The Magical Worlds of LEGO® and Harry Potter come together in Diagon Alley

It has been almost 10 years since we last saw a LEGO Set bringing forth the action from Diagon Alley, the hidden lane in London where every witch and wizard goes shopping in search of the Things They Need to get through that magical life of theirs.

With 14 Minifigures and 5544 pieces, 75978 Diagon Alley Features Ollivander’s, Flourish& Blott’s Book Shop, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, Scibbulus, Quality Quiddich supplies, the offices of the Daily Prophet and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. While some of these appeared in last year’s microscale version of the street, this is the first time that most of these shops have been represented at minifigure scale. The set goes on sale on September 1 2020, and will cost £369.99 / $USD399.99 / 399.99EUR /$AUD599.99

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LEGO x IKEA BYGGLEK: Q&A with the Designers, North American Pricing Revealed

When Adult LEGO Fans first heard about the collaboration between the LEGO Group and IKEA AG, there were hopes for an integrated LEGO Storage System: shelving, storage and display spaces. The response to the first views, after some escaped into the wild last month was mixed.

Ikea have just published a Question and Answer session with the head designers – IKEA’s Andreas Fredriksson and Rasmus Buch Løgstrup who lead the design from the LEGO Group’s side of things. They spoke about the process of the collaboration, and how they arrived at the final products. You can read it, and find the US/Canadian/Euro pricing after the break…

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IKEA x LEGO: Bygglek Officially Announced

We have been waiting for a little over two years for the official word on Bygglek: the collaboration between IKEA and the LEGO Group. A few weeks ago, we saw some of the first images of the result, when some stock was prematurely put on the shelves in Germany.

Today, we can build on that news – BYGGLEK will consist of a series of storage boxes, which are covered in studs, allowing them to become enmeshed in a child’s LEGO play, as well as a special LEGO Set. While this is probably to the grand unified theory of infinite element storage that many AFOLs were hoping for in this partnership, I suspect that many children will enjoy using the boxes in a way that will allow them to put a pause on play, and to rapidly pack their parts away, and bringing them out again with as much ease.

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Of Easter Eggs and Irony: 71374 Nintendo NES/Retro TV [Review]

We have spent a lot of time lately focussing on the LEGO Super Mario sets. They have been quite a bit of fun to play with. And quite unlike any lego product I have played with in recent time. But the builds are mostly fairly simplistic, and don’t challenge the patience at all. Which is fine: because it really is an example of otherwise building toys to play with. Sure, the Lego Mario characters are not minifiugres, the sets didn’t come with adequate printed instructions and after a while, the joyful tones of the Mario figure start to drive the rest of the family to distraction.

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What Next for LEGO® Super Mario? [Contest announcement]

In which we briefly reflect on the LEGO® Super Mario Sets, consider what’s missing, and announce the next Rambling Brick Competition, with great LEGO Super Mario Prizes, thanks to the LEGO Group.

Have you been enjoying the LEGO Super Mario sets? Or have you had a bit of a play with them and thought “What Next?”

Over the last few weeks, I have spent “a little” time doing “some research” into the world of Super Mario games. By “a little”, I probably mean “quite a lot.” And by “some research” I probably mean “spending a bit too much time playing through a couple of the games, as well as working my way through the 30th Anniversary Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia.”

This has left me wondering about where LEGO Super Mario could go from here: I think the theme is great, but it is predominantly aimed at younger builders, to play with their families. That said, Super Mario now has a 35 year pedigree – hundreds of worlds, enemies, friends, traps and treasures to choose from. While the expansion sets as we have them at the moment are terrific, they are designed for kids. Easy to lay out, easy to pull apart. Fairly sparse in their density, with only a 2 stud wide plate holding things together. What if we set out to build on that 35 year legacy, with builders of greater experience?

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The LEGO Foundation starts to roll out Braille Bricks.

Last April, the LEGO Foundation announced the pilot program involving using modified 2×4 bricks to teach Braille to visually impaired students around the world. After more than a year in pilot programs, the Foundation are pleased to announce that the finalised product will start to roll out around the world – in six countries initially, followed by a wider distribution in 2021.

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Boost Your Game! Every Power-Up and Bonus Block in LEGO® Super Mario.

Over the last few weeks, I have reviewed each of the individual expansion sets in the first wave of LEGO® Super Mario. As we have gone through the sets,, we have encountered a range of blocks that add to Mario’s abilities during the course of the game. Some enhance game play. Some grant invulnerability. Some just yield coins.

Some of these are powerups: they convey an advantage to LEGO Super Mario. Some are bonuses: they provide Mario with coins. But they all have their own unique behaviours. Some have been documented elsewhere, others might not. Read through, as I set out to document all of the bonuses that might convey some form of advantage to the player in LEGO Super Mario:

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LEGO® Ideas: AFOL Focussed Book Title Announced. Crowdfunding Open.

