Aug 24, 2020 - Technology

Lego Super Mario blends the physical and digital worlds

Lego toys on the floor.

Photo: Ina Fried

Toymakers have been trying for years to blend the physical and digital worlds, with far more flops than successes, but Lego has finally hit a combo that clicks with its new Super Mario offering.

Between the lines: Lego has made a lot of stabs at this, including its recent Hidden Side augmented reality sets that can come to life when viewed through a smartphone. Until now, the technology has often felt more like a distraction than an addition.

How it works: Lego Super Mario, much like the classic video game, has players move Mario around, stomping on villains, banging bricks and collecting coins.

  • The Bluetooth-enhanced Mario figure scans barcodes in the set's bricks, syncing with a smartphone app to record player progress and achievements.
  • The $60 starter set, which includes Mario, is, as the name suggests, the starting point.
  • Expansion packs bring in other characters and settings from the Mario universe, while power-up packs give Mario extra abilities and character packs bring in more friends and foes.

Who it's good for: Fans of Mario and Lego.

  • It's not significantly more expensive than other Lego sets or a single Nintendo Switch game and offers the best of both worlds. The set is easy to put together and the straightforward gameplay lets you really feel like you're inside Mario's world.
  • Yes, but: The costs can quickly add up through the expansion sets. Mario can also integrate with the new Lego Nintendo Entertainment System, which replicates the 1980s game console, its controller and an old-school TV (at a $230 price tag).

Who it's not good for: Kids who tire of toys quickly.

  • It's really a single-purpose toy. The expansion packs add new adventures, but the whole thing could eventually run its course.
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