We first brought you the news about the LEGO BrickHeadz 41597 Go Brick Me customization kit at Toy Fair in New York last month. It was clear from the parts selection and packaging that LEGO intends builders to create a broad range of characters from the set, which includes 708 pieces for $29.99 (and will be available on April 1st but is starting to show up in the wild already).
This set is an utterly unique LEGO set, remarkable in many ways. We purchased a couple early copies of the set from a major US retailer, and we spent an entertaining evening building avatars of ourselves and a diverse cast of interesting characters. Let’s dig in and see what’s so different about this LEGO set.
The box and instructions
41597 Go Brick Me is massive for a $30 LEGO set, with a medium-sized box that wouldn’t look out of place alongside $70 LEGO sets. As we noted from Toy Fair, the front of the box includes a preview of the parts selection along with several examples of the diverse characters you can build from those parts. Notably, the age range is 10+ and the people shown on the box include adults.
The back of the box showcases even more of the customization possibilities with even more sample characters.
Opening the box reveals just how many bricks LEGO packed inside that box, with only one numbered bag and six more unnumbered bags, plus the loose instruction booklet and sticker sheet (ours was none the worse for wear as a result).
The first hint that this is no ordinary LEGO set turns up several pages into the instruction booklet, with modular builds for a huge range of clothing/body types and hairstyles. The booklet includes instructions for the blank white “template” BrickHeadz figure, along with six different bodies. Real customization is in the characters’ heads, with steps to create twelve different hairstyles, including ponytails, pigtails, mohawks, and beards, plus accessories like hats and glasses and ribbons.
Each of these body and head styles in turn can be built in three different skin tones and four hair colors. While some combinations aren’t all possible with one copy of the set (which we’ll go into a bit more later in the review), the rough math works out to at least 3,456 different combinations!
The sections for the heads assume you’ve already completed the blank template BrickHeadz figure and know how to build a head using studs-out bricks.
Go Brick Me includes a broad variety of parts so that you can build a BrickHeadz version of just about anybody. The key to the set’s customizability is the bags that include parts for a variety of skin tones (tan, “nougat”, and brown) and hair colors (black, brown, orange, and yellow), plus clothing and accessories in a variety of bright colors.
The top of the box indicates that you can build two complete characters from each set. The main limiting factor in building BrickHeadz characters is the unique parts required to do so, most importantly the eyes. The set technically comes with four eyes to build two characters, but there are two extra eyes for a total of six. So then, the real limiting factor is the set of studs-out bricks (aka “Brick, Modified 1 x 2 x 1 2/3 with Studs on 1 Side”) that each character requires for the head and arm attachments. There are 28 of these bricks in the set, but since each character requires 14 (12 for the head and 2 more for the arm attachments in the body), these bricks are the main limiting factor.
You can accessorize your BrickHeadz character with various elements that showcase your skills or interests, like a surfboard, trophy, camera, guitar, and so on.
There are two brand new elements for eyeglasses, one round and one square. The nosepiece has an anti-stud on the back side so you can attach it to your character’s face with a jumper plate.
The rims are the standard “bar” diameter that can fit in minifigure hands and clip pieces. The circumference is a little smaller than the life preserver / toilet seat pieces that we saw used as glasses for Robin in The LEGO Batman Movie BrickHeadz a year ago.
The tightly packed sticker sheet is printed on transparent material so you can put them on bricks of any color. The 40 stickers include a huge range of designs, from iconic LEGO theme logos like Classic Space and Blacktron (Castle themes are notably absent) to equalizers, bow ties, bandannas, and so on.
With only one numbered bag in the whole set, the instruction booklet begins by having you build a white, blank “template” figure so you get a feel for how BrickHeadz characters are put together. The BrickHeadz structure is common across all characters, and we’ve covered it in detail many times in previous reviews, down to the pink “brain” in the center of the head. Plan now to disassemble the template figure, because it includes key parts like studs-out bricks that you’ll need if you want to build a second character of your own design from the parts in the set.
The real fun with this LEGO set is combining all the different components to build a unique character of your own. We each set out to build our “ideal” BrickHeadz selves, and fairly quickly ran into limitations despite the huge parts assortment. The design for spiky hair uses a pair of brown bracket pieces, and so does the beard sub-assembly. I had to borrow my second pair of brown brackets from Chris’s copy of the set to have both spiky brown hair and a brown beard.
