Few companies can claim to have had as great an influence on the last 50 years of childhood as Nintendo and Lego. These are not just two titanic brands, both famous for their fearsome quality control. They also represent two deeply thought-out and consistently developed philosophies of play. So any collaboration between them is consequential indeed, and here it is: the Lego Super Mario toy range, which arrives in shops today.
I’ve had a selection from the range to play with for the past couple of weeks. It’s fascinating stuff. The sets, the interactive Mario figure and the accompanying app work hard to combine the best and most fondly held characteristics of both Lego construction sets and Super Mario games. If it doesn’t quite come off, it’s only because these two creations – each of which can legitimately be considered among the greatest works of industrial art of the 20th century – are such perfect systems, with such integrity, that they resist any attempt to splice or remix them.
This is no ordinary licensed Lego series. It isn’t for fans or collectors, like, say, the Lego Overwatch range – there’s the luxurious Lego NES for those folks. It’s for kids. But nor does it quite resemble Lego Batman or Lego Star Wars sets, where the fun comes from seeing your favourite characters rendered as minifigures and from building replicas of the famous vehicles and props to play with in dioramas of your own devising.