A few weeks ago, LEGO Idea’s called for input from AFOLS regarding a new, history focussed book, to be written by Daniel Konstanski, and published by Unbound. The votes are in, and the book to be produced will be the Secret Life of LEGO® Bricks. The publication is now open for crowdfunding support and will continue to accept pledges into 2021, with publication expected around (northern) spring 2022.

There were three titles up for selection on LEGO Ideas: the Secret Life of LEGO® Bricks, The LEGO® Brick Museum, and LEGO® History in 100 Bricks. I suspect, ultimately, regardless of the title of the book, this was going to be about important LEGO® elements from over the years – and I am looking forward to seeing the completed book in 2022.

Unbound is excited to announce a major new initiative with AMEET, the LEGO Group’s global strategic publishing partner, to launch the first official direct-to-consumer book created in partnership with Adult Fans of LEGO®️(AFOLs).

Developed with input from a group of AFOL ambassadors and voted for via a public competition on LEGO®️ Ideas, The Secret Life of LEGO Bricks is a LEGO history like no other. Showcasing the extraordinary variety of LEGOelements, from monorail tracks and wheels to smart bricks, the Mask of Life from BIONICLE®️, and many more, The Secret Life of LEGO Bricks will feature interviews with the designers, managers and technicians who brought them to life, as well as artefacts from the LEGO Archive in Billund, Denmark.

The book will be written by Daniel Konstanski, the US Editor for Blocks Magazine and a passionate, lifelong LEGO fan. He is an ardent student of the LEGO Group, its portfolio of beloved products, and the AFOL community, having researched and written hundreds of articles covering every aspect of the hobby. Daniel is considered one of the most knowledgeable and authoritative voices in the fan community on the company and its products. 

This is an exclusive, once in a lifetime opportunity to own a piece of LEGO history; The Secret Life of LEGO®️ Bricks will only be available through Unbound, and every fan who pre-orders will get their name printed in the back of the book. A range of additional must-have rewards from the LEGO Group include a print of the famous LEGO wooden duck dating from 1958 and retired LEGO sets retrieved exclusively from the ‘LEGO basement’, with more to be revealed.

Robin James Pearson, Head of Publishing at the LEGO Group, said: ‘We are thrilled to be working closely with the AFOL community to identify, co-create, and publish unique books that satisfy the great thirst for knowledge of our adult fans. There have been a number of books published about the LEGO Group and the LEGO brick over the years, but this is the first time we have had the opportunity to work directly with the adult fan community to discover what titles they would like to see on their bookshelves.’

Unbound CEO Dan Kieran said: ‘Unbound is a global publishing platform where superfans can come together to fund books that are too niche for the conventional mainstream marketplace. Along with the book itself, Unbound and their partners also create exclusive merchandise, experiences or tickets to events that will not be available in any shops. We’re thrilled to be opening up Unbound to an iconic, global brand like the LEGO Group.’

AMEET Vice President and Publisher Eric Huang said: ‘This collaboration with Unbound allows AMEET to expand its publishing to a new audience, reaching adult fans for the first time. We hope this is the start of a long and successful publishing venture.’

The crowdfunding campaign will launch on Monday 17th August at 3pm BST and will be accepting pledges until early 2021. Books are expected to arrive with pledgers by spring 2022. This truly is a book for AFOLs, by AFOLs, with the full support and involvement of the LEGO Group.

More details can be found at the project page on Unbound here:

Personally, I am surprised to see this project going ahead with a crowd funded model. I would have thought the LEGO Group would have had confidence in the market to have supported this book through one of its established publishing partners, such as DK. However, the crowd funding model helps to ensure that the print run is appropriate, so that we don’t see excess copies being sold off in remainder bins for less than the cost of the paper used to print them. It also gives us, as AFOLs the opportunity to be engaged with the project – particularly with those supporting the project having their names printed in the back of the book, to say nothing of some teasing with regard to potential rewards available to backers, from hard to get sources. I’m sure we will have more information about this available from in the coming days.

What do you think of the final choice? Was it your preference? Do you find the idea of learning more about LEGO history appealing? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,

Play Well.

LEGO® Art by Australian Artists and Designers Showcased at Brisbane’s Powerhouse until August 27

I have written a couple of articles regarding the new LEGO Art theme recently. Today, the LEGO Group announced a collaboration with several of Australia’s Street Artists, including Sofles (Russell Fenn), who created a contemporary take on Andy Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe Sofles has incorporated LEGO mosaic techniques into his four-meter tall spraypainted mural. The works go on display at the Powerhouse Museum in Brisbane today, until August 27. See the mural get put together after the break.

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Suit Up to Power Up with LEGO® Super Mario [Powerup Suits tested]

Since the early days of Super Mario, back in 1985, Mario has had the ability to dress up in alternative suits, and gain additional powers. With the release of LEGO Super Mario, we have 4 Power Up suits available to choose from. These are some of the cheapest sets available in the range, and add to the game play, so important questions remain to be asked: what do they do, and which one should I get?

