Lego's first all-new line of sets in ages, called Hidden Side, is now available to buy, and it's a big move into mixed physical and digital play.
The spookily-themed sets see kids building different haunted locations, then interacting with what they've built by playing a game on their phone where they'll have to actually point the camera around to find secrets and battle ghosts.
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The story that holds all the app and sets together is that teenager Jack has just moved to the town of Newbury, where he and new pal Parker discover the 'hidden side' of ghosts and ghouls, so they team up with friendly local scientist 'JB' to fight back. As you would.
The locations range from some nice budget buys (such as a small laboratory) to a huge school set with stuff to do inside and out. See below for pics of more in the range, which really does cover an entire spectrum.
All the sets have a clever transformational touch to them even without the app, though: they all have hidden horrors to reveal. In some cases, this is quite small – a few beasties hidden in trapdoors – but in the case of the school large portions of the front change to turn it into a ravenous monster. It's genuinely quite impressive in action.
Newbury Haunted High SchoolImage 1 of 6
Grand old school becomes giant monster at the front – turn it around to find classrooms and other areas to play with.
Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000Image 2 of 6
This is like the Hidden Side equivalent of Ecto 1, with a bunch of equipment to build, some enemies to attack your characters, plus – and we cannot stress this enough – an adorable floating ghost dog.
Graveyard MysteryImage 3 of 6
Creepy statue, skeleton rising from a tomb, creaky old gates, alarming tree monster – it's got it all. We think this set will be an especially popular one at Christmas.
JB's ghost labImage 4 of 6
As the cheapest in the range, this will be a popular one too, and still has plenty to do in the app.
Shrimp Shack AttackImage 5 of 6
This is more of a playset, with a bit more to interact with even without the app. The sign that turns into a hungry monster is a nice touch.
Ghost Train ExpressImage 6 of 6
If you didn't think the train in a haunted town was going to be a paranormal problem then you deserve to be eaten by a ghost locomotive, frankly.
The different sets have their own challenges, including boss ghosts to battle. Some of the games will ask you to physically change things in the set (such as turning wheels with particular colours showing), while some will task you with spotting hidden ghosts and catching them.
There's a social aspect, whereby you can compete with friends to see who is the best ghostbust- er, catcher.
We're tried playing the game for the Ghost Lab set, and though they're not very complex, that's fine for kids, and they do add something to the feeling of these being spaces you can play in after putting them together.
We think a big part of the long-term success will be how the app evolves and adds things over time (so you've got a reason to go back to sets), and the quality of games it gives you to play even away from the sets (essential if it's going to actually be a social success). But it's still too early to say all that.
For now, expect these to appear high on Christmas lists in a few month's time.