Most helpful critical review
85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
Very little that's "New."
on September 14, 2013
Before I go any further, I would encourage those looking to purchase this to search Amazon for "Disney Sofia The First Magical Talking Castle" to see the reviews there. It looks like Mattel has decided to rebrand this item by adding "new" to the title in an effort to dodge some criticism. From what I can having gotten this "new" version, nothing's changed. It's the same poorly-designed toy as from the past. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to determine what's "new." That said, on with the review.
From the moment you open the box and a plethora of pieces fall out on the floor, you can tell you're in trouble. The included instructions (which share a great deal in common with Ikea instructions, right down to the poor illustrations and lack of written interactions) are next to useless. Once you get the castle assembled, you can see what the instructions were trying to tell you, but that's only with 20/20 hindsight. When you have the pieces strewn before you, it may be better to just look at the picture on the box and eyeball it.
The previous complaints about Sophia's head falling off still apply here. This would probably make a great horror set, when the damsel in distress literally loses her head, but as a fairy tale castle, it's definitely frustrating for both child and parent to have to put Sophia's head back on every 5 minutes. Sophia also doesn't like to stand up either, having a narrow, wobbly base that more or less demands that Sophia spend her life in either a seated position or a face-plant.
The "'magic' base" feature is terrible. While removing the base and carrying into a well-lit room results in limited functionality, you really should plan on completely skipping that "feature." It's just not designed well insofar as it needs lots of light to work but rests in a castle that shades it most of the time.
The castle itself isn't half bad, though you should expect to immediately lose the small plate and goblet set much like you expect to lost anything the size of a hearing aid battery. At first I thought I'd say they might actually be a choking hazard, but after some thought I realized that even a 6 month-old would have no trouble swallowing these, so no worries there (sarcasm). But aside from that, it's kind of a fun play set for imagination... if you throw away Sophia and the sound platform... and can get it assembled.
All in all, I would really discourage anyone from buying this. If you're dead set on it, however, you really owe it to yourself to search for the "not new" version to see the reviews there. They capture the spirit of this "new" play set quite well.
EDIT: In the comments section, "CKE" reports that the new version of the castle has a plastic second floor rather than cardboard (ours was, indeed, plastic) and that Sophia has been re-engineered so that her head does not fall off. We did not get the new-and-improved Sophia, but CKE mentioned that the newer sets have the new Sophia included, in addition to the old, so perhaps ours was just a bum package. While I believe my rating of 2 stars is still warranted, I think CKE's information is important to include here.