23 September 2021

LEGO® Super Mario™ build review: 71395 Super Mario 64 Question Mark Block

Victor Pruvost (@leewanlego) completes his review of LEGO® 71395 Super Mario 64 Question Mark Block today. Having examined its parts last week, he now looks at the build itself. Buying this set once it's released in October? Consider using our affiliate links, New Elementary may get a commission: USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop | UK LEGO Shop/for Europe 'Change region'. Products in this article were provided by LEGO; the author's opinions are their own.

The bags are numbered from 1 to 13. Bags 1 to 5 make the structure of the cube, bags 6 to 12 are used to build the game levels, and with bag 13 you close the cube. 

The beginning of bag 6 asks us to put 64 of the yellow 2x2 inverted tiles underneath a 16x16 plate. I initially thought that, unlike 1x1 tiles, I wouldn’t have to bother aligning them, but when I finished this step I noticed some irregular gaps between the tiles, and realised they were slightly skewed.

Once the model is complete, you end up with a big cube that measures about 22x22x22 modules. In fact, a bit more since there are the question marks on the sides and a part of the structure on the bottom. That’s all? Of course not!


The main feature is that there are four vignettes hidden inside the cube, that you reveal by rotating the top panel.

The back panel is hinged and held in place with two rubber bands (4100396 | 71321), so it can open and close back when the top panel is rotated.


The rounded corners of the Cool, Cool Mountain and the Bob-omb Battlefield courses and the inverted tiles on the inner face of the back panel ensure the function works smoothly. In a similar way, six Cylinder Half 2 x 4 x 5 in black (6350734 | 35313) are used to ensure the courses slide smoothly.

By the way, 71395 Super Mario 64 Question Mark Block only marks the third appearance of this element! It was first seen in a 2011 set, 20127 Diagon Alley, which contained only one, and came back in 2021 in a Friends set, 41689 Magical Ferris Wheel and Slide, which contained two. Its price on BrickLink is still quite high, so if you want a handful of these, this set might interest you. 

Once the top panel is fully rotated, unfortunately, you have to fold and unfold the courses manually. I would have loved to see a way to expand the vignettes when you rotate the top panels. It’s a bit of a shame, since the designers found a way to have Peach’s Castle rise itself thanks to another pair of rubber bands (4544140 |  85543). By the way the movement is really smooth, you won’t have to be afraid of catapulting Peach when you open the model. 

Mixel joints have been used to allow the top panel to rotate. They’re frequently used for their friction, most notably in articulated characters and animals, but here, the assembly is so heavy that they don’t provide a lot of friction.

So why did the designers decide to use these parts then ? Well, for their symmetry.

Indeed, unlike most parts that allow articulation, Mixel joints have their centre of rotation precisely in the middle of the plate, whereas other elements (such as Technic bricks, as shown here), have a small offset. When the cube is folded, the top panel is completely upside down, and the use of Mixel joints allow to have its bottom surface (with the 64 2x2 inverted tiles) aligned with the top of the cube, and when the cube is unfolded, it’s the top surface that is aligned with the top of the cube.


It  must not have been an easy task to design a model that can be folded and unfolded without risking breaking some sections, and I guess that constraint did have a play in determining the courses displayed here. I wonder if other courses have been considered. Anyway, here, when the model is folded, there are only two areas where the courses are in contact, and this was required to keep the Peach Castle vignette closed. On the Cool, Cool Mountain side, it’s a small area of the cottage that pushes against the ground; and on the Bob-omb Battlefield side it’s simply a cannon. 

The model contains several Easter eggs and play features. For example you can remove the front of Peach’s Castle to see the paintings that lead to the courses, as well as a barcode for Mario (or Luigi) to scan. I don’t have either of them so I will not be able to see what this particular barcode does.

The Cool Cool Mountain opens as well, and inside you can see the slide from the first mission, Slip Slidin' Away.

The Lethal Lava Land has a few play features as well, with the ring rotating around the volcano (in the Lego model the volcano rotates as well), and a candle in Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan (6300321 | 37762), appearing for the third time only (it’s been introduced in 10276 Colosseum, and our friends over at Rebrickable have spotted it in 10291 Queer Eye: The Fab 5 Loft), that represents the log from the Red-Hot Log Rolling mission. Here, instead of rolling, the log simply slides, thanks to a clever technique : a pair of plates 1x2 rounded (35480) are held between a 1x4 panel (15207) and a plate. I’ve rebuilt the assembly on Mecabricks to give a clearer view of how the parts are arranged : 

I’ll have to remember this technique!


The model features several brick-built characters. I’m sure many will be disappointed by the lack of minifigures. Given the nature of the vignettes, having small brick-built seems to be a reasonable choice, but some of them aren’t really recognizable.

From left to right there are Mario, Peach, Yoshi, Mother Penguin, Baby Penguin (aka Tuxie), a Big Bully (having a green plate underneath the brick modified 47905 to represent its feet could have helped making it more recognizable), a Mr. I, and a Lakitu Bro. with a camera.

Some other characters can’t really be removed from the vignettes, such as King Bob-omb, due to the way he’s constructed, the Chain Chomp, or the Iron Ball.

Conclusion

LEGO has released quite a few strange models lately, and this one is among the strangest. However, I’m quite enthusiastic about it. I’ve never played Super Mario 64, so maybe I’ll be easier to convince than fans of the game, but I find this set really fun. On the first sight you get this big yellow cube, which is intriguing, and I felt genuine amazement when I turned the top panel to reveal the game courses. It’s a bit like a pop-up book, but better. 

