The predictable Failure of Hidden Side – A Post Mortem Analysis

As you may have heard by now, LEGO Hidden Side is coming to a close at the end of the year. If you haven’t, then now you know. There won’t be any new sets in January when the next wave of releases is due and the ones on the market will be EOL’d (end-of-line‘d), meaning only the leftovers will be sold off and no new stock will be produced. Also the companion magazine I regularly bought and reviewed has already seen its last issue.

Many may wonder: What happened? Considering that LEGO clearly aimed at this as their “next big thing”, this sure is a surprise to many, even more so since the sets effectively haven’t even been on the market for two years. On that latter point we may need to get used to new times, as even some sets only released in January are now being culled (Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), some Dots stuff, some Disney Princess sets such as these), but Hidden Side? Something must definitely have gone wrong, so let’s try to figure out what the potential reasons could be

Warning: Lots of reading ahead! I tried to keep my thoughts focused, but forgive me if it still sounds rant-y and ponderous at times. It’s just difficult to get in everything I wanted to say elegantly and concisely with so much stuff running around in my head.

The List

In order to understand my viewpoints it will of course help to tell you which sets I actually got my hands on. Interestingly there are quite a lot of them, though I did not post a review of each and every set on my blog. Funny enough my ability to get so many of course shares a direct relation to the fact that the series was stumbling and faltering right out of the gate, meaning I was profiting from massive discounts every now and then, but more on that later. Here’s the listing of the Hidden Side sets that I built (sorted by set number, linked to article where appropriate):

In addition I was also able to snatch up the 40366 Newbury Juice Bar during a promo at the LEGO store and just a few days ago I also got the 30464 El Fuego’s Stunt Cannon this way.

Opinion Primer

First let me give you a rough overall impression on how some of my opinions may have formed, how they were influenced by what I observed and what led me to certain conclusions.

For me the core appeal of Hidden Side is the overall other-worldly concept of it and doing so in a reasonably modern way without looking like an overstuffed, kitschy fantasy series.  While I wasn’t always one-hundred percent convinced that everything in the series is great and some sets have serious shortcomings, you can say what you will, but at the very least the sets always stood out, regardless of whether you see this as a positive or negative.

As a graphics artist I also liked the design work behind it which in particular became apparent in the comics. It always showed that someone had put some thought and effort behind it. In addition – and I don’t know if that is even the best of arguments – it had a level of realism that made some of the models appear useful at least. You could always imagine just leaving a few pieces off, modifying the build or substituting parts and the buildings and vehicles might fit in a mundane city scenario. This also appealed to my more technical inclinations in the sense that some of the stuff could work for real.

Still, evidently others were a lot less enthusiastic and it became more and more clear that the writing was on the wall for this. You know, the series was barely even reviewed on the typical big news outlets or YouTube and that alone can be taken as an indicator that interest was waning or never existed to begin with. It literally felt like I was the only one even appreciating the existence of some sets.

A Sales Debacle

The main reason for the cancellation of a product or series such as Hidden Side is of course poor sales. When is it ever not? After all, we’re still living in a capitalist system and nobody wants to produce stuff that doesn’t recoup his investment at least and ideally makes him a bit of extra revenue on top. Love it or hate it, that’s just how it is.

Where Hidden Side was concerned, the slow sales were very recognizable. It may not be scientific, but one of my proven theories in the LEGO world is that sets definitely do not sell that great when they are on permanent massive discounts at large retailers. This is what has been happening with many Friends sets for years, has been a clear problem with The LEGO Movie 2, and Hidden Side then joined that group pretty quickly where on average you can get twenty percent off easily without having to rely on special promos, vouchers and other extra rebates. Retailers certainly weren’t making a big revenue cut on these sets.

This was even visible on store shelves, though in an unexpected two-fold way: Some of the sets were just sitting there week after week and others weren’t even available in physical stores after the retailers decided to only distribute them via their online shops because it wouldn’t be worth the trouble to clog up valuable storage space in expensive high-street rental locations. As a result I never once actually have seen a complete deck of all sets anywhere except the official LEGO stores, which also speaks volumes.

Interestingly, Hidden Side also never got mentioned as a best-seller in LEGO’s annual reports. One would think that if it really was meant to be that important, it would visibly show up on the sales charts, but no. This point is not utterly conclusive, though, as typically this stuff is listed by how much revenue it makes the company and not how many units are sold, meaning that in years like 2019 and 2020 where a lot of super expensive sets have been released the statistics easily skew in favor of premium sets, not necessarily representing how well the more mundane bred & butter sets have sold.

Too much Noise, no Signal

A huge contributing factor to the sales misery may have been the poor package design or for that matter any of the corollary marketing materials.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Box

As you can see in the image I inserted from one of my reviews, the basic concept here was to show the alternate world behind the normal reality as some sort of split poster/ graphic with the smartphone screen of one of the protagonists sweeping across the scene like a spotlight and revealing the relevant parts.

The problem with that is of course that neither the regular version nor the ghostly world are ever fully visible, which depending on the subject of a set and the size of the model could have the effect of effectively showing very little to almost nothing. If you were a customer picking such a box off the shelf, wouldn’t you be confused as to what it actually contained? Things weren’t helped by the back side being equally non-telling with again too much emphasis on promoting the smartphone usage and only small images of the models that didn’t even always show the actual functions.

This deficiency in the marketing continued throughout other materials as well, most notably the additional images and photographs used in catalogs and online stores. The smartphone usage was front and center to the point of large screens obscuring big chunks while on the other hand very little was shown of the actual physical design and functions of a set.

Missing your Audience

One of the fundamental failures with Hidden Side to me is the attempt to pander to a specific crowd and trying to be “hip” and “cool”. This was inevitably bound to fail, as this stuff simply doesn’t age gracefully. What’s hot today could be long forgotten half a year down the road.

The toy industry always has had this pig cycle driven by holiday seasons, fashion trends, people’s vacation needs, TV series and films among other things, but in the age of the Internet and social media this has switched into turbo mode, barely leaving any room for not getting it right on the first try. If it works, you sell your stuff like sliced bread; if it doesn’t you sit on a huge pile of product you can only sell with discounts, if at all. I think exactly that has happened to Hidden Side – it simply completely missed its potential intended target audiences by a mile, regardless of what age tiers you look at.

Some of the stuff like the Ghost Train Express (70424) might have piqued my interest as a kid, because my father and grandfather being model railroad aficionados of course I inherited this trait, but at the same time the odd “monsterfication” would probably have turned me off. As far as I can tell from the neighbors’ kids around me (who are now also slowly outgrowing that age range) and what I have observed in stores they’re not much into it, either. Hidden Side is simply not interesting when next to it there’s a better Ninjago or City set on the shelf.

