Hinckley

REVIEW: 3061 City Park Café

Review: 3061 City Park Café   95 members have voted

  1. 1. How do you rate this set?

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      1
    • Below Average
      5
    • Average
      4
    • Above Average
      44
    • Outstanding
      41

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90 posts in this topic

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Number: 3061

Name: City Park Café

Theme: LEGO Friends

Year: 2012

Minifigs: 2

Pieces: 222

Price: 29.99 USD

Links...

Disclaimer: In regards to the recent controversy over this line, please know that I am a jackass and treat the delicate issue very lightly. It's all meant in fun. This review is meant for adult fans of LEGO and not for children or the easily offended, so consider yourself warned.

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Box Art:

Here we go! Let's start with the front of the box. It's not square, it's sort of smooshed like someone is giving it a hug. That's because it's your friend. LEGO Friends are your friend, even the box! The palette for the Friends line is softer and effeminate but not overly "girly" in my opinion. It's not a puddle of pink puke by a long shot. It's vibrant and exciting and is certainly brighter, but it's appropriate for who it's marketed towards. Girls! Imagine that. Girls do like softer and brighter colors. Soapbox: This isn't about insulting their intelligence or denying their rights, it's about market research. LEGO is marketing a line of toys towards girls. They realize the girls don't like Star Wars ships and bulldozers and monster trucks, jousts, dragon, skeletons in mechs, etc as much as boys. Now they'd like to cater to girls with their time-tested educational toy. The sets, in my opinion, are more complicated than Belleville and other LEGO attempts at "girl" themes. Yes, a lot of the pieces are involved in accessories and extra doo-dads, but it seems LEGO test marketed this product (for years, from what I understand) and found that girls like little details. Yes, it's a challenging build, but it also caters to a girl's attention to detail and allows her to be creative and have fun as well as be challenged. My niece likes these and I'd like to know how many people offended by this line have children in their life and if they do, did they let their children choose their own toys or do they cram controversy and opinion down their throats so the children don't even know how to play anymore? Let children play and choose their toys. Don't project your opinions and insecurities on your children! And don't try to boycott a toy company (one of the only ones left that encourages creative and matrix reasoning) because they chose a color you don't like. They market-tested these toys and found that girls like them! But, that's enough about the front of the box.

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The back of the box has a lot of information. It gives a full view of the inside of the cafe, closeup shots of the little accessories and interior action shots of the stove, counter, etc, some shots of other products and a silhouette dissection of one of the "mini-dolls" to show that their clothes and hair are interchangeable. It also shows the graphic we see on a lot of LEGO City sets that there are a certain numbers of components that make up the entire set. Here there are three steps pouring out of the box and completing the whole cafe. Those who feel that the Friends line is too simple and "dumbed down" for girls will note, by doing a little research, that these graphics are usually included in their "evergreen" lines that are intended to introduce new customers to the market. As this is a new line trying to entice girls into the LEGO system of play, perhaps these are slightly simpler than other lines. In my opinion, this would be because it's an introduction line, and not because The LEGO Group thinks girls aren't as smart as boys. You see people, there are grey areas in life. It may be simpler than other lines for other reasons besides what you feel like getting pissed off about. Furthermore, a little research will show that these sets are just as complicated as other LEGO sets met for this age group. And if you compare the convertible in this first wave with some cars from the current City police line, the Friends set is easily more detailed and complicated. So shut up and calm down. :tongue:

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Here is an angled shot of the hug-in-progress box, or HIP box for short. :grin:

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The side of the box shows an actual size image of a mini-doll.

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To look at the back of the box in more detail, there is a little inset box of all the kitchen utensils and accessories. This gives a good view of all the new molds created for this line. Again, girls enjoy details and giving them more little details to play with enhances their creative development.

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The back of the box also shows how the mini-dolls could interact with each other and what all of the cool appliances and counters/cases are for inside. Just one purchase of a Pirates of the Carribean set, though, and your daughter can play Cafe robbery!

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Look, it's Andrea! And these are the pieces that make her!

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I'm really delving into Pandora-level detail, but in for a penny, in for a pound. The front of each box shows what characters are included and what their names are. The City Park Cafe comes with Andrea and Marie.

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The box is finally open! Look at all the pieces. There are three numbered bags, three beautiful new medium azure plates, a DSS (dreaded sticker sheet) and an instruction manual. This set uses the easy "build by numbered bag" method. I like this method a lot as it keeps things organized and moving a little quicker. The parts and sorted for you and the set fits together modularly.

