Review: LEGO’s Hidden Side Graveyard Mystery ingeniously fuses bricks with AR

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LEGO Hidden Side set

At the beginning of the year, we got our first look at LEGO’s latest theme, Hidden Side. After a brief preview at Toy Fair, the kits are finally available for purchase and we’re going hands-on with one of the lineup’s creations. The LEGO Hidden Side Graveyard Mystery set pairs all of the typical brick-built action with augmented reality for a unique iPhone-enabled experience. It comes packed with notable minifigures, an interesting selection of elements and much more. Head below for an in-depth look at the new release. 

LEGO’s latest attempt to pair its kits with companion software has been on my radar for several months now. After a February announcement, I’ve been excited to get my hands on the creations. This won’t be the first time that the company has tried its hand at the toys to life market, with Dimensions arriving in 2015. This time around LEGO is back, but with the help of smartphone-enabled augmented reality.

Assembling the AR-driven kit

Sitting at a mid-range price amongst the Hidden Side lineup, today I’ll be looking at the Graveyard Mystery 70420 build. The $30 kit includes 335 pieces, which get split into two bags. Right off the bat, I noticed that LEGO was taking a crack at making the building experience a bit simpler.

Each step of the instructions has the builder add a smaller selection of bricks to the creation than the norm. Even compared to something like the City Mars Research Shuttle, this set simplifies things a bit to make it easier for younger builders to enjoy. It in no way makes the kit less enjoyable to assemble for more well-versed LEGO craftsman, but does go the extra mile to make it accessible.

A closer look at LEGO’s Graveyard Mystery set

Fittingly for the name, the Graveyard Mystery set brings the Hidden Side theme to a brick-built cemetery. The entire kit is bound to one larger creation. Rather than several smaller builds, the various sections of the kit are joined into a single playset. On one end there’s an entrance gate, which leads through some tombstones and into a shack. 

Spend a few minutes with the kit and you’ll notice several of its play features. The largest grave opens up to review a skeleton and the shack has a massive tree monster growing out of it. There’s an added feature here where both of the tree’s arms being controllable thanks to levers on the back. Another notable inclusion is that Graveyard Mystery uses some unique elements that I haven’t seen in a kit in quite some time. There’s a lot of value just in the parts for this one, which isn’t always the case with smaller builds.

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary, but all of the excellent parts usage disguise a variety of color-coded bricks which are used to interact with the app. The angel tombstone is the most notable of these and features a mechanism which spins a multi-color block. One nice touch is that most of these accommodations made for AR compatibility can easily be hidden and are well-integrated into the build. So those who just want to bring a nice brick-built graveyard to their LEGO city won’t be deterred. 

Exclusive new minifigures

Across all eight of the Hidden Side sets, you’ll find two reoccurring characters who make their way into nearly every set. Jack Davids and Parker L. Jackson are the theme’s two protagonists who battle against ghosts and the supernatural entities in LEGO’s fictional town of Newbury. Both of the minifigures are new for the Hidden Side releases and feature a series of exclusive pieces.

Jack comes decked out in a white hoodie that’s accomplished by a new headpiece element. His pants also feature some additional detailing, which include a bone keychain, pockets and more. Most notably for Parker’s minifigure on the other hand is a new hairstyle and beanie combo brick. She struts some tattered jeans and a torso with a printed fanny pack.

Each of the two main figs come paired with a printed 2×1 tile which take the form of a smartphone. Jack has an Android-looking device, while Parkeris rocking a pre-Face ID iPhone. These are exclusive to LEGO’s Hidden Side sets as well. 

Lastly there’s Mr. Branson, the the graveyard groundskeeper minifigure, which is exclusive to this particular set in the Hidden Side lineup. He sports some beaten up overalls which quite fittingly aren’t in the best shape. While the standard hairpiece is quite common, everything else about this particular figure is unique. You won’t find the head in any other kit, likewise with the torso and leg elements.