The 10 to 16 year generation are the most likely to have decent smartphones and use the AR app on them. In theory they are what I would consider the core demographic. However, they are probably also the ones who ignored Hidden Side the most. You know, kids at that certain age have other things to do between stressful school days, family life, sports activities and other hobbies and on top of it making it through puberty eventually with all that comes with that. They probably couldn’t have cared less for the app, given that there are so many better games out there, many of which they could actually play as a group with their friends. You can add a plethora of social media platforms on top of that that would also occupy their time.

Just as well they might not have dug into the buildable models so much due to the aforementioned time constraints and perhaps feeling a bit awkward about having LEGO models in their room beyond a certain point. One thing that would outright annoy me if I were still a teenager is how the minifigures inaptly play with certain stereotypes and portrays their clothing styles, head gear and so on. It’s that “How old people view the youth.” thing that nobody wants to be reminded of. That analogy would also apply to some of the models or does anyone really think being at the Newbury High School is the coolest thing on Earth?

I also think for that specific age range the scariness factor just isn’t there, making things terribly uninteresting on that front. I really scare easily and I’m not that much into this sort of thing, but I remember all too well how my fear thresholds changed when I started watching certain dark movies like Alien and similar. I would expect this to be even more the case today where those kids get to see all sorts of weird stuff on their social media feeds or games. Compared to that, Hidden Side must feel like a harmless birthday party prank. That’s a feeling I also share as an adult – the series is neither truly scary nor goofily funny and playful about certain horror tropes like e.g. some animated movies successfully do. It all feels a bit dull and yawn-inducing. The same goes for the app again.

Alternate Reality?

Elaborating on some of the previous points, one argument from customers popped up rather quickly after the series was announced and first demonstrations were shown – people despised the Augmented Reality (AR) gimmick and the app that came with it to the point of genuine deep hatred and loathing. This isn’t entirely unexpected, though – a lot of people like me are into LEGO building to actually get away from the digital overload they experience in their daily lives, be that through work, social media, online shopping, streaming services, gaming and what have you. That’s why being faced with yet another app easily feels like an annoyance or intrusion.

Things also became even more an issue when it was clear that the hardware requirements would be rather steep and boil down to mostly latest generation mobile devices with the most recent operating systems. The point here is of course that, while everyone and their dog these days seem to own a smartphone or other mobile device, only a minority would actually be in a position to have the latest tech at their disposal.

Kids would typically snatch their parents’ phone for a limited time, get hand-me-downs from them and older siblings or be gifted older models from a few years ago that can be bought relatively cheaply. Therefore these enormous prerequisites can be considered a major miscalculation, as the impact of limiting the potential user demographic cannot be denied. From a technical point of view this is perfectly understandable, as taking care of compatibility with older hardware can be a pain, it just doesn’t align with the reality of the targeted user base.

Things then further took a turn for the worse when it became clear that the actual game app wouldn’t be particularly good nor offered any genuine immersion and benefits beyond the physical sets. Designed as a simple shooting gallery to take out ghosts or, if you were playing as the ghosts, run away from your pursuers, it became stale very quickly only after a few rounds of playing with any one set and the same tiring game loop repeating with each of them. Adding new sets and having to scan their physical builds to unlock them inside the game merely felt like an artificial, entirely unnecessary extra hurdle at best.

Coupled with technical issues like the sets not being recognized sometimes or the simple fact that the app packages where huge due to containing lots of assets, including the full 3D models of the sets, there was little motivation to even download and install the game, let alone play it. For argument’s sake, you couldn’t even find some decent gameplay clips on YouTube for many of the sets, which I again would take as an indication for lack of popularity.

The actual gameplay looked way too predictable and completely failed to impress me. Everything looked way too toy-ish to be taken seriously, with the gaming loop appearing as repetitive as many users have reported and complained about indeed. I used to be heavily into console gaming in my youth during the 16 bit era of the 1990s and haven’t played a contemporary, technically advanced game on my PC or similar in ages, but even by my low and dated standards this simply looks lame.

Never-ending Story or what?

One of the most critical factors in order to establish a successful, long-running series is to have a wholesome story that glues everything together. You need good world building, interesting locations, sympathetic and relatable hero characters and just the same opponents/ enemies that fit the story and drive it forward. Hidden Side sadly failed in pretty much all of those departments.

As far as the story goes, there is simply none. The only thing we know is that this is playing out in the fictional town of Newbury, with no specific timeframe given, the relations of the characters not explained nor the actual geographical layout. One could probably think of it as a very boring version of a simulation game like The Sims where you just try to figure things out as you go along.

Now the detractors will argue that LEGO is all about using your imagination. My counter-argument to that is: Then why even bother to produce themed sets? If you wanted to take it down to that level, we could just as well talk about generalized minifigures inhabiting generic buildings and using standardized cars as is common in the Creator 3in1 sets or for that matter in City to some extent. This clearly isn’t the case here or the original intention, one would have to presume.

With regards to the geography and locations things are a mixed bag. We know that Newbury must be located by or near the sea thanks to The Lighthouse of Darkness (70431), the Shrimp Shack Attack (70422) and Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419). We also know that it has a subway, a train station, a school, an abandoned prison, a decrepit fun fair and castle plus we have a few standard tropes like the graveyard filling in some gaps. However, we never know how it all goes together and where it’s situated in relation to each other and how people move around.

Does it matter? For me it does and, which is probably the bigger point, it would in the series’ imaginary ghost hunting scenario. You know, a bunch of school kids/ teenagers hunting down ghosts in their spare time clearly has its limitations in how far they could actually travel and what means of transportation they could use. Even if you disregard these rather real world considerations, simply having a rough map/ plan might have been nice or an explanation within the story.

Character Weakness

I’m going to say it right away: The characters in Hidden Side are terribly boring. Not only that, but their use within the sets, the comic magazine and by extension the app is so repetitive, I’m even struggling to find words to describe the dullness. This in particular extends to the main protagonists Jack and Parker.

The former was featured on the cover of every magazine and I used to poke some fun at it plus of course he also appeared in every set. That in and of itself is of course not necessarily a bad thing, but the way LEGO went about it. He always had one of two sweat shirt/ hoodie designs with the rest of his outfit and his face only showing minor variations every time. Parker fared slightly better, having at least some alternate outfits and occasionally shaking things up with her headphone or beany cap hair piece when used, but ultimately there was just not enough variation and distinction. To put it simply: If you had a mixed pile of these figures in front of you it would be nigh on impossible to sort out which of them came from which source. You really have to look it up on Bricklink or another reference site. That to me is just sad.

