While LEGO and Mega Bloks toys can certainly be enjoyed by both boys and girls, it’s fair to say that they’ve skewed pretty heavily towards boys. That would explain why the last year or so has seen both companies introducing very girl-focused product lines in an effort to attract girls to the world of building blocks.
Mega Bloks’ latest effort, along with Hello Kitty, introduces one of the world’s more popular toy brands for girls, with the Barbie Build ‘n Style line mixing building blocks with the fashion and fun that Barbie is known for. The thing is, there’s a difference between being “girl friendly” and being “dumbed down”, and this new line strays a little too close to dumbed down for my liking, and probably may other parents as well.
That’s very evident with the biggest set in the line, the Luxury Mansion, which my daughter and I were able to try out in our home. Essentially, the problem is this set isn’t so much about building as it is about decorating, since the structure is already there as large pieces, and the rest is detail and accessory work. That seems to run counter to what makes Mega Bloks so much fun.
Admittedly, building is not going to be for every child (boy or girl), and maybe this can be seen as a way to encourage girls to get started with building blocks, but I can see a distinct difference between how my daughter plays with this set, and how she plays with the big mixed-up box of Mega Bloks and LEGO, and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it. But, in the end, regardless of whether she’s building or accessorizing with Mega Bloks Barbie, she’s having fun, and that’s still important. Especially for a toy that’s going to cost you $80.
Because while you might just be decorating the mansion, there’s quite a bit of decorating to be done, and quite a bit of mansion. The mansion features a soaring two-story main foyer with elevator access to the upper floors, and four other detachable rooms that can be arranged in a number of different fashions. You can go with the standard configuration as seen on the box (with two floors stacked on each side of the entrance way), a couple of other sensible variations, or do your own thing, like my daughter did in stacking all of the rooms into one tall, illogical tower with no way to get to the upper rooms.
While the box advertises there are eight rooms, and that is technically correct, the reality is that there are really five distinct spaces: a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, and rooftop patio. Pieces are included to create furniture and decorations for each of these spaces, and they do end up looking pretty stylish. Each room has small furnishings that you either build from scratch (like the couch and fireplace in the living room) or assemble as pre-moulded pieces (like the bedroom and bathroom), and you can mix and match the furnishings to customize each room if you’d like.
The other three spaces are the foyer, an empty hallway-type space above that, and then a pet-friendly attic space above that, which aren’t quite as customizable, but are still available for your creativity.
The decor in each room is built on a removable floor, so that you can move the contents from room to room, and customize the layout of the mansion as often as you’d like. The floors don’t lock in place though, and instead are caught by the tiniest of little plastic “hooks”, which means you need to be very careful if you’re moving rooms around. In fact the whole house shouldn’t really be moved, as things don’t feel like they are connecting all that tightly. The different rooms didn’t really lock together securely, and trying to pick up the top one on a stack would certainly send the bottom ones crashing to the floor.
The mansion includes two small figures, Barbie and Teresa, with each character including fashion accessories and two hairstyles. The hairpieces don’t like to stay on the characters’ heads though, popping off pretty much every time my kids looked at them. Each character also has two different skirts to change into, and a few small accessories to top off the outfit. Additional characters with accessories are sold separately, though you can certainly welcome LEGO minifigs or other Mega Bloks characters to the party.
With only 300 pieces in the whole set (the size is deceptive because of the large pre-molded rooms), your creativity is a tad limited, though a few extra random pieces have been included. You will definitely benefit for any other building blocks you have lying around, even if they aren’t in the same pastel hues as the ones included with the mansion.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Mega Bloks has done a nice job translating Barbie into a new line of construction block sets, though it does feel at times like the Luxury Mansion aims a bit low. We experienced some issues with the blocks not holding together well, but that’s only an issue if you are moving the mansion around and expecting it to stay in one piece. At around $80, the Luxury Mansion is a fairly hefty investment, so parents will have to choose between jumping right in with this big set, or starting with something smaller and less expensive, but for kids who love their Barbies and have shown an interest in building blocks, the Build ‘n Style Luxury Mansion keeps things simple and fun.
A review set was provided to GamerPops.
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