Today, 1st August 2019, LEGO rolls out its newest original IP theme called Hidden Side, a rather interesting line of toys that is a bit more than some bricks to be put together.
With the app downloaded and your device pointed at the newly built set, you’ll soon learn that your pile of plastic is haunted and you can fight the ghosts inside.
The conceit behind Hidden Side is that the fictional town of Newbury, where all the toys originate, has a real paranormal problem that a group of kids needs to tackle. The ghosts, ghouls and other monsters can only be seen through the use of their phones, and they head out on an adventure to defeat them.
It’s a mix of Ghostbusters and the lesser known cartoon The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, with the latter being the source of the “only the kids can see the monsters” trope.
We got to have an early hands on experience with Hidden Side at the official LEGO Store recently, so what’s it like?
In terms of physical sets, Hidden Side has some unique ideas. There’s a really nice bus that we know was thrown in here because of Fortnite, a highschool that transforms into a giant monster, and a few other ones that would fit nicely into a City layout save for some ghoulish elements added on to them.
Firing up the app allows you to play in two different ways: as the kids hunting the ghosts, or the ghosts themselves. The former is where the artificial reality (AR) part of the experience comes in.
Choosing this allows you to scan the set and hunt around it for any ghosts. Once they’re found you can fight them off in what feels a lot like an on-rails shooting segment.
It’s not just a static event as you’ll need to move around the set with your device, interacting with it and moving parts around to find the ghosts.
It’s not the most complex thing in the world, but we really do think kids will have a lot of fun with it.
When that segment gets boring, or there’s no sets around to use, playing as the ghosts works the other way around as the player now needs to haunt Newbury as a ghost in a pseudo third person shooter. Do this enough and you’ll be attacked by a giant, ominous smartphone hovering in the air, which is meant to simulate the kids fighting back.
Exploring the rest of the app and there’s some light RPG mechanics together with some regular mobile game progression and multiple resources to collect.
We were also surprised to see just how much the whole theme leans into the spooky side of things, with some rather great off putting music coming from the app and even a ghost dog wondering around some of the sets.
Overall Hidden Side is a fun experience, even for older folks. That being said, we’re not sure about the longevity of the endeavour. The app is more fleshed out than you’d think and there are a few hours of fun to be had with it, but how long kids will stick with it remains to be seen.
This is far from the first time that LEGO has incorporated smart devices into play with their toys, with the most recent probably being the now cancelled Nexo Knights theme. Nexo Knights was closely linked to a game that required the scanning of certain LEGO pieces which acted as powerups in the game.
That theme was different to Hidden Side in many ways, and crucially lacked any AR functionality, but it was eventually cancelled due to a lack of interest from the market.
It’s early days for Hidden Side, however, but it does leave a positive initial impression and the sets are fun on their own. We’ll need to see how well LEGO supports it in terms of new sets and app updates in the future.