The supporting cast, to use a movie-related term, isn’t doing much better. Apart from the occasional character like Vaughn Geist or the fishing boat’s personnel I found them mostly equally uninteresting, be that El Fuego or one of the many “possessed” characters. Sometimes they just didn’t have well-designed prints on their torsos, other times the faces looked too much the same and overall many of them didn’t have that little extra touch (or even a literal extra piece of equipment) that would make them endearing or at least valuable as a unique collector’s item.

A final point that always bugged me massively was the lack of some serious ghosts/ specters/ spirits or other monsters and beasts. There are a few half-baked attempts like the “djinns” in the Portal (70427) or some “Shadow Walkers” in other sets, but to me those appeared as too obvious zero-budget efforts with minimal design work and bits and pieces scraped together from other themes. This isn’t mitigated by the fact that there have indeed been a few unique new pieces as well like the various “ghost goo” elements. Somehow things just don’t gel.

Design Failures

Many would argue that a consistent story, character design and even stuff like the packaging shouldn’t matter if only the content is good enough. After all, many sets in LEGO City and other series do not necessarily have an overarching theme, either. That is a fair point, but by the same token immediately raises another critical question: Do the models hold up on their own then? In case of Hidden Side that is an answer more complicated than you might think.

First off, viewed in isolation some of the sets are pretty good from a mere visual point of view in that they capture typical shapes and details of their real world counterparts. Some of those are the Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000 (70423) representing your typical American school bus, the Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436) being a good retro-styled fire fighting vehicle, the The Lighthouse of Darkness (70431) being an adequate lighthouse indeed and so on. Other models like the Shrimp Shack Attack (70422) or the Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435) can be lauded for capturing the spirit and playfully interpreting it in their own way. However, then there’s several sets that to me at least never made sense, be that the Newbury Haunted High School (70425) or El Fuego’s Stunt Truck (70421) for instance. They never really fit the rest design-wise and also somehow never really made sense within the world (see my comments on story and geography).

My specific point here is that I can’t see any clear “design philosophy” here. You can kind of see that different sets were done by different teams and they could never agree on a consistent artistic style and historical era to reference. There also is never that feeling of the world actually being alive and recognizable on its own. Without the stickers and Yellowish Green teeth elements on some sets you would think that they belong to Creator 3in1 or another series, not to Hidden Side specifically.

Another major fail, and I’ve criticized this a bunch of my reviews already, is the all too obvious “triptych design” with a center piece holding two wings at the sides at an angle. This affects anything from small sets to big ones. Of course there is a technical reason for that: The AR app may have dictated a certain openness and arrangement so it is able to recognize the individual models and do its thing. However, it has impacted the design process in a negative way and led to the sets looking repetitive and unimaginative.

Another bad side effect of this approach always has been the shallowness of many of the models and them looking like cut off scenic backdrops in a theater. Most infamous here is the Newbury Subway Station (70430) where neither the train carriage was complete nor the various tunnels and platforms extended deeper than four bricks. I honestly have no idea what drove those decisions, but it seems ridiculous. Many of the sets could have been much better had they been fully fleshed out as three-dimensional full models, which I guess is the point.

Elemental Powers

One of the good things that Hidden Side had going for it was exploring some new styles and color combinations and in doing so contributed to the ever-growing pool of new pieces. The series was the first to make use of some new part designs and recolored elements just as it brought back a few older items that LEGO hadn’t produced in a while.

Of particular note here are the Newbury Haunted High School (70425) and the Castle of Mystery (70437) that got a few people drooling over the many Dark Red parts and castle-like elements, respectively. This stuff is just too useful for MOCs of all kinds or rebuilding older sets. That crude logic could even be applied to the Ghost Train Express (70424) that appealed to starving LEGO train fans to some degree. It isn’t a perfect set and would take some effort to actually motorize and make work, but it’s better than nothing.

I would have expected this trend to continue if more sets would have come out, including additional molds for minifigures and animals. Perhaps we’ll even get to see some of that stuff that was already in pre-production recolored and repurposed in other series. Who’s to say? That also would have allowed to slightly course-correct and play around with colors. You know, after droves of Yellowish Green teeth could totally go for ones in Bright Light Blue and a few other “ghostly/ monster-ish” colors.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

To me the most obvious reason for the failure was LEGO being too obsessed with the app stuff and nobody digging it. As a result, both sides of the crowd were very likely left feeling unsatisfied. Users interested only in the physical models had to accept too many compromises in terms of complexity, building techniques, color usage and so on while the ones who might have been more interested in the app usage and world building simply got a mediocre, uninteresting game. There may have been some overlap in the middle and there may indeed be a small group of people who enjoy it the way it is, but I doubt there were ever as many users as LEGO may have hoped to mobilize to sustain the series in the long run.

Of course it’s easy to say these things in hindsight and I’m totally aware that any such article can only sound pompous and self-indulgent. Yes, some of it is even pure speculation, supposition and conjecture based on my own biased perception of the whole affair. However, I would still claim many of the issues and problems with Hidden Side could probably have been avoided. The tragedy to me really is that all the good ideas were there, but the project got stuck in “the system” that is a big company like LEGO. Too many good ideas may have been ditched in favor of lesser ones, too many edges that would have made this a distinct product that stood out smoothed over in the strife for maximum mainstream-compatibility with mass audiences. And yeah, that app thing just totally didn’t turn out like everyone seems to have hoped.

Personally I’m going to miss Hidden Side mostly for the wacky colors and some very specific pieces, but sadly even I who regularly bought the sets has no deeper feelings about the world as a whole. It somehow always remained too unremarkable to leave an impression. At the same time, though, I feel that LEGO have given up too early. A lot of the bad impressions hinge on the type and order of sets they released and I can’t shake the feeling that had they e.g. given us the Newbury Zoo things might have turned around for the better. It always felt like just that one thing is missing to make it real fun or at least unique enough to stand out among other series to actually give people a reason to buy the sets in favor of others.

I’m hoping LEGO have something new in the pipeline that fills the gap and they hopefully will avoid all the mistakes. I really would love to have something a bit wacky and off-beat in my life just as well as I seriously need a parts source for funkily-colored elements outside of Friends. And in fact I’m pretty sure there’s enough people out there that feel similarly, despite a lot of others thinking that such projects have no place in the LEGO world and are always bound to fail. So what is your stance on the matter? Fire away in the comments!


