Monday, August 29, 2016

REVIEW: LEGO Friends 41118: Heartlake Supermarket

As any LEGO fan will tell you (male or female), the LEGO Friends line has a lot of neat pieces and colors for use in custom creations.  For my part, I had never purchased one of the bright purple Friends boxes until I saw set #41118:  Heartlake Supermarket.  I'm always a sucker for food pieces - and I've had an idea of doing a grocery store (or maybe Farmer's market) for my custom city at some point - so I figured this was a good choice for my introduction to the Friends line.

Upon opening the box, I was greeted with the usual plastic bags full of pieces (all numbered) along with two instruction books and a sheet of stickers (the set has 15 stickers in total)!  According to the box, the set contains 313 pieces - but mine happened to be packed with a bunch of extra pieces as well (including some nice extras like a printed sushi piece, printed cookie, and a printed coin).

The first part of the build has you construct the two minidolls (more on those in a moment) along with a shopping cart, cart stall, and small newspaper stand.

Looking at the small builds first, I have to say that I generally like all three builds.  The shopping card has a lot of stickers - but it probably could have used two more small stickers for the sides of the front gray piece in order to really make the entire cart look like it's made of wire.  The cart stand isn't anything special but it gets the job done I guess (I would have liked to see the "base" be tiled rather than studded but otherwise it's ok.  I did find the use of the pink flowers in the middle of the stand to be a bit extraneous (and perhaps bordering on sexist)...LEGO friends (based on this set alone) sure seem to have a lot of flowery pieces.  And speaking of flowers, you can see a big bouquet of them next to the newspaper stand (which actually makes sense for a grocery store)!

Looking a bit closer at the minidolls, I can honestly say that I don't care for them at all.  The hair pieces will fit on "regular" minifigure heads, but that is it in terms of compatibility.  The minidolls' heads are connected via a peg system (like the small bars in some sets) rather than the usual minifigure neck connector.  I also didn't previously realize that the minidolls have a sort of oval shape to their heads with pronounced chins.  It's weird and definitely feels more doll-like than I would prefer.

Although I don't care for the dolls, the reason I bought the set was for the building structure (and all the food pieces) so let's take a look at that.  The next part of the build has you construct the front of the grocery store.

As you can see, there is an nice awning and the small sticker on the one door makes for a more "authentic" look as well.  The base plate that you build the majority of the supermarket on is a light purple - and I think that's my first such purple plate of that size in my collection!

The main part of the supermarket is then connected to the smaller "wing" via a single hinge piece.

For my money, I actually like the stuff on the "wing" more - plenty of printed pieces (though it should be noted that the watermelon is actually a sticker).  The pineapple is printed at least, though not quite all the way around (it's a minifigure head piece).  Inside the cooler is a single milk container which might be hard to see in the photograph.

After that, all that is needed to finish up is the interior of the main portion of the supermarket.

Here, we see a small vegetable stand, a seafood counter (with sushi pieces and a single fish) and a make-up stand.  There is also a checkout lane with a single basket for all the groceries (though it should be noted that the fish, carrot, and certainly the watermelon wouldn't really fit in the basket well at all).

You can swing the side of the store so that it has a larger "front" footprint (such as above) or so that it forms the back of the store (sort of - it looks weird that way in my opinion).  I much prefer to keep the supermarket in the form of the above photo.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  8 (is grocery shopping actually fun, your score might vary here?)
Play Value:  9
Kid Value:  9
Adult Value:  10
Overall:  9

Overall, for a $30 MSRP, you get a bit over 300 pieces which puts it on par for the usual 10 cents/piece average that people judge sets by.  However, I would say that this set is actually better than that - the printed pieces are fantastic, and the stickers (mostly) add value to the set as well.  I'm actually tempted to grab another one of the Heartlake Supermarket sets simply to be able to have bigger, better food stands (i.e. two watermelons rather than one)!  For my money, this set is highly recommended - even if you don't get any useful minifigures out of it!

