Under the Sea… – Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378)

As I wrote in my first review on the subject, I was quite taken in by the water animal rescue theme of this year’s LEGO Friends novelties even before I actually owned any of the sets and that I wanted to basically get all of them. So here we go with the second outing thanks to the Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378).

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Box

I got the set pretty much right away when it became available, but of course only because the price immediately plummeted from its official 40 Euro suggested retail price to 30 Euro. It has been hovering around that mark pretty stable ever since, give or take the occasional additional promo where you can get it for around 25 Euro. Let me be clear: It’s a good thing that the market regulates itself in this case. I really like the set, but 40 Euro is definitely not a price I would have bought it for. It’s a 360 pieces set with no specific exotic pieces and even the few larger ones can’t justify the inflated price. LEGO are completely out of touch with reality by dreaming up those numbers, which is kinda sad. It makes it so much harder to recommend these sets and is detrimental to sales as it puts people off.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Overview

Why am I saying this again and sound like a broken record? While it’s one of the better Friends sets and you get a decent return value, the overall volume of stuff just isn’t there. In the end the two main builds, the submarine and the ship wreck, are still small-ish with the additional side builds also not contributing anything noteworthy in terms of the sheer bulk of the set.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Underwater ScooterThe underwater scooter literally consists of something like 15 pieces and while it’s an adequate representation of what those things might look like, it is far from a complex and detailed model.

 

 

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Map ChestSimilar things can be said about the treasure map chest or more specifically what amounts to a crate with a bottle and a super secret treasure map inside. Again this doesn’t really contribute much to making the set more bulky and as a matter of fact the small isolated island could have been integrated into the ship wreck section easily and with a bit more fancy and finesse. It’s okay, but really leaves me with a “So what?” feeling.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Map ChestThe supposed treasure map itself looks more or less just like a collection of random camouflage splotches. It’s based on the same principle and employs the same trickery as the “painting” in Emma’s Art Studio (41365), i.e. a piece of cloth printed with a special varnish that repels water and in turn the areas having a different darkness/ saturation when moisturized. Overall a bit uninspired, even more so since it would have been a good idea to include a complementary printed map on a folded A3 sheet or something like that to tie into the play fantasy.

 

 

The submarine is a nice build and oozes a sense of realism. Many research and utility submersibles e.g. in the off-shore oil industry fit the construction pattern with a big single-piece bubble canopy, a main pressure cell and most technical gadgets being mounted externally. even the compact proportions feel about right.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Top View

There are of course a few things that don’t make sense, either. The odd snorkel/ periscope piece is exactly where on most real world examples the main access hatch would be and isn’t really of much use. Most of these subs would operate tethered to cables and/ or at least very close to their mother ships plus unlike on military u-boats there is simply no need for surface reconnaissance while the craft stays under water. While this part is therefore more or less superfluous, you could argue that another critical item is missing. Assuming the vehicle ever actually goes deep enough to crash on the sea floor, naturally it should have skids and not sit on the ballast tanks. Yes, I’m obsessing over minutia, but I’m just saying… 😉

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Aft View

The color choices feel a bit arbitrary, too. As I wrote in my review of the Underwater Robot (31090), a clear plexi glass canopy would probably look better and incidentally also make quite a bit more sense. You know, in an underwater environment where already everything is blue your wouldn’t use additional tinted glass in that same color to make things even darker. If I were to rebuild the model I’d also use the rounded corner train style panels for the windows instead of the plain transparent ones. Perhaps I’d also add a cupola for the hatch area.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Front Left View

The Coral bits feel out of place and in actuality my impression is that they were forced in just for the sake of it as an afterthought or color swap the last minute before the set was released and the components were actually available when the prototype may have been designed with other colors. They just don’t serve a specific purpose in the context of how this would work in practice other than as recognition marks for aerial rescue should the boat go adrift on the surface. Most of the time those areas would be just plain walkways and railings in boring colors, though.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Top View with open Loading Bay