Final Bow – LEGO Hidden Side Magazine, November/ December 2020

The inevitable is here and yes, this is going to be the final article on the LEGO Hidden Side magazine because the series as a whole has been cancelled. I’ve been working on an editorial on the many reasons why the series failed, but it’s not quite ready yet, so for now let’s focus on what the November/ December issue has in store.

It was actually released on Saturday, which was Halloween this year. This should have been a fitting coincidence, but someone forgot that this also doubles as Reformation Day in remembrance of Luther‘s publishing his theses and starting the Protestant movement. It’s a public holiday in several states in Germany with shops being closed, hence I was only able to get the magazine now some days later.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, November/ December 2020, Cover

This being the last mag in this series I didn’t expect anything exciting and well, as much as I hate to say this, this sure feels like they are counting their losses and have just scraped together a few bits and pieces they had prepared in the long-term, but not tailored specifically to a farewell issue. The editorial team probably already had been dissolved two months ago and is now working on other stuff after they finished this edition.

This shows throughout all the pages, with in particular the posters and puzzles being super generically built around the pastel-colored ghost designs. You also notice it right away on the pages where references to Hidden Side sets and advertisements would have been. Blue Ocean simply use them for marketing their other mags (not only the LEGO ones). The comic is okay and likely gives us another glimpse of what might have been, had we ever gotten more to see of the Newbury underground.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, November/ December 2020, Comic

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, November/ December 2020, Minifigure

The minifigure is a variation of the service technician found in the Newbury Subway Station (70430) set, this time in the guise of a demolition/ blast worker who is working on extending the tunnels. It’s completely identical, but they added at least some value with a pick axe, a bundle of Dynamite sticks and a map pouch. The figure itself is generic enough, so it might fit any construction or mining scenario in City or other series as well.

Sadly, this final issue doesn’t do much to leave a lasting impression and won’t help to keep Hidden Side as a whole in people’s memory. I would predict that two years down the road it will barely be remembered and with only nine overall issues the magazine had a very short run. You could get the mag for the figure or if you just want a complete collection, but otherwise there’s not much here that’s worthwhile, unfortunately.

Small-ish Ghost Patrol – LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436)

After I’ve been a bit under the weather in the last two weeks and didn’t really get much done it’s time to pick up pace again on this here blog and what could be more fitting for the Halloween weekend than to have a look at another LEGO Hidden Side set with the Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436).

Package and Contents

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Box

I got this set only very recently. I always kind of wanted it, but at the same time I never thought it would actually be worth a 70 Euro investment. I only jumped on to it when it dropped below 50 Euro. Aside from my overall cost-conscious approach to LEGO this simply had to do with the fact that it never felt essential within the Hidden Side series itself and in addition also didn’t look like it could hold up on its own as a standard fire truck to be used elsewhere. More on the specifics of that later on.

The other thing that I noticed when looking at the official marketing photos is that this model looked somehow oddly small next to the minifigures. You can even see this in my own overview shot. This also contributed to my reluctance and was confirmed once I had the model. The box it comes in is a rather pretentious affair in that it is being very wide and tall, but very flat, which always makes me suspicious. It’s the old gag of “Size does matter!” and I don’t like being lured into a false sense of scale by oversized boxes.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Overview

By comparison the model is indeed a bit on the tiny end. This is in particular disappointing as it doesn’t even match in scale with the Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000 (70423). At the very least this will impact play value should you or your kids decide to use both vehicles next to each other. I have no way of verifying any of this, but I would wager that you’d have similar issues with the ghost train, the school or other buildings. It may even look weird next to the Graveyard Mystery (70420) or the Wrecked Shrimp Boat (70419). So no matter what – something is wonky with the scale they chose.

The Minifigures

The figures are your run-off-the-mill standard Hidden Side crew – Jack, Parker, J.B. – complemented by a robot called TeeVee and on the opposing side a Shadow Walker. The robot doesn’t have a real torso but rather uses a 1 x 2 x 2 brick with studs on the side for the upper section and it’s face is created with two exchangeable printed 2 x 2 tiles. Sadly they are designed so unimaginatively, I was ready to throw them out immediately. They are pretty garbage and at this point I can’t imagine ever using them for anything.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Minifigures

The Monster

For once this set comes with a genuine monster by ways of Nehmaar Reem – The Harbinger, constructed from buildable parts. This, however, is yet another only half successful effort at best in my opinion.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Monster, Front View LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Monster, Back View

I do understand the concept – some tentacles or strands of smoke/ some oily liquid form the limbs and then converge to form the torso – and it might even look pretty cool when animated in 3D inside a game or a movie with everything wobbling around and constantly re-forming itself, but as a physical object it looks utterly boring. Most notably there should be a lot of additional half-formed tentacles coming out of the ground and the main character be engulfed in them as well as having other little stuff on their ends like bats or lumps of “mud” that the creature tries to fling at the ghost hunters.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Monster, Top ViewThe biggest shortfall is however the head and I’m not even criticizing the color choice. A plain 2 x 2 round brick in Light Aqua doesn’t bother me. It just looks way too tiny and not the least bit scary here and I guess that is the point: It would have made a lot more sense if they had dug out an old Bionicle face mask like this one for instance. It looks positively alien-ish and creepy. Re-done in Black and Yellowish Green and combined with some glowy transparent color for the underlying head piece that apparently go with those masks this could have been pretty rad.

The Truck

The main item is recognizably modeled after an older General Motors fire truck from the 1970s and early 1980s. In theory that should be a good thing, as there’s a certain charme to those old rustic vehicles, but of course it is sort of ruined by all the add-ons.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Front Left View

The vehicle itself (minus the blue parts) represents some sort of mix between a ladder truck and an equipment truck with a large box/ container section. I’m not an expert on this stuff, but as far as I can tell such a hybrid could exist somewhere as some sort of specialized version e.g. with a big rigid float for water rescue operations covering up the rear deck and the equipment lockers therefore having to be shorter in order for the vehicle to not exceed height limits for driving under bridges and the like. It’s just one possible explanation, of course, and you can always craft your own story around that. Either way, in that regard the model is highly plausible.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Aft Left View

As far as it remains visible, the shaping is done nicely all the way round, be that the driver’s cabin or the rounded edges at the top not least of all thanks to the 1 x 2 rounded bricks introduced two years ago.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Aft Right View

The rear bumper, or for that matter the entire rear, loses quite a bit of its magic due to being split in the middle. As you may already have guessed, this has to do with these areas actually being parts of the mech folded onto the back of the chassis in a Transformers-like attempt to disguise themselves as normal sections of the car. Inherently the limitations in precision with plastic-based joints prevent the alignment from ever being truly one-hundred percent perfect and the crack can be easily seen most of the time, no matter how meticulously you push things into place. This could have benefited from a solution where the two halves actually interlock to stay straight.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Front Right View

A lot of the sides is covered up with the “junk” equipment used for ghost hunting and the bumper bars/ cages around the wheel wells. Those would be the first elements I’d remove to turn the car back into a regular fire truck, but then you would also have to replace the black wheel hubs with grey or metallic ones. If you will, there’s a bit of illusion painting going on here which only works with the bumpers in place.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Front View

The cockpit exterior is nice and the front believably looks like it could have originated in the 1980s. In fact in addition to the GM trucks this also reminds me of the similar Skoda fire trucks that I saw in my youth. The horns/ sirens are extremely exaggerated, but i think that this is appropriate and looks cool.

