LEGO is jumping face-first into the world of alternate reality gaming with its range of mobile-phone-compatible sets entitled “Hidden Side,” but can the classic bricks still stand up when infused with a touch of AR magic?
LEGO is one of those brands that you can’t imagine ever falling out of fashion, but as more and more young people turn to video games and new technology rather than bricks that stick, the company has found an ingenious way to mix the old and new.
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Hidden Side sets provide the hands-on fun of LEGO building with the added promise of being able to play an AR game once you’ve finished building. The Hidden Side sets follow a spooky-spooky “haunted” theme right now, with eight sets in total including a big ghost-infested school and a ghoulish school bus.
You build the sets, you download the free app and enjoy a series of mini-games on your phone that allow you to “hunt” and “catch” those pesky ghosts, all whilst working in some interactivity within the physical set itself.
LEGO sent me the Newbury Haunted High School and the Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000 for review, and – for the first time – I don’t just have LEGO sets gathering dust on my shelves. There’s a reason for me to continue to fiddle with, play with and show off these sets to anyone who happens to come to my house, which is actually really refreshing.
On its website, LEGO calls the Hidden Side range “the bridge between physical and virtual play you’ve been looking for!” and I honestly agree.
The AR mini-games contained in the app themselves are pretty basic but that’s no bad thing. The easy-to-grasps tapping controls will be familiar to anyone who has ever played Pokemon GO! but thanks to the progression system, levels will be unlocked and grow more difficult as the player’s skills develop. With a younger LEGO fan in mind, this is probably the ideal way to tackle difficulty in a game like this.
A friendly LEGO character gives instructions on how to capture the ghosts in and around your build, and the progression system is sure to keep kids entertained for hours and hours. I didn’t come across any tech issues when installing the app, and getting it to recognise the LEGO builds was also really quick and easy. The mini-games in the app posed no issues, and it’s probably one of the first game add-ons I’ve downloaded from the Google Play Store that has a very good user review score.
Now the thing here is that I am a 28-year-old and clearly not the key demographic for the sets, but I still enjoyed them a surprising amount.
As always, the actual building of the sets was a lot of fun, but for the first time there was something to look forward to after the set was complete. It’s a whole new way to experience LEGO that I can definitely see capturing the imaginations of people of all ages.
I found the AR element as captivating as the very first time I ever saw an AR game. It aligned so well with the LEGO sets I’d built that it kind of made me squeal in excitement (not ashamed) to see them “come alive” on my phone.
Price-wise, the sets don’t have an extortionate cost compared to other LEGO collections on the market. The Disney Cinderella’s Dream Castle set, for example, is 585 pieces in size and costs £69.99. The Newbury High School Hidden Side set is nearly three times the size at 1474 pieces, and costs £109.99.
I’d love to see this AR tech make its way to some of the character sets that LEGO has created, including Marvel, Disney and, sure, even Minecraft. Bringing well-loved characters to the Hidden Side would be absolutely amazing, and I really do hope that’ll happen one day.
Excitingly, there are plans already in the works to build upon (excuse the pun) the world of Augmented Reality LEGO. The range is set to nearly double in size, with six brand-new sets due to drop in 2020.
LEGO is also set to introduce multiplayer for the AR sets, which lets builders “take part in thrilling challenges with friends either online or with those in the same room – if they dare…”
According to a press release, two new game modes will be introduced: “‘Play as a Hunter’ mode, where the aim is to catch ghosts in competition against other players either online or in the same room, and the ‘Play as a Ghost’ mode where kids can join two other online ‘ghost’ players with the aim of haunting LEGO Hidden Side sets and hiding from a player-controlled ghost hunter.”
All sets launching in 2020 will be compatible with the new multiplayer feature along with the 2019 sets, which will be available to play in multiplayer in early 2020.
All in all, whether you’re a die-hard brick fan who just happens to be a grown-up, or if you’re looking for a more interactive toy for your little ones this Christmas, I can highly recommend the LEGO Hidden Side sets for a LEGO experience that keeps on giving.
Thank you LEGO for providing these sets for review! Check out more sets from the range on the LEGO website right here.
Featured Image Credit: LEGO