The good part about the sub in addition to it being built to figure scale are some actually usable play features, that being primarily the openable canopy and loading bay. You could position one of the girls behind the steering column while the other goes back and forth from the open aft zone, e.g. retrieving items from the bottom of the sea and stowing them for later analysis. the other scenario is of course a diver egressing from the cargo bay and rescuing dolphins, hence the syringe and the feeding bottle. In addition you can of course also pose the robotic arms and swivel the propellers around, though this will get boring rather quickly.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Submarine, Front View with open Canopy

I have a bit of a peeve with the ship wreck. It’s extremely lovely done, but man, is it small! It kinda ruins the whole illusion and in a way reminds me of painted box art for plastic model kits – you have the hero item (an airplane, a ship, a car etc.) large in the foreground and some decorative stuff in the background. This is pretty much what this is. If you arrange it suitably, the optical illusion kinda works, but otherwise just falls apart. Sadly, this becomes a real limiting factor for playing as well.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Front Left View

To begin with, applying realistic measurements the ship wouldn’t even qualify for a tourist excursion ship on a small river. You can literally fit two or tree people onto it and that’s about it. Similarly you can ever only explore it by bringing in the girls on their own or with the mini scooter. As soon as you bring the u-boat anywhere near it the fake scale crumbles and it just looks silly. You know, no such thing as beaming the spotlights onto the hull or moving things with the robot arms.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Aft Left View

Now here’s the thing: I fully understand that they couldn’t build it to scale and make it as large as for instance the Destiny’s Bounty (70618) from The LEGO Ninjago Movie. That inevitably would have meant to inflate a 40 Euro set to another 150 Euro set for no good reason just to get a large ship. Not only would that be unnecessary, but also make it harder to afford the set. However, I still think it wouldn’t have taken too much effort and also not increased the cost too much by adding more pieces if the wreck was at least twice as large. It wouldn’t need to be hyper-detailed, just line up better scale-wise. It’s one of those “I need to buy a second set.” things that I might try one day.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Front Right View

A larger scale/ size would have helped with the integration of the dolphins as well. It’s just hard to imagine that they could get trapped when the “mother” is already half as big as the ship. To that end you can tilt down the main mast as if she was caught under it, but seriously – she’d just push it out of the way on the real thing. The pole would need to be really tall and thick to represent any danger whatsoever. That then in turn would again require a different representation for the sails. An endless causal chain! For the time being I would have settled on different colors for the “torn rags” at least. Always having the same Dark Pink and Magenta flag elements in Friends sets is getting a bit long in the tooth. For once, plain Tan or Dark Tan would have worked perfectly here.

LEGO Friends, Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378), Ship Wreck, Aft Right View

My criticisms notwithstanding, this is still a pretty fine set, all things considered, even more so in the Friends universe with its many downright awful offerings. It captures the mood of an underwater exploration, the submarine is fully usable and when placed strategically far enough apart could even look good on the shelf. Regardless, though, if I was totally serious about the matter my contingency plan would be to get at least two or three of these sets and also heavily dig into my parts stock to build a larger ship wreck. I really only consider the small version an inspiration or template for how to do things, with an urge to one day genuinely do it kicking in even as I just look at the pictures…

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

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Emmet's Piece Offering (30340), Front2019 appears to be the “Year of the Heart” for LEGO with those little buggers popping up everywhere in different styles, shapes and sizes, ranging from the tiny new 1×1 heart-shaped tile elements in sets like the Chinese Dragon Dance (80102) and of course several ones for The LEGO Movie 2 as well. The latter takes this even further with the buildable kind of heart in Emmet’s Piece Offering (30340) depicted here and of course the cutesy little heart character also appearing in the movie.

