As a kid, horror-themed anything was always super appealing to me – the scarier the better – and so I know that 8-year-old Cameron would go wild for LEGO's Hidden Side sets. Truth be told, though, present-day me is almost equally as enthralled by their enjoyable mix of AR action and tried-and-true, high-quality LEGO builds.
They first arrived on the scene last year, and since then, we've seen a number of new sets added to the collection. We've now got a haunted mansion, graveyard, school bus, fairground, lighthouse, and more. And it's great to see LEGO release new sets with such regularity, because the Hidden Side series contains some of the neatest toys on the market today.
I've been messing around with two of the smaller and more recent sets: El Fuego's Stunt Plane and Newbury Subway. What's surprised me most is how detailed both of them are, especially considering that they retail for just over 20 quid. There's a lot to appreciate in the build quality and some of the finer details on the minifigures, with each boasting plenty of personality. Then there's the matter of the AR integration, which is honestly something I expected Hidden Side to struggle with.
And wouldn't you know it, LEGO somehow nails spooky AR shenanigans, serving up simple gameplay experiences that are accessible so as to attract non-gamers while still being enjoyable enough for a jaded, supposedly adult man to get behind.
Hidden Side allows you to play either as the ghost hunter or the ghost. Both modes are pretty enjoyable, and you can even hop online to haunt another player's set. As a hunter, you'll spend your time scanning the environment and blasting ghosts. It's super easy to control, and unlike many AR games, it's not overly finicky to set up or enjoy over longer sessions. For my money, though, the real highlights here are the bosses that pop up after you take down enough minions. These throw a couple of new challenges your way, keeping things fresh and giving you something fun to work towards.
Hidden Side's gameplay isn't exactly the best use of AR I've ever seen, but the action is still made satisfying thanks to some great sound and effects work. And who doesn't want to play as a mischievous, magic-blasting ghost, at least for a little while?
It's also worth noting that the music and sound effects are pretty darn intense, which isn't something I can often say for any piece of media aimed at kids. It should go without saying that it's not a bad thing, but the high-intensity sounds still took me by surprise. The strong aesthetic and soundtrack both help to give the AR portion a personality of its own, and this feeds nicely into the sets themselves.
I can't see myself playing for hours on end – it's not designed to be experienced that way, after all – but the AR component is definitely more fleshed out than I'd expected. And hey, even if the AR gameplay isn't to your liking, you've still got a super neat LEGO set to show off at the end of the day.7 best Tabletopia games to get started with