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.

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…

Not quite safe – Turtles Rescue Mission (41376)

As you may well know by now as a follower of this little blog, I do have a soft spot for the life aquatic, i.e. all kinds of sea creatures. That’s why the new summer LEGO Friends sets themed around various subjects of rescuing and exploring marine life push all the right buttons with me. Eventually I plan to get all of them, but for the time being I started out with the Turtles Rescue Mission (41376).

LEGO Friends, Turtles Rescue Mission (41376), Box

The set technically isn’t officially released yet in Germany as I’m writing this, but of course you can already find it in a few shops. Against my usual cautiousness and price-consciousness I jumped the gun on this one when I was doing the shopping rounds in the next big city and took the set home at full price. I was just too keen having a hands-on look at the new baby turtles and some of the new parts. I would expect the price to drop to about 15 Euro once it is more widely available from its original 20 Euro, though, and that seems fair enough for a set that ultimately is a bit lightweight.

LEGO Friends, Turtles Rescue Mission (41376), Overview

The set comes as three distinct separate builds (or four, if you count the Zobo robot as well) consisting of an amphibious vehicle to move around and recover the actual turtles, a turtle nest and of course the rescue station/ base itself, which more or less is just a simple beach hut.

The tired theme of Zobo and its ever same builds gets at least a little more interesting insofar its goggles/ binoculars are a new mold. It’s a bit crisper and has now a fully formed stud on top as well a hole going through the entire piece to allow inserting bar-based parts. The bottom is also changed to have an actual anti-stud shape instead of just a simple recess. As a result, the piece comes in at full two plates/ two-third brick height which along with the other modifications should and will make it much easier to integrate it into other models, including the previously impossible sandwiching between other pieces.

LEGO Friends, Turtles Rescue Mission (41376), Amphibious Vehicle, Left Front View

The vehicle is a nice little build and conveys that “lift body” feel just right by being flat as a flounder, yet having a relatively wide body and thus large surface area to provide buoyancy. The model suffers a bit from its excessive use of color and in particular the Coral seat and Dark Cyan bits feel a bit unnecessary. Sticking with the Light Bluish Grey/ Dark Blue / Yellow color scheme used on the actual hull would have been more than enough, even more so since the neon trans studs on their White support frame and the red megaphone introduce yet more colors.

LEGO Friends, Turtles Rescue Mission (41376), Amphibious Vehicle, Right Aft View

The little turtle nest is just a quick one-minute affair and more or less merely serves to showcase the new baby turtle and cracked egg mold. The latter is of course just a White recolor of the golden crown piece introduced in some of the The LEGO Movie 2 sets. Additionally you get three of the old Bionicle spine parts and since they are extremely useful for all sorts of dangly weeds and other greenery stuff you can never have enough of them, so it’s nice to get quite a few of them here. The small turtle is naturally adorable and also comes as triplets in this set, giving you a good number of them to start out with and play.

LEGO Friends, Turtles Rescue Mission (41376), Turtle Nest

The rescue station building is unfortunately a bit of a head-scratcher. It looks the part and within the play world of the set is acceptable, but to say it is flimsy would be doing favors. It’s really extremely fragile to the point where in the real world the tiniest beach tornado would shred it to pieces. Too many connections are just attached to a single stud and it’s way too easy to break them off. Even the walls are merely held together by a single strip of plates to cap them off, which is at best questionable. If it wasn’t for the new 6 x 7 window frame (in this case used sans a glass piece merely as a support structure) the walls would likely tilt over all the time or fracture into the 2 x 1 bricks they are (mostly) made of.

LEGO Friends, Turtles Rescue Mission (41376), Beach Hut, Front View

The decorative turtle used for signage is strikingly similar to the one in the Creator polybag set 30476 and even uses some of the same parts. I’m almost inclined to think that it would have been a nice touch/ gag to just include all the pieces so the user could decide which type of turtle to build and/ or leave off the sign and get a decently sized separate turtle build.

LEGO Friends, Turtles Rescue Mission (41376), Beach Hut, Back Right View

The interior doesn’t have much to offer that would be reminiscent of an actual animal rescue like an examination table, a shower sink to wash off dirt and at least some sort of storage box, heat lamp or incubator to keep the turtle babies and eggs warm and safe if only temporarily. Overall it just feels empty and one isn’t quite sure what to actually even do while playing.

