Luigi has finally joined his brother in the world of Lego Super Mario. The new sets are available to pre-order from today and are expected to begin shipping on August 1st. As well as the Adventures with Luigi Starter Course, the company is releasing a whole raft of new sets. That includes Lakitu’s Sky World ($40), Sumo Bro Topple Tower ($30), Reznor’s Knockdown ($70) and Bowser’s Airship ($100).
This has not been a particularly well-kept secret, since back in April, the Lego Mario figure began crying out for his sibling. A few weeks later Lego announced that Luigi was coming, and that Pink Yoshi would be along for the ride. As well as new custom responses for jumps and flips, when Luigi jumps onto Pink Yoshi, you’ll be more resilient to traps, as well as being able to dispatch enemies with fewer jumps.
You can’t fault Lego for its usual attention to detail and love of the original games, and their quirks. While both figures are meant to be the same size (to scale with their environments), the Luigi figure is taller than Mario by the height of one tile. As part of the expansion, too, Luigi and Mario will both be able to identify a new biome: Wood (Mario can already spot water, lava and grassland when he’s standing on a blue, red or green tile.)
But it’s not just business as usual, since these new sets and features are designed to enable more collaborative play. Connect both characters together over Bluetooth and they’ll both sport matching yellow scarves on their stomach displays to signify co-op play. Rather than the 60 seconds afforded to players when making solo runs, when Mario and Luigi play together, they get 90 seconds to run around. The scores, too, are collaborative, so the final score at the end of each game is the sum of both player’s efforts.
The models also react to one another, so if Luigi takes a tumble, Mario can ask if he’s okay. Lego says that it wants to encourage builders to approach level design in new ways, offering divergent paths to help two players play at once.The company has also added a new block that will add more time to the countdown when you need a little bit extra to defeat the nearest villain.
And new challenge modes are coming, for instance time-trials to help see which player can collect the most coins in a set period of time, which is triggered with a new Yellow Pipe. Or, in fact, setting a number of coins to target and then seeing how long it takes them to reach that. The aim here seems to be looking for ways to broaden out what can be done with each set and generally improve replayability.
In Lakitu’s Sky Palace, for instance, the level is set up so Mario and Luigi can both pull on a geared motor that, if you pull it fast enough, will send the cloud-based villain flying. There’s something wonderfully transgressive about yanking this rather delicate geared system so hard that a piece flies off. And, you know, it’s Lego, so you can expect each piece to be tough enough to last until the sun has gone cold.
Certainly, when playing with my five year old, she loves building and rebuilding the levels and then running Mario and Luigi through them. She’s not yet bothered too much about the score at the end, but she’s very gratified at just being able to send the brothers dancing across the table.
If there’s one thing that gives me pause, it’s that assembling Bowser’s Airship took me more than six hours to complete. Part of this was down to the “help” offered by my eldest kid, and the rest down to the set’s sheer complexity. 13 bags of miniscule tiles, all of which are sandwiched upon each other to create this beautiful, ornate, expanding vessel full of dangers and traps. You have to admire the breathtaking skill to create a design this complicated, like so many of Lego’s other display-quality AAA sets from brand-name franchises like Star Wars.
But, at the same time, when you’re done with a set like this, you feel a little bit too much like Will Ferrell’s not-quite villainous Dad character from The Lego Movie. The process to create the model was so arduous that I could never imagine letting my kids play with the set unsupervised, lest they break it. And I couldn’t bear the thought of having to rebuild the thing if the kids chose to cannibalize parts to create their own Mario levels. The cynic in me thinks that this set is aimed more at the people who owned the SNES at launch, rather than for their kids. But still, I’m becoming everything I claim to hate. Hand me my Kragle.
As well as the major new sets, Lego is also introducing eight new characters in its Series 3 character pack blind bags. The only character confirmed so far is Amp, which when a character jumps on them, will give off an electric shock and put them in a no-coin state for a few seconds. Unless, of course, they have already acquired a 1-up Mushroom, which gives them a chance to avoid such an injury. You’ll also be able to buy Frog Mario and Bee Mario outfits for the brothers, giving your character the in-game ability to hover or extend their jumps.