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Lego Super Mario Bowser’s Airship review – two-player Lego

The team-up between Lego and Nintendo has got to the next level, with the introduction of Lego Luigi and new multiplayer expansion sets.

As hard as it is to imagine, at some point in history the concept of fish and chips didn’t exist. It took several thousand years before humans realised gin and tonic was a good idea and you wouldn’t believe how recent Netflix and chill is. Something you can add to the list of partnerships that seem obvious and yet have only just come into being is Nintendo and Lego.

Both firms are known for their creativity, their intense secrecy, and not being quite like any other company around, and you could tell from their first collaboration that it was a match made in heaven. The public clearly agreed, as the Lego Super Mario line become one of the most successful new toy lines of 2020 and that, just as in the video games world, means only one thing: sequels.

Lego has this week announced six new sets, plus a new series of blind bags, and they sent us a couple of them to try out, as well as the recently announced Luigi Starter Course. The latter includes a Luigi Bluetooth minifigure that not only interacts with the other sets in the same way as the original Mario one (while being one stud taller) but also opens up the world of two-player action.

You can read our review of some of the original Super Mario sets here but the basic idea is quite different from the Lego norm. There are no traditional minifigures in any of the sets and instead everything is built from ordinary bricks, which gives all the characters a charmingly blocky, N64 style look. The exception is Mario and Luigi who are complex Bluetooth devices that have a sensor in their feet that can tell what kind of brick they’re standing on.

The sensor can detect colours, so that yellow is interpreted as sand, purple as poison, and so on, but each set also has multiple ‘action bricks’ which allow you to jump on an enemy and have the minifigure react with the correct sound effect and animations in its eyes, mouth, and chest. Interactive elements also have action bricks, with the various obstacles gaining you coins if you navigate them successfully.

Add all these elements together and you come to the central appeal of the line: to create your own Super Mario courses and navigate through them using the minifgure, thereby earning coins along the way. Although there are preset course designs that come with each set the idea is that everything is modular and so you can move platforms, towers, and obstacles around and make your own course, to be completed against a 60 second timer.

It’s all far more interactive and imaginative than just making a big model of Peach’s Castle (although Lego has hinted that might come later) and has clearly gone down very well with general public, not to mention Lego and Nintendo fans.

The Luigi Starter Course has different characters (a pink Yoshi and Boom Boom) and pieces but works in the same basic manner as the Mario one. You use a free app (there are no paper instructions) and build the individual elements, including a seesaw and some gear pieces, and then put them together however you want. The building isn’t very complex, if you’re used to sets aimed at adults, but thinking up new courses is an enjoyably creative exercise which really does feel halfway between playing with Lego and playing a video game (especially if it’s Mario Maker).

You need one of the two starter courses to use the other sets, as they’re the only ones that come with a Bluetooth minifigure, but they’re relatively cheap and have plenty of building potential on their own. The biggest set so far has been Bowser’s Castle but there’s now another of the same size called Bowser’s Airship, which is one of the ones we were sent.

The airship is neat not just because it looks cool and can be wooshed around like a normal toy, but it opens up as well, so that you can use it like part of the course. There are three action bricks on the airship, that are used to defeat it, which involves knocking down a giant mechanical Bowser hand by stealing Kamek’s broomstick, knocking down a mast, and making good use of a POW brick.

With additional characters including a variation of Monty Mole and a Goomba with a pirate hat, that you have to knock off before you can jump on its head, the whole thing is utterly charming and admirably clever. There’s even a cannon you can put either Mario brother into and it’ll play the airship music from Super Mario Bros. 3 as you use it.

The third set we were sent is Lakitu Sky Word, which is smaller in scale but emphasises the idea of multiplayer, either in co-operation or competition for more coins. It can be used in a variety of ways, but the basic gist is that Lakitu is sitting at the top of a cloud in the middle of the set and Mario and/or Luigi can be place in little Lego clouds near the ground, that move forwards and backwards a bit like Hungry Hungry Hippos.

When you move Mario or Luigi the big cloud in the middle spins around, which is the only way to dislodge Lakitu so you can jump on his shell. However, there’s also a Bullet Bill that you have to avoid hitting as you ping yourself forward, as well as a platform on the other side that can be used to convey you to another part of the course, if the other player deigns to help you.

There are two other major sets being released in this wave, which we’ve not seen in person, and they also emphasise the two-player element, with Boss Sumo Bro Topple Tower acting like a sort of reverse Jenga, where you’re trying to knock the character off the top of the tower. Meanwhile, Reznor Knockdown involves rotating a fairground wheel round to hit the two triceratops-like enemies and claim the hidden prize.

We also got sent a Bee Mario costume, which makes Mario or Luigi buzz when you ‘fly’ them through the air and also gives you a coin bonus if you land them just as the sound indicates you’re going to run out of airtime – which makes it feel a lot more worthwhile than some of the previous costume sets.

Finally, we got one bag from Series 3 of the Character Packs. These are essentially physical loot boxes that contain a single enemy – often one not included in any of the larger sets. We got a Scuttlebug but there’s also a Galoomba, Parachute Bob-omb, Crowber, Boo, Amp, Torpedo Ted, Bony Beetle, 1-Up Mushroom, Scuttlebug, and Swoop.

Whether Lego will make sets based on other Nintendo properties remains to be seen but given the popularity of the Super Mario line it seems an inevitability. It’s hard not to welcome such a move, given how all the sets so far are filled with such charm and imagination, but well they might be as actual Nintendo designers have helped out with their creation. Rather than Nintendo just signing away the licence and letting Lego get on with it this seems to have been a true collaboration between the two.

We’ve listed the prices below but there’s more information at the Lego website, with the new sets we’ve talked about here going on sale from August 1, with pre-orders for Bowser’s Airship and the Luigi Starter Course beginning today.

71391 Bowser’s Airship Expansion Set – £89.99
71388 Boss Sumo Bro Topple Tower Expansion Set – £24.99
71389 Lakitu Sky World Expansion Set – £34.99
71390 Reznor Knockdown Expansion Set – £64.99
71392 Frog Mario Power-Up Pack – £8.99
71393 Bee Mario Power-Up Pack – £8.99
71394 Character Packs Series 3 – £3.49

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