One of the more memorable aspects of video game classic Super Mario 64 was discovering the game’s variety of secrets. Chasing a rabbit through the basement, only to accidentally dive through the wall, was a revelation. And it’s that secret element — and the sense of awe and novelty it inspires — that forms the basis for the fabulous new Mario 64 Lego set, the Question Mark Block.
The Question Mark Block set has 2064 (how could they not?) pieces and features several vignettes from some of Mario 64’s iconic levels. There’s a tiny Bowser, a tiny Mario, and two of those god damned penguins. But the trick is that none of these vignettes are visible before 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 light tug on one side of the cube, the top flips out and the diorama unfolds. The block now acts as a stand for vignettes of different levels. Peach’s Castle sits atop Lethal Lava Land, complete with the big, horned Bully. And on the sides, there’s Bob-omb Battlefield and Cool, Cool Mountain.
Each of the dioramas features numerous Easter eggs — some hidden inside the castle structure itself — but they’re not the set’s only secrets. The exterior of the block also features a small hatch, completely invisible unless you know where to pull. By lifting the hatch, you’ll see a tiny Lego Bowser staring back at you. If you press down on him, a lever activates and a bottom piece on the set unlocks, flipping down and creating a small platform.
The platform houses a turntable that you can hook Bowser’s tail to. If you attach your tiny Mario to the turntable, you can spin King Koopa around and around, shouting, “So long, gay Bowser!” to yourself for hours. Or you could just attach Princess Peach so she can finally get the revenge she’s owed.
The Mario 64 Question Mark block is a complicated build with a ton of different pieces, but like many Lego sets, it’s seamless once you’ve built it. And it’s that seamlessness that preserves the many secrets within. If you were to simply show someone the block and tell them how many hours you’d spent building it, they’d probably begin to question how you spend your time. But like a piece of candy, the shell is just there to make it look pretty — everything you want is inside.
Super Mario 64 is rather simple if you never venture off of Nintendo’s specific star path. But to get all 120 stars, you have to think outside the box, get every coin, and stare into the sun. As a static toy, the Lego Question Mark Block takes Mario 64’s philosophy and emulates the video game about as well as an inflexible piece of plastic can. That’s why I loved putting this Lego set together.
To the incurious, the Lego Question Mark Block is just a big hunk of plastic. But for me, its builder, it’s an intricate machine with loads of details waiting to be discovered.