Dolphin Cruiser combines great play design with a superbly executed concept to produce a kit that returns hours of fun to its target market group. The boat has the look and feel of a luxury yacht with all the amenities, including a fully furnished cabin, a head with appropriate facilities, a galley, a water slide, lounging chairs, and a skidoo with tow rope and water skis. As you build it, you may find yourself daydreaming of sun-drenched days on sparkling blue waters. Bring on the fruity tropical drinks!
** General Comments: When you buy the Dolphin Cruiser in an unopened box, its 612 bricks ship in five bags. The kit that we built for this review, however, was borrowed from its owner after many months of sustained play. As a result, our starting point was a pile of un-bagged and unsorted bricks, as you see in the photo below. That was no problem: the kit is fun to build and produces a toy that is both structurally sturdy and suitable for a variety of imaginative scenarios.
A cool playability feature that we always appreciate is the way you end up with completed mini-models as part of a large construction effort. In this kit, the first thing you build is the skidoo pictured below. The driver is Mia, the water skier is Maya. In terms of clever brick usage, I love the appearance of “string with knobs” (4528331) as a tow rope.
The rest of the kit focuses on building the Dolphin Cruiser, starting with the hull. The picture below shows the bow with one of the hull pieces already attached. Three black connectors hold the hull pieces together.
And pictured below is the completed hull at the conclusion of bag one. Look at all that deck space just begging for furnishings!
At this point, all the mini-dolls and dolphins have been freed from their shipping bags. Here’s a group photo. Your Maya, by the way, will have a white shirt; ours could not be located at the time of writing, so a suitable substitute was found (I did mention the extensive play this kit has enjoyed, right?). The dolphins, as you can see, are brilliantly done.
This next picture gives you a good idea about the playability of this kit. As is the case with all Friends sets, the domestic details of the Dolphin Cruiser are comprehensively covered and will provide literally hours of play opportunities for the target group. On a side note, the coffee-guzzling construction foreman does not come with the kit.
Here’s another play feature of this kit that I really appreciate: the upper deck, once constructed, sits in the yellow-orange “cradle” around the opening. This makes it easy for you to get to the lower deck without demolishing chunks of the boat.
Here we are putting the upper deck into the “cradle”. See how the assembly nestles into the space? The photo, by the way, captures the conclusion of bag four, at which point, everybody was queuing up for a cruise. Keen-eyed observers will notice surfer and mermaid minifigs hanging around in the background.
And here’s the completed Dolphin Cruiser. As you can see, it’s big, colourful, packed with play features, and composed of all sorts of unusual and rare bricks. Now, on to the ratings.
** Playability: 5 out of 5 bricks. It will probably come as no surprise that this kit earns the highest scores in the playability category. Play features literally stack on top of each other, and the concept of a cabin cruiser that motors through dolphin-rich seas provides hours of imaginative opportunities for the target age group. Moreover, the construction process is fun and produces a toy that is sturdy enough to support months of play. The only drawback is that there are lots of small pieces that are susceptible to being lost over time, but for our play tester, this hasn’t been much of a barrier to sustained joy.
** Minifigures: 2 out of 5 bricks. Our low rating in this category is based on two factors: lack of distinctiveness and lower than expected numbers of figures. First, the 3 mini-dolls that ship with this kit (Mia, Maya, and Andrew), while exclusive to this set at the time of writing, could be placed into any generic warm weather setting. Given how many instances of each character you are likely to accumulate if you buy multiple Friends kits, it would be nice to get something in this one that was very specific to boating, like hair pieces with snorkel masks, or “yachting hats”, or bathing suits, or sunburned arms. Second, the number of minifigures is lower than expected for a kit of this size. We have noticed that Friends kits have a much higher bricks-to-minifig ratio than all other LEGO themes. In other themes, like City, for example, the average number of minifigures that appear in a kit is roughly one per hundred bricks. The best we’ve seen so far in a Friends kit is 162:1 in Heartlake High (41005), while the worst is 278:1 in Summer Riding Camp (3185). Dolphin Cruiser has a ratio of 204:1. Now, in the interests of full disclosure, we must share that our play tester is happy with the number of mini-dolls that she has received in her Friends kits, so we acknowledge freely that our low rating may be harsher by a point than it could be.
** Brick Value: 4 out of 5 bricks. Dolphin Cruiser has 612 pieces and sells for $89.99 retail in our market. This yields a price per brick of $.15, which falls squarely into the average price range. Our rating climbs into the above average range as a result of all the specials you find in this kit, especially the multiple hull pieces, the large number of transparent pieces that are used throughout, and the airplane stabilizers that hold the antennae and radar domes. If you ever dissemble your kit, you’ll get a lot of use out of these bricks!
** Overall Rating: 11 bricks out of 15. When all the ratings are tallied, Dolphin Cruiser earns an above average overall score. The kit is fun to build, great to play with, and offers an above average selection of bricks. There may be too few minifigures for the size of the kit, and none of the mini-doll figures that you do get are particularly interesting, but if our observations hold true for you, then the playability of this kit will outweigh all other factors for months to come.