review: Mega Bloks Barbie Build’n Play Chelsea Pool Party (80136)

80136-cover
The build pictured on the back of the box is an alternate configuration of the official build. There are no instructions included for the alternate build and is only shown as a suggestion of possible play patterns. It also features a girl in case you forgot who the target audience for this set was.

With the summer winding down, the grim prospect of school is looming on the horizon for many young people in the United States. If these youngsters were anything like me at their age, they must be wondering where the time went. Maybe some of it was spent mowing lawns, washing cars, and collecting cans to have a little pocket money while their friends went on vacations with their families. Maybe they cruised around their small towns and planned subdivisions on their BMX bikes until well after sundown. I certainly hope it wasn’t entirely spent planted in front of a television or computer monitor! Well, we can’t let summer end just yet! Pop open a cool can or bottle of your beverage of choice! Let’s throw a pool party!

Before we plunge into this review, how about a little music to get us in the appropriate mindset:

Ahh, that’s the stuff.

80136-contentsParts come in no less than seven bags and a plastic tray. The plastic tray can be seen through a window in the packaging. It’s a way to showcase the set’s figures and a few accessories. It’s also a way to alert buyers that it’s a building set and not your regular Barbie toy. An instruction booklet and sticker sheet are also included. Strangely, some of the bags were numbered 2-5. The bag numbers didn’t correspond to any of the instructions, so I presume that the numbering is for the factory workers’ benefit.

80136-snack-standThe very first structure shown in the instructions is this snack stand. The build is simplistic but satisfactory. It’s a little difficult to tell from the photograph, but the parasol piece has the Barbie logo molded on it.

80136-pool-1The set’s main build is this above-ground pool with slide. The pool itself is one solid piece. I believe semi-circular structure just off to the side of the pool is supposed to be a hot tub.

80136-pool-5The pool also includes a grill and oven with working door. I suppose grills are a common feature of many American backyards, but the oven seems like an unusual inclusion. Did they include it because the set is supposed to be designed with young girls in mind?

80136-pool-detail-1The food accessories are quite good. They show a level of detail that’s not normally found with Lego food. It may be a little hard to see, but there’s a handle molded into the side of the drink that allows for it to be held by a minifigure.

80136-pool-4
I hadn’t intended on using any of the stickers in this set, but I wanted to highlight my utter incompetence when it comes to applying them.

The portable media player and speakers in this set are created by placing stickers on a standard tile and block. It should be noted that the PMP’s “cradle” is a cheese wedge with a stud on its slope.

80136-chelsea-1

We begin our examination of the set’s figures with the eponymous Chelsea. I’ll be honest: I had no idea who Chelsea is in the Barbie-verse, and I had to do a little research. According to the Barbie Wiki, Chelsea is Barbie’s youngest sister. Prior to Chelsea’s introduction in 2011, Barbie’s youngest sister was known as Kelly. Kelly was then “retired” as the wiki ominously puts it (I imagine retirement in Barbie’s world works much the same as it does in Blade Runner). What’s most unusual about Chelsea and the other figures in the Barbie line is that they have a “footprint” of one stud rather than the standard two. Standing apart from the set requires a special 2×2 jumper plate as seen in the photograph. The paint application on the torso is a bit underdone, but it’s an otherwise satisfactory figure.

80136-chelsea-vs-stephanieHere, we can see that Chelsea stands a little shorter than Stephanie (she only looks tall due to the jumper plate), but that may be because Chelsea’s supposed to be six years old. I presume Barbie would stand taller than Stephanie, but I really don’t know how scale works in the Mega Bloks Barbie line. Both the orange lei and blue bow in Stephanie’s hair are Mega Bloks accessories. They look pretty good on her, too! In fact, I think I much prefer the Mega Bloks bow over the Lego Friends bows.

80136-puppies
Note: The colors of the puppies are switched from what’s shown on the packaging.

Would you get a load of these puppies? Just look at them! I’m not much for cute things, but even I have to admit that these pets are kind of adorable. Both are molded to fit on studs. The one on the right has a port for decorative accessories, but putting a flower or bow on its hindquarters just looks weird.

80136-pparty-1As a whole, the completed set doesn’t look half-bad. With the exception of the green foliage piece at the top, all the parts have good clutch (and even then the foliage isn’t terrible) . The oven next to the pool is a little odd (and almost regressive) but doesn’t necessarily take away from the playfulness of the set. The colors are bright and recognizably “Barbie.” There’s just something missing from this set that’s keeping it from being great. For a set with “party” in its name, it feels kind-of… lonesome. The immense spread of snacks only magnifies Chelsea’s apparent solitude. Sure, Chelsea has her two puppies; a set like this demands a crowd, though. Well, we can certainly remedy that!

80136-pparty-2There! Doesn’t that look better? It’s incredible how much livelier the set becomes with the addition of other figures. It might not have been realistic for Mega Bloks to include the same number of characters pictured above, but the set could definitely have used at least another human character to give a greater impression of a truly hearty party.

Conclusion

The MSRP for this set is around USD$20, and it’s not a bad set for the price. The overall design of the set is pretty good, and there’s a lot of potential for play. The accessories are all quite well done, and some are arguably better than those accessories found in the Lego Friends line. My only real complaint is that the set feels underpopulated. Of course, the absence of characters might have been intentional. It may simply have been done to encourage girls to buy additional Barbie sets or individual Barbie figures, but we’ve shown that it’s not necessary to own more Barbie figures to have a little fun with this set. It just needed a nudge from Mega Bloks to take it from good to great.

All around, this was a pretty satisfying build. It was heads and shoulders above anything else I’ve built for this blog in the past few weeks. On top of all that, there were no missing parts. I think I might keep it assembled for a while to give my minifigs a place to hang out until Fall. Party on!

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