For its first official collaboration with Nintendo, Lego could’ve just rolled out another series of collectible minifigures featuring beloved video game characters and fans would have been very happy. Instead, the toymaker is introducing a new way to play with its iconic bricks, allowing builders to create real-life video game levels that can be played using an animated Mario figure.
A few days after March 10, which Nintendo has successfully turned into another corporate holiday (Mar10 day), Lego has revealed more details about its upcoming Super Mario sets and what the figures will look like. Specifics on pricing and availability are still mysteries at this time, and that’s probably going to be a common thread going forward in 2020, given how the coronavirus has disrupted manufacturing and supply chains all over the world—particularly when it comes to electronics.
The sets appear to allow builders to create their own Super Mario levels using obstacles and hazards from the popular series of video games, including warp pipes, moving platforms, question blocks, pits of lava dotted with stepping stones, and even baddies like Goombas, Shy Guys, and the Koopalings. But Mario’s not alone: It looks like the sets will include brick versions of his trusty sidekick Yoshi. Mysteriously, Luigi is nowhere to be seen—yet.
The sets also allow for an interactive play experience centered around a blocky Mario figure that, using a child’s hand as a size reference, is much larger than the minifigures Lego usually includes with themed sets. The larger size is presumably a direct result of the Mario figure including a speaker that can play memorable sound effects from the Super Mario games, and tiny LCD displays that are used to change the plumber’s facial expressions and to provide visual feedback about Mario’s progression through a brick-built level.
According to Lego, the interactive Mario figure will collect coins, which are tracked by the tiny screen on his chest as he makes his way across a level. It’s also used to indicate how or why Mario has been hurt, such as playing a brief animation of flames when the hero falls into lava, and it even serves as a timer letting players know how much time they’ve got left to complete the level they’ve built. Lego hasn’t revealed the specifics of how the Mario figure interacts with other bricks, but it’s safe to assume that a low-power wireless technology such as RFID is being used so that chips can be seamlessly integrated into the various brick pieces.
The biggest question we have about the new playsets is whether or not the Mario figure will wirelessly connect to a new Lego mobile app, allowing players to keep track of high scores or use their collected coins for something other than bragging rights. On the back of the interactive Mario figure, there appears to be a Bluetooth button next to the power button, which is what Lego uses to connect sets like its powered trains to mobile apps. Both Lego and Nintendo have already embraced mobile platforms like iOS and Android, so an app connected to the new play experience isn’t completely out of the question. But at this point, we’re just going to have to wait until both companies are ready to share more details on their collaboration.
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