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The designers of LEGO Friends sets never cease to amaze me at how good they are at knowing what willdelight their target audience. My girls have almost every large set released under this theme. With the Heartlake Hotel, airport, horse camp, and a neighborhood of homes already in their collections I did not think this set had much going for it on the outset. I was wrong. As an AFOL I found a lot to love in set 41318 – it contains everything a good hospital set should have.
There are some initial highlights that differentiate 41318 from other large LEGO Friends sets in some very good ways. First, the lack of disconnected models. While there are a lot of accessory builds, they are all items such as gurneys or pushchairs which make sense to have amidst the hospital halls. The bulk of the model is a single, solid building. Many Friends sets exist as little more than facades, but this one has three complete walls reminiscent more of the old Town buildings that were only open at the back for play. The standard 8×16 plate footprint is used for each section of the hospital meaning that it is compatible with many other LEGO Friends sets and can be combined into customised structures. An ambulance and helicopter for medevacs comprises the only major sub models and their inclusions make perfect sense.
Construction begins in earnest on the bottom floor which is a single unit. The main sliding doors can be accessed by either a wheelchair ramp or studless stairs. Sliding doors present the check in desk ahead, waiting area with vending machines to the right and the emergency entrance to the left. Somehow, the designers have managed to capture the essence of what it feels like to be in a hospital waiting room within this space. It has a distinctly clinical vibe to it. Of the three floors this is the most boring, it gets much better as we ascend.
The second floor of 41318 is where my girls freaked out – they were excited to see the inclusion of a maternity ward. Utilising the scaled swaddled baby that first appeared in the Collectible Minifigures line, a complete nursery for a newborn adornes half the floor. Perfectly scaled accessories including a changing table, rocking crib, scales and a sink deliver a brand new experience to the LEGO Friends world. To say my daughters were delighted is an understatement. A bed for the new mother and hanging mobile to go over the cradle complete the room.
The LEGO Group clearly knew that this room would be the selling point of the set and hit it out of the park. Adjacent to the nursery lies the examination room. While excellent in its own right, the examination room is definitely overshadowed by its neighbour. I am not sure whether it was intentional or not, but the designers included two fun little easter eggs. The first is the x-ray machine, which features printouts for the doctor to review, and show a decidedly human frame with toes and five fingers. Then the skeleton also depicts a distinctively non mini-doll frame.
Every LEGO hospital to date has included a surgery ward and Heartlake City’s is no different. The top floor is devoted to a helicopter pad for Olivia’s small air vehicle and a surgery center. Like the combination examination room and X-ray center below, the LEGO Group is mixing its areas here as well. The top floor room appears to double as a surgery center and infectious disease lab which for play is fine, but in real life sounds like a truly terrible idea. One half of the room is devoted to microscopes and test tubes while on the other a patient can lie with an IV drip beneath the enormous surgical lights.
41318 has one major flaw, and that is the mini-doll count. It is a well established fact that LEGO Friends and Elves sets contain fewer figures than their standard minifigure based counterparts. Normally this is not an issue, but here it stands out. With only three characters, one of who is a patient, the place feels a bit empty. Additionally, since one of the five Friends always has to be included there is only one more slot available for an actual doctor. I hope that poor nurse is getting some major overtime pay because she must be severely overworked.
It was a stroke of genius to include the maternity ward in this set and do something that has not been done before in LEGO bricks. Without it this would be another fairly by-the-numbers Friends set; bathroom, check. Place to get food, check. Slightly modified setting for the girls to take care of a living organism, check. However, throwing in baby care adds a completely new dimension to the LEGO Friends world.
When my eldest daughter was younger she would raid my Power Miners sets for baby Rock Monsters which she would arrange into a whole little nursery, feeding them, changing them and giving them baths. Now she can do that in an authentic setting with her own set. However, beyond just being a great playset, Heartlake Hospital would need very little modification to turn it into a minifigure based building which would look right at home in a LEGO CITY layout. Stay tuned over the next few days, to see how Brick Fanatics would advise to do just that.