Splitting Up Together

As mentioned earlier, “the lady comes in two parts”, as they say with one being the truck undercarriage and the other the mech huddled together. once you remove it, a few things come to light or become accessible.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Separated, Overview

The first of those is the cockpit interior. It’s not impossible to remove the roof with the mech saddled up, but the big cannons tend to get in the way if you’re not careful. It’s much easier this way, even more so as I found the fit to be very tight and removal of the roof requiring some force and technique. The layout inside is pretty much identical to what you get in the yellow school bus from this series, with the area behind the driver’s seats occupied by a big computer workstation to track the ghosts. Unimaginative, but okay.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Cockpit

The rear section of the plain truck has some nice details indicating some sort of docking mechanism as you also would find it on cargo trucks. There is also some pretty elaborate tubing to hint at exhaust pipes and power ducts, but a lot of it is hidden behind the equipment shelves and beneath the color dial used for the interactive app. That way the two silver goblets used to hold the cones barely get their due.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Car only, Aft Left View

Speaking of color dials, the big one behind the cockpit is pretty much Hidden Side 1:1 standard fare, but in a neat twist there are also additional markers on the sides that use the new cut-in-half round bricks I already was so fond of with the Supernatural Race Car (70434), only this time in Yellow.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Car only, Color Dials

Finally, the doors can be opened, of course, but again with the “cannons” in the way access to the interior might be finicky at best. Better to remove the roof entirely. On that note, the Red doors and train window panels likely should prove popular with train enthusiasts to some degree. The ones in this set even have actual glass elements in Trans Black already, making for excellent port hole windows e.g on the engine sections of some diesel locomotives.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Car only, Front Left View

The Mech

The worst part of the set, and I have to be honest here, is indeed the half-concocted mech. It literally has “We ran out of ideas, so let’s just do the umpteenth mech!” written all over it. Now perhaps I need to blame myself for having bought too many Ninjago mechs, but it’s getting a bit tiring – not so much the subject itself, but seeing the ever same interpretations and techniques being used in the LEGO world.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Mech only, Front Left View

This particular model is reminiscent of the smaller tactical mechs found in some older Mechwarrior games and similar – open cockpit areas, ridiculously oversized guns (or rocket launchers) and overall rather barebones with critical parts like hinges hopelessly exposed to enemy fire.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Mech only, Aft Left View

In its folded up posture this constitutes the whole rear section of the fire truck and basically just looks like one big gun. It’s held in place by the few exposed studs you saw further above on the truck’s chassis frame. This works okay if you press things down neatly and don’t mess around too much, but for my taste the mech comes off too easily, not to speak of the symmetry alignment issues I also already mentioned earlier.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Mech only, Aft Right View

Posing the mech is far from easy and essentially the pose you see in the images is the maximum of how you can spread the legs to appear somewhat dynamic without the whole shebang tipping over. Sadly the model copies the “stiff knee” approach LEGO have adapted for Ninjago et al, meaning the knee joint is missing and instead there’s a fixed ninety degree angle, and as a result due to the shortness of the legs there is very limited freedom of movement to get this balanced nicely.

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Mech standing, Front Left View

LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Mech standing, Aft Right View

One good thing, and ultimately one of the reasons I took the plunge to get this set, after all, is the plethora of parts in Dark Azure. That also includes parts of the large joints, which in my book counts as an extraordinary event. Usually LEGO doesn’t bother to color them consistently with the model and will opt to go the standard route by using the stock Dark Bluish Grey, Light Bluish Grey and Black versions, so this is indeed something worth pointing out specifically.

 LEGO Hidden Side, Ghost Firetruck 3000 (70436), Mech standing, Right View

Concluding Thoughts

As I wrote in the introduction, this is in no way essential to have, well-executed as some parts of it may be. It doesn’t do much for Hidden Side and converting it to a more regular fire truck for a city scenario, while not impossible, would require some not so minor effort to replace the mech sections and convert them into standard superstructures. Ultimately that’s perhaps the point: A more conventional design with a ladder or just a large tank and water guns would have been more useful from the outset and looked the better for it. The mech somehow doesn’t cut it at all and only disturbs what otherwise could have been a nice fire fighting vehicle to hose down them ghost’s…

Another Deep Dive – LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.’s Submarine (70433)

I’m a sucker for certain subjects and as much as I may want to, my inner demons take the upper hand if only something stimulates my nerves in the right way. As I have written many times, oceanic deep see life is one of those things, so it seemed unavoidable that I would by J.B.’s Submarine (70433) from the Hidden Side series, after all. however, I did do so with some major reservations and inner struggles.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Box

The first obvious reason for my reluctance of course once more is the price of the set. It became immediately apparent that the contents of this set are a bit on the sparse side just from looking at marketing photos. This was further confirmed by the small package size when I saw it sit on a shelf. I’m an advocate for using packaging volume efficiently, but in case of LEGO sets this really communicates that the box may not live up to what you might expect, so I’m always wary.

This weird unevenness of package sizes is also confusing and it begins to bother me – you can have two sets in the same price range stuffed into completely different boxes, making it hard to compare how much bang for the buck you possibly get. One could of course speculate endlessly whether or not this is intentional just like you could come up with a million rationalizations like larger parts needing more “air” so they don’t get scratched, but it’s at times frustrating as heck.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Overview

The value of the set is split across four main components: the minifigures, the shark, the submarine itself and what I call a “reef” section for the scenery.

The Minifigures

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Minifigures If you have already bought the Supernatural Race Car (70434) like I did, one of the minifigures will be very familiar. I have nothing against Vaughn Geist, but you don’t necessarily need him twice in your collection. On the other hand it’s still nice to have him as a basis for some Steampunk-ish/ Victorian Era minifigure customization.

