No-Good Octopus – Funny Octopus Ride (41373)

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

First Things first

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Box

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

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Overview

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

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

Engineering Degree Failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Animal Pods or Pod Animals?

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Stranger in a strange Land

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

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

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

No Fun in the Fun Park

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

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

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

Nuremberg Madness

The annual Nuremberg Toy Fair has started a bit earlier this year, so we already know what LEGO has in store for us for the second half of the year – to some extent at least. I’m not going to include any photos here, but you sure should be able to find some pictures and videos from whatever is your favorite officially LEGO-endorsed blog, news site or YouTube channel. I’m just going to offer some thoughts and opinions.

First, the literal big elephant in the room – the Liebherr R 9800 (42100) giant excavator coming out as a Technic model (and by extension also the 4 x 4 Extreme Offroad Vehicle [42099]) . It’s causing quite some irritation not just on my end and seems to rub many people the wrong way. The madness factor can be quickly summarized as a combination of three factors: The large piece count, the inclusion of a massive number of components for the new Control + system and ultimately as a result of those both things the outrageously insane price. Taken each on their own, none of the factors should be that critical, but the combination makes you go “WTF?!“.

The parts count is something you should be able to perfectly live with. After all, in the Technic universe half the parts are pins and connectors, so the effective number of larger structural parts, covers, wheels etc. for the Liebherr will be somewhere around 1700 at most, most likely. It’s also good to see that there will be some new parts like a large 11 x 7 or so liftarm frame, longer actuators, new wheel hubs and so on. However, some concern already creeps in here, as despite having two waves of releases inbetween we haven’t even seen some parts from last year’s Bugatti Chiron find their way into other models. If LEGO apply that same policy towards the new parts, we can all wait until we all live in retirement homes for them to appear in lower tier sets.

The other thing of course is Control+, basically a once more rebranded PoweredUp/ Boost based thing after those two never seem to have gone anywhere and were only ever used in a handful of sets. I’m under no illusion that including this stuff is a considerable cost factor, especially if you start out with seven motors (!) and two large hubs with four connections each, but if I may make a point: Did they have to? To me it feels like the exact wrong strategy to get this new stuff out among people, which ultimately gets us to the final point: Cost and attainability of these sets for average shmoes and in turn longterm support and viability of these technologies.

Due to my budgetary constraints I can exclude myself from most of these considerations right away (unless I get these sets for free somehow), but basically the way I see it, there’s a limited ways this can pan out:

  • Collectors and “people with money” will simply buy the sets regardless and won’t care much what makes them tick. That’s all just fine and good on the business side, but these are not the typical folks that advance a specific theme by experimenting, building MOCs, custom programming and so on. To them it wouldn’t matter if this stuff still ran on legacy Power Functions, so the new stuff is kinda wasted on them, because they never fully use its features nor exhaust its full potential.
  • Based on the previous point of course there is a good chance that a large chunk of this demographic will just buy this one model and then never again any Technic model or for that matter any LEGO set. It may not help the brand in the long run, even if no doubt sales will be surging for a while just driven by the collectible/ playable side of things.
  • Another crowd are people who have long waited to step up from Power Functions to something more modern and they will swarm to these sets. Many of them will do so with grinding teeth, though, as coughing up the cash will still be a pain. Also, similar to the previous point, they may not necessarily buy follow-up sets once they’ve decked out their parts repository and got everything they need. Saturation effects will kick in and subsequent sales of sets containing the same components may drop off again.
  • Finally there’s of course going to be a huge group of frustrated users that won’t be able to make the switch in a foreseeable time or simply may not want to. Someone who has a full supply of legacy Power Functions sure isn’t going to throw them all in the bin right away and will make do with them for as long as they still function. The rest – like me – will have to dream about this stuff for a long time until they have scraped together enough pennies.

What am I trying to say here? To me LEGO chose the wrong strategy. In my opinion it would have been smarter to start out with smaller sets and step by step build on that. Redundancy could still have been minimized by including different motors in each set and ultimately I would even argue that the smaller hub with only two ports would still have had value and also could have been integrated in larger builds as well.

Point in case: In my view the new sets with Control+ are simply a step too far for all the wrong reasons. Instead of making the expensive excavator kind of an overpriced must-have starter set so people get access to the new components, it should be more optional and not leave you with the feeling of watching a potential revolution taking place without being part of it. And the points about LEGO potentially shooting themselves in the foot with prospective sales also are a concern.

On a more objective note there’s little to say, as even people attending the show and LEGO‘s press conferences were not allowed to take photos and there are no official ones, either, so we have to rely on screenshots of the video streaming and hearsay. Personally I’m most thrilled about what I hear about the new wheel hub with integrated planetary gears in the 4 x 4 vehicle. This could open up so many possibilities for elegant vehicles with out large main gear boxes and more experimental stuff. Could be cool. Ironically, despite my ranting on about it, the Liebherr is of lesser interest to me. With my limited living space in my flat I likely couldn’t keep this “rolling shoe box” around assembled forever, but I still would love to have the components, of course.

Other sets remain a total mystery and only some of their names and set numbers are known. We’ll simply have to see about them. Personally I’m of course looking forward to the Friends fairground attractions/ theme park rides them, though I have a hunch that out of those twenty sets only five or so will be reasonably okay, if at all. Call me a jaded old man, but I feel there’s another series due to be turned on its head with a major overhaul. It’s simply losing its appeal due to the many repetitions and constant rehashes. In the Architecture series the Empire State Building (21046) sounds like it could be interesting. Under the assumption that it will make good use of considerable quantities of newer bricks like the 1 x 1 mini roof slopes this should look the part and of course potentially be even useful as a bulk parts donor for your own projects. again, we’ll have to see when some images drop.

Somewhat unrelated to the toy fair itself, but coincidentally dropping at the same time are some first photos of the 20th anniversary LEGO Star Wars sets and it’s probably safe to say that everyone feels underwhelmed. The selection of models follows a “been there & done that” pattern of consisting of vehicles that have been done a dozen times already, being based on existing designs with some minor changes and updates. Aside from the Slave 1 I can’t warm up to any of them, being that as usual I don’t care much for the minifigures and don’t consider them as a defining factor for the value of any set. I would predict that this isn’t going to be much of a hit, not even with figure collectors who will be put off by the large back print on the replica legacy minifigures, if info floating around on the web is to be believed…