LEGO Friends, Turtles Rescue Mission (41376), Beach Hut, Back Left View

The biggest disappointment is undoubtedly the ground/ floor. It’s assembled from separate plates of different sizes and shapes and while this usually works okay, here it doesn’t. There are just not enough robust connections to hold everything together with the blue “water” part being particularly bad. It’s merely hanging on a single 2 x 1 plate and what little indirect connection power the stairs built from tiles can provide.

I get what they were aiming for, it just doesn’t work out. It would have been much better to build it on a single 8 x 16 plate or something like that and simulate the water with transparent blue tiles. As an alternative, another layer (or two) of plates underneath would have improved the situation massively and also could have allowed a bit of shaping to get a gentle slope and slight elevation.

The small sand castle feels a bit of a waste since under normal conditions it isn’t even visible. I don’t mind getting a few 1 x 1 pyramid pieces and a ball, it’s just that it feels kinda useless.

LEGO Friends, Turtles Rescue Mission (41376), Beach Hut, Ground

All things considered, this set is neither here nor there, as they say. As a play set it more or less fails due to its odd absence of actual playable features except for the vehicle, whereas as a display item the incomplete nature of the building might aggravate you once you’ve gotten tired of just looking at the flamboyant colors. It would really take some effort to improve it, which could even go as far as buying one or two more sets to enlarge the hut and fill it up with bits and bobs. For that you should perhaps wait for prices to drop considerably. Until then only the most ardent turtle lovers should consider buying this set…

Blue Turtoise – Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191)

As should be abundantly clear from previous Friends-related articles, I kinda love LEGO‘s somewhat weird girl-ish series. LEGO Elves falls into that category as well. Unfortunately it never really took off because it is stuck in a very specific corner (which is entirely LEGO‘s own fault), so there’s only a handful of sets every year. While half of them are probably not worth mentioning, the other half is actually quite interesting once you allow your mind to attune to the subject and Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191) is one of those latter sets.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Box

Compared to other LEGO series, Elves sets are extremely pricey (despite most dealers having massive discounts on them), which is probably one of the reasons why they may not sell that well and are not as popular. This set is no exception and typically comes in at around 18 Euros. Considering the slightly bonkers MSRP of 25 Euros that’s okay, but still expensive for only a handful of actual pieces once you subtract the custom items for the turtle head, the figures and a few other parts.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Overview

The most significant item is of course the large turtle itself, which is put together from a bunch of simple parts for the body and shell and uses a large custom head. The limbs are attached using mini ball joints and are poseable, though it’s questionable how useful this may actually be, given the limited range of motion a turtle has in general. It doesn’t really add much here and once more to me this is a case of where it would have made more sense to focus on a better design with a few more pieces even if they were rigid. Making the creature larger as a whole also would have helped to allow for more details.

More or less the proportions only are applicable to a baby turtle, anyway. On an adult turtle the shell would look considerably larger compared to the head and the legs would be farther apart and taller. Arguably that’s within what you can do with a sets for kids, though it makes the inclusion of the mini turtle a bit odd, even in terms of the story. If you get my drift – it’s difficult to differentiate them and one can’t shake the feeling that there should be some mother turtle big as a mountain somewhere, with these two examples only being her middle and smallest offspring.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Turtle

The second major part is the little island with the “trap”. Considering most turtle species are vegetarian and couldn’t be lured in with fish, the orange critter is really a strange detail in this context. The element in the middle is a disc shooter which also doesn’t make much sense beyond perhaps knocking whoever is riding the turtle off its back. It would probably have made more sense to build it larger, forego the shooter, deck it out with water lilies galore and have a little island on it for the little goblin to sit on. Something like that would have made more sense to me. Then they also could have done away with the ridiculous tiny boat.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Island

As should have become clear, this set is extremely specific. LEGO missed the mark on playability by miles on that one, but if you like turtles in any form and shape, this could be a cute little display item for your showcase, even more so if you invest building a little diorama around it. I’d even wager that for people who collect turtles in all forms and shapes (I happen two know at least two) this could make a nice gift with a slightly humorous undertone…