Review: 41325 Heartlake City Playground

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Earlier this year, the winner of the LEGO Friends Designer Content was announced: Sienna from the UK, had designed a playground for Heartlake City. As part of her prize Sienna and her family got to spend a week in Billund working with Friends designers to make her idea into an official LEGO set. If you follow LEGO on social media, you could have followed Sienna's journey and watched her being welcomed to Billund by Ricardo Silva and Fenella Charity, the designers who worked with Sienna. The set was released September 1, so of course I had to check it out!

The front art on the box shows the full set on display, with minidolls Sienna and Mia enjoying the different activities in the park. There's a brick graphic on the box that shows that this is the contest winning set, and celebratory confetti can be found on the right and left sides. The back of the box shows off different features of the set, with another graphic showing that this is a contest winner and more confetti in the upper right as well along the bottom.

Inside the box there are three numbered bags, a small sticker sheet, small perfect bound instruction book, bright yellow full slide, and three plates in bright green; one 16x16 and two 8x16. it's always nice to see larger plates for the base in Friends sets (maybe it's me, but it seems many Friends sets don't have them).


Minidolls

The two minidolls in the set are Mia, and of course, Sienna! Mia comes dressed for a day at the park with a blue halter top decorated with butterflies paired with green shorts (also decorated with butterflies) and purple flip flops. Her long red hair is braided down her back so it doesn't get in the way. Sienna the minidoll is dressed in clothes that Sienna the designer chose: a sleeveless hoodie in pink with a touch of purple (Sienna's description) and a skirt in turquoise (medium azur), Sienna's favourite colour.

The Friends animal in the set is a little brown dog with blue eyes named Pippa. Pippa is named after Sienna's grandmother's dog that her grandmother got for her birthday.

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Completed model

The build has several different parts. The first item to be built are two of the smaller sections, a fountain and an ice cream cart. The ice cream cart is an addition to Sienna's original design and is a very nice addition at that. This cart is also well stocked with both a popsicle and an ice cream (or ice lollies, for those of you in the UK). I like the printed umbrella piece used to provide a bit of shade. Close by there's a sign posted to indicate the prices of the ice cream found in the cart.

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The other smaller build is the fountain, which is close to Sienna's original design. I like the choice of purple flowers for decorations around the edge and a nickel (or 5p piece) has been provided to toss into the fountain and make a wish.

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Next is the swingset. In Sienna's original set there was only one swing, but as she's explained in an interview, that was due to a lack of parts on her part and is quite happy this set has two. The seats on the swing are 2x2 jumper plates. It took me a few minutes to figure out those are really for Pippa; the Friends have to hold onto the sides of the swings in order to not fall off. There's a sticker provided decoration that shows the hours for the park. Some stepping stones and a couple flowers provide additional detail.

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The main part of the build is the centre of activity of the playground and includes a number of activities. In front of the main structure there's a merry-go-round and see saw. There's a bench not far away.

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The other activities are combined in one structure and includes two of Sienna's favourite activities: monkey bars and a climbing wall. Both of these activities are used as the means to get to the second floor of the structure. Once at the top, a Friend can use the hopscotch laid out to gain access to the top of the tree house.

View image at flickr

Speaking of the tree house…..oh no, there are BURPs! Though they do have an interesting use as tree trunk pieces. Inside the treehouse there are a couple posters (provided by stickers) of upcoming events that the Friends have. According to one of Sienna's interviews, one of the stickers lists the names of the designers and graphic artist who worked on the set. There's also a top level of the treehouse (though no means to get up there), that has a trunk containing two walkie talkies. Monogrammed stickers and 1x2 tiles personalize the walkie talkies for the two friends (purple for Sienna, blue for Mia). Underneath the hopscotch there's another bench along with a globe window to provide light and to see outside.

View image at flickr

Once on the second level, quick access to the ground can be gained by the bright yellow slide on the far side of the treehouse.

View image at flickr

Not surprisingly, considering that this is a contest winner and the tight turnaround for development, there are no new pieces in this set, though there are several pieces that are somewhat rare. You can check what those are on the inventory page here.


