While DOTS came out last year, this is our first DOTS review (and my first set other than the bracelets). So let's walk through the unboxing, as the experience is a little different from our typical Friends sets.
DOTS sets (excluding the bracelets) come in a plastic sorting tray with a lid. This is packaged in a cardboard wrapper that allows you to see the corners of the sorting box. The front of the wrapper shows the set along with some call-out images of an alternate design and encouragement to make the design your own.
The back of the wrapper has a step-by-step overview of what DOTS are all about. Use the included pieces to: 1 - Create the set, 2 - Decorate however you want, and 3 - Use your new item & Re-Design it whenever you want a change.
Below that overview is a layout showing the other DOTS sets available in this release wave.
The packaging is attractive, and I can see why these sets are sold at crafts stores. They should have an immediate appeal to adults looking for a fun, creative project for themselves or their children.
To remove the wrapper, there is a taped tab on the edge with the bar code. Just cut the tape, slip the tab free, and slide the sorting box out without needing to rip the cardboard apart.
Remove the lid on the sorting tray, and inside are seven bags of parts; one for each bin of the tray. None of the bags are numbered; just empty each bag into a separate part of the tray, and you are ready to start building.
There are also two folded sheets of paper inside the box. One is a poster style advertisement for more DOTS products. The other is the instruction sheet. We'll take a closer look at that when we start building.
The large bag in the center has the parts needed to build the basic Secret Keeper boxes. There isn't anything new here except the tile remover tool.
Of the other six bags, five are 1 x 1 quarter round tiles in different colors. The last bag has a mix of parts. I put some of them in the center of the sorting tray so you can see what's included. These are used for adding the paws, tail, and facial features that turn your boxes into a kitten. Also in that mix are a few 1 x 1 round glitter tiles.
There are not many new parts in this set. The big stand out is the Tile Remover Key with Heart and Screwdriver End. It is a bit small for an adult hand, but I still found it to work well for removing the decorative elements. It will definitely save your fingernails from popping tiles off when you change your design. Children should find it easy to use, but a slightly longer handle would be nice for us big kids.
Bright Light Blue is a new color for the 1 x 1 quarter round tile. So far it is available only in this set and the DOTS Bracelet #41934 Starlight (2021).
The 1 x 1 round tile in trans-clear glitter was new to DOTS in 2020. It has only previously shown up in two bracelets sets: #41919 Power Bracelet (2020) and #41913 Bracelet Mega Pack (2020).
Surprisingly the 1 x 1 quarter round tile in blue was also new in 2020 in set 75551 Brick-Built Minions and Their Lair. It also shows up in two other sets for 2021.
As mentioned above, the DOTS instructions are on a single folded sheet of paper. One side shows how to build the basic secret holder boxes.
The build is very straight forward - two stackable boxes with a lid. The set is all about getting creative with the decorations, so the build is quick and simple. SNOT bricks are used to attach the black plates. This makes it easy to remove the plates if you prefer to lie them flat on the table for decorating and then reattach them.
The reverse side of the instruction sheet has ideas for decorating your box. There are sample patterns for decorating the sides, how to place the ears, and a couple of different face and tail options. It also shows how to use the key to remove tiles.
Follow one of the suggestions, or go your own direction. It's all up to you.
I used the suggestions to get started with the paws, ears, and mouth details. Then I started to go my own way with heart eyes.
As I was deciding how to decorate my secret kitty, I wondered if there where enough elements to completely cover the boxes. The short answer is yes. I was able to get a repeating pattern around three sides. While I couldn't continue the pattern across the top or front, there were still plenty of pieces to continue decorating. I didn't cover every stud on the face, but there were enough pieces left that I could have.
Here's another look at my finished Secret Holder. Remove the head to access the bottom box, or remove the top plate to access the top box.
For the builder who wants to make the set look just like the one on the box, you can do that, but it takes a little effort. The paw placement and the face are shown in the sample ideas. The rest you will need to figure out from the photos.
The packaging also shows how the paws can hold a small note, but nothing is included to create your own. I used an old buisness card to create my own Top Secret sign, but it would have been nice to have a few blank, shaped pieces included. Considering all the stickers included in Friends Cubes for personalizing those, it's seems like a missed opportunity to not include something for making little signs for your Secret Holder.
While the idea is to make something uniquely yours, it's nice that they have some starting ideas, especially for the faces. It's fun how a few changes to the face makes a completely different character. These are both alternate faces from the idea sheet. The one on the left looks more like a bunny, and the one on the right like a puppy. So don't feel like this set is only for cat lovers.
The packaging shows an alternate build, and it creates a completely different look. The idea images on the instruction sheet show two different options for the paw placement. The first version places them on the long side of the lower box, while this one changes to the short side. The face is still placed on the long side of the upper box, and the boxes are stacked at 90°. This creates a little gap in the back. You can move the head forward by a stud to open up that gap and make room for a pencil. No rebuilding of the box is required, just change the decoration and alignment. So cute!
Speaking of pencil holders ... By removing the bottom of one box and changing the placement of the SNOT bricks, I was able to make a simple pencil holder. The plates end up taller than the box rim, which works fine and creates a thinner rim.
Going for a low, wide box is more difficult. I ended up with a few gaps in the box construction, as I was trying to stick to just the parts in this set. Structurally, the box is still good and the decorative plates cover the gaps, but ideally, I would fill them with bricks from my collection. Either way, it makes a good sticky-note holder.
Overall, I had a blast playing with this set. As I mentioned before, it's my first DOTS set other than the bracelets. I have been interested in the sets, but was holding back since my wishlist exceeds my budget. Reviewing this set has moved the DOTS series higher on my want list. In fact, I went out and bought some of the older sets. There is something very relaxing about setting all those little pieces into a unique pattern. Mosaic and quilt square builders will really enjoy this. If you are a stickler for perfectly aligned tiles, this might make you crazy (or not - I enjoy that sort of thing).
My only complaint is the tile removal tool. It's cute and works well for removing a single random piece. But it is definitely kid-sized. For adults clearing a whole plate to start a new design, you might want to get a regular brick separator. It will be faster and fit in your hand better.
If you are looking for some LEGO Home Decor items that you can personalize, this is a good place to start. I've been enjoying my sticky-note rebuild as it is cute and useful. The original secret holder could easily live on my dresser holding small treasures. This set is good for a basic box to decorate, but the pieces included don't allow for much else unless you combine them with other pieces from your collection.
If you aren't into home decor items, you will still find the decorative elements useful for adding patterns to your builds. Fans of LEGO Friends will appreciate the bright colors, and I can see the pieces being use to create fun wall patterns on building MOCs. If you aren't familiar with barn quilts, go look it up. I definitely need to incorporate a barn quilt next time I build a custom modular building.
This set was provided by The LEGO Group for the purpose of sharing set details with fans.
Opinions provided here solely reflect those of our reviewer.
Photographs are property of Friends Bricks and are not directed by TLG in any fashion.