[Review] LEGO Super Mario

Written by Kieran Fifield
  • Product: LEGO
  • Licensed by: Nintendo
  • Release date: 1/8/2020
  • Price: Varies Explore the full range here
  • Review samples provided by The Lego Group

Introducing: LEGO Super Mario review

When the collaboration between LEGO and Nintendo was announced just after MAR10 day, I’ll admit, I was apprehensive. For years, the ardent members of the Nintendo fanbase had been dreaming of a Hyrule Castle set of the most epic proportions, something containing near-on 23,593 bricks that all needed to be intricately placed in perfect cohesion to create the final centrepiece for the man-cave/game room/nerd hideout. In typical Nintendo fashion, what was shown was completely unexpected and set the internet alight with chatter.

Now, five months later, the LEGO Super Mario sets are in the wild, more of the range has been shown off, and the addition of the NES LEGO set offered something for the collector craving the centrepiece… piece…

LEt’s-a-GO

As for the core LEGO Super Mario experience, what you have is an interactive LEGO set – a hybrid of LEGO and video game – in a sense. The star of the show, as always, is Mario. This LEGO iteration of the portly plumber is as charismatic as they come and thanks to the wonderful tech present within his blocky build, he’s able to interact with his surroundings. Basic green, blue, yellow and red panels are sensed differently by the Mario figure, and special pieces have little NFC chips that further elevate the level of immersion. For example, Bowser Jr., who is found in the Starter Course pack, has a unique chip located on his back and due to his presence as boss of sorts, it will require Mario to jump on him three times to defeat him.

Be warned, LEGO Super Mario requires two AAA batteries to work, which – somewhat shockingly given its £50 RRP – aren’t included. Throughout the duration of a weekend of heavy use, my blocky buddy drained a pair of brand new Duracells entirely, and is currently on his second pair. It’s something to keep in mind, in regard to the added cost. Rechargeable batteries are very much recommended. 

What’s App-ening?

Other than that faux-pas, everything you need to get going is available in the Starter Course pack. Well, almost everything. LEGO Super Mario is intricately tethered to its companion app, which is available on both iOS and Android. While traditional paper instructions are included, they serve more as ads for the other sets rather than building instructions.

It’s here that LEGO borrows a creative page from Nintendo’s Labo design. Building instructions are handled via the app in the way of interactive, step-by-step diagrams that unlock as you progress. Much like Labo’s implementation, this is both a help and hindrance. While it’s intuitive and helpful for younger members of the family, it feels a little too simplistic at times and having to do a large chunk of the basic stuff to access the more complex instructions is, as an adult, quite infuriating. It also really breaks the immersion of LEGO building. Passing the instructions around is part of the magic of LEGO, at least, that’s certainly how I remember it. Also, having two mobile devices on while sitting around the table for family time is usually very much a no-go at Nintendad Manor. I’d appreciate the environmentally friendly aspect of it, if the aforementioned leaflets included weren’t pushing the other sets.

The app itself is actually rather enjoyable, and offers a virtual game world, reflective of the real-world sets that you have. These can be added in manually, requiring a tutorial of the set’s main piece to be carried out. After that, a virtual representation of the set will appear on the game map screen, adding to your own virtual LEGO Super Mario game world.

Breaking bricks since ’86

Moving on to the actual LEGO sets themselves, they’re delightfully imaginative and manage to capture the essence of both aspects of their source material. Some of the builds – Shy Guy or Bowser Jr. for example – are incredibly complex and worthy of their 6+ age rating. When all is said and done however, once built, the simplistic nature of the sets allow a much younger audience to appreciate them. This is furthered by a lack of verticality. For all wants and purposes, the sets are incredibly flat. Sure, there are a few pieces that offer height – towers and trees – but they never expand the gameplay experience, instead just serving as terrain. It’s not a huge deal breaker, but it would be nice to see in future sets; the inevitable Princess Peach’s Castle, perhaps?

As mentioned earlier, the coloured panels are all read via the majesty of LEGO Mario’s base LED, however, it’s not just coloured LEGO pieces that can be read. My daughter has a red play table and during one experimental session, we made – as she named it – crazy lava land. We constructed a perilous pathway across the table, from the pipe to the flagpole and introduced rotating platforms and the incredibly woke Boomer Bills, to add further hazards. Being the kooky guy that I am, our bureau here at Nintendad Manor is a blue IKEA piece. Obviously, we turned this into a wonderful water area.

As if plucked directly from the swinging 60s play book, experimentation is the aim of the game with LEGO Super Mario and the more we played around with different piece arrangements and combinations, the more enjoyment we had.

Conclusion

LEGO Super Mario is wholesome family fun. Older members of the clan will enjoy seeing the LEGO Mushroom Kingdom come to life, and the younger Goombas of the gang will have pure, unadulterated fun jumping on enemies, hitting question blocks and experiencing a lazy Sunday afternoon chilling with Yoshi, lounging in the hammock. While the implementation of the digital manuals take something away from the immersion, and staring at a screen during family time is less than ideal, it’s not enough to diminish what is otherwise an incredibly well thought out set of environments, that provide an imaginative video/board game experience. If later sets introduce a genuine sense of height, offering structures that ascend to the purlieu of LEGO heaven, then hell, LEGO Super Mario could keep fans – young and old, ardent and green alike – enraptured for quite some time.

Pros

  • LEGO Super Mario is a dude!
  • Fun for all the family
  • Creative and engaging in equal measure
  • Infinitely expandable

Cons

  • Instructions are tied to the app
  • Lack of verticality
  • No batteries included

Verdict
LEGO Super Mario isn’t what anyone ever imagined we would see from such a collaboration, yet it offers an engaging and inimitable new way to play. The limits of your experience are only restricted by your imagination. That and a lack of bricks. Note to self. Buy more LEGO Super Mario sets, ASAP.

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