Nintendo seems ideologically opposed to the conventional – and so it goes with Lego Super Mario. If you hoped for custom minifigs and fancy display sets, tough. Nintendo and Lego have instead crafted an oddball and yet sometimes very literal amalgamation of the classic 2D Super Mario Bros. and the plastic brick.

Here’s how Stuff contributor Craig Grannell got on, aided by an eager six-year-old, when confronted by a pile of Lego Mario sets and the dawning realisation of just how many years have passed since he first played Super Mario Bros. on the original NES…

Day 01: Lego and Nintendo think different

Nintendo seems ideologically opposed to the conventional – and so it goes with Lego Super Mario. If you hoped for custom minifigs and fancy display sets, tough. Nintendo and Lego have instead crafted an oddball and yet sometimes very literal amalgamation of the classic 2D Super Mario Bros. and the plastic brick.

I’m skeptical but my six-year-old co-reviewer eagerly delves into the Adventures with Mario Starter Course (£49.99) – a required set, since it includes the game-starting warp pipe, the flagpole Mario slides down like a show-off, and the hero himself. (You also get a brick-built Bowser Jr. that looks like someone’s ironed his face flat, an endearingly grumpy goomba, and some basic obstacles.)

There are no instructions – more unconventional thinking? Instead, there’s an app to view steps in 3D, and that demands you connect Mario via Bluetooth. Turns out he’s a dinky battery powered computer with a screen that brings to life his eyes, mouth, and belly panel. You can, however, swap his hat and trousers if you buy a Power-Up Pack.

The builds are fun, if simple, and the use of printed pieces rather than stickers makes for a premium feel. The app incessantly plays the Mario theme – very on- brand – and videos detail how Mario interacts with hazards and obstacles. It’s all quite clever – movement triggers Mario’s accelerometer, making coins appear on his belly panel. A sensor between Mario’s feet recognises ‘Action Brick’ tiles when you want to kick off a timer – or win more coins by repeatedly stomping on a goomba.

We play mini-G’s carefully constructed course. There’s scope for ‘cheating’, but we play properly. Then Lego Mario falls asleep and needs reconnecting. Then he needs an update. The child thinks this is “funny”. Clearly, she’s never suffered a PS4 firmware update. Fortunately, Mario is up and running again in a couple of minutes – just as well, given the terrifying dead-eyed look when his screens are off.

Day 02: It’s-a-dead-eyed Mario!

Disaster! The child wants to play “like normal Lego”. Mario stays dead-eyed. I suspect she’d be happy without the app/screen bits. We open a Character Pack – it’s Bullet Bill on a tiny desert diorama! There are ten of these in all, priced like custom minifigs (£3.49). They’re going to sell like hot cakes.

Day 04: Level up

We make more levels. The kid’s figuring out level design and logic, constructing in her head what she imagines a Mario game to be. It’s fascinating. It’s clear Lego Super Mario is less about how everything looks and more about how it plays.

Day 05: Room for shrooms

Lego Mario, unhappy about still being dead-eyed, hurls himself to the floor. He’s fine, but worry kicks in about the prospect of replacing him – or losing an Action Brick, which we manage for a time when building the ten-bag Toad’s Treasure Hunt (£74.99)

That set is wallet-thumpingly expensive, but looks fab. Mushroom houses! Switches to stomp on! Hidden bonuses! There’s real physicality here; and while it’s not exactly Krypton Factor meets Rube Goldberg machine, I’m increasingly sucked in.

Day 10: It’s all mine

The child has decided Mario must seemingly permanently wear a cat suit. I’m not enamoured by the new look, nor this add-on, which seems clunky. 60-second games don’t leave much time for costume changes.

Other review sets reveal superior goodies, like Piranha Plant Power Slide (£24.99), where Mario rocks back and forth on a mine cart, attempting to avoid ferocious toothy foes at the track’s ends. (With Koopa Troopa and another goomba also in the kit, it’s a solid buy.)

Day 14: Super Mario Lego verdict

With every review set now built, there’s a lot going on. The kid’s levels have morphed from snake-like takes on 2D Super Mario Bros. to sprawling 3D creations spread across a table. (The depicted one is a smaller, saner effort that actually fitted within the camera frame.) Also: Mario’s now always on, excitedly parping catchphrases and jingles. It’s fun, whether figuring out the best way to construct new levels, or tackling finished constructions in a frenetic race to the finish line.

Yet I’m still a touch undecided about longevity, since the system awkwardly straddles traditional Lego, boardgame and videogame. And the lack of a brick-built Mario feels like a mis-step – it’d be great for ‘normal’ play and as a display option for boring adults. Perhaps with a second set of Character Packs, eh, Lego?

Tech Specs 
Pieces
231 (Adventures with Mario Starter Course)
Power
2×AAA batteries
Connectivity
Bluetooth (optional)
Requires
Android device/iPhone/iPad (instructions/videos/saving scores)
Stuff says... 

Lego Super Mario review

It’s a-Lego Mario! More specifically, it’s essentially Mario Maker in brick form. Potentially expensive, but surprisingly fun.
from
£49.99
Good Stuff 
Modular nature ideal for repeat play/experimentation
The app records scores – but you can use Mario without it
The brick-built characters are mostly superb
Makes you play with Lego, rather than just build
Bad Stuff 
No brick-built Mario – and he’s a dead-eyed horror when turned off
Starter Course alone feels a bit too basic
Limited appeal for solo play and display