The LEGO Friends Heartlake City Community Center was released last June. It’s a bright and colourful building that really stands out. Therefore I’ve been having my eye on this for some time. When I saw it on sale at a local retailer it was a no-brainer for me to pick it up. So how do I judge this set after having built it? Find out in the review below.
The set looks amazing. It’s tall, so definitely an eyecatcher once placed in a city. It’s colourful and the exterior is nicely decorated and detailed to make it very suitable for display.
With 1513 parts this is quite a big set. However looking at bulk parts, it’s less than impressive. Below is an overview of the parts in biggest quantities. For a set of this size, these quantities are rather small. Of course, this is only something that’s interesting if you intend to take down the set after building, and reuse the parts for MOCs.
Each level is built on a new ⅔ brick/plate piece and most white 1×4 plates are used to fill these gaps. As a MOC builder I consider this a poor choice, since these massive parts don’t have the versatility of using 8×16 and 8×8 plates.
Several other choices for simplified parts were made, which I will discuss later.
The big 8×16 printed tile on the side is wonderful however. Since buying it separately is also quite expensive (€10,09 on online PAB) I decided on buying the set to get it. In the print a lot of the activities and interests of the LEGO Friends characters are represented. Even a lime is included which is in the Community Kitchen set that can be incorporated into this tower.
When building sets I prefer digital instructions over paper books. With booklets I always run out of working space. However, I sometimes struggled to differentiate between color shades. Do I search for dark azure or medium azure or orange versus dark orange for example. Since this has been something that keeps coming back, I think some more attention needs to go into digital instructions. It’s more than just putting PDF files online, some thought and testing needs to go in usability.
The build itself is also not as expected. The set is targeted as 9+. However, with the use of many simplified parts, to me it was more a mix between 4+ and 6+. For a 9+ set I’d expect a bit more interesting parts, part usage and building techniques. For example, behind the big printed 8×16 tile there are 2 big windows, this is an easy solution to cover a lot of space, but looks really awkward from the inside.
The order in which the set was built also didn’t always make sense to me. For example the awnings on the azure level or the candlesticks on the lime level could have been a bit less fragile, connecting them to the rest of the build earlier in the process.
There are some interesting builds however. The chairs on the lime level are fun and interesting for example. But most small builds are just too simplistic and repetitive. Using the same window panels as supports for tables, instrument stands etc throughout the set. The movable crane on the rooftop is perhaps the most interesting feature from a building perspective.
During the build, 14 stickers are used. This is a rather reasonable amount and all stickers add some detail to the build that couldn’t be achieved in other ways.
Most levels are rather empty. Floors on the inside are just the studded plates which looks unfinished when compared to the tiled sidewalk on the outside.
Every level has it’s own destination. The azure level is for music with a performance area. The lime level has a vlogging studio and computer area for editing. The yellow level is for gaming, both board games and video games on the screen. The light nougat/coral level has an atelier for creative activities like customizing shirts with a little moving press. The rooftop features a small glasshouse kitchen garden. All of these activities correspond with the Friends characters interests.
The crane on the rooftop can move from left to right, which invites for play with the mural. The height is set however which makes the movement limited.
There are 6 minidolls included which appears to be more than usual. For example, the botanical garden has 3. Because of this, it’s more like a LEGO dollhouse as a play experience.
Like briefly mentioned, the community kitchen set can be incorporated into this set and all levels are modular and therefore easily swapped. These opportunities for customization are fun for sure. They are however rather restricted and don’t really encourage rebuilding which is a shame.
Value for money
The ‘official’ LEGO RRP for this set is £129.99/$139.99/€149.99. That seems rather steep for what you’re getting. It might be different in other countries, but here in The Netherlands most kids will be getting smaller presents for birthdays or Christmas. And like argued above, this is mostly a playset for kids in the age range 5-9. Looking at it that way, it’s hard to see an audience for this set. I ended up buying this set for €86 which is quite a big reduction. I expect this price to be more in line with what you get and the target audience.
The building looks lush and every kid receiving this as a gift will be delighted. Judging this being a MOC building AFOL however, this set is not without flaws.
As a fan of the LEGO Friends theme I think they often offer great sets that don’t get the credit from AFOLs they deserve. The minidolls get a lot of hate and I try to look past that to see what sets are like. A set can be interesting or good value even if I don’t like the figures. But I’m sad to conclude this set is rather underwhelming. In my opinion this is the least interesting Friends set I’ve ever bought. It’s such a step back from where the Friends theme used to be. It’s a lot more closer to what’s happening within City and I’m not a fan.
To illustrate this I’d like to compare it to 2015’s 41101 Heartlake Grand Hotel. This set has a similar piece count at 1552. The pieces were a lot more versatile and consisted of more basic bricks and in bigger quantities to stimulate rebuilding. The building techniques were also a lot more interesting, if only for the revolving door and elevator in the building. And for play features there were side builds like the taxi, detailed brickbuilt grand piano instead of the simplistic one in this set.
Maybe if the community center had one level less, those pieces could have gone into details to enhance the set. It seems to me so many parts were needed to get the desired height, too many compromises were made regarding the rest of the set. Resulting in a rather sparse interior and building experience.
In conclusion I’d say this is a 6+ set, branded as 9+ and sold for a 18+ price. Nice if you just want a dollhouse or facade that looks cool in a city, but lacking if you also want an interesting building experience with versatile parts.
Do you have or want this set? Do you agree with this review or is something missing? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Heartlake City Community Center
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