Our old pal Super Mario is back, but this time he is not made of polygons or paper, but Lego. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has ever dreamed of a collaboration between Nintendo and Lego and how it might turn out. Well, the answer to all our Lego x Mario dreams are now directly in front of us.
Some kind of madness becomes evident the moment you open the box. The booklet you would expect to be a builder's manual is just instructions for how to get the app up and running so you can start building. The conservative part of me would prefer a proper booklet, but I suppose that would kill the purpose of the application. After installing, you are instructed to put Mario together. While the app is making a ruckus of beeps and boops, I roam around trying to find a small screwdriver for his battery lid, and I regretted not turning the app off beforehand. It drains power, and I can imagine you might need your charger handy if you are to build several sets at once.
The app itself is tidy. It has got classic music and sounds, it looks nice and colourful and the instructions are easy to follow. It's here that you will have to scan the other Lego sets to access the building instructions for them.
Good old Charles Martinet is, of course, voicing Mario once again, and there are many fun functions built into the figure. He makes the jumping sounds we all know and love every time you move him, and he howls of pain whenever he stands in hot lava. There is a sensor under Mario's feet which can read special barcodes and tell what colour surface he is standing on. These barcodes are pre-stuck to all the interactive objects such as the Goomba or an item block.
In this Starter Course, there are several hurdles, platforms, and enemies. There are things included such as floating clouds and Bowser Jr. This is all enough to get started and understand the concept, but yet I feel it is a tad too little. If you want to get more out of the experience, there is no way around getting hold of more sets. Let's be honest. Lego Super Mario is "more" Super Mario than Lego. Of course, it is neat to build platforms, trees and assemble bricks just how you know them from the games, but sadly there is barely anything to really put together. All of the parts are grouped into numbered bags like how Lego tends to do these days, but it is somewhat awkward as the instructions go back and forth between the bags a few times. (I feel I should mention the letter enclosed with my box said this was a prototype, so this might very well have been fixed by the time they hit the stores.)
The point is to put all the different pieces together whichever way you want to make a course. When you put Lego Mario into the starting pipe, a 60 second timer will start running, and you will have to reach the flag pole while collecting as many coins as possible during the run. Coins are given to you for all kinds of interactions, such as jumping, stomping on a Goomba, or rotating on a platform. You won't get very far without being somewhat imaginative, and it is quite clear that this is largely aimed at the younger generation. This is simple entertainment and the concept is fun, but it quickly turns boring.
I don't really like taking the price into account, but there is no way around it in this case. From my point of view, there is not much bang for your buck here. To me, this is a tad too simple and limited. Of course, I like the fact that you can put things together in whatever order you please, and I can imagine the level of entertainment will increase if you have more sets. In all honesty, though, I had expected more. There are barely any Lego pieces here, and those that are included are often special pieces, which makes the job easier, sure, but to me it also makes the building less fun.
Perhaps the NES Lego set will be more up my alley?
Summing up, I feel Lego Super Mario falls in-between two stools. I would rather play a real Mario game and I would rather build a proper set of Lego. Still, there is something very Nintendo about it, which I like a lot. In many ways, I feel this is more fun to own than to actually play with.
The Starter Course has everything you need to get going, but it's bare-bones and offers very little in the long run. I have no problem admitting that I am not in the target audience for this product, but at the very least I would have liked more to build to keep my interest up. The app does the job, even if it's not impressive by any means, and Mario has a lot of fun functions, there are Easter eggs to discover, and it feels like a lot of effort went into creating him. Still, this first set failed to wow me in any way, although I am sure it will be better received by younger builders. That said, I must admit, I did enjoy the ride - for a little while.
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