The launch of the LEGO Super Mario theme might just be the tonic we need in 2020.
Super Mario was a hit back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when parents and kids alike took to their gleaming new Nintendo consoles, inserting the then state-of-the-art game cartridges to begin playing Super Mario Bros. The theme song will forever bring up memories of sitting together with friends, curtains drawn, eyes glued to the TV screen and thumbs feverishly working the controllers while the melody blipped cheerfully in the background.
Sound was a big deal in the game. Oh, the triumph when the “ding!” sounded as Mario collected the coins from floating boxes on the 2D set, the shot of adrenalin at the tempo change as Mario entered Bowser’s lair and the feeling of annoyance (“ding-DING!”) when our parents insisted we pause the game. This was how we spent many a school holiday afternoon (and morning, and possibly, even evening!) over at least one or two primary school years.
Enter LEGO Super Mario stage left
With those carefree days long gone, and a grim reality before us, the re-emergence of the jaunty plumber in LEGO form has certainly warmed this millennial heart.
It took 4 years of painstaking co-development with Nintendo before The LEGO Group felt it could bring the theme to market. LEGO Lead Designer and co-developer of the theme, Jonathan Bennink, calls it “a never-seen-before way to play and interact with LEGO bricks”. And he is right!
How LEGO Super Mario works
A core set called the “Starter Course” is where your LEGO Super Mario adventures begin. It’s also the only set with LEGO Mario himself – a clever way to ensure everyone starts in the right place.
The Starter Course features a few key details – including sound! – to ensure the experience maintains an air of authenticity, as Bennink explains:
“Since it is the entry point into the LEGO Super Mario theme, it needed to be iconic and instantly recognisable.”
For example, the LEGO Mario figure shows a variety of iconic reactions on the built-in LCD screens in his eyes, mouth and belly. An in-built speaker offers those signature sounds – like the “ding!” when he collects a coin – keeping the feel really close to the original game. The figure also has sensors which read colour and action bricks as you move through the course – so there’s no cheating!
A great collab
In our opinion, the LEGO aspect of this theme very much enhances the digital concept. For one, it’s physically interactive, encouraging team play and offering players a chance to hone their problem-solving skills. There’s also the nostalgic aspect which the developers paid very careful attention to. And better still, those little nostalgic indicators aren’t gimmicks; they’re really part of the game.
You can also build on and create more complex courses with expansion sets – a feature which obviously didn’t exist in the original game and which means that participants can now be “game developers” too.
To help you along and keep you engaged, there’s a free app too which helps with pointers to make building easier and suggests creative ways to build and play, as well as offering a safe forum to share ideas with friends.
The question is, has Bennink and his team thought of everything? Quite possibly, though we’re a little disappointed that LEGO Mario doesn’t actually fly when he’s got propeller power!