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Hello, DSS! :sweet: There are 7 bright, retro-cafe stickers for the set. They are certainly bright, but not too "girly" in this man's opinion.

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The instructions give girls, or anyone, the chance to Win! Gewinne! or Gagne!

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Instructions are always a good opportunity to advertise for more products!

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For example, you are encouraged to actually check the box next to each set you have (or perhaps want for Christmas/birthday). If you check off each box, you better get them all or you'll make this page of the instructions a liar! :look:

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The instructions also include a map of beautiful Heartlake City. I'd love for The LEGO Group to produce one of those modular high rises for the Friends line and shut those people up that think the product is insulting the intelligence level of girls. :hmpf: Please, LEGO, please! Produce a modular Friends set!

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Some other crap. I was done reading at that point. I just snapped a picture...

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Part Inventory Part I.

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Part Inventory Part II.

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Mini-dolls:

So, onto the parts! Let's start with the new mini-doll. From what I hear, the LEGO market research team found that girls weren't very excited for minifigs, so these mini-dolls were introduced. So, there you have it, people who think changing the mini-figure is odd. LEGO actually researched what little girls wanted and listened to their opinions when creating this product line. Anyway, since these figure parts are two-color plastic, they have to produced elsewhere and bagged separately.

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Here's the torso. The arms do move and the hand is the same size as a minifig hand so they can hold anything a minifig can. It's also notable than, unlike Barbie and other girl toys, this lady has an achievable chest. :wink:

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Here are the mini-doll legs. It is a pretty cool skirt mold. I wonder if that's going to look silly when that skirt goes out of style. :sceptic:

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Just like a minifig, the head is separate and can be swapped with other mini-dolls.

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The same is true of the hair. The hair mold is made of softer plastic that gives a bit. I think the technical term is "squishy." It will fit any other minifig or mini-doll.

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And here's a completed Andrea with all of her body parts in the right place.

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And look, while we were messing around with Andrea, Marie put herself together.

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OK, well everyone else got to play with different hair on these things in their reviews, so now it's my turn to play.

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I keep hearing that the mini-doll is 1 plate taller than a minifig, so the skirt mold will make a fig the same height as the doll. I think it was worth checking out. Daxia has tall hair, though...

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Aha. Still doesn't seem even. I would call the height difference 2 plates.

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Well, Andrea looked pretty good with any hairstyle, let's try to make Marie look like a freak.

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And here are the best friends together! Marie and Andrea. They must be BFFs, since they came in the same box!

:look:

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And the mini-dolls from behind. Those are single hinges, so both legs move in unison. No running for these girls! They'll have to hop into the rat race and hurtle themselves ahead of men!

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They sit too! One thing I'll say, and you'll understand when you have a mini-doll or two of your own to play with, mini-dolls wobble but they don't fall down...

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Even though it's meant for girls, the instruction interface is the exact same as for a boys set. I hope the girls can understand...

:tongue: (Remember the disclaimer, folks) The cafe is constructed with the pieces from bags 1 and 2.

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The pieces:

As previously mentioned, there are three large plates in the new medium azure color.

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The 16 x 16 plate has tubes like the Scala plates or the older plates, after the waffle age. Makes for very sturdy clutch power.

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The exciting new molds of accessories found in the kitchen are all yellow in this set. There's a knife, a fork, a plate, a pan, a cake pan, a cupcake, a pitcher, a spatula and...

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...the very best new mold: a hand mixer! I'm instantly in love! :wub_drool:

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Is there anything in this picture? Yes! It's another exciting new piece. Old mold, new color: 4 x 4 quarter panel in trans-clear. :wub_drool:

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New(ish) pieces. Some old molds in new colors. I know the pie was in Series 5 but I still love it!!

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And here are all the parts in bag one. Have you ever read a Pandora review? They're awesome! :wub: She does this with the piece setup. I don't know if I can keep that up. It's very tedious. So much detail! It's very nice to have, but hard to do when you aren't very patient. Anyway, what's done is done and I'm doing it in this review. Don't know if I can continue it in the future.

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And here are the contents of bag two.

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The instructions seem to read about the same as a set intended for boys. The pace also seems similar. I'm willing to be The LEGO Group has the same level of respect for a girl's intelligence as they do a boy's. I wonder if The LEGO Group might even employee women some day! :sweet:

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Ta-da! While we were busy chatting, the first little section was completed. It's the front patio! Wow, this place has everything: even outdoor seating!

