It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a LEGO Friends set here and the multitude of reasons is still perhaps something I should one day lay out in a separate article. Suffice it to say that the price is a big factor, but also the overall boring-ness that has crept into the series and there just isn’t the appeal anymore except for the rare occasions like with this Roller Disco Arcade (41708).
Price and Contents
As mentioned above, prices are really becoming an issue with LEGO and it pains me to see this effect ripple down to Friends as well. It has always been on the more affordable side of the spectrum, but these days it sometimes feels you have to sell your house just to be able to afford some packages. Mind you, I don’t have anything against “adapting to the market” and compensating inflation and money devaluation, but LEGO are certainly taking this way beyond what’s necessary and are being greedy. Having multiple 100+ Euro sets in the Friends series just didn’t happen in the past, if you get my meaning.
With that in mind, this little crazily colored building isn’t even the worst offender. At 642 pieces for 60 Euro it is still priced reasonably, though I have this feeling that not too long ago it would have been marked as 50 Euro only. That’s why even with discounts you have to pay around 45 Euro most of the time. There were some crazy special sales where it was fired out for 35 or 37 Euro, but you can’t bet on those to be available when you may want to buy, of course. I bought mine for 43 Euro, but a good chunk of the cost was offset because someone had sent me an Amazon voucher shortly before and I only had to cover the remainder.
Figures and Extras
The set comes with only three minidolls, which is rather meager not only in relation to the overall size, but also the bustling free time activities hub this purports to be. You cannot even man each activity nor do you have any spectators. This should at least have had five figures. The minidolls themselves aren’t that special and can also be found in other sets. Jackson, the male, is apparently the token wheelchair guy and Evelyn the new girl with the blue hair. Andrea got a tied up new hairdo, which is about time. The old long hair was really getting long in the tooth.
The only side build in this set is a small palm tree with a trash can in Coral parked under it. This is a new recolor that also can be found in a few other sets. Outside the Friends universe it’s not that useful, though.
I have no specific like for bowling alleys, arcades or roller skate discos, but somehow this thing pushes a few buttons with me. I couldn’t get that scene from La Boum out of my head where the kids sneak out of their homes to meet in the hottest roller disco in town. That and then the mere mention of disco triggers a whole slew of eponymous songs, be that Alcazar‘s “Crying at the Discotheque” or Whirlpool Productions‘ “From Disco to Disco” as per the title of this article. This brings back so many memories from the time when I was a young lad pushing my bum across the dance floor. 😉
The other thing that immediately caught my attention is the mere flamboyance and exuberance of the design. It’s completely wacko, but in a good way. It brings back this slightly off-kilter style that I used to love about Friends, but which unfortunately seems to have been lost recently with so many sets being all too realistic to the point of being completely boring. I guess now those naysayers loathing Dark Pink finally got their way, but where does it say that it has to be this way? As I’ve written a few times, the problem was never that Friends was so colorful, it was rather some unfortunate use of color combinations that looked uneducated and unsophisticated. So for what it’s worth, I’m glad that we got some of that back with this particular set.
The build process for this set is pretty straightforward with most pieces simply being stacked linearly on top of each other. There’s no fancy SNOT building or any of that here, only a few brackets and clips used to attach some decorations. You start out with the center section, the bowling lane, then the two side wings with the other areas which are attached via hinges. The result is a quite spacious building that’s very accessible and provides good visibility all round.
The downside to all that is that the stability and robustness of the whole thing isn’t that great. This begins with the plates at the base, where there is often only a single layer of other plates or tiles that holds together the multiple pieces. some areas stabilize a bit more after a while when you add some bricks and interior details, but overall this is not the best. This trend continues with the walls themselves. It’s nice that they are thin and elegant, but at the same time this once again comes at the cost of stability. A few 2 x 2 plates or some inset bricks to enforce the vertical structure would have been welcome and you could have disguised them as corner seats or similar. The wobbliness not only produces gaps in the walls but also extends to the “roof” where individual elements tend to loosen themselves a bit. The roof also feels incomplete with too many exposed studs. It would have been better if the overlap was actually three studs and a second row of rounded bricks or at least some tiles had been added to cap it off.
An interesting nugget of information are the Trans Neon Green windows, which is actually the first time ever they are available in this color according to Bricklink. Once more one of those things where you would think that LEGO had run through all colors in the last 30 or 40 years already, but no. On the promotional photos they look Trans Yellow, which in a way that would have been even more useful. I feel the same about the tubes used on the outside which are “rigid hoses”. Once you’ve bent them into shape, it will be hard to get them straight again an d in the long run the tension might break of the clips. I’ve mentioned this already when reviewing the Luke Skywalker Helmet (75327). I’m definitely not a fan, but LEGO have used them in so many sets recently, we might just have to get used to it.
The roller skate part of the building comes with a small pedestal/ stage made up of two turntables with a microphone in the corner also hinting at its use as a karaoke/ music stage. as you can see everything looks rather crammed to the point where the turntables have gaps between them because there isn’t enough room to insert more of the plates with the inner rounding to cover the gears underneath. in order to do that, the building would have to have more length, or more exactly depth with at least another window (four studs wide) having to be inserted. It would have slightly whacked out the square-ish layout and rhythm of the colored columns vs. the windows, but would have been perfectly doable. It’s a somewhat odd decision and omission. The ramp on the door would of course also be way too steep for any wheelchair-bound person and there should perhaps be some longer gentle slope along the windows at least on the outside, which incidentally also might have helped with those pesky stabilization issues.
The center section has a bowling lane, which is actually even functional. You can take the pins from their studs and place them on the smooth surface, then topple them over with the red ball. The latter is the genuine “heavy” ball element LEGO unfortunately only drags out once every blue moon and that’s so coveted by people building GBCs, only for them to be disappointed and resorting to other alternatives. At the top of the gate you can see the two Technic arms forming a smartphone stand (also visible in other pictures). Unfortunately they were not recolored in a way that would look more graceful with this set, so they really, really stand out. Luckily they are easily accessible and only held by two pins, so you can easily remove them if you don’t ever want to use this functionality.
The arcade section is just fine, but of course doesn’t really look interesting without all the stickers for the screens and bling bling. The best part of it is the “dancing machine” in the middle, a genre which seems particularly popular in Asia.
This set has a lot of pros and cons at the same time. It’s good that it brings back a slightly more crazy version of the Friends universe, but there are many shortcomings in the mechanical/ architectural design. It feels a bit too flimsy for the size it has and while it can be handled well enough, it still requires a gentle touch. In addition a few of the details could have been refined and the whole thing made more plausible. What point is there in harping on including special needs people, when Jackson never actually could move around in the place? The lapses in internal logic cannot be overlooked.
The colors certainly aren’t for everyone and that is something you also have to acknowledge. Even I think there is something a bit off and that perhaps a more stringent color scheme with fewer colors might have been preferable. Especially the many dark colors feel kind of depressing at times and give the building an unfriendly, uninviting touch while on the other hand there’s a lot of overly bright accents with the Neon Yellow stripes or the Dark Pink roof. The middle ground is missing that would have toned down the contrast and acted as an intermediary.
All that said, this is still one of the better LEGO Friends sets and if you have similar feelings about those days rocking the dance floor or feel that simply the theme and design appeals to you, you should definitely get it.