LEGO Friends 42602 Space Research Rover: A super-long-distance friendship [Review]

With more and more LEGO themes this year embracing a space subtheme, it’s no surprise that Friends has gotten in on the action as well. We got a quick taste earlier this year of interstellar minidolls with 42605 Mars Space Base and Rocket, and the second course is set to arrive next month with LEGO Friends 42602 Space Research Rover. Clocking in at 514 pieces, the set will hit store shelves on April 1, and retail for US $49.99 | CAN $64.99 | UK £44.99. But does this encore performance in the subtheme hold up with an old 90’s LEGO Space fan like myself? Read on to find out!

The unboxing

The rectangular box holding 42602 is marked with the LEGO Friends graphics, as well as a triangle on the right side identifying it as a part of the 2024 Space subtheme. In the lower right corner, we can see that this rover is crewed by Olivia and William. From the terrain in the set image, it’s clear that this takes place on a different planet from the fictional version of Mars depicted in 42605 Mars Space Base and Rocket.

Flipping the container around, the back showcases several of the set’s play features, including a QR code linking to an explanation of the Airlock system used throughout the entire Space subtheme. I’m a huge fan of this common feature spread throughout the themes, and hope that we see more LEGO sets in the future with cross-theme functionality like this. We’ll cover some of the play features seen here in more depth as we go through the build process.

Two thumb-punches later, and I’m dumping out 4 instruction books, 4 numbered bags, 4 red-orange wheels, and a lone sticker sheet. While the quantity of instruction books seems excessive for a set of this size, each one of them corresponds to a different bag. Combine that with the modular design of the build, and that makes this a perfect set for multiple people to work on simultaneously. The stickers are a wonderful agglomeration of designs, from computer screens to the bedding that first appeared in 42605.

The build

The first bag in this quartet completes the corner of terrain, complete with alien blooms, and a small hover vehicle. The color scheme here is wonderful, incorporating the new fern pieces in some wild, shimmering colors. The squat, three-eyed aliens are adorable, a great foil to the lime green aliens that we’ve seen in the City Space sets this year. And the hover scooter is a nice touch, complete with its pair of opalescent purple battery packs.

With this bag, we unveil the first play feature: the aliens live inside the flowers. One of the stickers even shows how this species takes cover amid the sparkly pink leaves, only coming out once the fronds have unfurled. It’s a super-cute design, and juxtaposes itself with the green Martian from the 42605 moon base that inhabits a hollow trans-green rock.

Before we move on to the next stage, here’s a close-up of the colorful fern pieces. They’re definitely a highlight of the set, and I hope this isn’t the last we see of these organic pieces in inorganic colors.

Bag number 2 constructs the base of our rover, and it’s cartoonish autopilot droid (see below). There’s plenty of innovation here, from the central bevel in the base to the inside-out construction of the wheels. This feels much less like a typical Friends set, and makes me pine for the days of Space Police and Spyrius. And what a great color scheme we have taking shape here! The new red-orange goes very well when accompanied by an array of purples. Friends theme or not, this is a color combo worth exploring further!

The penultimate bag of parts creates the cockpit module, attached to the base via a Technic pin. A trio of windscreen elements form up on all sides to create quite the space-y shape, compact yet seemingly airtight. There’s room for a lone minidoll at the controls, as Olivia demonstrates below. I wasn’t expecting this much trans-yellow plate in this section, though it does a nice job of “lighting up” the cockpit.

Finally, we craft the aft section of the rover using bag 4. This portion affixes to the rest of the vehicle using that great airlock tech, making it interchangeable with other sets in the subtheme (see below for more on that). The exposed studs on top are perfect for holding the hover scooter from bag 1.

The interior of this module holds two bunks for William and Olivia. These beds flip up to reveal a small lab setup, complete with alien diagram, petri dish, and magnifying glass. There’s even a dog bed for the included space pup. I love the use of the ingot and vertical log texture elements in these space sets to represent the padding so common in NASA vehicles. It’s a textural detail that the designers didn’t have to include, but it goes a long way to add to the plausibility of these sets (not that they’re exactly grounded in reality, what with flower aliens running about).

The minidolls

As previously mentioned, this set comes with two minidolls and a astro-dog. Olivia is rocking the same orange spacesuit with lavender highlights she wore in 42605, while William has one of reverse coloration. Both printings are front and back, while the heads are one-sided (like all minidolls). Each of the figures comes with a hair piece, as well as a space helmet. And as for the pup, I haven’t been able to discern its name from the LEGO website. So I’m going with Procyon, also known in astronomy as the Little Dog Star (better-known Sirius is the accompanying Big Dog Star in the night sky).

The final build

This was a speedy construction, and resulted in a fun little play set. There are features aplenty here, with the swooping turns the rover can make, the detachable lab, and of course the blooming aliens. I can’t say enough positive things about this color scheme. I was partial to the red-orange and sand blue of the LEGO City Space sets, but I think Friends has them beat. This both feels like a complete set, and a part of something larger. Speaking of…

For all our talk about 42605 Mars Space Base and Rocket during this review, it would be a missed opportunity not to bring it into the mix as well. Using the airlock feature, I had a little fun and made a rocket-propelled rover to add some excitement to the planetary survey.

Conclusions and recommendations

The Space Research Rover is quite the solid LEGO Friends offering. With a wonderful parts selection in a brilliant color palette, the set offers a unique creation with its roots firmly planted in a Classic Space pedigree. Its price-per-part ratio is below the magic threshold of 10 cents/piece, the play features feel unique, and it has strong interconnectivity with the other Space subtheme sets, making for three more marks in the “Pro” column. I’m sure there are those who will dislike that the set includes minidolls over minifigs, but I’m not one of them. It’s a solid entry into a Friends line that has been on fire lately, and I hope the start of a deeper exploration of what that theme can represent. Here’s hoping for a Adventurers-style Friends set featuring Joanna Thunder in 2025!

At 514 pieces, and landing on store shelves on April 1st, LEGO Friends 42602 Space Research Rover will retail for US $49.99 | CAN $64.99 | UK £44.99.

The post LEGO Friends 42602 Space Research Rover: A super-long-distance friendship [Review] appeared first on The Brothers Brick.


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