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Look! Hinckley and Andrea are on a date. That's...weird...

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Want to hear something sucky? The icing on the cupcakes doesn't knob on, it just sits there. As if the 1x1 round plates really needed any more help finding their way to the carpet to lie helplessly in wait for the next vacuum. :hmpf: Who molded this piece??

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And here we see the instructions progressing nicely. The stickers begin to rear their ugly heads! I usually leave the stickers out, but something compels me to apply them for this set.

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Part of my sticker avoidance is from poor sticker application skills. This one is less intimidating because you're supposed to apply it crooked.

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This retro-soda clip art is very cool and although I'd rather not see it on one of my favorite new pieces that I will most likely want to use with out the malted milkshake on it someday, it really adds to the character of this set, so on it goes.

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Ooh, a separately constructed piece! I hope girls can handle that. :look:

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Pink sensitive be warned: There are now pink bricks on the creation and there's no turning back! I was able to proceed without vomiting.

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Go sticker-application-Hinckley! :grin: I'm so proud of myself. It doesn't look like a retarded monkey applied it. The menu for this cafe can be read by anyone, no matter what language they speak...unless they're blind. Otherwise, it transcends languages and allows everyone to be...Friends. :cry_happy:

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A clip!? I wonder what it will hold. The suspense is killing me. :cry_sad:

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Another separately constructed piece. I really like the rounded diner feel the roof of this structure has.

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The big sign is a separately constructed piece as well. This is a great detail and really gives the cafe a unique retro feel. I like this set because of the fun feeling it has and this sign really gives it that fun feeling.

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I'm only halfway through building the sign and I just love it! :wub_drool: I'm aware I'm flaming out but this sign is so adorable I could just marry it!

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Look, it's getting more adorable by the second. There's even a separately-constructed part within the separately-constructed part!! Wow, complicated. Are girls smarter than boys or something? Testosterone is starting to confuse me. If the sign wasn't so cute, I might've just given up and cried.

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I love this. :wub_drool:

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And now, the cafe is complete! It's not a bad size for the price. I wish some of the "boy" Town sets had this much character. A unique construction desgin? What a novel idea! This type of character would have been nice for the Marina set of 2011 or a similar dedication to the "character" of a set would've suited the sterile harbor we were given. :sceptic: Blech. I like Friends better than boy LEGO toys! But, wait. That clip is still empty. What is it going to hold????

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I'm not a fan of dark red next to regular red, but it's all right here. Maybe I'm getting used to it or the pink offsets it somehow and makes it look nicer together. Normally the dark red makes the red look too orange, but everything seems harmonious here.

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The third bag contains all of the parts for the interior.

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I don't know what colors we have cheese wedge in anymore, but pink and orange are at least relatively new. The drawer is definitely new in pink and I will want to pick up more of these. The more colors the drawer mold comes in, the more unique the bedrooms and kitchens in Fabuland Housewives will appear. Where is episode 2 of season 2 of that, anyway??

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Printed elements!!

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Here are all of the parts that come in bag three.

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I lied. That was only half. Here is the other half.

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The first interior detail we build is the sink.

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And next we have the oven. The new cake pan...or cookie sheet or whatever...mold fits right inside.

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Here they are placed inside. I really hope it never rains here. For whatever reason, there's no roof. Maybe it never rains in ... Heartlake... Valley ... or whatever the town is called, but if it did, that'd be fine for the dishes, but not so great for what's being cooked on the stove.

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Next are some nice booths for Marie's customers. Or Andrea's customers. Or both. Or neither. Play whatever you like!

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The booths surround a very nice high table. The whole set fits the diner/cafe feeling. A nice white base with red upholstery/table top. The girls don't have tubes on their butts, so they need to sit on tile. They could sit on studs, ... :look: (careful...) ... but that probably wouldn't be very comfortable.

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Yum, a burger! That must've been fried on the stove when it wasn't raining.

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A broom!!!!!!!! :drool:

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Have some orange juice with your burger.

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There's a station to dress your burger! Choose from: salt, pepper, mustard, ketchup. Yummy!

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Ooh, there's a soda fountain too! Hurry up and finish building. I want to play already! What fun. Why don't boy toys come with this type of detail? Why??? Girls are so lucky. All we get are guns and planes and better paying jobs. No fair.

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Everything's starting to come together!!

