LEGO®, AR, and the Hidden Side

Back in February, news began to circulate at the American International Toy Fair that the LEGO® Group was making a foray into the world of augmented reality (AR) through a new theme of sets called Hidden Side. In short, the theme follows the exploits of two intrepid, teenage bloggers named Jack and Parker. They are high school students in the fictional town of Newbury. What do they blog about, you ask? Why, the haunting of Newbury of course. Jack and Parker hunt down and capture ghosts with the assistance of a special app on their phones. Today, we’ll preview LEGO®, AR, and the Hidden Side.

The Hidden Side logo.
©2019 The LEGO Group.

With Hidden Side, LEGO® fans are able to play using bricks and their mobile devices. Consequently, an app will be available for free on iOS and Android. To use it, devices will need to match at least iPhone 6S specifications. While the app will work on tablets, it was designed for simultaneous play between physical LEGO® bricks and a smaller handheld device. Essentially, fans will be able to point their device at play features in a LEGO® set, and Minifigure ghosts will appear as a result.

Hidden Side promotional art showing use of AR in the theme's story.
©2019 The LEGO Group.

Hidden Side pairs LEGO® bricks with augmented reality.

According the official press release, the app is meant to put building with actual LEGO® bricks at the forefront of the play experience. Virtual features are meant to augment play. However, there is also a game mode that will function independently of physical sets. With that said, the game is supposed to encourage children to return to the actual set. Randomization within the app will also keep play experiences fresh each time kids combine LEGO®, AR, and the Hidden Side. Finally, each set will offer a new “boss” ghost to battle.

Display of the actual use of AR in the LEGO® Hidden Side theme.
©2019 The LEGO Group.

From a building perspective, each of the Hidden Side sets is supposed to feature a “regular” mode, as well as a “haunted” mode. For Canadian LEGO® enthusiasts, the official release date for the Hidden Side is August 1, 2019. However, as I write this, some sets are already available on Amazon. Furthermore, building kits will range in price from $24.99 CAD to $159.99 CAD. The initial assortment will include eight different sets, which we’ll take a quick look at below.

70425 – Newbury Haunted High School

Set stats:

  • Brick Count: 1474
  • Minifigures: 8
  • Cost: $159.99 CAD
  • Cost-per-Brick: $0.11 CAD

My thoughts:

This set looks nice in “normal” mode. But, I would have taken a different approach to making it look haunted. Rather than turning the building itself into a ghostly character, a dilapidated look would have been better. However, that is a personal preference. Perhaps kids will really connect with this. On a side note, at $0.11/brick, this set is a great value. The box art doesn’t reveal much about the interior of building, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see what features there are.

70424 – Ghost Train Express

Set stats:

  • Brick Count: 697
  • Minifigures: 5
  • Cost: $99.99 CAD
  • Cost-per-Brick: $0.14 CAD

My thoughts:

I am neither here nor there about this set, primarily because I am not a train collector. Also, Ghost Train Express does not appear to have power functions, which would have been cool. However, it is built for standard LEGO® train tracks. As a result, mechanizing the train is probably easy enough. The number of tracks included is small, but it looks like there is a new piece at the end of the tracks that funnels the train on to the provided track. Consequently, you don’t need to buy more track separately in order to play with this on the floor.

70423 – Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000

Set stats:

  • Brick Count: 689
  • Minifigures: 6
  • Cost: $79.99 CAD
  • Cost-per-Brick: $0.12 CAD

My thoughts:

This bus is definitely an early highlight of the theme because it has cross-theme potential. For example, imagine it in Apocalyseburg (from the LEGO® Movie 2 theme, click here for a review). There is MOC potential as well by converting it into a regular school bus. Additionally, you get a port-a-potty. A custom LEGO® city can never have too many of those (even if this one is haunted). In conclusion, this set has definitely made my wish list. It comes at a good price to boot.

70422 – Shrimp Shack Attack

Set stats:

  • Brick Count: 578
  • Minifigures: 6
  • Cost: $69.99 CAD
  • Cost-per-Brick: $0.12 CAD

My thoughts:

The Shrimp Shack is another winner for me. Again, it has wider applicability beyond just the Hidden Side theme. The set would fit in Apocalypseburg nicely, as well as suiting a regular city scene. Additionally, the kitchen looks well designed, not to mention the price point is pretty good.

70421 – El Fuego’s Stunt Truck

Set stats:

  • Brick Count: 428
  • Minifigures: 4
  • Cost: $49.99 CAD
  • Cost-per-Brick: $0.12 CAD

My thoughts:

Sadly, there is very little about the Stunt Truck that speaks to me. My first impression: it is another vehicle that I don’t need. The set also reminds me of numerous other LEGO® kits that I have seen in other themes. Unlike the Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000, there is nothing unique that really sets the Stunt Truck apart. In conclusion, while this set comes at a good value, I think will pass.

70420 – Graveyard Mystery

Set stats:

  • Brick Count: 335
  • Minifigures: 4
  • Cost: $39.99 CAD
  • Cost-per-Brick: $0.12 CAD

My thoughts:

What theme based on hunting ghosts would be complete without a graveyard scene? Personally, there is not much use for this set in my current city. However, the play value is great. As a kid, I would have enjoyed this set even without the AR aspect. Will I pick it up? Maybe, it could be fun to review.

70419 – Wrecked Shrimp Boat

Set stats:

  • Brick Count: 310
  • Minifigures: 4
  • Cost: $39.99 CAD
  • Cost-per-Brick: $0.13 CAD

My thoughts:

OMG – an albino alligator. Generally speaking, if there is an animal, I am SOLD. I love LEGO® animals. I already have several alligators, however I do not have an ALBINO alligator. Also, the look of this run-down little shrimp boat is great. Picture it parked next to the Creator Riverside Houseboat (click here for my review) in Ninjago City Docks (click here for my review), or some similar scenario. It is equally awesome that the haunted version is shipwrecked. While the Shrimp Boat is a tad more pricey than other sets in the theme in terms of cost-per-brick, it isstill below average.

70418 – J.B.’s Ghost Lab

Set stats:

  • Brick Count: 173
  • Minifigures: 3
  • Cost: $24.99 CAD
  • Cost-per-Brick: $0.14 CAD

My thoughts:

Overall, this is the lowest price point for a set in the Hidden Side theme, however, it is not the best value. At $0.14 per brick, it matches the Ghost Train Express for the title of worst cost-per-brick. But, all things considered, the value is still not that bad. When considering the overall LEGO® market right now, $0.14/brick is actually fairly average. As a set, the Ghost Lab looks like it could be fun to play with. However, from an adult perspective, the product copy claims there is “scientific equipment inspired from the real-world”. I don’t know if I agree with that… 

Concluding thoughts…

Overall, I have good feelings about the Hidden Side. There are a couple of sets that are misses for me, but I am mostly intrigued and like what I see. In general, these sets look well designed and fun. Firstly, several new Minifigure parts have been produced. Secondly, the AR aspect is an interesting concept. Thirdly, I am curious about the game mode in the app. It would be neat to see if it is something à-la “Pokémon Go” or “Jurassic World Alive”. In the end, I guess only time will tell. What are your thoughts on LEGO®, AR, and the Hidden Side? Feel free to comment below.

Until next time,

-Tom

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Want to buy some Hidden Side sets?

Below you can see an offering of what Amazon has prior to the official release of the series. These are affiliate links, and as mentioned above, they earn me a small commission without costing you anything more. You need to have Flash enabled on your browser to view the slideshow. Otherwise, you can click here to see the products directly on Amazon.