing to play with nor any interesting details. most definitely stay away from this set or you’ll have to put up with a cranky kid that’s bored out of its skull – except perhaps for playing with the little doggy, but even this one and the dog house have been done to death in the LEGO Friends magazine, leaving nothing new to explore.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Room (41329), Box

I got Olivia’s Room with a bit of discount, though I was totally unaware of this when I bought it. Only when I came back home and checked on the computer did I notice that I had saved two Euros from its suggested retail price of 15 Euros, so that put a smile on my face. You can get it even cheaper from online stores, though, if you don’t fall for it spontaneously like I did. Compared to the other sets this is much, much better in terms of play value and it really encompasses what I think those sets should be.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Room (41329), Overview

Olivia‘s color scheme has always been borderline ugly and this becomes apparent here once more. The Bright Pink parts would certainly look much better in Lavender and while I don’t consider the pale yellow an issue per se, it really comes down to how much and where you use it and that balance seems off here. Perhaps it might have been a good idea to make the two large panels white, after all.

I’m still not entirely happy with the absence of the right-hand side wall, but the large computer desk does a good job of closing off the diorama on this side. As usual I didn’t apply any stickers since I prefer to keep everything clean and reusable for later projects,┬á which makes it look a bit barren, but at least the keyboard is a printed tile.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Room (41329), Front

Similarly I omitted the stickers on the two large yellow wall panels, which perhaps is the weakest spot of this set. Having the large double-width slider rail as a shelf in conjunction with the panels is nice, there’s just nothing to put on it. they really should have included some varied color 2 x 1 plates and tiles to mimic a stack of books and some colored transparent 1 x 1 cylinders or something like that. Even another little flower-pot or vase wouldn’t have hurt.

For my liking the rocket theme could have been brought out more prominently. It would have been easy to add one of those missile-shaped lava lamps somewhere or include a bunch of 2 x 2 round bricks and a cone. There’s so much potential in this set that goes unused. I also think the bed could have looked even better had they built the “tip” of the rocket using some more curved slopes.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Room (41329), Coffee Maker

To be fair, though, the set does include some extra stuff by ways of a coffee-making machine and a little WallÔŚĆE like robot, which put a smile on my face. The coffee brewer even includes the dairy product printed brick, which funny enough has been used in several friends sets already, but otherwise is a bit elusive. Always nice to have to put something in the fridge in your awesome LEGO kitchen.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Room (41329), Robot

As per my previous article on these sets, they’re by no means essential nor do they have any longterm value if you don’t have any plans on how to use the flamboyantly colored parts on future projects. I just happen to have a weird liking for some of that stuff and some ideas in my head, so it’s okay with me. Everybody else will likely to pass on this and invest his money into other sets. It’s hard to even recommend this to girls of the right age, as there’s always something that they would find worthy of criticizing, be that just being put off by the sometimes really weird colors.

Rooms with no View – 41327 and 41341 – Mia’s and Andrea’s Room

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 Zuckert├╝te 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.

LEGO Friends, Mia's Room (41327), Box

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┬áand doesn’t really add much to it.

LEGO Friends, Mia's Room (41327), Overview

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.

LEGO Friends, Mia's Room (41327), Front

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.

LEGO Friends, Mia's Room (41327), Reverse

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.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Room (41341), Box

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.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Room (41341), Overview

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.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Room (41341), Front with closed Bed

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.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Room (41341), Front with open Bed

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.