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The soda fountain has a sticker on it...

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...that can only be seen from outside.

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There's a display case, but apparently it's only for displaying one thing at a time!

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Forget my job! I want to work here. Look, you can put a pie in a display case and use a soda fountain and put ketchup on hamburgers. Is this the greatest LEGO set ever made??? :sweet:

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There's even a cash register. I bet that's for taking money!

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This is the side the customers will see. Again, it faces the inside of the cafe. A little strange, but I do appreciate the detail it adds. The counter will look great even from the front with the extra attention to detail the designers paid.

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The instruction want me to put the frying pan handle hanging over the front of the stove. Good thing I know better. That's not safe. Why, someone could walk by and knock it right off and burn themselves or start a fire! Stupid LEGO instructions...don't know anything.

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Here is the completed interior with one pie in the display case.

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There are only a couple more details to build including this adorable little gumball machine. Awwww, it's so cute ... wish I had thought of that. :hmpf_bad:

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The gumball machine...sits outside the front door...to the right. Isn't that smart? :sceptic: I wonder what smart person thought of that cute detail. Don't know what I'm on about? Check the midddle picture in my sig. Of course, at some point, I'll change my sig, but for now...

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And last, but not least, a little sign, advertising cupcakes! And four!

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There are lots of spare parts. Typical selection: 1x1 round plates, cheese wedge and a lever.

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And now we're done! Here's a shot of the completed exterior.

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And a different angle.

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And here's everyone together, enjoying a nice day at the cafe and being Friends. :wub: So adorable!

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I'm whipping up batter for a new pie in case someone buys this one! Whee! Let's check out the rest of the cafe. Come get girly with me!

Let me comment real quick on the whole girly thing. Let me be completely political and inappropriately personal. As a gay man, I understand people getting up in arms over stereotypes, especially stupid ones. I hate when people assume I love show tunes. I hate when people assume I go to clubs, do drugs and listen to Lady Gaga. I really don't like it when they ask my opinion on hair, fashion or make up. What the hell? I'm gay but I'm still a guy. Stereotypes annoy me too, but I've come to expect that some people just latch onto them because they don't know any better and some exist for a reason. A lot of gay men listen to Lady Gaga and do drugs while listening to musicals and designing dresses. Well, none of the ones I know...but girls like girly things and marketing a product to girls is OK. I'm skipping through the cafe with a wig on in this review because it's fun to poke fun at the stereotype. I know women are not all pink and girly. At the end of the day, this is a toy. And it's a toy I believe girls will want to play with. I bet The LEGO Group thinks so too since they spent a long time test marketing and developing the line. So I hope you have fun reading my review, realize my jokes are jokes and give a LEGO Friends set a chance.

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Anyway, I still have no idea why there a 2x2 round tile on the ground here... *huh*

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This sink is actually big enough for dishes! We can't have enough forks and knives for all of our customers so I better wash some more.

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I've got a bun in the oven! Tee hee! I can't really do that since I don't have a uterus. But, I can literally have one. A bun, not a baby. This is a cupcake anyway. What the hell flavor is that frosting?

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Look at me! I'm frying something blue!

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Time to take an enormous burger and lift it over my head to put some ketchup and mustard on it. That ketchup bottle is almost as tall as I am!

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Well, it was easy for me to hang out and work in the cafe, but Marie and Andrea have to hang over one edge of the creation in order to work.

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I suppose they could stand on the plate and face towards or away from the camera, but that seems to make their activity even more awkward. Well, what do you know? Even in the girls' set, the boy can do it better. :grin:

Conclusion

Design: 9/10 I really love this design. The previous "girl" lines were rather simple with over-sized parts. This is a construction set with a lot of detail and character. I love the look of it as much as the function and I think it's a very well thought-out set.

Parts: 10/10 I'm biased but I love every part in this set. I'm excited about the window pieces and the new molds and this set is filled with the cutesy kitchen stuff I love for my comics and Fabuland creations. This whole theme will probably get 10s from my reviews when it comes to parts.

Figs: 9/10 I have to rate this for the dolls and not for the fact that they are not minifigs. This set has two figs and that's great at this price point. I like the hair molds and the fact that you can interchange them with minifig molds and vice versa. There's something endearing about these dolls, too. They may not be minifigs and I'm not crazy about that, but they're cute and well designed.

