When LEGO announced its partnership with Nintendo to at last bring Super Mario to the brick universe in an official capacity, it’s safe to say that what we were expecting was something along more typical lines from LEGO. Princess Peach’s castle perhaps? Maybe World 1-1 from the NES original? Nothing so obvious came to be of course, because Nintendo.
LEGO Super Mario himself is a rather chunky monkey, with blocky features and girth that sees him treading the line between LEGO and DUPLO. In the base pack you get the man himself as well as a fairly decent array of different obstacles, platforms, and gizmos to build that he can traverse. It seems a bit sparse even by LEGO standards, but there’s a reason Mario’s a stocky boy because there’s lots more going on under his skin than your usual brick-based affair.
When you first get LEGO Mario out of his cardboard prison he’ll be looking what can only be described as dead-eyed. The dead, lifeless visage of his can thankfully be rectified by slapping two AAA batteries up inside him and pressing the power button. All of a sudden he looks far more like he does on the box and the classic musings of Charles Martinet emanate forth from a speaker grill.
Yep, Mario made a detour through Electrodrome on his way here, and is packed with not only a display that is used to show his eyes, mouth, and Tellytubby-esque chest screen, but as is required by law for any electronic product produced after 2018, Bluetooth. LEGO Mario will sync up to your phone and allow you to do a few things, but more on that later.
Our blocky plumber also has another trick up his sleeve – a sort-of primitive camera on his underside as well as some rather bright LEDs. As soon as you pick him up from whatever surface he was on, you’ll immediately get to experience this in action. Through what is likely black magic, Mario is able to interpret his movements and make appropriate sounds depending on what you’re forcing him to do.
Make him jump, and he’ll make a jumping sound. Jump three times in quick succession and he’ll even perform the classic array of triple jump ‘yah!’s and ‘wahoo!’s. Plod him slowly along the ground as though he’s walking, and he’ll make cartoonish walking sounds, lay him on his back and he’ll fall asleep, it’s really quite surprising just how accurate this all is, and provides a level of feedback that you’d usually only find in some sort of video game. We recommend removing his trousers whilst he’s awake, as well.
Despite his appearance being neither fully LEGO due to his size and stature, nor fully Nintendo because of his blockiness and clippy hands, there’s a strange charm about him when he comes to life; something about accidentally knocking him over and hearing him go ‘ooof!’ left us with an unshakeable grin on our faces.
But aside from the theatrics, what does he actually do? As we said before, the kit comes with a variety of platforms and such to construct, all of which are designed for Mario to interact with in some way. It can be as simple as a large blue surface changing his chest-screen to display a water pattern to indicate that he’s in water, or something a lot more specific, thanks to some clever little tiles that reside on top of certain objects and characters. These have what essentially amounts to a barcode on them, which Mario can scan with his lower sensor and react accordingly. Place him on a Goomba and he’ll squash it, pop him on a Super Mushroom and he’ll grow in size (or at least pretend to, because in our world, he’s bound by the laws of matter).
The idea is to arrange all the bits and bobs and enemies and objects in a series to create a course for Mario to traverse. Stick him on a warp pipe and the level will begin, starting a countdown on Mario’s chest and requiring him to get to the goal flag which you’ve presumably placed at the end, collecting coins and defeating foes as you go. This is where the fact that we’re blatantly not the target demographic really hit us the hardest, as we just felt the idea of running Mario through this pretend course was a bit, well, pointless. However, we have witnessed the effect these kits have on people younger than us, and it's pretty remarkable. We've seen younglings build a course then spend hours trying to get their best score before pulling it all apart and creating an entirely new course. The expansion kits play into this as well, allowing you to customise your level as you see fit. It was at this point we realised the potential of this range when it comes to captivating a younger audience; it's like a physical version of Super Mario Maker.
Even if you don't have the extra kits, you can still expand your courses with whatever LEGO you have to hand; Mario's sensor on his bottom is smart enough to pick out the colour of the surface he's resting on, so red blocks become deadly fire pits while green ones are lush grass. To our adult eyes, it might seem a bit simplistic, but children will find it easier to impose their own imaginations over the top of everything.
It's worth noting that actually building the set is a slightly different process than you might be expecting. This kit takes a somewhat different approach to usual, in that you have a paper quick start guide included in the box, but after Mario’s been pieced together you have to connect him to your smart device after downloading the free LEGO Super Mario app. All the instructions for all the other elements of the kit are found here, and whilst we still feel that leaving out an old-fashioned paper guide is a bit of a short-sighted decision, the execution with these new digital manuals is remarkable.
They feel very much like the guides found in Nintendo Labo, with each step being rendered in proper 3D, allowing you to zoom in and rotate the object in front of you to get a better look at what you’re required to do. Nothing in this kit especially requires this level of flexibility, but the concept is so useful we can easily see it being an absolutely invaluable option for some of LEGO’s more complex builds.
