If you're looking for some hammer swinging action, this is the way to go.
Basic info of the set
Set no.: 71363
Name: Desert Pokey
Theme: Super Mario
Subtheme: Expansion set
Age group: 6+
Price: £ 17.99 / US$ 19.99 / EUR 19.99
Price per part: 10.0 p / 11.1 c / 11.1 c
Links: Bricklink, Brickset, LEGO S@H
When I got the set in my hands, I was first surprised by the box's size. It is smaller than a regular A4 paper sheet, but this could be expected since 71363 is one of the smaller sets. The box itself has a typical Super Mario design with a thick green line at the bottom, an additional character at the top right corner and written in bright colorful letters theme's name, Super Mario. In addition, the box art immediately reveals the idea of the set. Being one of the Expansion sets, it is meant to complement your (preowned) Super Mario figure with an additional layout. Super Mario is shown on the box art together with clear text that LEGO Mario is not included in the set. The interactive action of the set is shown on both characters, Pokey and Monty Mole, as they both feature the action tiles.
The interactive action of the set is even more clearly shown on the back of the box. Together with the 71360 Adventures with Mario, this Expansion set adds another level to the starter set. However, this is not really promoted on the box art. In my view, a hidden potential lies in various combinations of the starter and expansion sets to create layouts or levels of different complexity. Instead, the interactive aspect of the Super Mario is emphasized showing coin-collection, hammer-swinging and other rewards activating when the enemies are destroyed.
Another interesting aspect of the set is the instructions booklet. Or the lack of it. There's a booklet included in the set, but it's not what seasoned LEGO builders would have expected. The inner pages of this booklet can be viewed here, here and here. So, no instruction, but lots of advertising of other Super Mario sets. This is a sensible approach as the value of this set (or any other similar expansion set) is multiplied by combining it with other sets. The booklet directs you to an app that features a digital instruction booklet. While this might be interesting to the target population, I admit that I didn't enjoy the app's building instructions. It might be related to my tablet or smartphone used to view the instructions since progress through different steps of building just wasn't smooth. I ended up using a pdf scan of the instructions. However, going almost paperless is a good step towards saving tons of paper each year. I have a habit of simply throwing the instructions aways after some time, as I never rebuild a set, and even if I do, the instructions can be found online.
The contents of the set is shown here. There are in total 3 numbered bags, 1 loose plate with rounded edges and the above-mentioned instruction booklet. Altogether was packed pretty nicely in the box with a limited empty space. I still remember the time when the boxes were so large, there was about 1/3 of pure Danish air included. Surprisingly (or not) there's no sticker sheet.
Bag no.1 contains parts to build the Pokey, hence the predominant yellow and green. Parts worth mentioning are the dark bluish gray SNOT 5 plates high bricks with studs on three sides. The bright green cheese pyramids included here are pretty rare, appearing in only 2 sets so far. The printed Pokey face tile and dark tan action tile are exclusive to this set.
Bag no.2 is used to build the desert land for Pokey, with the predominant tan colors. Similarly to bag 1, parts are very common and from a MOCer's perspective not many stand out. Worthy to mention are eight 5 plates high bricks with studs on the side in tan, dark tan half a circle 2x6 plate, the four tan bow bricks (available in 2 sets only), and an exclusive to this set, 2x4 dark bluish gray ridged slope. Additionally, 2 of those plates with rounded edges, predominantly present in the Super Mario sets are interesting to mention. Yellow might not be a perfect colour, but these parts can be interesting to use. Their unique shape with rounded edges can be used to complement macaroni bricks and give more sturdiness to MOCs (an example here).
Contents of bag no.3 is similar to the other two bags with no clearly outstanding or exciting parts. There are two printed action tiles, 2 round spikey bricks in green, 2 more of the plates with rounded edges and a printed brick with Monty Mole's face. An interesting part are Monty's legs, which could be used as a furniture legs or even a bottom of a tree.
The building experience starts with the first character, Pokey, a desert creature. Being a Super Mario analphabet, I had to google this creature, and I have to admit it is cleverly built, or put together. Pokey is a sort of an arthropod. Pokeys are typically composed of three to five spherical body segments and can be defeated by destroying each body segment. This specific Pokey has 4 body segments, which are not attached together. As odd as it sounds, this is due to the hammer-swinging activity promoted on the box art. To kill a Pokey, you have to destroy each body segment. This way its easier to hit it segment by segment until the action tile is revealed. The design of each segment is identical apart from the face segment and the one with the action tile. However, these are small builds and the repetitive design is not a problem. At this point, only two extra parts are left.
