The LEGO Super Mario partnership has become one of my favourites over the last few years. The way that they’ve been able to blend some of the old features from the game with the newer 3D world look is something I’ve been looking forward to getting into for a while. Finally, we’ve got our hands on the starter set and my daughter is going to review this with me.
In this review, we’ll be looking at the Adventures with Mario Starter Course. It’s a 231 piece set that comes with somewhat pre-assembled (I’ll get into that later) Mario, fire, water, and ground stage settings, as well as buildable Goomba, Lakitu Cloud, Bowser Junior, and Coin Block interactive pieces broken off into different bags.
Unboxing your LEGO Super Mario Starter Kit
There are 5 main bags included in the starter kit, along with a bag of odds and ends to help build bridges between your worlds outside of the stage pieces themselves. The Mario figure comes pre-built because there are electronics inside, like an LCD screen and more (I’ll touch upon this a bit more in the “Connecting Mario” subsection). There are also little pieces that you will need to specifically place on the interactive environments so that Mario knows where he is and what he’s doing. A bit of parental help will be required. Mario needs 2 AAA batteries and the use of a small Phillips head screwdriver to unlock his battery chamber.
As can be expected, this LEGO set (and I’m guessing all the other Super Mario sets) have pieces exclusive to these build types that you wouldn’t expect to see anywhere else. For example, the picture below has a couple of environment blocks. I’ve also included a picture of Bowser Jr.’s bib, but it’s basically just printed on standard 2×2 flat plate.
Building your Super Mario Starter Course
A paper Quick Start guide is included. However, you’re going to need to grab your smartphone and download the LEGO Super Mario app from on an iOS or Android device for building instructions. The Quick Start guide basically shows you how to build the rest of Mario’s outfit and then is mainly advertising for the app and other sets. I had originally started with the app for my smartphone but as the build progressed, I decided to download it on my iPad instead.
Of course, I can definitely see an argument against this method, since not everybody’s going to have smartphone access to download the mobile app, or not everybody’s kids will have a device which allows them to access the builds without parental supervision.
The instructions you receive from the app are great. It teaches you how to build each and every little piece. If you’re unsure of what piece goes where, the app allows you to rotate the piece 360 degrees and in any direction to make sure you’ve got the right one. The pieces do fit a bit snug, so I’d recommend having a brick separator on hand in case you need it. The bags are really well organized and laid out in a way that you build each level and environment one at a time. In our review video, Char puts herself on a 40 minute goal and we have a timer running (it’s a Super Mario objective, so of course we had to time it!) and she was able to build everything in about 35 min. I’d say that about 30 – 45 minutes (depending on your child’s experience with LEGO) is about right to build everything solo. If you’ve got a helper, it should take maybe half that. It’s not worth rushing through the build though because it’s really neat!
Connecting Mario to your LEGO Super Mario World
On the surface, it seems like there’s some sorcery going on with Mario’s ability to recognize his terrain. Mario is capable of recognizing his surroundings in two different ways. First is a flat coded tile that comes with each environment. Placing Mario on top of these will help him recognize which piece he’s interacting with. All of the enemies and special builds (i.e. warp pipe/flagpole) all have their own interactive tile to direct Mario. The second way is the colour of the block itself which Mario will recognize with a terrain picture on the LCD screen on his chest.
My original thought when I saw these tiles was that it had to be NFC technology in them telling Mario where he was. This was until I saw Mario interacting with regular blocks. I had a hard time trying to figure out how Mario knew what was grass, fire, and water until I realized that the interactive tiles and pieces aren’t NFC. Mario has a small-ish camera at his feet with the lights that help him recognize what colour or environmental tile he’s interacting with. Really cool!
Mario connects to your device through the Bluetooth button located on his back. All of the other add-on characters function exactly the same way. This feature works as intended, but it’s a little clunky at times, which I’ll talk about closer to the end of the blog. You don’t really need Bluetooth functions on at all times to enjoy the set (since Mario interacts locally with all the tiles,) but having it connected to the app means that you don’t have to keep score yourself (which we’ll show you near the end of our review video.)
Putting it all together to create your own Mario Level
After everything is built, the sky’s the limit for what you can do next. You can freestyle a level with your pipe start point and goal pole end point or you can go back to step 3 in the app to the “Start Course” option and have the app track all of your progress for you. In our review video, you’ll see a quick Lava level that Char designed where she defeats a Goomba and Bowser Jr. enroute to the flagpole.
Keep in mind that this is just a starter set. There are at least a dozen other interactive sets you can expand upon, each with their own new characters and environments. Princess Peach has her her own castle playset, Bowser’s Airship is available, and there are even numerous Luigi’s Mansion levels. They all range from a single add-on build (like the Kuribo’s Shoe) all the way up to 1000+ piece sets like Bowser’s Castle. I’m not sure how they all interact with the app and whether each comes with in-app building instructions but I assume you’ll be able to create one giant course and have it all register at once.
This is a definite 1-up over traditional builds
We had a lot of fun building this starter course. So much so, in fact, that Charlotte’s finally decided to spend some of her birthday money on buying some of the extra LEGO courses. We’re probably going to get the Adventures with Luigi set (since it comes with a Boom Boom and Yoshi by the looks of it) and then see what else is available too. I have a feeling she might really be into the Peach’s Castle set I mentioned earlier as well.
The one thing that I will say that might be tough for kids to recognize is that I found Mario lost his Bluetooth connection pretty frequently. While connecting him is easy enough, the app didn’t always communicate properly to tell us he was online again. Again, it is easy enough to back out to the menu to double check connection, but it’s an extra couple of steps to do this and then to get back in to start your levels. I hope this is fixed and patched out in the future since it’s a minor inconvenience.
Regardless, this is a really cool group of sets and a really cool spin on bringing the Super Mario Bros and LEGO franchises together. We’ll be back for more. The LEGO Adventures with Mario Starter set, as well as more than a dozen other expansion sets are now available at your local Best Buy and online at bestbuy.ca.