The app also allows you to take a photo of any levels you’ve created and share them with the world. This sadly is a feature that is phenomenally limited, as you’re only sharing a photo without any details of the build. We understand that when it comes to anything to do with children you have to be ludicrously careful, but it does make us wonder why this is even included if you can’t really do anything with it.
From an adult perspective, LEGO Super Mario is a bit of a mixed bag. LEGO Mario himself is an absolute darling who we fell in love with far more quickly than we ever would have imagined, but the courses and concepts that surround him don’t emanate the same kind of charm or interest. However, we've seen first-hand that children love the idea of taking Mario through their own custom-created levels, and while the base kit is somewhat limited and lacks of rules and restrictions that made playing Mario’s games so enjoyable, we can see that the expansion kits will add to the experience and much of the fun is simply down to interacting with the course you've made, rather than expecting a Dark Souls-style challenge in plastic form.
It will be interesting to see how this particular range evolves over the next year or so, and while we're not sure grown-ups are going to fall head-over-heels with Mario in LEGO form, kids will absolutely lap it up.
No score! What kind of review is this?
@jump looks like a six or a seven
Cant wait for the inevitable "wHy is nIntEndO maKiNG mOre LeGOs thaN AcTual gAmez!?!" comments to start cropping up.
Putting my preorder up for sale on kijiji as we speak.
wHy is nIntEndO maKiNG mOre LeGOs thaN AcTual gAmez!?!
When there are no games to review...
Haha fat mario
@westman98 I shall spare you the wait.
wHy is nIntEndO maKiNG mOre LeGOs thaN AcTual gAmez!?!
As a potential desk ornament, it's too bad that Mario's eyes are soulless blackholes when not activated.
As an adult, the play aspect is not very entertaining, but as a lifelong fan of both LEGO and MARIO, collecting all the set pieces and characters even if only for display is very attractive. Unfortunately I'm already over 225 dlls in and not even halfway there.
@graysoncharles Abobination is my favorite Bulk villain
Let the kids have their toys. I'll stay out of this one
Now we just need the inevitable LEGO Super Mario World. Something that falls between LEGO City Undercover x Super Mario Maker.
@GrailUK I think you mean let the scalpers have their fun, charging thrice the price to sell these sets to 40 year old men 😉
@nessisonett I know. it's all so depressing. And spoils it for kids. Selling Lego like it's a cache of Tiffany & Co diamonds is just abhorrent to me. Really should be law against such practice. Bunch of unscrupulous...sherbets*
*twice I've used that word today!
Life long nintendo fan and even I think this looks horrible. More people are buying these to keep in box instead of actually playing with it.
It really needs some sort of fuctionality with a Switch game or application to entice more consumers to buy. As it stands one can get way more value out of a single Mario game than all of these sets combined.
wHy is nIntEndO maKiNG mOre LeGOs thaN AcTual gAmez!?!
Seen a few videos online already of grown men playing through the courses....to be brutally honest it’s beyond embarrassing watching them.
Will be fun building with my kids and running a few rounds. Then the kids will do what they do.. destroy it and lose pieces. I'm just proud of myself for not buying the Lego NES. That would be a fun build but then my kids would destroy it and lose the pieces.
You lost a bet, right? That's why you had to mention Dark Souls in a Lego article, right?
I think it's way overpriced and a waste of money, I could buy it and feel like I've wasted my money, the legos just dont interest me, it seems more like a gimmick to try and get grown ups to spend money on our nostalgia, it looks cool but not worth it, I saw one at best buy yesterday for $100 and had like $400 in my pocket and still walked passed it, I just dont think it's worth the money
The failing Nintendo can only make pathetic toys, and not games. SAD!
Just like with Amiibo and Labo, I’m a total sucker as usual. I’m almost glad for the relative paucity of games right now.
@nessisonett This is not a limited item. It's not an Ideas set, this is a new theme. If they sell out they will make more. Lego sets are typically available for at least a year and a half without any difficulty, and only start becoming more valuable after they go out of production. There is no reason whatsoever to pay scalpers for Mario sets, and every kid that wants one and can get their parents to buy it will be able to get one.
Go buy a generic 300 block pieces tub for 25 dollars, make a Mario look-a-like, save yourself $2,600.
@hitherehello Like Long Nintendo Fan here as well. 36 and I've played with them a lot lately.
Bought the starter pack and my kid loves it. He's starting to get into LEGO and this is perfect for him.
"but as is required by law for any electronic product produced after 2018, Bluetooth"
What? I read this as sarcasm, but am I missing something?
(because kids don't need to consider the price?)
This is basically a real life DLC . Boy, it looks really cool, but I'm not rich, I can't afford a 300 Dollar toy
I'll consider it when its price gets lower, and all this Covid thing ends...
(I'm really suffering cuz I can't have it now)
I’m clearly not the target but the little bits of technology here and there are really impressive (for someone who’s not been around electronic toys for, err, decades).
Looks more like Touryst than mario.
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