How we use LEGO Super Mario as a way to enjoy LEGO together as a family.
LEGO 71391 - Super Mario - Bowser's Airship Expansion Set
Available from LEGO.com and LEGO Stores now.
*Item listed on sale at the time of this article being published, subject to Amazon T&C's.
LEGO Super Mario has always been a hit-or-miss theme with a lot of adult collectors, but just like the last time we review LEGO Super Mario sets, we have always thought of the theme as an immaculate success for adult-to-child relationships. Heck, we even said in our last review:
"It gives an ingenious new way to interact with LEGO and our children"
We have been collecting LEGO Super Mario on-and-off for quite some time. Not exactly grabbing every single set that comes out, but more tailored to what our eldest daughter, Karliah, would enjoy most.
We are now a while down the track, and our youngest daughter Zaidia jumped on board. Cue player 2 and the Luigi Starter course. We now have two players, Karliah now being 4, and Zaidia being 2, almost 3 years old.
So, how did they like it? Is this a good choice for kids? Is it good for adults? Read on!
Now, in the interest of full transparency, LEGO accidentally sent us this set twice, and we aren't complaining. We got this set solely for our kids, and now they got one each!
About This Set
Bowser's Airship is probably one of the most interactive and aesthetically pleasing LEGO Super Mario sets we've ever gotten our hands-on. The practicality of having it all pack up neatly into one of Bowser's iconic weapons of destruction, and yet still unfold with plenty to see is a very nice mix.
For the kids, the set gives us a fair few play features. For one, the starting 'pipe' is actually a cannon, launching the heroes onto the airship flying high. I love this and the fact that the timer starts the moment you launch, playing music for Bowser's Airship from Super Mario 3! It also makes adjustment noises when you tilt the cannon around.
Once on board, the ship has a few fun interactive spots. The first propeller tower has a tab to one side, that with Mario or Luigi stomping down on it, goes flying off! Our youngest, Zaidia, LOVED this - anything destructive, she could easily get behind, albeit wanting to do the destruction herself rather than Luigi...
The second tower sports a giant golden Bowser claw with a bunch of fancy technical bits thrown in. This is a reference to New Super Mario Bros U, wherein the Bowser Jr fights, players would run along the ground as Bowser's Airship, above them, would try to smash them with a giant golden hand.
How does that translate here? Well, if you don't know about those levels, not well. I'm thankful to the app for also explaining the play feature, because even though it's quite cool. I had no idea what I was building even after I did it.
Opposing the hand is a white cloud for the Magikoopa's broomstick, and Mario or Luigi can jump on the broomstick - and with a few quick rotations - can cause the tip to hit the target, dropping the handoff and exposing the tile underneath for some sweet sweet coins (8 hits = 6 coins)
There's also a surprising amount of space underneath to fit all this in.
At the rear of the ship is an interactable Bowser head, where after pushing down on a tab just above the Monty Mole, leans the head outwards and reveals a scannable code. Kids can jump on this head and for coins too! (8 hits = 6 coins)
The best feature of them all is the POW block. At the helm of the ship is Rocky Wrench, who, just like in the games, is hiding away. Smash down on the POW block hard enough and you'll send this little guy soaring!
Once the helm is free, simply put Mario or Luigi in its place, and watch as the steering wheel magically pops up and they start playing the Super Mario Bros 3 World 5 Map Music. Our kids loved this so much, and it really showed.
They were soon packing the ships up and loading everything - and I mean everything - on board. The Magikoopa and Goomba weren't enemies, just crew - this was the narrative they had made. They had both the ships being piloted away and actually spent a considerable amount of time in this form.
That's not where the fun stops for kids though, as you can also gut the ship entirely and make your own course out the part included, and if you really really wanted to, make the gutted boat part of the course as well. There's really no downside.
As for the adult in me, Bowser's airship has gone through several revamps over the years, but this is still ticks the boxes big time for me. The iconic cannons on the side, the propellers on the top (although I think there would normally be at least 3), and even the dark red detailing at the back mixed in with those light grey lanterns and vine pieces work really well.
Oh, and Bowser's head. The small one on the back may be great but the one at the helm? Fantastic. Seeing the Bowser claw and an upscaled Bowser head makes me want to make an upscaled Bowser for sure!
The Magikoopa, otherwise known as "witch" by our children, is probably my biggest downside of the set. I understand that this is a hard art style to adhere to and fit the aesthetic, but it doesn't quite work for me. Her face is great, her hat and wand are great, but her body is just odd. I guess that might come down to her normally not being sleeveless, but that's a limitation on parts.
Also, Zaidia reckons that Luigi and her might be a thing... so that's fun.
Love this little dude! Thought it would be weird building on to a Goomba that can't be jumped on, but some smart part usage makes it so that the hat comes right off and ready for a stomping! Win!
This character is built in as a play feature and admittedly doesn't do more than that. He's a simple but incredibly effective build. No qualms here.
This set is an absolute win for kids, all around.
LEGO Super Mario has always given engaging ways for parents to use LEGO as a gaming medium with their children - setting up obstacles, making new courses and even seeing how actions cause reactions.
The airship does this well with the system, but also engages a way of narrative storytelling. Previous sets are static, have one feature or gimmick, and that's it.
The Airship provides more. You can have the airship as a course, make the airship part of a course, use it for narrative high seas or air adventures - and yet, still have all the things that make LEGO Super Mario great.
You get the action and reaction, the fun of playing a game, the storytelling and creativity of an airship, and the beauty of doing it all with your kids.
And that's a win for me.
Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this please leave a comment below.
This article was written by Tim & Dannii.
Find them on Instagram at @legobuildingwithtimanddannii
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