Of course the Friends sets are not left out and my, have they gone out of their way. For now there’s seven different types of hearts to choose from. Two different ones are contained in the Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359) and then there’s the Mia’s/ Andrea’s/ Olivia’s/ Stephanie’s/ Emma’s Heart Box (41354 to 41358) sets. In the interest of efficiency and due to the similarity I have consolidated all the products into one article, but let’s begin with the “big” stuff presented by the Friendship Pack.

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

This set is meant to be a play set in the sense that it contains a plethora of little gimmicks and doodads to dress up the two included mini dolls in a variety of outfits ranging from astronaut to firefighter and police officer to magician/ witch and pirate as well as any combination and derivation inbetween. Who’s to say there couldn’t be pirates with bullet-proof golden helmets? To that end it contains a number of minifigure hats plus a bunch of very minor minifigure accessories and buildable elements. None of this stuff is new nor is any of it made specifically made just for this set. It has all been gleaned from LEGO‘s back catalog of existing pieces and some of it may even be surplus stock from producing other sets.

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

Therefore outside of actually using these items in the context of the set for playing with it, the individual value of these extras will hugely depend on how useful they may be to customize your other minifigures. For me it was okay, as I neither have a pirate hat nor a golden helmet in my collection and as a recent custom build proved, there could always be a need for some fancying up a model with some minifigures even if like me you don’t collect them proactively, so I’m sure going to keep this stuff around, be it just as a prop for setting the mood in a pirate tavern or whatever should I ever decide to create something along those lines.

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

In contrast to what you may think, the actual highlight of this set is the smaller heart for the simple reason that it’s based on a new custom-shaped plate. at the same time, though, only one of those little hearts being included to me looks like a severe laps in logic. If the intention was to provide a small pocket box to pack up your doll and some accessories when going on the road, wouldn’t it have made perfect sense to actually include two – one for every figure? Imagine the fuss when two little girls battle over who gets to take the small container along…!

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

 

To me it just doesn’t make sense and allowing for a second such thing in a different color to be built should not have been that much of a stretch. It would only have increased the price a tiny bit and, which is my point, could have helped to roll out the new plates in larger quantities. You may think it’s not that important and I’m just obsessing, but in my head I already have a pretty clear picture how useful this new part could be as a creative corner piece and such when used in combination with other plates. For now it seems we’re limited to just buying more copies of this set and wait until this shape has made its way in other sets and sufficient quantities become available on Bricklink and elsewhere.

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

The large version is pieced together from existing elements based on eight units width, meaning a square plate, some half round plates and a two studs wide strip to extend the “ears” a bit. If you’re into that sort of thing, you could come up with it yourself. It’s really pretty obvious and doesn’t require any major engineering skills, experience or magic. That is, of course, up to the point where you need those damned tiles, round bricks (Macaroni) and also the straight bricks for the side walls. It would have been possible to build something like this, but not necessarily easily and in a consistent color scheme. Some parts were just not out there in larger numbers, others downright didn’t exist in a given color yet. At the very least the set solves this conundrum and makes things easy on you by providing all the pieces.

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

Simple and obvious as the whole thing may be, there is always major drawback to using round pieces: You simply stack them and they don’t share any interlocking with neighboring bricks. LEGO have yet to come up with some form of plate or special adapter brick to get a firm connection that takes care of these concerns. These heart sets would have provided a perfect test case for creating plates with extended tabs or adding a stud and anti-stud system to the butt ends of the Macaronis. Maybe we will see it one day. In this particular case it’s not a major issue du to the boxes only being two bricks high, but regardless it’s still within the realm of possibility that inadvertently the curved parts may break off. Your little girl could find a bunch of separate pieces in her pocket with all the contents having spilled out as well, so beware!

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

Moving on to the smaller sets, the heart boxes named after the girls are marketed as a separate line of sets. To me this feels like they are trying a bit too hard to milk the theme for maximum revenue, though. The reasons for this should become clear a bit further down, but first let’s have a look at a size comparison.

