One of the most memorable aspects of the video game classic Super Mario 64 was discovering the variety of secrets in the game. Chasing a rabbit through the basement, only to accidentally dive through the wall, was a revelation. And it’s this secret element – and the feeling of awe and novelty it inspires – that forms the basis of the fabulous new Mario 64 Lego set, the Question Mark Block.
The Question Mark Block set includes 2064 (how could they not?) Pieces and has multiple thumbnails of some of the Mario 64iconic levels of. There’s a little Bowser, a little Mario, and two of those goddamn penguins. But the trick is that none of these thumbnails are visible until the block “transforms”. That’s right, this Lego Mario 64 set is secretly a transformer.
In its completed form, the block looks like a smooth yellow box with typical Lego ridges on the white question marks. But with a slight pull on one side of the cube, the top flips over and the diorama unfolds. The block is now used as a support for thumbnails of different levels. Peach Castle sits atop Lethal Lava Land, along with the Great Horned Bully. And on the sides there is Bob-omb Battlefield and Cool, Cool Mountain.
Each of the dioramas feature numerous Easter eggs – some hidden inside the castle structure itself – but these aren’t the only secrets of the set. The exterior of the block also features a small hatch, completely invisible unless you know where to shoot. As you lift the hatch, you will see a little Lego Bowser looking at you. If you push down on it, a lever activates and a lower piece of the assembly unlocks, tilting and creating a small platform.
The platform houses a turntable that you can hook Bowser’s tail to. If you strap your little Mario to the turntable, you can spin King Koopa shouting, “Goodbye, gay Bowser!” To yourself for hours. Or you can just tie up Princess Peach so she can finally get revenge.
The Mario 64 Question Mark Block is a complicated build with a ton of different parts, but like many Lego sets, it’s transparent once you’ve built it. And it is this fluidity that preserves the many secrets it contains. If you were to just show someone the block and tell them how many hours you spent building it, they would probably start to wonder how you spend your time. But like a candy, the shell is just there to make it pretty – whatever you want is inside.
Super Mario 64 is pretty straightforward if you never venture outside Nintendo’s specific star path. But to get all 120 stars you have to think outside the box, get every coin, and watch the sun. As a static toy, the Lego question mark block takes Mario 64the philosophy of and emulates the video game as well as an unyielding piece of plastic can. That’s why I loved putting this Lego set together.
For the curious, the Lego Question Mark block is just one big piece of plastic. But for me, its builder, it’s a complex machine with lots of details to discover.