Ever since the LEGO Friends line of building sets were announced in 2012, it’s been a bit of a controversial area for the realm of the plastic bricks. It has also been a big success for the toy maker’s financials. Despite the opinions and the concerns that were introduced during the launch, the toys have stuck through for many years now, along with several iterations of television shows, comics, and of course… awesome LEGO sets.
As an Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL), I generally stayed away from the Friends series. As gender reinforcement goes, an adult male standing on the pink aisle of a toy store browsing toys for children of the opposite gender… well, let’s just say grownups still feel social pressure too!
With my daughter, however, it only made sense that we’d end up with LEGO Friends eventually. With the help of the latest television series (LEGO Friends: Girls on a Mission), I had my daughter approaching me asking, “Can we play LEGO Friends?!”
I was happy to oblige.
So, with the fun history lesson out of the way, let’s review the product in the title, shall we?
The LEGO Friends cubes retail for $9.99 and you can purchase one for each of the five LEGO Friends characters. For the uninitiated, LEGO Friends uses Minidolls instead of Minifigures in their sets. The market research for that must have cost a pretty penny, but my wife was instantly pleased with the naming convention so I guess it was money well spent!
The figures, thankfully, fit within the LEGO System. This means their feet stick to normal bricks, their hands are the same claws we’ve come to know and love, and their hairstyles can conveniently be used with Minifigures as well.
Each cube is filled with elements that define the characteristics of the LEGO Friend character they hold. Mia, for example, loves animals, and her cube contains veterinary tools, a scale, a diagnostic computer, and even a syringe!
What’s even better, though, is that each set comes with a full sheet of stickers, which can be used to decorate the interior, or the exterior, of the cube itself. I don’t know about other kids, but I know that my daughter isn’t done building her set until she’s verified twice over that ever single sticker is adhered to the plastic in some fashion.
The cubes themselves can also be stacked using the interlocking system, so they store easily and can be arranged in a number of ways.
Additionally, the 2×6 pieces on each side of the cube interior are held in with just enough force they don’t come out, but can easily be pulled free by small hands hoping to access the accessories for play outside of the cube itself.
With many of the LEGO Friends sets climbing into high dollar territory, these small sets have been big wins for our daughter. They’re cheap enough to pick up without checking the bank account first, and they’re substantial enough to give plenty of playtime, even if the piece count itself might be a bit low for my liking. Of course, since they interlock and seemingly go together, rarely do we play with just one cube.
In a few weeks, we’ll have all five of the Series #1 set of cubes, and according to the manual we’re excited to see an upcoming Series #2.
I’m not a fan of gimmicks or RNG. Sure, I’ll bend over backwards to get a complete set of blind packs… from time to time… but every once in a while you see something that just makes you scratch your head and wonder… why?
Each LEGO Friend cube comes with a “mystery pet”. Each set is 100% identical… even the pet itself is the same, but you might get a different color! That means, assuming you want to collect them all, you’ll need a bare minimum of 20 cubes (four cubes of each character) to gather all the color variations.
I’ve tried looking at this from a few different angles… maybe the pets are all the same so you don’t feel a need to buy the variants? Maybe kids will get different colors and then trade with one another if they want?
To be frank, none of the ideas I came up with really made sense. At the end of the day, it seemed almost planned as a LEGO collectible attempt at pushing product just to make some serious $$$ off a lower end product.
I’m not worried about it, of course, not yet. From a play-ability point of view, the color of the pet makes no difference and my daughter isn’t old enough to understand that there are other colors or decide if that means she wants to ask for the same product over and over hoping to get them all.
As a consumer looking at these toys though, I do still have to ask… why?
Despite my best efforts, I’ve become a victim of the gender stereotypes that I saw when I was a kid. My daughter, while delighting in all things blue and pink, still favors the “dolls” and “babies” over monster trucks and loud noises. She’s obviously well-rounded in her interests… after all, we just played with her young STEM toy chemistry set yesterday (mixing food colors in our experiments), but she is still subjected to the idea, in our state and country at least, that there is a “girl” aisle and a “boy” aisle.
In that, I’m glad that LEGO Friends exists. She rushes toward the pink bricks and Minidolls, but when dad has his own LEGOs out, building away at his Creator Expert set, it’s good to hear my daughter say, “Hey, you’re playing LEGOs like me!”
I smile and reply, “Yes, honey, I am.”