Lego is no stranger to video game collaborations. The legendary brick maker has already developed sets based on Mojang's Minecraft phenomenon and Blizzard’s popular Overwatch shooter, for instance. The company’s upcoming Mario range is a little different, though. The sets replicate not only the visual splendor of the Mushroom Kingdom, but what it’s like to play through levels with a controller or handheld console.
Or at least, that’s the idea.
The most important part of Lego’s new product line is, unsurprisingly, Mario himself. The special minifigure is roughly seven centimeters tall — almost twice the size of a regular Lego character — and has tiny LCD screens where his eyes, mouth and chest should be. These components, combined with a loudspeaker positioned on the back of his head, allow Mario to blink, grin and deliver fully voiced lines like “yahoo,” “Lego Mario time” and “I’m-a-tired.”
The real magic lies within, though. Mario has an accelerometer, gyroscope and a color sensor that, with the help of two downward-facing lights, can identify terrain and special Action Bricks.
Place the character on a green square, for instance, and a grass-themed icon will appear on his chest. Blue and red bricks, meanwhile, represent water and lava, respectively. Action Bricks are special symbols that allow Mario to 'see' power-ups and enemies and select pieces of the environment, such as floating clouds and sliding platforms. Place the figure on the appropriate tile — it looks a bit like a QR code — and he reacts with recognizable sound effects and animations.
Mario collects coins as he moves through the course (you can indicate that he's walking by tapping his shoes on the ground) and interacts with Action Bricks.
Of course, you need to build every level first. The aptly named Starter Course kit comes with a Mario figure, Goomba, Bowser Jr and Question Block, as well as some basic environmental pieces. Other iconic characters, including Yoshi, Toad and Bowser, are in different expansion packs. Lego will also sel optional suits and booster packs that contain randomized enemies, such as Bloopers, Bob-ombs and Buzzy Beetles.
Sporadic videos explain how Mario is supposed to interact with each enemy or environmental hurdle.
Following Lego tradition, each set comes with a paper booklet. The ‘instructions’ merely point you to the Lego Super Mario companion app, though. The free software has 3D models you can rotate and zoom into to ensure you’re lining everything up correctly. If you’ve built one of Nintendo's cardboard Labo kits before, you'll feel right at home. Sporadic videos explain how Mario is supposed to interact with each enemy or environmental hurdle. A tutorial for the Piranha Plant Power Slide set, for instance, shows that you need to hop on a Koopa Troopa twice to “defeat” it and earn a coin.