Lego's next move is combining the world of real play with digital play, and the end result is real fun. Consisting of nine sets at launch, Lego's Hidden Side takes you to the land of Newbury, where ghosts roam and spooky things happen. I've spent about a week with the Lego Hidden Side Mystery Graveyard set, a $29.99 entry point into the system. The result is big fun in a relatively small size.
At just 335 pieces, set 70420, aka the Graveyard Mystery, may sound kind of minimal. But there is quite a bit of intricate detail in this set. You can check out a time lapse of the build above. (I had help from my friend Ben.)
It consists of a graveyard with a dark gate on one side and a shed with a moving tree on top. The two side pieces connect with the main piece, which houses an angel statue and a grave. There also are several movable pieces within the set. Those include gates that open, a spinning angel statue that enables an augmented realty experience, graves that open, the shed door and the tree.
The set itself is about 12 inches wide and feels sturdy once complete. At first, when connecting the left and right sides to the center, I was a bit uneasy about the structure. However, after I layered on more bricks, it became solid — and has stayed solid.
Four minifigures and a ghost dog are included with this set. You'll get Jack Davids, Parker L. Jackson, Mr. Branson and even a skeleton. These characters are working double time, with real play and working within the app.
You'll get a lot of play out of this one, and for the most part, it's a relatively easy build that is also enjoyable. Lego has hidden the augmented reality features that integrate with the app, so the focus remains on the core building bricks. In the base of the angel statue are different colored squares (you'll also find these throughout the set, even in the lid of the grave). Once you scan the structure with your phone, the app will use these to launch ghosts and enable the AR experience. It's certainly a neat way to do it.
Hidden Side AR is a blast
You might be wondering where Hidden Side comes into play, as the set itself looks more or less like a normal graveyard. But mystery, ghosts and ghouls are lurking around. This is when the Lego Hidden Side app for iOS and Android comes into play, so you'll need a device that supports AR using the ARCore standard. A majority of recent devices will work fine.
Once the app is open, you'll scan your set. In this case, I selected the mystery graveyard from the visual list of all nine sets, and a holographic variant of the set appeared on the screen. I held the physical set in the view of the camera and it came to life. Thanks to the spooky graphics, I soon discovered these four minifigures weren't alone. You'll quickly spot flying ghosts and get alerts for paranormal activity.
Most of the in-app experiences are minigames. Find the corresponding color square, at times by turning the angel statue, and scan it with your phone. Then you can look around for the ghost and catch it with a series of taps. It's a fun experience, and while it can be slightly repetitive, the changes in graphics help to keep it entertaining.
By completing these minigames, you receive in-game currency, which can be used to level up tools and characters. There's a ton of characters or character cards to unlock. The app is pretty well thought out and there is a lot of room for growth. With other Hidden Side sets on the horizon, you can look forward to more app features.
At just $29.99 for this Hidden Side Graveyard Mystery set, you're getting a big value. It's the classic and engaging brick-building experience, married cohesively with digital play -- not the kind that requires you to stare at a blue tube, but rather one that engages with the full set.
I think this is a no-brainer gift, especially as we approach the holidays. And if you fall in love with Lego Hidden Side, there are plenty of other sets to add to your collection.
Note: The price above reflects the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.