J.B. has a new torso and legs mimicking a scuba suit. that’s okay in the general sense, but has a very 1990s vibe. I think that was the last time cyan/ turquoise/ petrol and pink colored neoprene suits were actually hip. I also believe a hair piece with a pigtail would have made more sense, as you wouldn’t want your long hair to float about uncontrolled underwater.

Shark Time!

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Shark

The shark is a neat little addition. It is however regrettable, that they gave him “snotty eyes” as if he had some illness. Sure, that’s meant to be spooky and scary, but since the print is relatively weak it a) is difficult to recognize while b) at the same time limiting the use of the shark itself for other scenarios. If you care to remember, I was rambling on quite a bit about which types of sharks I would love to see. The Sand Blue color is a good start, though.

The Reef

Now for the painful part. Yes, the reef feels like they couldn’t quite decide what to go for, but somehow needed this filler to even validate the existence of this set from a commercial perspective.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Reef, Front Complete

Most tragically, this section is not self-explanatory and does not communicate what it is supposed to be about. Maybe it’s somewhere in the AR app, but to date I don’t know what this grey figure is supposed to stand for and how it fits into the overall story. Sure, some sort of sea master/ guardian, possibly for some long sunken ruins, but other than that? It’s really not clear and at best feels generic.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Reef, Front without Sub

Another massively irksome thing is the excessive use of colors. This little piece of “land” already feels rather flamboyant in a way and revealing the markers used to trigger the events in the game only exacerbates the issue. Again, there is an overall feeling that they really didn’t care much and on top of it were probably not allowed to spend an extra budget, so even the Dark Cyan curved slopes feel out of place and like they had to make do with what they could scrape together. One really wishes everything was Dark Bluish Grey and Black to make it more consistent even if you could argue that the Dark Tan elements are supposed to represent the ocean floor.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Reef, Front with Markers exposed

In a bit of a “What?” moment there is a rather clever gate mechanism hidden under the central plate. In light of not knowing what is going on here one could assume this could be some way to release ghosts or a strong water stream that pushes away invaders. Just the same it could of course also be some very narrow passage. In fact I’m almost inclined to believe that it was initially even more elaborate and may also have included more coral bushes to actually cover up the statue, but then things were struck from the list to meet budget limits.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Reef, Front with open Center

This feeling of incompleteness continues on the back side as well. One simply cannot shake the feeling that this originally was designed quite differently and possibly part of a bigger scenario which then got culled and now we’re only getting remnants.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Reef, Back

The Sub

Calling it the main attraction hardly seems appropriate, but for me the tiny submarine is the best part about this set. This isn’t so much a case of it being particularly special overall, but for its size it is constructed pretty cleverly. Sadly, though, no time was spent to even hint at some cockpit interior, be that just adding the standard lever, printed 1 x 2 slope and a seat known from other sets.

There’s enough room inside there and the face print on the glass canopy simply does not cover up enough. On that note I would have preferred an unprinted bubble, anyway. Mine was also rather scratchy, but I didn’t trouble myself with requesting a better replacement part simply because it’s unlikely I will ever use it for any of my own creations again.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Submarine, Front Left View LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Submarine, Aft Left View

The one thing that also bugs me here is once again the excessive use of colors. Someone really must have had a bad day and everything feels kind of thrown together using a little less of the yellow and making those round tanks on the side also Black or Light Bluish Grey would have resulted in a more pleasing, overall calmer appearance.

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Submarine, Right View LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), Submarine, Front View

LEGO Hidden Side, J.B.'s Submarine (70433), New Wedge PieceOne thing of note is the wedge piece on the side. It’s actually a new part, not just the existing separate left and right pieces that have existed for the last two years now. Personally I don’t know how to feel about this, to be honest, as the only reason this part seems to exist is further “economization”, i.e. reduction of parts count in sets.

It’s not entirely without merit, as indeed the way it’s being used in other sets loosely hanging in the air and bridging gaps would be difficult to achieve with the same level of stability and elegance, but I’d rather they’d given us some other slope piece with those angled edges instead or at least use a more obtuse angle. if you will: This doesn’t necessarily expand creative possibilities, it really just solves a technical problem.


Concluding Thoughts

All things considered, this isn’t a must-have set unless you really don’t mind spending those 20 Euro (or 15 Euro with discounts) to complete your Hidden Side collection. Outside my own weird “I’ll use those crazy colored parts one day.” logic I can’t see how this would appeal to anyone else. It’s not even particularly good or desirable within the series itself. It just completely lacks a unique selling point that would make me recommend it.

Boombox Mechanic – LEGO Hidden Side Magazine, September/ October 2020

With the death knell for LEGO Hidden Side not being that far off, I welcome every opportunity to explore the series while it lasts and the associated magazine, while certainly not the most attractive out of all the LEGO magazines, this month certainly has some welcome goodness.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, September/ October 2020, Cover

The September/ October 2020 issue comes with a very useful minifigure and an even more useful little extra and for once I was really looking forward to it, despite my not being much into collecting minifigs. The mechanic is a different version of the one also included in Jack’s Beach Buggy (70428) and by that I mean the body/ torso is the same and the head has been substituted for a simpler version. Since I bought two magazines this time, I was actually able to display the regular and the ghost version side by side in the same picture.

Now, why would I do such a thing? The answer is also already in the image – it’s all about the boombox. This particular version in Light Bluish Grey has only been included in a handful of sets, some of them pretty expensive ones, so it’s a bit elusive. Not in the crazy expensive and rare sense, just that it may not always be readily available in larger quantities. That’s why it’s nice to get it in such a straightforward manner. You never know when it might come in handy. After all, I outfitted my prize-winning MOC from last year with the orange version and it helps to bring across that beach vibe.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, September/ October 2020, Extras

With the mechanic and his boombox being front and center they of course have to be in the comic as well along with the already mentioned beach buggy and the Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000 (70423). that and then the buggy is featured on a separate product page as well. A bit too much promotion for such a small, unimportant set, if you ask me. Regardless, the comic is done well enough to derive some fun, even though it doesn’t introduce anything we haven’t seen before.

The posters are once more pretty terrible, with some fat ugly type having been overlaid on the already hyper-active, overstuffed Hidden Side art style. The puzzles/ mini-games follow the usual pattern of “Find person X!” and some random “Ghost Hunter Practice” stuff like pointing at some crosshairs with eyes closed, so nothing new there.

