One of the best parts of my job, as the guy who manages T3's guide to the best Lego sets, is getting to build some of the coolest Lego sets as they release. And this year, the Lego Super Mario 64 Question Mark Block maybe the smartest and most fun set I've built.
Once built, on the outside it looks like just a classic yellow [?] block from the Mario games, in a striking yellow that looks great on its own… but inside, it's hiding tiny recreations of four key levels/areas from Mario 64, in tiny Lego landscape form. And actually, it has more secrets than that, but we'll come back to that…
You open out one side of the Lego block, which then enables you to rotate the entire top surface of the cube, revealing the levels all contained into a neat package. You fold down two of the levels so they're all flat, and there you go – Mario memories come flooding back immediately.
Here's the process of turning it from cube to diorama.
The areas from the game in the levels are Bob-omb Battlefield (complete with Chain Chomp, King Bob-omb and floating island), Lethal Lava Trouble (with moving platforms), Peach's Castle (with Lakitu, Mario and Peach figures), and Cool, Cool Mountain (which includes penguins).
Cool, Cool Mountain and Peach's Castle in particular both have hidden treats that aren't visible in photos, which are delightful in the case of Peach's Castle, and may bring back infuriating memories in the case of Cool, Cool Mountain…
And the levels don't contain the only secrets that this set offers. I won't spoil what else you might find within, I will only give you this taster that the rest of the block isn't quite as plain as it looks.
Now, it's true, game pedants, that the ? block doesn't actually appear in Mario 64, which the designers immediately acknowledge in the introduction to the instruction book. But who cares, really?
It's such a cool set, and the finished size of the cube is roughly 7 inches in all directions, so it's easy to display on a shelf or desk – it doesn't need much space to itself. And it's so much fun to have someone admire it, and then to suddenly flip out its secrets in front of them.