Build: 9/10 It's an average build. Not too difficult, but not dumbed down and I can't stress that enough. They get a 9 from me which should really be an 8 since it only has 3.5 walls and no roof. But I will leave it at a 9 because it's important to stress that it's a good challenge for the age range, no matter the gender. This is a good construction toy and the construction part is not lacking because it is aimed towards girls. I hope groups that want these sets boycotted will seriously take a look at LEGO sets and find this for themselves.

Playability: 10/10 This set succeeds in it's playability. There is a ton of detail in this set and a lot of accessories and new molds that all lend to the function of the set. This provides a great creative environment for children who love to build and create.

Overall Score: 94%

And now a potentially offensive comic. See disclaimer above and consider yourself warned.

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Sorry. :blush:

Edited by Pandora
Indexed

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I am sure you will want us to comment in public! But I can't resist it and to tell you that those minifigs comparison style is outstandingly funny! :laugh:

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:laugh: Cool set and you're a dufus.

You read it before I added the offensive comic! :cry_sad:

I am sure you will want us to comment in public! But I can't resist it and to tell you that those minifigs comparison style is outstandingly funny! :laugh:

Public-schmublic. I'm over copying. I just moved the whole thing out of the staff forum. :blush: I didn't want to re-type the poll.

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Thanks for the review Hinck. You sure had a lot of fun swapping around hats and hairpieces. :grin:

And now, the cafe is complete! It's not a bad size for the price. I wish some of the "boy" Town sets had this much character.

I have to agree, it really has a lot of character. I'm surprised at the quality of the builds of the Friends sets and especially all the interior and exterior detailing. And it's not at all coming just from new accessories.

I like Friends better than boy LEGO toys!

Why am I not surprised. :tongue:

See it on Classic-Town.net

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Awesome review Hinckley! I don't know what all the fuss is about with regard to this line. How can anyone look at the sets and not fall in love?? My heart melts just looking at the great array of new pieces and colours, it's just so freakin' gorgeous. We never tried to push our daughter to like conventional "girly" toys, she did that all by herself, so maybe there's something to be said for this kind of marketing. I love your character creations, especially the combination using the Wonder Woman hair :blush: . By the way, you look great as a blonde..

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Why am I not surprised. :tongue:

Hey, don't stereotype me. Didn't you get the moral of the comic? (And check it again. I entered the URL of the last frame wrong and fixed it after you read it. :blush: )

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Hey, don't stereotype me. Didn't you get the moral of the comic? (And check it again. I entered the URL of the last frame wrong and fixed it after you read it. :blush: )

You're going to host a Friends mafia game? :moar:

:grin:

I guess kids won't have a problem at all playing with these alongside regular minifigs (or Fabufigs :wink: ).

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Public-schmublic. I'm over copying. I just moved the whole thing out of the staff forum. :blush: I didn't want to re-type the poll.

You..... :hmpf:

Lazy Hinck. :tongue:

It was definitely an enjoyable review to read. I really like the comparisons for the different minifigures that you have done for Friends' specialised parts. You made it so much fitting and nice. Certainly complements one another on the System minifigures. I am not a huge fan of Friends yet but after seeing this, it kind of influenced me on the liking department.

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Fun review and an excellent set. Why don't the normal City sets have this level of character and detail?

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Why don't the normal City sets have this level of character and detail?

I am suspecting and inclined to think that the LEGO Friends are modelling on what girls are thinking based on the liking of dollhouses which are very detailed in their designs and layout.

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Fun review and an excellent set. Why don't the normal City sets have this level of character and detail?

Thanks! I suspect the "character" lacks in boys' town because the focus is more on vehicles. A set like the harbor set will do better because the focus is on the ship and the function of the crane while the building can just be a character-less box. Girls probably put more value on aesthetics than the badass function of a snake-mech or lizard wrecking ball. However, wave two of Friends seems to have quite a few vehicles and an airplane. I'd love to see more detailed buildings with more character in regular City sets. The Forest police sets are all right. The headquarters is actually a-symmetrical!

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You produce the most entertaining reviews. Numerous clear pictures with tons of humor, insight, and useful information. Thanks for a good read!

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Thanks Hinckley, that's a fantastic review, couldn't be more detailed... :thumbup:

I think TLG is doing a very good job with the new Friends line. I'm not personally interested, but I'm curious to see if my daughter will be.

