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Lego reveals hidden side

The classic brick-building universe enters a new realm tomorrow, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It’s one of the best-hyped secrets in the gaming universe, but tomorrow all will be revealed. That’s when Lego’s iconic plastic bricks enter the world of augmented reality, unlocking hidden levels of gameplay.

A new Lego series called Hidden Side, comprising scenes, scenarios and characters inhabiting a haunted world, is already in stores. However, the packaging introduces a concept that previously relied entirely on the imagination.

“See your set come alive,” every Hidden Side box proclaims, with an image of Lego characters and scenes viewed through a smartphone. The idea is that one downloads the Hidden Side app onto a handset and, when focused on specific elements of a completed set, one can view and follow adventures that are impossible in the physical world. The only clue given by Lego is that “kids must turn a haunted world back to normal, one ghost at a time”.

The Lego Group unveiled the Hidden Side play theme during the American International Toy Fair in New York in February, and has kept the world waiting almost six months for the full reveal.

“Our years of experience pioneering the convergence of technology and physical play have taught us that kids expect exciting play experiences that move seamlessly between physical and digital worlds – something we call fluid play,” says Tom Donaldson, senior vice president of the Creative Play Lab at the Lego Group.

“At our core, we focus on tactile building, but AR presents opportunities to enhance physical Lego play with new action and mastery elements. We’re breaking the mould of gaming-first AR play experiences to create a new type of play where the physical world actually influences the AR layer, instead of the other way around.” 

We tried our hand at building two of the Lego sets to get a sense of how much fun they offer before the app is activated. JB’s Ghost Lab and El Fuego’s Stunt Truck seemed to offer two very different experiences.

The build is relatively straightforward but fun, with fresh Lego experiences. For example, all characters have two faces, typically a smiley face on the front and fierce expression on the back, depending on the mode in which they are being played. The green tint on some of the characters represents a new shade of Lego brick.

In JB’s Ghost Lab, a gadget that is growing in popularity makes its first appearance in the Lego universe: a toy 3D printer. The set already comes with the printer’s first apparent output, a mystery object that will probably have its role revealed via the app.

The scenes include incredibly fine detail in the artwork on the characters and sets, down to screwdrivers and spanners in belts, and Post-It notes on a wall. Spencer the ghost dog has translucent elements on his body, making him the cutest supernatural creature in the Lego world.

El Fuego’s Stunt Truck also includes delightful detail, right down to a band-aid on EL Fuego’s face and parts that move in unexpected ways. The truck does a duet in building and play with an easy-rider style motorbike, with its own level of fine detail. Oh, and it includes Spencer the ghost dog. Because you can never have too many ghost dogs.

Click here to read more about how the AR app works.

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