These suits share a few things in common: externally, they all look the same, although on the inside it becomes apparent that each suit comes from a different mould. They each come with a unique hat mould, and two 4×4 rounded plates, as well as a 2×4 plate, as well as a couple of elements to add to the landscape. When you see LEGO Super Mario naked, you can see 6 small switches under the chest screen. These switches are activated by tracks inside the suits – and each of the suits available today is slightly different to the others.

Looking inside the suits, we can see the ridges in different positions. These seem to be arranged in 2 groups of 3: Whichever switches are activated determines which switches are pushed.

In case you like to look for patterns, this is what we see.

SetNameSwitches -binary (decimal):
71360Starter set100001 (33)
71370Fire Suit010010 (18)
71371Propellor suit001100 (12)
71372Cat Suit010001 (17)
71373Builder100010 (34)

In theory, there could be up to 16 different combinations, but if we take the simplest approach of only one ridge in each group of 3, we are looking at 9 possible switch combinations in total, that might be used. These are 5 of them.

So how do they PowerUp LEGO® Super Mario?

Fire up with the Fire Suit (73170)

This white suit, and peaked cap come packed with 2 4×4 landscape plates, as well as some trans orange pyramids.

The suit allows Mario to Throw fire balls – which he does by tilting forward slightly – akin to leaning forward on tip-toes. Attacks with fire balls are cumulative. – and can be translated into a ‘net sum’ scan, when you scan the next enemy: especially useful if it is a multi hit enemy, such as Baby Bowser, Thwomp or Whomp. Fire balls can be thrown by walking along on tip toes. It is harder to throw fireballs than just jump on the back of the multiscan enemies.

The fire suit does not feel like it has a lot to offer, other than throwing fireballs while walking towards an enemy. they can then have that number of ‘strikes’ delivered with a single scan.

To add to the disappointment I felt with the fire suit: enemies which require fire balls to be defeated in the video game, such as spiny, can be beaten with regular plain old unadulterated scanning.The reverse is also true: Buzzy Beetle is invulnerable to fireballs in the gamebut can be damaged by them here. The mechanism for launching fireballs felt a little awkward at first, but I quickly became quite used to it. It just didn’t feel like it was offering a significant advantage here.

Fly away with the Propellor Suit (71371).

A bright red suit, with a white stripe, and blue boots, as well as helmet sporting a bright yellow propellor. The propellor suit allows Mario to fly without the aid of his cloud, and being able to accumulate lots of coins, through active flying: The suit exploits the accelerometer, and it is particularly responsive to rapid changes in direction. The propellor suit accumulates coins at a higher rate, compared to the Cloud, which requires a slow, gentle oscillation.

Propellor suit Mario comes with two yellow landscape plates, as well as a flower and small stone.

The propellor suit is quite useful if you wish to spread your level over several rooms: something which could certainly be a bit of a fun way to make Mario work. A rapid liftoff, and occasional changes of direction seem to work well to ensure additional coins being collected by Mario.

Walk the walls with Mario’s Cat Suit (71372).

This yellow suit, with a white belly and printed tail, along with ears on his hat, gives Mario cat like prowess. In case there is any doubt, there is a bell that appears under his chin. This suit allows LEGO Super Mario to gain additional coins when walking up and down vertical surfaces, such as a TV or the outer walls of a tower. (Over 50 steps up and down my computer screen, regular Mario earned no coins, Cat Mario earned 36)

Cat Mario comes with some green landscape plates, as well as a flower.

The cat suit works well for taking the coin count up as Mario scales any vertical surface. This certainly gains coins faster than ‘regular Mario’ gains them while walking along the ground.

Pile drive with Builder Mario (71373)

Another yellow suit, with a yellow hard hat, sees Mario wearing solid workbooks, and a hammer on his chest. and is anything but nimble. However, when he strikes a surface, it is equivalent to 3 scans. this is accompanied by the young of a Jack hammer.

Builder Mario comes with a couple of grey plates, as well as some dark orange masonry bricks.

Builder Mario was a little harder for me to take advantage of. Slamming him down on the back of a ‘multiscan’enemy such as Baby Bowser seemed to be worth 3 regular scans – regardless of suit.

So, which is my choice?

The Powerup Costumes play an important role in Super Mario Video Games, BUT offer variable enhancement of game play in the LEGO version of the game. I probably found that either the Cat Suit or Propellor suit offered me more, as far as enjoying my gameplay, than the other two. If you enjoy building ludicrous towers for Mario to climb, there is no doubt that having the cat suit will bring you better value. If you like to spread you game play out around the house, I think the propellor might be a better choice for you.

Whats your favourite powerup suit?

Of course, these are only a few of the suits that Mario might find over the course of a game: he has many others that feature in the video game, including a frog suit: fantastic for doing things in water, amongst others. What’s your favourite? What would you like to see come out in a future wave?

Why don’t you leave your comments below, and until next time

Play Well.

These powerup suits were provided by the LEGO Group for review purposes. All opinions are my own.