Overall the main reason for getting the magazine at this point is to complete your collection of minifigures from the series. The other stuff becomes less and less relevant for this “no future” magazine and who knows, the next issue for November/ December could already be the last.

Locked up Ghosts – LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435)

Regrettably, LEGO Hidden Side will come to an end later this here, so let’s have a look at some more sets from the second wave while there is still a chance. Today’s menu is the Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435).


LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Box

This set is one of the few in my life and the series specifically where it didn’t need much of a second thought and that “Want! Want! Want!” urge was right there as soon as I saw some real photos of the set. I was immediately taken in by the fact that this would be a “realistic” model using naturalistic colors and, also somewhat unusual for Hidden Side, wasn’t plastered all over with those colored markers that the smartphone app latches on to.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Overview

The Minifigures

The minifigures aren’t that special. There’s of course for the millionth time Jack in his typical white sweater, only this time with an added separate hood piece for good measure. Similar to J.B., his smartphone also has a different screen print to further distinguish him from earlier editions. El Fuego is his standard skeletal from know from his stunt truck set and often depicted in the comic magazine.

That only leaves the prison guard and Rami as actual new figures. The guard is okay, but ultimately just feels like yet another LEGO City police officer, even more so since he doesn’t have any colleagues to support him. God forbid there’s ever a prison riot! Rami stands out the most with his Dark Cyan jacket and Blue T-shirt with the neon-style logo. As a bonus, he also comes with a Chihuahua dog. This little critter has only be rarely used at all in any sets and here it comes with a refined print for the eyes and nose to boot.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Minifigures

The Prison Building

Despite my wanting the set, one thing made me go “Not again!” and *facepalm* myself: Yupp, it’s easily apparent and one can’t dance around it, but this set, too, follows the flat facade/ triptych type overall layout not least of all dictated by the requirements for the Augmented Reality (AR) app and some ill-conceived notion of accessibility to the individual sections. The consolation here is,however, that for all intents and purposes a prison is an enclosed facility and the idea of the cell blocks framing the yard makes sense.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Front View, Closed

The center section very prominently features a big hunking door constructed from the same piece used on the Ninjago play cabinets earlier this year, just in a different color. I’m sure we’re going to see this part being used quite a bit in the future, as it would be useful for anything from thick, reinforced bank vault doors to serving as a loading trough on a truck.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Front View, Open

The actual cells for the inmates open by ways of a custom-built sliding mechanism. Since they are based on the four studs wide fence element, there is ample room to move your minifigures through the opening when slid back. Those fence elements are done in Dark Pearl Grey for the first time here, by the way, which makes them super useful and highly desirable for custom builds. The same goes for the horizontal O-type bars used on the roof. Even better, you get eight and ten of each element, respectively, so even if you only buy one set, you have quite some good start count to work with.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Front View, Monster Transformation

The monster transformation is okay, I guess, but nothing to write home about. As always I didn’t use the stickers, so the eyes are missing, but I feel even if they were there they wouldn’t add much. It’s just not scary and the space in the surveillance towers could probably have been used better for adding some more small details. They also at the very least could have thrown in a bunch of chains in Trans Neon Green to put up as decoration.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Left Watch Tower, Front View LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Left Watch Tower, Back View

The towers are kept quite simple, being based on the old octagonal castle pieces. The left section has a basketball hoop and someone even left the ball laying on the ground, which makes for a lovely touch. It begs the question, though, how long ago the prison was actually abandoned. If kids are still playing there, it again can’t be that scary.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Right Watch Tower, Front View LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Right Watch Tower, Back View

The right tower is your typical elevated platform with a roof on it, but otherwise feels a bit barebones. They could easily have added some details like a loudspeaker/ megaphone and if the monster claws weren’t there, there would be room for a weapons locker with stun guns and a ladder or something to that effect.

LEGO Hidden Side, Abandoned Prison of Newbury (70435), Center Section, Back View

The center section is either the guards’ holding area or a community room/ shared facilities for the inmates. I couldn’t quite figure out which it is supposed to be, but either would be appropriate. The toilet even has a small gag in that a transparent yellow 1 x 1 tile hints that someone forgot to flush after taking a pee. I’m not sure, though, if Lavender toilet paper would be appropriate. 😉

Concluding Thoughts

All things considered, I like this set very much. It looks the part and I thoroughly enjoyed building it. The parts are very, very useful for custom builds, so despite being very cost-aware it isn’t really worth opening a discussion about it. Getting it for 30 Euro sure made things easier, but I’d have bought it for its full prize at 40 Euro eventually as well. This is in fact one of the few sets where I’m seriously considering getting it more than once and might rebuild it as a bigger version one day. In any case, if you have similar thoughts, you should definitely hurry up securing your copy before it’s going to disappear from the market. I highly recommend it.

July Jack

Know what? Jack is really getting a bit on my nerves. Not only is he once again front and center in the new LEGO Hidden Side magazine for July, but he also makes an appearance as a minifigure yet again.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, July/ August 2020, Cover

The point here is of course that per se there’s nothing wrong with Jack, but the figures are simply booooring as hell. It’s like he only owns two sweaters and always has the same grin. Including Spencer makes things a bit more attractive, but only ever so slightly. So from where I sit this is a total miss and I’m looking much more forward to the next issue which for once will include a truly unique minifigure.

The comic in this issue is interesting, as it depicts the Newbury Zoo. This has been rumored as a set ever since Hidden Side was first announced, but given how the series is on a steady decline, I doubt that we will ever get to see those ghostly tigers and elephants for real. It’s highly unlikely that LEGO would invest the money in those potentially poorly selling sets at this point. That is, of course, unless they are already released the budget in the process of preparing actual production.

Interestingly enough, now Hidden Side joins the other LEGO magazines by including images for coloring. It seems someone realized that kids actually love to doodle around with this. That’s quite adequate because you can say what you will, but the artworks show that a lot of effort went into them. Would be a shame not to use them. The rest is the usual mix of obscure puzzles and rather unimpressive posters that I certainly would not put up anywhere.