The building continues with the desert background for Pokey. Since Pokeys are cactus enemies, this background stand fits nicely. The tan and dark tan mass with grey rails forms a structural element to keep Pokey alive longer. The green cones on the back of Pokey slide in between the rails and help keep it stable for longer. Similarly, the ridged slopes help to keep the bottom segment still. The two cactuses at the side are a neat addition and make more sense after identifying Pokey as a cactus enemy. The cactuses are very basic in design, but they fit nicely here. They are almost symmetrical with the right one being taller. The half-circle tiles complement the round edges of the cactus' sections. Again, only two extra parts are left.
The last part to build was the hammer-swing and Monty Mole. Monty Mole is another enemy of Mario and according to mariowiki Monty Moles dart out of holes in the ground and pursue Mario or throw rocks at him. Learning this makes me slightly confused, as I associate the desert with sand more than with rocks. But adding another character (and action tile) is an added value of the layout, so even if it doesn't completely fit in, it is welcomed. Another spikey cactus is included, and in my view, this one is a bit more interesting with the spikes and a tiny flower on top. The main attraction here is the swinging hammer featuring the last action tile. The hammer is set on the large turntable, and there's some friction to the movement. Similar to other elements of the set, the hammer is built in a simple way, easy to follow for the target population.
The finished product
The set is built very quickly. It's set on a small footprint with a low number of parts. Once Pokey is added to the picture, the scene looks fuller and more colorful.
I had some fun swinging the hammer but gave up pretty quickly. The turntable tension doesn't allow an easy hit, and Pokey's segments don't really "fly" away when hit. Even with Mario on the hammer, my hammer-swinging skill was not improved. However, the little ones tested the set for me. While they couldn't make any comment other than I like it, they spent a few afternoons playing with it.
The Final Verdict
The overall design is very simple. Considering the target population of 6-year olds, the build is maybe too simple but can be quickly assembled so the youngsters can soon move away from the building experience to the interactive one. No complicating techniques are used, and the only moving mechanism is the hammer-swing on a turntable. The color scheme is a bit odd with yellow plates representing a desert and stone backdrop. Clearly, the background design was less important than the interactive activities of the set. On the other hand, I don't really see how the set could be improved design-wise as the main purpose of the set is to play Super Mario interactive game preferentially connected to the app.
Other than the 5-plate high snot bricks, the parts don't stand out. Most of them are very basic and common. Given the set's price, this is not really a worthy set to buy for parts alone, unless you are new to the hobby or really want the majority of the parts included. Not much more can be added here.
The building of the set is simple and straightforward. As such it is appropriate even for the less experienced builders. One of the flaws was the missing paper instructions, as this limits the building experience if the child doesn't have access to a tablet or smartphone or is not skilled enough to slide step-by-step through digital instructions. Being targeted at 6-year olds, paper instructions would be nice, but there's a bonus for saving trees and going digital.
The finished product is stable and allows play-action, but there's not much flexibility to the layout. Monty Mole and the cactus can change the positions, but given the small footprint of this expansion set, not much more can be added in terms of varying the layout. Interactive gameplay is the most important feature of this set. However, it's almost a must to have Mario figure included. While I had some fun just swinging the hammer at Pokey, rewards can be collected with Mario jumping on the action tiles. I was disappointed with the hammer-swing moving with friction and usually stopping right at Pokey. Even with Mario at the hammer, there was no way for me to hit Pokey quickly and effectively.
It's a small and licensed set, so the price is not that surprising. It's widely available and can be found at local stores with discounts as well. Given the original price and the part count, it's bordering what is a reasonable price per part (10 c). At 11c per part, the set is not a good value as a parts pack. On the other hand, to enjoy the potential of the set, buying the starter set or Mario alone increased the cost.
Overall: 30/50 (50.0%)
As the overall score implies, this is a set not really worth having from my perspective. It is clearly targeted at the young builders and more than bricks it promotes the interactive nature of the set. It has good playability, but only if complemented with a starter set or Mario, therefore it is not as interesting on its own. It is quite limiting to enjoy the full potential of the set if not combined with Mario, starter set, and/or other expansion sets. Nevertheless, I like the concept of introducing expansion sets, as these sections of various sizes offer more versatility in setting up different layouts for play action. The set as such is clearly not targeted at MOCers, but more at children being fascinated by going digital. While it is good for the kids to learn some basic digital skills, I feel it could promote more analog play as well.