As the official release date of LEGO Super Mario approaches, I thought we would take a look at one of several medium-large expansion sets. The guarded fortress feels like the end scene to almost any game level.
With 463 elements, this expansion feels chock full of play value, and adds some new challenges for Mario to face. Challenges that can easily be incorporated into a layout. We also have three enemies to defeat, as well as the opportunity to loot the fortress for the coins hidden inside. As with all LEGO Super Mario Expansion sets, the 71360 Adventures with Mario set is required for full functionality.
On the front of the box you can see the enemies you face in this level: Koopa returns after the pirhana plant power slide, and we also meet Bob-omb and another Piranha plant: one that this time, we can send scampering back into its pot! Each of these enemies is guarding a path into the fortress: one water drenched, one with green hills and finally, approaching the middle, path, is a steam of lava.
The back of the box gives us an idea as to what can be achieved in conjunction with the starter set, albeit in a limited way. It demonstrates the action bricks, as well as shows where the treasure is hidden!
The first bag contains the elements of Koopa. Now, we might have seen one before in the Piranha plant power Slide, but this Koopa has a different tag on his back, which means you cannot use the other to unlock the rest of the instructions to this set. There are a number of new parts for the theme here, including the arm and leg moulds, as well as the shell, printed tile and printed face elements.
Bag 2 presents us with several landscape nodes, which go towards building the base of the fortress, including the drawbridge. We put together a POW Brick. We will talk about this again later.
The bulk of the Guarded Fortress is dark orange in colour, and there are a number of new elements in this colour, including the 2×2 inverted slope, the quarter cylinder panels, 1x2x3 bricks and the 4×4 landscape plates with rounded corners. The castle panels have not been seen in this colour before.
We have a number of cloud plates, which have just the right level of cartoonish style, floating above the Fortress.
We have a 2×3 tile, with clips, printed with the Mario go – we normally see this run up the flagpole on Mario’s chest screen when we play the game. How will it function here?
More landscape nodes in bright green look like they will form a series of towers, but with a twist…or is it a tilt?
Our next bags move to the path of water approaching the fortress: some large rounded plates, as well as a warp pipe: only the second occurrence of this element within the theme – the other being in the starter set. We also see some smaller elements of a technic nature.
Along with some palm leaves, we have a bag containing white pyramid tiles, as well as a number of red arches and short bright green technic beams. It looks very similar to the parts selection for the piranha plant flowers seen in 71365.
Finally, some yellow feet, a printed face on dark/earth blue. (similar to the lava bubble, but in different colours), a scannable tile for Bob-omb and some elements to draw it all together. Medium stone grey tiles, and of course the new 1x2x1 2/3 bricks with 8 studs. A printed tile, offering no clear instruction as to where you should head with a double pointed arrow.
But what does it all mean?
In its final form, there are three paths, all with their own enemies and challenges.
The Blue Path leads to a warp pipe, with a pirhana plant coming out of it. But never fear, as some clever, underfloor engineering allows you to jump on a lever, and sent the plant scurrying back into the pipe. This reals the tile for the piranha plant.
The central Red Path, lined with lava, with a couple of rock slabs for Mario to seek refuge on, leads directly to a POW Block. A jump on this opens the door to the fortress. Inside the door is a tile to scan for a coin bonus. The door catch is a lever mechanism which involves far fewer Technic elements than I expected it to!
The Green Path features 3 grassed towers, getting taller and taller. when you get the second, there is a lever to land on, which tips the top platform. Just what you need if there is a pesky Koopa in the way. One more platform from here, and a firm press with Mario results in his flag being raised. This is an ideal place to put the ‘Goal’ tile from the starter set, It would have been good to include another of these tiles in this set, as it is a natural place for an end. It could allow you to set up several different levels with a common start point.
The Piranha plant: lying over the path, this can be flicked back into the warp pipe: doing this correctly will result in the piranha plant’s scannable tile being raised so that Mario can scan it. This is worth 10 coins in the final score ( scores are doubled if under the influence of Star Power at the time, however). After claiming the 10 coins, you can only earn a single coin with each subsequent scan. I like the way that this is a relatively simplistic mechanism to flip the plant out of the way.
Koopa is physically identical to the one included with the Piranha plant power slide, although the scannable tile is slightly different for this one. Koopa needs to be jumped on twice to be defeated, and this earns 3 coins. Subsequent scans also yield only one coin. So, by having two Koopas, with different tiles, they can both be defeated in several locations along a level.
Bob-omb makes their debut in this expansion set, although they can also be obtained in the collectable bags. This small, dark blue cube has white eyes, as well as a key in his back, and a burning fuse. On being scanned, the goal is to scan the bob-omg as many times as you can before it explodes. If you are scanning it as it explodes, Mario loses the coins he gained from the bob-omg, and is stunned for a few seconds, before he can start to collect coins again. Rapid rescanning is possible, and I was able to max- out at 36 coins without being exploded! Only the one time however, After Bob-omb has exploded, subsequent scans by Mario only yield one coin.
Other Action Bricks
There are two other scannable ‘action bricks’ included in the set:
The coin tile. The coin tile is also included in the Haunted yard. The scanned, it is worth 10 coins. It cannot be rescanned for coins during the course of the game. In this expansion, it is revealed after the drawbridge to the fortress has been opened by stamping on the POW Block! While ‘POW’ sounds like it should be demolishing masonry, it does not yield any points for it!
The POW Block: this is featured in 2 sets: 71362 The Guarded Fortress and ‘Monty Mole and Super Mushroom’. In both sets, the brick is placed on a lever, and we have an explosion accompanying some action. In this set, the door of the castle opens to reveal the ‘Coin reward’ tile. The POW Brick on its own does not earn coins in itself.
In the video games, a POW brick destroys all enemies on screen. Applying this logic to the LEGO Super Mario – we appear to have an undocumented way to defeat enemies with a single strike: strike the POW brick, and then an enemy requiring multiple strikes (such as Whomp, Thwomp, Koopa or Baby Bowser) and they are defeated with one strike! WooHoo! I think it is interesting that this feature is not well documented in the app, but the design lead Jonathan Bennink has suggested previously that…
We are going to launch a hidden feature, before our final release. There will also be combos for defeating the bad guys. Some we will mention in the documentation, others will need to be discovered, and shared by you guys…
There is also a place for the ‘Goal’ tile, which marks the end of a level, on a platform, which, when Mario is ‘Slammed Down’, raises the finishing flag.
Here is the Guarded fortress in Action:
I really like this set. It really has that classic Mario look and feel to it. It has a great collection of enemies, as well as some interesting action features – which you might be tempted to apply to your own custom levels. The tilting platform, flag raising, door bursting and piranha reaction mechanisms are, collectively, very clever, and make this set a highlight. There is something satisfying about reaching a caste at the end of the level, and you might almost imagine that this is the castle you enter as you approach the final Bowser Boss Battle in the largest set in this wave of Super Mario. There is a feeling of forced perspective as well, with the castle vanishing into the distance as you approach the set.
With 468 pieces has a similar part count as Toads Treasure hunt, and King Boo and the Haunted Yard. Each have different things to commend them, and I think this will be a difficult personal choice for some. that said, this is the mid priced set of these three – priced at AU79.99, 49.99€/USD. It feels tightly packed, compared to Toad’s village, and offers a little more action, in my mind, than the haunted Yard (more about that soon)
What do you think about this expansion? Is it one you will look at, or do you think you will pass it by? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,
This set was provided by the LEGO group for Review Purposes. All opinions are my own