Last year, LEGO announced a new line of toys specifically for girls. I had always thought of LEGO as a gender-neutral toy, but was kind of curious. When Friends finally hit our TRU shelves, I decided picked up Olivia’s Tree house and give it a try.
What really intrigued me about LEGO Friends was all the research they had been putting in to development. They cited that girls like to build differently than boys and were trying to tailor it to that by adding elements of role-playing so that girls can start telling a story as they build instead of after the set is completed. Well, that sold me. They also mentioned some stuff about girls liking prettier colors and more details and accessories. It seems inevitable that anything girl oriented is going to end up with pink on it. I’ve made peace with that just like I’ve made peace with all the horse-themed items. The reason I chose the tree house was because it was more of a neutral toy than the others. Being a girl, I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more enjoyable things for me to choose from. At any rate, feel free to discuss the ongoing debate about the line on the forum or in the comments section.
When we finally found the LEGO Friends sets at our TRU, we debated about getting one. I finally decided on the Tree house (3065) because it was large enough to contain some role-playing elements, but small enough that it wouldn’t break the bank. Add a $5 coupon and we were ready to go. I should point out that, while we picked up our tree house for $17.99, TRU has since raised the price on all these items.
What you’ll notice first about the LEGO Friends sets is the giant wall of purple its display presents to you. There are some nice touches on the boxes– insets to show you some other things the characters can do as well as a close up of the mini-doll you’ll be getting. What I really liked was the bevel on the edge of the box. It’s a completely unnecessary aesthetic touch that only raises the price for consumers, but it does set the box apart a little bit and adds a bit of class. I love that kind of stuff even if it’s silly. The thing your kids may notice is the header full of Olivia and her friends. I didn’t realize it until just a minute ago, but it reminds me of the setups for the Disney Princesses and, in fact, that’s what I thought was on the box when I saw it out of the corner of my eye.
When you first open the box, there are two bags and a booklet for instructions. This was my first disappointment. Granted, I should have thought of this way earlier since LEGOs never talk and there are never any written instructions in the books, but I was very much looking forward to the roleplaying aspect of things so I thought there would be some kind of story there. A quick flip through the book killed that idea. It was just like every other LEGO book I’ve seen.
My first task in the book was to build the cat bed, retrieve the cat, and put it on it. I’m going to assume that building this small piece first is what they hope to engage me in “role-playing” with. A point for them, as I am easily plied with cats, but, watching Vault build a tribe of Atlantis crab/lobster vehicles last night as his first mission, this is no new innovation.
The tree house itself is a neat little thing. The deck does feel kind of flimsy and does have a tendency to come up a bit if you pull a mini-fig/doll off of it too hard. The structure of the tree is really interesting though I do wish they’d come up with some more realistic leaves. There is a treasure box at the base of the tree. This is one of the first few things you build on the main portion of the set. You immediately fill it with treasure and then put a leaf on top of it before you move on to the rest of the tree. You could just as easily build it and then put the treasure in later, but I think putting it in early makes you think about it as you’re building and may have been intended as a role-playing aspect.
There’s a ladder leading up to the tree house and I think the pole they have supporting the deck is a nice touch, though it may also be there for structural reasons. On the railing of the tree house there’s a telescope. This is probably another role-playing element, though, since Olivia is the only one in the set to have a house, I imagine her staring through the telescope at her own bedroom. The railing covers only two sides of the tree house and I kind of wonder why they didn’t include a third rail. Maybe it fell off and they made a bench out of it. On the upper part of the tree there is a plank with a series of footholds on it. This is a makeshift ladder to the crow’s nest. It sits on a hinge so that you can pull it up after your figure. Vault mentioned that this was a really nice touch and that they usually don’t think about things like that. Continue to page 2…