Overall thoughts

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Sienna has said that she designed her set to be a playground because she felt Heartlake City was missing one, and she made a great choice. A playground was an inspired choice for a set, as it's something that everyone can use and children of all ages can appreciate. Kudos as well to Ricardo and Fenella for a final set that is very close to Sienna's original design, though I'm sure they would say that they had some great material to work with.

There are lots of opportunities for stories and play in this set, and the color scheme is very attractive (though typical Friends haters won't like that there's - gasp! - purple in the set). There's nothing like this in the Friends universe to date, and this is a delightful addition.

The only drawback to the set is the price. At $39.99 (£39.99, 39.99€) for 326 pieces, the set is pricy for what you get. I would recommend this set, but would also recommend that you find a sale or combine buying this with another promotion.

24 comments on this article

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By in United States,

I agree with the pricey part, it really feels and looks like a $30. That's the only drawback to me. I like the shade of purple used, and everything comes together well.

Also Sienna looks like one of the Friends' mother, weird but unavoidable with minidolls.

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By in United States,

Do a lot of AFOLs still get upset about BURPs? For me they've been pretty common all my life and are a great way of adding a sturdy structure and some nice uneven texture to a build. Particularly in a build like this where they're nice and subtle I don't feel like building the tree trunk up in more basic bricks and slopes would add much.

On the whole this is a beautiful playground, and the sort I'd love to bring my younger cousins to play on (or that I'd love to play on myself if I were younger)! I like the really thoughtful decision to make sure that pets like Pippa could enjoy the swings and see-saw just as easily as Mia and Sienna. The window on the lower level is very fun and really showcases how useful those 1x3x2 inverted half-arches are — in the past, making a circular window like that would have required attaching a regular arch upside-down, which would have been beyond the building level of a typical Friends or City set. I love the bright and cheery colors of the entire build! Basically every color of the rainbow is represented.

It's great that Sienna got this incredible opportunity to put her building skills to the test as a LEGO designer, and I hope this set sells well so LEGO will be motivated to create more opportunities like this for kids in the future!

@David1985: Other than sharing her hair piece with a few adult characters like Anna and Ms. Stevens, I don't see anything particularly motherly-looking about the Sienna mini-doll. And confusion from new characters sharing hair pieces with more familiar characters are hardly specific to mini-dolls. In fact, mini-dolls often do more to differentiate parent and child figures than classic minifigs, since mini-dolls generally use different torso molds for parents than they do for children.

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By in United Kingdom,

Just seen the set today. Looks like it's a TRU exclusive in the UK which is going to make finding it for the right price a bit tricky.
I like the set apart from the monkey bars, the two ladder pieces look a bit... amateurish & some sort of platform would look better than the up ladder ( I should add that my 4 year old daughter did point out the monkey bars straight away so it may just be me)

Oh - and I'm not fond of the ladybird sticker. The butterflies are okay but the ladybird looks like it's a sticker from somewhere else that's just been put there randomly

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By in United Kingdom,

^that's probably the point! Children sometimes put their own stickers at a playground

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By in United States,

@Aanchir: they look tacky if they're not used well (e.g., any of my builds that use them). I might be wrong on this but I think it's the triangular ones covered in studs that really bother people.

Congrats to Sienna again! The designers did a good job making this an official set.

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By in Canada,

I really like the idea that Lego did this. Not sure if they intend on doing it on a regular basis but something like a yearly contest for aspiring young designers would be great! What a opportunity to go and meet the Lego team and work with them to polish the set and see it come to fruition.

As for the set itself I really was tempted but yes the price put me off some. I don't know it seems Lego has some odd pricing strategies which I am sure we have discussed many a time. I might end up picking it up at some point just because its both a great set but I also think it would be fun to own a set designed by a young Lego fan/designer.

Thanks Megan for the review. Frankly the colours in Friends and Elves sets are not at all off putting to a male AFOL such as myself. I really have enjoyed the Elves theme.

