Price: £64.99 / $69.99/ €69.99 Pieces: 603 Available: Now
One of the focuses for LEGO Friends has been holidays, and 41317 offers the ultimate luxury ocean experience for the included mini-dolls. So let’s just get right to it, shall we? The Sunshine Catamaran might just be one of the very best sets in the whole of the Friends line. It’s sizeable, substantial, and packed with details. With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at just what makes this set so special.
To start, the choice of catamaran over a more traditional yacht is refreshing. It’s also nice to see a large scale boat that doesn’t use the standard boat hull pieces typically seen in the City line. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with them, they just have a tendency to make everything built on them feel sort of samey. This build is immediately visually striking, and I think it’s one people will remember distinctly down the road. The mini builds included with the main ship are a nice addition, and fit the overall theme well. There’s a jet ski with a tow rope, and an inflatable banana boat which can be pulled behind it. Let’s not forget the pair of dolphins that accompany the vessel, ensuring there’s plenty for the Friends to experience on their day at sea.
41317 Sunshine Catamaran is also able to eschew a couple of issues common to the Friends theme. First, and perhaps most obvious, is the choice of colours. The entire Friends universe tends to be slavishly devoted to the use of bright outlandish colours, even when they clearly clash with the rest of the colours in the set. This is a problem perhaps most evident in 41311 Heartlake Pizzeria. For me this tends to deal a heavy blow to any sense of realism and – as a graphic designer by trade – taste. Here it is not a problem though, as the bright blue, magenta, and lime perfectly convey a fun and sunny beach atmosphere. Secondly, the Friends line harbours a strange obsession with slides. In many of the Friends sets, they feel a bit out of place, but here it’s a perfect addition to the decadent sea craft.
Speaking of the slide, this year’s parts lineup includes segmented slides featuring short curved and straight pieces. This pair of elements are put to perfect use in this set, allowing the port side of the hull to open in the back, revealing a compartment wherein the set’s jet ski can be stored. The entire build is rife with examples of excellent use of space. The interior of the boat is hollow, allowing for two bedrooms, a large living area with chairs facing both a TV and a glass bottom for viewing undersea life. There’s a small kitchen area, and of course, a bathroom. No Friends set would be complete without it… even if it’s directly in front of a giant window.
The exterior of the 41317 Sunshine Catamaran features of course the aforementioned slide, a shower, pair of deck chairs, small pool, and a large hammock suspended between the two hulls. The side decks are also wide enough to store the banana boat, so all of the sub-vehicles can be stored right on the ship, which is a terrific bonus.
When the Friends line first came on the scene, I was immediately rubbed the wrong way. Even though I still have a few issues with the theme (ahem, mini-dolls), it has done a lot to make me warm to it. There have been some standout sets, and a number of new themes and even vehicle types have been explored. The recent Volcano and Jungle themes not withstanding, the City line has begun to stagnate a bit. City could learn a lot from the Friends theme and branch out into new areas. I’d love to see a set like the Catamaran, or 2015’s 41106 Pop Star Tour Bus. Both feature great overall design, and clever functionality. It would be welcome to see these qualities in the upper price range City sets, which instead tend to be a collection of smaller, underwhelming vehicles, or ‘barely there’ structures.
If you’re in the market for an enjoyable build, nice display piece, or even just a ship to add to your collection of watercraft, you need look no further than the Sunshine Catamaran.