Monday, August 22, 2016

REVIEW: LEGO 60051: High-Speed Passenger Train (and a Peek at my Custom City)

It's been awhile since I've done a proper review of a LEGO set - so let's jump right back into the thick of things with a look at one of the last trains to be released by LEGO - the High-Speed Passenger Train (set #60051).

The High-Speed Passenger train comes with 610 pieces, plus enough track to make a decent sized oval (and the power functions necessary to make the train move).  You also get three minifigures to go with the train (which basically consists of one engine, one fake engine, and a single passenger car).  The only other accessories of note is a small (very small) waiting area for the passengers, along with a road crossing and red bicycle.

Upon opening the box, you are greeted with the usual assortment of numbered bags, plus four instruction booklets.  And, because it is a City set, you also get a big ol' sheet of stickers.

Seriously, you better like stickers if you intend to build this set!  And, frankly, the stickers are necessary if you want your train to look good at all.

Moving on to the builds, you begin with the smallest booklet and the easiest build - the train crossing and waiting platform.

Honestly, this feels like an afterthought to the set.  I would have liked to have seen a small station included (with at least a ticket booth).  I was happy to get some more train crossing signs (stickers) and the LEGO City train map sticker is a nice thing to have for my own personal city.

Next, we build one of the two engines of the train (only one side has the actual motor, the other side is just for looks).

As you can see from the "in progress" photograph, there are a bunch of transparent window pieces included in this set...but otherwise it's a fairly simple exercise in brick stacking in order to build the engine.  The front looks a bit odd in the above photograph but that's because the nose piece for the engine is all one giant mold (with stickers).

Next, the passenger car...

The passenger car was a nice surprise in that there are more seats included than there are minifigures in the set.  Of course, other than the tables and chairs, there isn't anything else of note in the car...no food or drink service, no newspapers, no nothing!  It should, however, be noted that the top of the passenger car pops off quite easily (notice the relatively small number of studs) allowing access to the inside of the car.

Another view of the almost-completed passenger car.  Notice that there is a bit of a "step" in the front of the car - you actually can't add in any more seats given the way the car is constructed (a bit disappointing if you are a fan of modifying your LEGO sets).

And finally, the back engine.

The back engine looks pretty much like the front one, except it's empty inside rather than holding the battery pack and power functions parts.

And that's it - that's the entire set.  At $150 from LEGO Shop at Home, I would honestly say that this set isn't worth the cost.  There isn't anything wrong with the passenger train...it is just too small.  I would have loved to get one more passenger car, plus a couple of extra minifigures.  With the lack of any sort of meaningful station or other accessories, this train simply doesn't add up compared to the cargo trains that are also currently available.

The Bottom Line (out of 10):
Fun:  6
Play Value:  6
Kid Value:  7
Adult Value:  9
Overall:  6

While trains are always a fun set to get, the High-Speed Passenger Train simply doesn't offer the amount of play features that one would expect from a $150 LEGO City set.  The build isn't particular exciting (the front and back engines are virtually the same build) and you only get a single passenger car (plus only two passengers and a conductor).  I think this set is better suited for adults with a larger collection of preexisting pieces (and minifigures) so that they can add to the set (such as by building a train station).  In the end, I'm glad to have this set since it's my only passenger train to date...but I'm also glad to have gotten for less than retail (and I would suggest you try to do the same for this one).

And now, how about a peek into my custom city to see the train "in action?"

As you can probably see, my city has two levels - the passenger train on the upper level and the cargo trains on the lower level.

I used the tiny platform that came with 60051 and made it a small waiting area for the passenger train (I also have a proper train station as a second stop for the train).

And finally, one more shot of the passenger train as it goes over my custom cave (complete with parts of the gold mine set)!

Thanks for joining me for the review - I'll hopefully have more LEGO related content on the blog soon!