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By in United States,

I think this set is really well done, and intend to add it to my City layout. A playground is definitely missing for the park! Glad they added this, and it's pretty cool how it was designed (sort of) by an actual kid. I think the bright colors will make sense in a playground context, even though I don't have much Friends stuff in general.

The Sienna doll does look like an adult to me too - probably b/c the haircut looks more mature.

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By in Puerto Rico,

I love he use of the mo key bars and how they're made.

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By in Czech Republic,

Dont want to sound "nasty".. but take also under consideration, that they produced a new, highly exclusive "doll" that wont appear anywhere else.. (means costs for design, moulding, production).. and as an IDEAS winner she is also entitled to 1 % profit from the sales.. certainly nobody sound expects that "nowadays - after laying 1.400 ppl off" LEGO would sponsor that from their own pockets.. so these two atributes could easily sum up for some 2-3 USD in price.

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By in Poland,

Let's hope for more contests like that! I bet City one would be REALLY popular.

My only gripe is the price - and in our TRU it will be even more than that...
At least you can buy it on S@H!

I still like it and I will hope to get it for good price!

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By in Ireland,

No picture of the posters? :-(

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By in United Kingdom,

@crayxmp - this is nothing to do with IDEAs and therefore is under different rewards. I believe Sienna got a trip to Billund with her family and her set produced but does not share in the profits.

Also while the minidoll as a whole is exclusive to his set there's nothing to stop them reusing the parts in other sets in different combinations.

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By in Germany,

Maybe I'm in a cynical mood today, but I see little merits in this set. My own kids build better looking Friends MOCs all the time. So we have already gotten several playground iterations over time. Add to that the fact how overpriced this set is, I would call it an easy pass.
Congrats though to Sienna for being the lucky contest winner. After all it is not her fault that Lego couldn't come up with a compelling Friends playground set before.

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By in Australia,

None of the parts of the Sienna figure are exclusive to this set, all 4 parts can be found in other sets so it would be fairly simple to build the Sienna figure yourself if you dont want to buy this set (the only rare part is the hair which is only found in this set and the Friends Ski Chalet set but is readily available on Bricklink)

The only thing exclusive to this set is the sticker sheet.

As for more contests like this, a City contest would be great and I would love to see (and probably buy) what comes out of such a contest.

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By in United States,

@crayxmp: There's nothing "highly specialized" about the Sienna mini-doll; all of her parts appear in other Friends sets except maybe her face (not quite sure if it's appeared on other mini-dolls before). Also, I don't believe she's going to be getting royalties on the set sales, since this wasn't done through LEGO Ideas, it was a building contest for kids. Her prizes for winning the contest were this year's full range of Friends sets, an all-expense-paid trip to Billund to meet the designers and help them turn her model into a the set, and I think possibly some other prizes sponsored by Toys 'R' Us.

Certainly the development process on this set might have been a bit more costly than an average set, but I don't know how big an impact that would have made. Other factors in the price could include the number of larger parts (a 16x16 plate, two 8x16 plates, and a big slide). The set certainly does feel considerably bigger than https://brickset.com/sets/41177-1/The-Precious-Crystal-Mine, which itself had a somewhat higher than usual price per piece.

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By in United States,

Thanks for another great review of this great set! The only thing I'm not super hyped about is the configuration of the monkey bars. My daughter can't wait to get her hands on this though and if it had been 30.00 I'd have probably bought it by now. However at 40.00 it may be a bit longer before it becomes a welcome addition to our city park. Congrats to Sienna and all the contest participants (still would've liked to see that movie theater become a set).

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By in United States,

A very nifty little set for sure but agreed on the price point. It looks like a $30 set and not a $40 set. Great color choices and, like Aanchir, I don't mind the inclusion of BURPs at all especially in this instance.

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By in Australia,

Price aside (which is the standard thing for a lot of Lego sets, these days), it's a nice idea, and it is a lovely little set.

But isn't Heartlake City mostly playgrounds? Isn't there a treehouse on every block, by now? It just seems odd to me. Every building is a cupcake restaurant or a public pool, and I'm sure there's been at least two treehouses already.