LEGO Friends, Heart Boxes (41354 to 41359), Size Comparison

As you can see, the size is pretty much halfway there between the large box from the Friendship Pack and the small one from the same set. This already reveals one potential limitation: The amount of content you can cram into such a box and indeed this is a concern. I haven’t bothered to take shots of them, but each set comes with the umpteenth iteration of the girl who lends its name to any given set. This then would already occupy half the space in the box. The remaining space would – in theory at least – be filled up with the simple pedestal/ stand made from two clear sloped brick and a white 2 x 4 plate, barely leaving any room for something else. And there you have it: The inclusion of the useless mini dolls defeats the whole idea of using those little hearts as storage or gift boxes. Therefore I think disposing of the figures in whatever is your favorite cruel and funny method would be perfectly acceptable. Just make sure your kids don’t see it…

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

Make no mistake: Despite their inflated packages, these sets are basically just poly bags with a slightly larger number of parts. Arguably the cardboard carry bag or whatever you wanna call it could have been done away with, but of course it looks better on store shelves. Ultimately it’s okay, though, even if you are environmentally conscious, as multiple packs can be stacked quite efficiently in an alternating pattern. Not as much unused space only filled with air is being transported around as first impressions may suggest. In fact it looks bulkier on the photos than in real life.

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

There are five distinct sets of which I got only four. For the time being I passed on the Lime Green version for Mia since it did not include any other new colors for the plates and I wanted to avoid having a pile of redundant Dark Purple already found in the Emma set as well as Dark Azure tiles for the upper edge as they exist in the Olivia version. I’m reasonably certain that I will get it one of these days just for the fun of it, though. Incidentally, LEGO could have made this decision easier by offering a five pack/ bundle deal with a bit of discount from the outset.

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

Again the building techniques used in the sets are as plain on your nose as you can think and you could have worked them out yourself if you had the pieces. The same limitations as on the big heart box apply – due to some elements not overlapping and merely being stacked, the risk of breakage is not to be underestimated, especially with the lid off, which stabilizes things considerably. Overall those sets won’t win any prizes for outstanding engineering, anyway. With only two rows of bricks in all of them, it’s simply impossible to get enough robustness in there, try as you might. You would have to redesign this from the ground up. Regardless of these issues, the least they could have done is make the big heart in the Friendship Pack three or four rows of bricks high to increase storage volume.

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

The one thing that makes those sets at least a bit valuable for me is of course the fact that they are an excellent source for colored parts. As I mentioned earlier in my article, many pieces are for the first time even available in these flamboyant and crazy colors and trivial as it may seem, a Bright Pink 1 x 1 quarter round tile can sometimes be exactly what you need, not to speak of the many 1 x 2, 1x 4, 1 x 6 and 2 x 4 tiles. We even get the 1 x 1 round flower tile in Light Aqua in the Andrea set! In addition, every bit of writing you see on the boxes are specially printed tiles, so that’s fine, too. It just renders those tiles slightly less useful later on in your custom builds. Still, you could always pop them onto other sets like e.g. Olivia’s Cupcake Café (41366) as signage, so it’s not all a waste.

Within the very narrow corridor of what you can expect, those sets work okay-ish, but are not worth writing home about, either. Unfortunately it really seems LEGO are always falling for the same old mistakes and screw up a simple idea that could work otherwise. A girl just wanting a nice box for her trinkets isn’t going to care much about those ugly mini dolls and as an adult you feel it’s only an excuse to inflate the price. A more straightforward approach with selling the plain buildable items for what they are might have been better.

That being the case, if at all, you should see to it to get these sets as cheap as you can, since you basically always will be buying unnecessary useless fluff along with the buildable elements while the actual assembly is so simplistic, it will leave the true LEGO aficionado unsatisfied. Strangely, those sets are caught between a rock and a hard place and won’t satisfy either side fully. The are not LEGO sets in the traditional sense, but by that same token will also struggle to attract audiences that are used to simpler ways of getting plastic containers for their toys, the latter of which also being more stable when made in a single piece straight out of the injection molding machine. Too bad…