However, if the main play feature is impressive, there is one big issue with the set : there are no Question Mark Blocks in Super Mario 64, so why choose this for a Super Mario 64 anniversary set? I can get that it’s an iconic element of the Mario games, and it fits the purpose of the set in the sense that people who haven’t built it will wonder what’s in it and will certainly be surprised to discover the hidden courses, but it’s still a curious choice. Actually, the nature of the set (a big cube, with micro scale game levels and simple, squarish brick-built characters) reminds me of Minecraft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a Minecraft set (say an earth block) reskinned as a Mario set.

Parts-wise, the numerous yellow tiles are definitely the highlight of the set, (if you’re building a yellow brick road, this set is for you!) and the new baby boomerang plate 79491 is a great element that I’m eager to see in more colours.

Secret play feature

But wait, there’s more! The official pictures teased a secret feature – so if you don’t want to know what it is, you’d better stop reading right now.

Still here ? Okay let’s-a go!


There is a panel in the front face that you can open. It reveals Mario’s most famous enemy: Bowser (although it’s the cutest Bowser I’ve ever seen). Pressing the Medium Lilac/ Dark Purple  slope 1x2x2/3 (4566607 | 85984) opens a second panel below, and you can place Mario and Bowser there to recreate the fight from the Bowser in the Dark World level. Two black 2x2 splat gears (6306064 | 35442), mentioned in the first part of this review, can be used to make Mario and Bowser spin.


There are some other interesting elements, such as the Dark Purple tile 8x16 (6327865 | 90498), introduced earlier this year in another Super Mario Set, that serves as a backdrop.

When ‘stored’, Bowser sits atop a small platform, between 2x Brick Curved 1 x 2 x 1 No Studs in Black (6275732 | 37352), that return from 43114 Punk Pirate Ship. 

Bowser himself is made of a few new and rare elements :

  • 2 x Brick, Modified 1x1 with Studs on 2 Sides Corner in Bright Green (6368621 | 26604) – first time appearance
  • 1 x Jumper plate 1x2 in Bright Green (6314378 | 15573) – comes in 5 other sets, including the big brick-built Bowser from 71369 Bowser's Castle Boss Battle - Expansion Set
  • 1 x Tile 1x2 with Red eyebrows pattern in Bright Green (6360249 | 3069) – first time appearance
  • 1 x Pyramid 1x1 in Red (6350414 | 35344) - also present on Peach’s Castle, in total two of them are included in the set – second appearance
  • 2 x Bracket 1x1 – 1x1 downwards in Yellow (6280475 | 36841) – second appearance
  • 1 x Bracket 1x2 – 1x2 upwards in Tan (6313611 | 99780) – comes in four other « regular » sets and several LEGO Stores exclusive sets.
  • 2 x cattle horn, short in Tan (6368620 | 64847) – this one returns after a 12-year hiatus: it’s only previous appearance was on the Mola Ram minifigure, in 7199 The Temple of Doom.

Now, no more surprises, this is really the end of this review. What do you think of this set? If you’re a Super Mario 64 fan, or a Mario fan in general, does it interest you? Do the new parts inspire you? Would you buy the set and build different courses? Well, if you buy it from LEGO.com please consider using our affiliate links, New Elementary may get a commission: USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop | UK LEGO Shop/for Europe 'Change region'.

READ MORE: LEGO® Super Heroes: interview with the design team

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4 comments:

  1. Great review. Quite shockingly I've never thought of 180 degree SNOT possibilities with Mixel joints, even though I use them on most of my MOCs. The don't quite surpass old finger joints though (as they are one plate thick all the way) but are more accessible; and sturdier, too.

    I don't have any nostalgia for 64, but if they released a similar set based on SMB3 I would be more likely to be on board.

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  2. Although ? blocks don't appear in Super Mario 64, themselves, others have noted that the design likely was picked due to being a more iconic look for the franchise, overall.

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    1. In the instructions it explains that the ? block was also chosen in part for the idea that anything could be inside, unlike Super Mario 64 blocks which always contain either a specific cap or a star based on their color (red for Wing Cap, blue for Vanish Cap, green for Metal Cap, and yellow/orange for a Power Star).

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  3. Good review!

    Before Mixel joints there were a few methods of "centered rotation" like you depict here, though most were much bulkier and involved using SNOT to connect a turntable or a bricks/plates/tiles with vertical Technic connections. Mixel joints are much more practical for most purposes.

    It's interesting to see a close-up view of how the various level dioramas fit together when folded closed. It was probably no small feat to design the levels so that they didn't interfere with one another, especially given the height of Cool, Cool Mountain. I'm still sort of tempted to try to design alternate levels, though—I've already got a rough Stud.io sketch of Shifting Sand Land, which is fairly flat and could allow for a taller level on the opposite side. In general, though, I think some of the best level choices were used here—many others would be much more complicated to depict due to being large, oddly shaped, or having gimmicks that couldn't effectively be portrayed in a microscale Lego build.

    I'm definitely thinking of getting this set if only for the novelty of it. It seems like a highly effective display piece, much like last year's NES. I'm still hoping that we someday get a Peach's Castle playset that's compatible with the other Lego Mario expansion packs, but in the meantime this is a great tribute to a childhood favorite game of mine.

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