As for the comparison to the crystal mine, I waited until that one was on clearance and picked it up cheap.

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By in United States,

^This is the first playground we have in Heartlake City. The closest other set would be the skate park.

Also, there is only one other true tree house in Heartlake City from the very first wave. The other tree houses would be special cases in the jungle rescue theme and the adventure camp theme. The Adventure Camp Tree House is a cabin built around a tree instead of a cabin built in a tree.

There are indeed two public pools (and two small pools) and two bakeries (and two small kitchen/bakeries) but there are also three stables, two beauty shops, two party stores, two schools, two vets, two grocery markets, two ice cream parlors (one is on an island with a lighthouse), a gym, a hospital, a mall, a pet shop, a pet kennel, a pizzeria (and a small pizza shop), a juice bar, a cafe, a hotel, a recording studio, an airport, a flying club, a surf shop, a riding camp, a karate class, at least five workshops/studios, and five houses. There's also the amusement park, ski resort, and summer camp near Heartlake City.

So even though Heartlake City does have a few duplicate buildings, the diversity of the other shops and buildings makes it possible to place the duplicates far enough apart to make a pretty nice city.

What would appear on every corner of Heartlake City? A stage. If you want to talk about a building structure that over-populates Heartlake City it would be stages: Andrea has two, Stephanie has two, Livi has two, and there are two pet competition stages. There is a stage at the horse show. The mall has a fashion runway, and there is a stage at the pet birthday party. If you're looking for an audience, Heartlake City is the town for you...

We have this playground set sitting unopened on the dining room table. I've been trying to wait until we build it to fully read the article, but I can't help myself from peeking every time I visit Brickset. Hopefully, we can build it tomorrow!

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By in United States,

^ Stages--ugh! I hate these Friends stages. I got my Lego catalog for Fall 2017 today and sure enough ... in the Snow Resort Ice Rink set (#41322) there is a stage. Blah.

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By in United States,

The playground is a wonderful addition to Friends. It is free to visit, requires no purchase of anything, and promotes physical activity and interaction among guests. Wow! These are values that are needed in the US where few children play outside, except in neighborhoods full of immigrants and parks. Visiting parks in San Jose, CA, with my grandchild, I am amazed at how they are filled with foreigners, who are used to socializing at the park most evenings. This is a much healthier activity than sitting at a TV or computer inside, and it improves the social skills of everyone. While I am not crazy about the high price, this set fills a big void in the Friends line. Thanks, Sienna and TLG!

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By in Viet Nam,

I am worrying about the lack of idea from Lego especially in Friends sets. I like them to introduce animals which appear in Duplo to Friends. Because I see Heart Lake city not have the zoo yet. And they usually reintroduce similar things such as stable horse ride ...

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By in United States,

I'm fine with the Friends color scheme, but the mix of bright colors on this seems garish - #41099 Heartlake Skate Park also had that problem. I do like Friends' mix of realistic models, especially since CITY focuses on police, fire and a few other heavy vehicles. If Friends overdoes anything, it's animals, though I do like the particular dog figurine here.

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By in United States,

We built this last night, and I was surprised by it's size. I think I was expecting it to be only six studs deep, but it's eight and that makes it significantly larger than my expectation.

The fountain is kind of pointless, in my opinion. I'd rather have that left out for a chair--or something--to be included by the table under the structure. Or turn the fountain into a sandbox. Or get rid of the ice cream cart and put the fountain on a larger base so a bench could be beside it.

It's another of the long list of Friends sets that looks better in real life than pictures. The colors look much better together and you get a better perspective of the size of this set in real life. My oldest is not one for imaginative play--which kills me--and she normally builds a a LEGO set and moves on after playing for a few minutes. This one, she played much longer AND with her sister. The walky-talkies seemed like an odd inclusion, but didn't Sienna (my 1 of 2) and Mia (my 2 of 2) never put them down as they raced through the climbing wall, hopscotch board, treehouse, slide, and swings to single to each other when to meet up at the roundabout or teeter-totter. It was pretty sweet watching them.

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