As a fan of crafting and cute DIYs, I have been amassing a small collection of wooden Rolife dioramas. But though adorable, they seemed rather intimidating, so I never actually tried to put one together…until now! With the help of my model kit-savvy boyfriend, I was finally able to see what the assembly was like for one of the cutest kits in my backlog: the Rolife Dark Castle DIY Dollhouse Box Theater.
The dollhouse box theater series is a really neat concept, as each kit comes with an LED light to illuminate the scene within the box once completed. They all also feature a little drawer for storing your trinkets in, because why not? The dark castle kit looks more like a cemetery to me, but the description says it’s meant to evoke the garden of an ancient castle, so I’ll roll with that.
Regardless, I loved the spooky vibes of this kit, from the ghost peeking out from next to the tree to the crow sitting on the crate of bones… Very gothic, and perfect for Halloween! What could go wrong?
Right off the bat, I’ll fully admit that my boyfriend (and podcast co-host!) Marcus did 80% of this build. I contributed by cutting, gluing, and sanding from time to time, along with the requisite moral support.
The Dark Castle Dollhouse Box Theater comes with glue, a tiny screwdriver, tweezers, batteries for the light, and a color booklet with diagrams and written instructions. Marcus, who has experience following instructions for model kits from various companies from Bandai to Kotobukiya, was disappointed to find that the instructions had numerous errors, with at least one of the images drawn incorrectly, making assembly very confusing at points.
There were also numerous typos and generally confusingly written sentences, making it difficult to parse at times. As a wooden kit, there was quite a bit of cutting pieces out of sheets and sanding them for assembly, and, unfortunately, the fitment was poor, requiring extra finagling to get the parts to fit together properly.
I hate to be so negative, but I’ll be honest – if I had been doing this kit by myself, I most definitely would’ve given up halfway. As it was, even with the pair of us working together, it took us nearly 4 hours to complete this kit – a far cry from the 1 hour advertised on the front of the box!
Aside from issues with the instructions and fitment, the project itself was finicky to assemble even at the best of times. For a company whose about page describes how they advocate for integrating DIY into our daily lives and the importance of the concept of “slow life,” they sure made a frustrating DIY kit!
I would have at least appreciated a difficulty rating, or more honestly in the time that it can take to complete such a kit (it did, however, say it was recommended for ages 14 and up). I fully admit that I don’t have as much experience in these types of building kits, but after getting a second opinion from my boyfriend who does, I think it’s safe to say that the kit could easily be polished to create a more smooth, enjoyable building experience, starting with the instructions and ensuring the parts fit together properly.
(Note: I picked up this kit from a Kinokuniya store in California, and it came with the glue required to complete it. But after poking around on the Rolife website, I noticed that they just published a whole article about why kits shipped directly from them in China do not contain paint and glue. So, if you want to make sure your kit has those items, just be aware that you’d need to grab it from a local reseller.)
When everything was said and done, we did manage to complete this adorable little window diorama project for Halloween. I just wish the process had been a bit more fun so we could look back on the project fondly, rather than with frustration at the forefront of our memories!
If you really like the design and have lots of patience and more than a couple of hours to dedicate to building, then I certainly won’t dissuade you from picking up this kit, but I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it.
Unfortunately, this experience left me even less likely to try taking on one of my other remaining Rolife wood dollhouse kits. That being said, with how cute the designs are, maybe I’ll have to enlist the help of Marcus again in the future when the Dark Castle experience is no longer fresh in our minds.