My hunt for this year’s Jungle Rescue themed LEGO Friends sets so far has been of limited success, given that prices due to the circumstances don’t seem to drop that much into a region that I would be willing to accept, but at least let me give you my views on the Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423) to bolster my review of the Panda Jungle Tree House (41422) somewhat.
Contents and Pricing
The set consists of two main builds – the actual rescue balloon and a piece of landscape featuring a waterfall. The latter is more of the modest or even harmless kind as implied by way it’s built, i.e. it’s more your friendly “curtain shower” in the jungle than the river wild. Also included are of course the figures and the tiger cubs, but overall there is very little content. With that let me cut right to the chase.
The suggested retail price for this set is once more utterly ludicrous. I have no idea in what fantasy world LEGO live, but 40 Euro for this? That’s just insane. Now of course the detractors will be quick to come up with the usual rationalizations like there being some larger parts, but that’s just a poor excuse. Yes, while larger elements are slightly more costly, none of the parts in this set are actually new nor particularly complex or massive, thus not requiring overly complex molds that need to recoup their initial cost. There are enough smaller pieces in the whole LEGO portfolio that are much more demanding in terms of manufacturing.
So for what it’s worth, this is just another set where the company is trying to squeeze the customer hard and it’s just sad that retailers have to pick up the slack with discounts that curtail their own grosses whereas LEGO themselves are rubbing their hands and breaking revenue records every year. One can’t avoid but think that this is utterly intentional and part of their strategy to keep their hands clean. You know, it allows them to maintain the illusion of a premium product at a premium price and if the sets only sell at reduced prices, then it must not be their fault. *sigh*
Anyway, I got my copy for 30 Euro and while that’s not exactly cheap for so little value in return, it’s much closer to what I envision the real price for a set of this type should be. if we wouldn’t live in this crazy time of crisis there probably even would be a chance for this to drop around 25 Euro, but for now I guess this is as good as it gets.
Figures and Animals
The figures follow a similar pattern as Olivia and Mia from that other set, only this time it’s Andrea and Emma of course. They all have short pants/ skirts and the torsos have shirts and blouses with multi-colored patterns, some a bit more ornamental, others more like conventional random camouflage stripes and patches. Perhaps not the safest attire while traipsing through the jungle, but at least adequate in terms of wearing comfort under hot conditions.
For the animals we get a measly two white tiger cubs and they don’t even have different prints. Compared to that you got three pandas in a cheaper set this feels extremely odd. It’s not the end of the world, but one of those “Wouldn’t it have been nice?” things. the tigers themselves look cute enough, but there just isn’t anything more to them.
I could of course make a whole song and dance about it, but the balloon just is what it is and if you look up any older Friends or Ninjago set you already may have stumbled upon it more than once. The large 1/8th radius shell pieces have existed for a while and due to how they work the underlying construction is always pretty much the same – the parts are clamped to the octagonal disk elements and on the inside they use Technic axles and connectors to get the right spacing. In fact you can even see that in the octopus carousel from last year as well.
For me it’s a nice addition to get the elements in Dark Purple after having now amassed quite a few in White from other sets plus the eight Magenta ones from the octopus. Who knows, one day I might even put them to use on a steampunk-ish balloon air ship driven by a steam engine or something like that.
The details of the balloon are otherwise severely lacking. Only the bare minimum has been done for the detailing of the main basket and the additional small rescue crate. Most annoyingly there isn’t even a ladder to climb into the basket and of course they could have included a bunch of ropes for securing the balloon or hauling in the tigers.
The small section of land with the mountain and the waterfall flowing down it follows the same design philosophy found in the other sets. That means it thankfully mostly uses “decent” colors and is decked out nicely with extra greenery on top. this particular model also needs to be lauded as for once it actually has a recognizable internal logic with a narrow path leading up to the top, a cave and several places to hide behind/ underneath the water curtains. This should at least give kids some ideas on where to place the tigers.
there are a bunch of other animals, but they feel a bit thrown together from what was left over in the LEGO factories. The small turtle from the Ocean Rescue series last year is nice, don’t get me wrong, but it should at least be a different color to add some interest and uniqueness. Similarly, I could have gone for a Coral colored frog to pose as a Strawberry Dart Frog. I blathered on about this in one of my magazine reviews already. Well, at least it seems next year we’re at least getting Bright Pink frogs one way or the other, so that’s something to look forward to. Re-using the old Elves bird on the other hand is really getting long in the tooth, especially since they can’t seem to even be bothered to come up with new prints. They really should do away with it and use other birds in nice colors.
The construction of the little mountain is adequate, but not outstanding. It does the trick, but like so many of these models it only stabilizes pretty late during the build. You spend quite a bit of time working on barely holding spindly long bricks and even the floor plates basically only stabilize once you have added the transparent arched panels for the flowing water. Funny enough, once you do that everything is pretty sturdy, give or take of course the large leaves that tend to come off occasionally. That at least, combined with the compact shape makes it easy to move the whole thing around and take it with you.
Unlike the panda set I found this one rather unsatisfying, mostly simply due to the absence of something special that would make you go “Ooooh” and “Aaaah”. It’s not bad, just kind of uninspired and generic. I would even go so far as to say that the waterfall itself might have made for a nice little 20 Euro set without the balloon while the latter just feels thrown on because they couldn’t come up with something better and needed to pad out the content and in turn the price. Likewise, the shortage of tigers and the lack of some small extras is simply disappointing.
Overall I therefore wouldn’t consider this set a must-have. You can sneak it onto your buying list if you have the money, your kid bugs you about it or you already have all the other models from the series, but otherwise you can easily pass on that one without missing much. It just doesn’t really add much that you haven’t seen before nor does it look that interesting, all things considered. It clearly feels like those work-mandated jobs where the designer wasn’t in a particularly good mood that day and didn’t put in much effort…