All three of this set’s figs feature reversible face prints which show two different expressions. Though the gravekeeper’s alternate ghostly-head only has one face; but it does feature printing on the back of the brick to make up for it. 

The Graveyard Mystery’s minifigs all have a higher standard of printing and details than we’re used to as well. Exclusive releases are pretty much always desirable; but these are some of the most exceptional figures we’ve seen in terms of printing and included accessories. I’m sure a lot of people will want to get their hands on this kit solely for adding these three characters to their collections. 

Hands-on with the LEGO Hidden Side iPhone app

One of the selling points behind the entire line of Hidden Side sets, not just Graveyard Mystery, is the companion app component. The entire lineup pairs with an augmented reality-centric game that allows you to ‘dehaunt’ each of the kits. Overall, you’ll find plenty of different content to explore, a lot of which varies based on which creations you’ve assembled. 

Much of the content is comparable to minigame-esque tasks once you’d first beaten the first round of ghosts on the set. It has you scare off other ghouls, collect energy points and studs, the LEGO world’s form of currency. More diligent gamers will be able to unlock additional action by leveling up characters through repeated play. 

For Graveyard Mystery, most of the in-app experience is centered around guiding you to interact with the kit in both physical and digital space. This AR component is the real standout for the app and is a novel approach to pairing toys with games. While completing various missions, one of your hands will be controlling things in the app, while your other will play with aspects of the LEGO build. This kind of dynamic gameplay turns out to be pretty engaging and adds yet another level of playability to the kit. 

Pricing breakdown on Graveyard Mystery

At a retail price of $29.99, getting 335 pieces is decently below the gold standard of $0.10 per brick. And while just $0.08 for each LEGO element is already a noteworthy stat in its own right, the fact you get three exceptional minifigures as well as all of the in-app content makes this even better of a value. 

What’s even better is that right now the set is on sale for under $27 at Walmart.

Overall thoughts 

LEGO has done a phenomenal job pairing real world and digital play. A feat which Graveyard Mystery has a top-notch application of augmented reality to thank. When Hidden Side was first announced, I was cautiously optimistic – the company’s last attempt at joining bricks with bytes wasn’t exactly a success. Dimensions’ tie-in kits weren’t anything to write home about and were primarily DLC in the shape of a minifigure and a small polybag-like build. Hidden Side Graveyard Mystery is absolutely nowhere near that. Here both the software and the kit are solid in their own right and come together to make congruent experience. Sure the app is geared more towards kits, but it’s polished and works with the physical sets in a unique way. 

One of the best toys to life games yet

Another thing is that neither the set itself nor the app feel like afterthoughts. Sometimes with toys to life products, either the app or the toy takes precedent. For instance, Nintendo’s amiibo’s are notable for fans looking to add a physical incarnation of favorite characters to their collection. But there isn’t necessarily a massive draw to have them interact with many of the games they pair with. 

LEGO clearly learned form its past attempt and executed a well-thought out product line with a concise goal; bridge the gap between physical and guitar play.  This is something I think they’ve absolutely nailed. 

Worthy of your brick-built collection?

At the end of the day all that really matters is whether or not LEGO’s augmented reality-fueled creation is a worthy addition to your collection. In answering that, there’s a little bit of nuance based on your age demographic; but regardless, the short answer is that it’s absolutely a must-have for one reason or another. 

First and foremost, it’s just a fantastic kit. LEGO fans will find the set to be an enjoyable build that offers a notable value, eye-catching minifigures and some enticing elements. Then you have the companion app, which only adds to the Graveyard Mystery’s value. Younger builders will find plenty of reasons to keep revisiting the app and enjoying all of the interactive content. There’s even something for older LEGO fans; as those who have an interest in tech will appreciate the novel application augmented reality. 

So whether you’re a LEGO fan looking to experience the company’s AR initiative, or want to balance out your kid’s smartphone usage with some real-world play, LEGO’s Hidden Side set is a worthy buy. 

Purchase the LEGO Hidden Side Graveyard Mystery set

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