Price: £59.99 / $69.99 / €69.99 Pieces: 722 Available: Now
More than most themes, LEGO Friends sets tend to focus heavily on location based playsets. The largest so far this year, 41340 Friendship House might be one of the better examples of this to date. It is a colourful and tall house with some rather imaginative qualities, featuring plenty of the little details that this theme is known for.
On one level, it might be fair to say that if you’ve built one Friends playset, you’ve sort of built them all. There are lots of panels, large bricks, and wide plates, all there to take up as much space as possible with a minimum of resources. This type of strategy tends to lead to rather boring designs, with a lot of flat, empty surfaces, or in the case of Friends in particular, an overabundance of stickers. In the case of 41340, this set also leans on a number of other Friends crutches – namely a swing, hot tub, and the apparent primary form of transportation in Heartlake City; a slide. Not only are these things overused within the theme, they also come across as gimmicky instead of creatively interesting.
Now, even though all of the above is true, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to like about the set. For a start, seemingly in an attempt to address the “flat surfaces” issue, there are tiles laid across the front of the building, giving the impression of bricks (or perhaps siding). This adds some much needed texture, and makes for an appealing exterior. This additional texture does come at a price – there are many doorways in the Friendship House, but only one actual door. Well, not including the overhead garage door. For those looking to give 41340 a life after it comes off the shelf, be prepared to have a lot of door frames with no doors.
The one area where this set really shines is in its representation of the Friends characters themselves. While only Andrea, Olivia, and Emma come in the box, all five of the principle Friends are represented in the set. On the third floor is a bedroom which has sleeping bags for all of the girls – which are sadly adorned with stickers as opposed to what would undoubtedly be highly desirable printed tiles. This added representation is most certainly a welcome feature. There is further evidence of the other characters who are included with the set. There is a stage area out front, as well as a guitar inside for Andrea, Emma’s art presumably appears in the heart painted on the front of the building, and Olivia has a bit of a workshop area just outside of the garage.
It’s great that the designers didn’t go generic with the building as a means to include all of the characters, and instead made the choice to add fun references to everyone. Not only does 41340 Friendship House represent everyone as individuals, it also reinforces the idea that all of these girls are indeed friends. Many of the other sets in the theme showcase a particular character, this set clearly focuses on the characters’ relationships with one another. There’s even a tile with a sticker representing an unnamed, but easily identifiable board game. While I personally question the Friends’ taste in games, it’s still a great little detail.
Of course, no Friends set would be complete without an animal or two. The set comes with a puppy, as well as a hamster (or perhaps a gerbil?) complete with a little habitat and wheel in which to run. There are also a couple of sub-builds, namely the swing and a bicycle pulling a tool cart. These add to the overall set, but in the case of the swing, the build itself is rather dull. It does function really well though.
All in all, if you’re a Friends fan, this set is an easy recommendation. The colours are somewhat subdued this time around, but still fun, and those invested in the characters will find a great deal to like here. For anyone else, there isn’t really much here to get excited about. The parts included are nothing special, unless you’re looking for a good deal of tiles, and the build process offers little to nothing in terms of twists or techniques. This far into the Friends theme, it’s showing signs of fatigue. The fact that the theme is character driven limits it in a number of ways. It would be great if next year’s sets involve another sub-theme, much like last year’s very welcome alpine sets. In the meantime, there’s hope that there will be some interesting summer releases on the horizon – possibly foreshadowed in this very set, or else Friends runs the risk of wallowing in a sea of repetitiveness.
This product was provided for review by the LEGO Group.