I love my noise-cancelling headphones, which are perfect for both my standard bus commute and frequent air travel for work. Unfortunately again, the design for headphones uses 1×2 jumper plates as attachment points where the ears are under the headphones, and the same is true for glasses. The set only includes one pair of tan jumper plates, so I borrowed Chris’s spare tan jumper plate (he was using the other for his own glasses).
I’m quite pleased with the final result — simply combining various components with step-by-step instructions — though my wife suggests I look like a Portland hipster. Speaking of my wife, I tried building my next BrickHeadz character in her image, but the set didn’t have enough brown after all my own hair and beard, so she ended up looking considerably more blonde than she is.
As much as I liked the detailed ponytail design, it’s another indication that a single copy of the set may be somewhat limiting if you intend to build multiple characters with similar skin tones and hair colors. This likely isn’t much of an issue for adults — just get another copy of the set, use the instructions with parts from your own collection, or find alternate solutions with the available parts. But this is likely to hit younger builders harder, for example when building siblings.
Chris handled the beard/bracket problem differently, by redesigning the front of his hair himself with a variation on the instructions rather than borrowing my unused yellow brackets. He looks like a hipster Viking.
Caylin then joined us and built another variation on the ponytail design, with a striped shirt in lovely azure and dark blue with a pair of stylish Chucks.
She opted for a light purple hair tie. Note the detail on the back of the ponytail design — these BrickHeadz are designed to be held and turned around and admired from every angle.
Having accomplished the “Go Brick Me” mandate, we then turned our attention to the rather more diverse parts selection than the ones that reflected our own ethnic heritage and clothing choices. You won’t see this lovely young lady anywhere in the instructions or on the box, but I was able to quickly build a completely unique BrickHeadz character by combining the dress instructions with spare parts from the disassembled template figure, a sticker, and pigtail head with the “nougat” skin tone and black hair.
The pigtail design incorporates bows that can be built in several other colors.
Chris decided that Mr. T should join our BrickHeadz crew and gave him an olde-timey striped bathing suit with a surfboard.
Nowhere in the instructions is there anywhere that tells you that you must use the 1×1 pearl-gold studs as earrings, but it’s an obvious choice for the star of The A-Team.
Conclusions & recommendation
It’s not often we recommend a set to such an extent that we suggest picking up multiple copies. But 41597 Go Brick Me has such a fantastic parts selection at such an excellent price that we strongly encourage you to pick up at least two sets when you find them — and we hope that LEGO anticipates the popularity of this set and makes enough! This perspective is reinforced by the fact that you may need some extra parts from a second set to create your ideal avatar, like a character with both headphones and glasses or two characters with similar skin tones and hair color, as we noted earlier in this review.
Chris and I each built avatars for ourselves, which ended up looking remarkably similar, since we’re both light-skinned guys with light brown hair and beards. We were only able to build our BrickHeadz avatars by using separate copies of the set. And for a modicum of diversity and visual interest (and without any dark tan pieces to stand in for light brown), I opted for regular brown and Chris went full blonde.
But if you choose to build BrickHeadz characters that reflect the true diversity of the people in our world, you have everything you’ll need in a single copy of the set. What I love so much about this set — and what sets it apart from the vast majority of LEGO sets — is that it is inclusive on so many levels. LEGO has maintained for years that the yellow skin-tone in its non-licensed sets is “neutral.” This is utter bunk and complete nonsense — go tell that to an African-American boy or a Latina girl with an olive complexion. The dialogue over the past few years about characters in everything from comic books to movies has opened many people’s eyes to the importance of representation and diversity. Having a toy that you can identify with is incredibly important for the self-esteem of children, and LEGO has for years done so in its Duplo line with sets like 45011 World People (calling into question their stated System position that yellow is “neutral” and somehow not light-skinned).
While we certainly hope LEGO will improve representation, diversity, and inclusion in its non-licensed System themes someday, 41597 Go Brick Me is a fantastic step in the right direction — even if it’s with blocky BrickHeadz characters rather than its iconic minifigure.
So-called “identity” politics (which I feel is just dismissive code for opposition to diversity and inclusion) aside, Go Brick Me is a genuinely fun set with a massive parts assortment at an unbelievably low cost. We cannot recommend this set highly enough, whether you’re adult builders like us, parents, or educators who work with children. And by buying this set, you’re also telling LEGO that inclusion and representation matter. If “prestige” sets like 75192 UCS Millennium Falcon give you pause about your life priorities, this is a set that will warm your heart.
LEGO BrickHeadz 41597 Go Brick Me includes 708 pieces and will be available everywhere on April 1, 2018 ($29.99 US | £25.99 | $39.99 CDN). It may be available early from various sellers on eBay and BrickLink.