My comments on this set:

PROS:

- the level of details in the interior design is just really good, how those bar/kitchen furniture and equipment is rendered with small bricks instead of large specialized pieces

- all the new molds for kitchenware... these would be so useful in regular City sets and also in Castle (if made in more appropriate colours i.e. brown & grey)

- the new colours (I personally hate pastel colours, but I have to admit this is a PRO for most AFOLs)

- the minidolls... again I'm not going to be a fan at all, but I have to admit that TLG did a fantastic job with their design and printing, and I really appreciate that they are fairly compatible in size with regular minifigs

- I don't see anything offensively stereotypical or chauvinistic

CONS:

- the price: almost 15c per piece... I don't know if they have to get back the money spent in research & design, or if they simply start high because they expect the novelty of this theme to sell well, but this theme starts more expensive than licensed sets

- the red+pink colour scheme, I just don't get it, I really think these 2 colours look bad together; must be me, because my wife & daughter have filled our house with red+pink towels, clothes and bags, so apparently it's a combination that does indeed work for some

- minidolls legs not indipendent and minidolls hands not rotating (especially the first is quite disappointing): I think however it is possible for the design to be updated in a couple of years, if the Friends line is successful and lasting

I don't mind the café missing the roof. I think the Friends line is supposed to be highly playable, and thus they probably consciously designed the buildings to be easily accessible inside. Maybe research showed that girls like more roleplaying in real-life environment while boys like "swooshing" vehicles more?

As previously mentioned, there are three large plates in the new medium azure color.

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The 16 x 16 plate has tubes like the Scala plates or the older plates, after the waffle age. Makes for very sturdy clutch power.

That's quite strange... considering these parts serve as bottom of the building, there's no need for clutch power. Maybe they are going to use this design for every plate in 2012?

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This was the most entertaining and informative review that I can recall ever reading. You have made me really want this set now. A simple thank you cannot express the way I feel on how you showed the whole community that everyone has something to be excited about this set.

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Hinkley,

I think it is time you put down the red cordial and stepped away from the pretty bricks. ;)

Great review...can you please, please, please, please do more.

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Hilarious review, Hinck! :wub: You've brightened up the first-day-back-at-work blues no end :cry_happy: .

I love these Friends sets! I can see us buying multiples to brighten up the otherwise drab and vehicle-orientated CITY line. The new parts, the hair, the accessories... :wub_drool:

And here are all the parts in bag one. Have you ever read a Pandora review? They're awesome! :wub: She does this with the piece setup. I don't know if I can keep that up. It's very tedious. So much detail! It's very nice to have, but hard to do when you aren't very patient. Anyway, what's done is done and I'm doing it in this review. Don't know if I can continue it in the future.

You should read some other reviews :hmpf_bad:

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:laugh: Awesome review.

Love the set and I can't wait to own it, but I loved your review even more. Awesome work.

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Aaarghhh, feminism override... must... surrender... to cuteness of EVERYTHING in this set!!

No, really. I instantly fell in love with that soda fountain. Such an awesome use of pieces, and all the kitchen stuff... my inner chef is celebrating. :laugh:

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Excellent Review Hinkley and very nice pics.

The politically incorrect comics were hilarious!!! :laugh:

Its nice to see the Jack Sparrow body with the Andrea hairpiece... makes a pretty nice French era "Ancien Regime". Nice decorated uniform with a curly wig.

:tongue:

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Excellent set - excellent review! For that price this set is a steal! I completely agree with you: why can't TLG produce detailed sets such like this in ordinary boys oriented lines??

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Thank you for the detailed and entertaining review, Hinck! This is the theme I expect to spend the most money on this year. I'm not sure what use I will make of the minidolls, but the designs and part selection more than make up for the absence of minifigs, for me at least. Besides, with the plethora of collectible minifigs coming out every few months I'm just about to have a minifig indigestion. Generally speaking, my only slight disappointment is that no more male minidolls are included in the first wave, but perhaps subsequent releases will include some more -- if market research shows it would be beneficial! :wink:

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Falicia! :wub:

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I'm surprised that the copyright year on these would be 2009... Having settled on the minidoll design by 2009 shows that they had the theme in the works for a very long time!

That's quite strange... considering these parts serve as bottom of the building, there's no need for clutch power. Maybe they are going to use this design for every plate in 2012?

The move to standard plates instead of baseplates is a good thing, IMHO. The standard plates are much more versatile (and sturdy) although I don't expect them to be released in the 32x32 or 48x48 format. When I was a kid I really hated how I couldn't use my baseplates on top of more Lego.

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