Green Goblin Speeder – LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434)

For someone who doesn’t know much about cars I sure do write a lot about this type of sets here on my blog, so here we go again with the Supernatural Race Car (70434) from this year’s summer wave of Hidden Side sets.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Box

In my view Hidden Side as a series has more or less tanked and is doomed to be cancelled/ not extended pretty soon. The reasons for this are glaringly obvious, but suffice it to say that the lack of advancement in the world-building and a lot of pretty lackluster sets haven’t helped. It’s still being sold with massive discounts left and right, which of course is nice for me, but speaks volumes about how little consumer adoption and demand there may be. So I’m mostly enjoying it while it lasts and I’m raisin-picking the sets I think will benefit me, or more specifically my parts stock, the most.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Overview

Choosing this particular model was primarily driven by the Dark Green parts and I also thought the the faux white-wall tires looked kind of cool, with another contributing factor being that oddly enough I never even had the narrower rim type used for the front wheels in the first place, regardless in which color. There are some other, less visible useful details, but more on that later. Unusually for me I also liked the minifigures, well, some of them, which is unfortunately yet another point LEGO don’t seem to understand and exploit to their advantage.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Figures

Specifically I liked the leftmost character called Vaughn Geist, an all too apparent word play on van Geist. It’s color scheme with the different brown tones and the overall apparel style would wonderfully fit into a Steampunk inspired setting once you replace the head, a quality shared by several of the “ghost” figures across the Hidden Side sets.

The helmet of the Shadow Hunter in the middle will please knights fans, no doubt, as it was last used in some Nexo Knights sets. Similarly, the Uruk-hai sword has only recently seen a renaissance in Ninjago and as a Knights of Ren sword in Star Wars, so it’s definitely a nice addition. If nothing else, it could mean that prices on Bricklink will drop and you can complete your old Lord of the Rings sets more cost-efficiently.

Jack is pretty much his old self, but at least they gave him a new screen design for the smartphone tile.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Front Left View

The main model itself draws inspiration from an American Hot Rod/ custom car not quite unlike my own humble attempt. It’s designed as one of those compressed, very low suspension type of cars hugging the race track. It manages to convey the idea well enough, but falls short in execution. I’m particularly disappointed that not more effort was put in in actually covering the rear section.

The thing is that I know such cars with their innards exposed exist to show off that expensive carbon fiber undercarriage for instance, it just doesn’t look convincing here. You guessed it – LEGO are essentially screwing themselves by leaving all those grey and brown bits exposed, making for a rather unattractive posterior. If at least they had matched up the colors…

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Aft Left View

The rear section also falls short in terms of construction in what I consider a critical area. The wheels are supposed to double as some kind of anti-gravity hover pads as seen in some science fiction movies and thus are attached on a hinge mechanism. So far, so good. Where things fall apart, however, is the way it’s implemented. Instead of using a proper double-beam suspension it’s built in a way that the stoppers of the axles on which the wheels are affixed simply butt against the car’s body.

In the front this isn’t as critical because there’s a pretend drive shaft poking out of the motor and it fits perfectly, but in the aft it makes me go *grmpf*. You could argue that “Whatever works, works!” and clearly kids won’t mind, but I see trouble. In the long run the areas where the two parts are in contact will show a white circle/ dot on the green shield due to the  microfractures from the pressure and eventually the pieces may crack completely or at least fall off because they have lost their clutch power. Point in case: It’s only clever as a quick, immediate solution, but the designer didn’t consider the repercussions for later.

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Aft Right View

As usual the set ties in with the Hidden Side Augmented Reality (AR) game on mobile devices and to that effect features a bunch of colored markers that trigger the various ghost and Gloom interactions. The selector wheel on the back is commonplace and exists in the cylindrical form shown here or its flat, disc-shaped pendant on pretty much every model, but in addition there’s a Magenta marker on the inside of the roof. there’s also additional Medium Azure markers on the sides.

These got me excited a bit. As you well know I never use stickers on my models and in the before times this is exactly how LEGO would have done it – a sticker wrapped around a round 2 x 2 brick. This would have sort of worked, of course, but here it would also have been somewhat critical because there’s not much room. The edges of the sticker might have gotten snagged on the edge of the car body, peeling it off in the long run.

That’s why instead we get a new part, which is what you already thought it would be – yes, a 2 x 2 round brick cut in half. It solves the issue perfectly and personally I’m hoping LEGO will include this part in many more sets from here on. It solves a ton of problems and opens up new design options not just for rotating parts, but also protruding faux “columns” on buildings and the like that just need to blend in smoothly. It’s literally one of those “This piece should have existed for forever already!” cases where you wonder why it took them so long…

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Game Markers

The rest of the car is very ordinary in every way. It’s built around a double Technic brick center beam, with most of the other parts being plugged on using SNOT techniques and conventional stacking without any sophisticated tricks. The overall slender style doesn’t really allow much more than that, anyway. There’s just not enough space.

A final small little highlight is hidden in the guns on the hood. They are constructed from standard double-barrel blasters and extended in length with Black binocular pieces. Why is that even worth a mention you wonder? Well, those pieces surprisingly haven’t been done in Black like forever. I hardly couldn’t believe it myself at first, knowing that I have tons of the min Dark Bluish Grey and Orange from various Friends, City and Star Wars sets, but yes, the mighty Bricklink says it has now been almost ten years since last they were used and LEGO have only re-introduced them late last year. Go, figure!

LEGO Hidden Side, Supernatural Race Car (70434), Front View

Overall this is an okay model for what it is and it had some positive surprises. However, it isn’t anything you’d miss if you didn’t buy it. It will work just fine as a play set for the intended age range of kids if you don’t mind the shortcomings that will eventually break it. It’s definitely not a collectible, though. Some major work would be required to improve the details and make them withstand the degradation that comes with time like the “white dot” issue I mentioned.

As most of the time, I had my sights set on the parts for use later and I might actually buy a second set at some point to get a complete set of four identical white tires and use the pieces for other projects (including the revelation of now owning one more large green tile modified in addition to the one from the A-Wing (75248)) . Still, there’s no rush and I’m waiting until prices drop further. 24 Euro isn’t that terribly expensive (MSRP 30 Euro), but I feel the value isn’t really there. This by all means would be a 20 Euro set in my world.

Saturday Triple

I’ve distracted myself with way too much other stuff this week, so I didn’t get around to catching you up on the latest LEGO magazines and thus I’m rolling three of them into this single article.

LEGO Magazine, City, June 2020, Cover

The June issue of the City mag this time is themed around the new racing/ car workshop sets from this year’s spring releases and consequently therefore we are getting a small kart as buildable parts. It’s nothing too special, but at least it uses the same base plate as they did in the failed Friends kart racing series, so building your little vehicle is super simple and at the same time super robust. The minifigure is also nice in that it’s plain and generic enough to fit many scenarios. Even the red helmet is a welcome change from the usual, as lately I seem to have only come across black and white ones in most sets.

The aforementioned figure is also featured on one of the posters and this, too, benefits from the somewhat unspecific, unbranded nature. If you will, it’s not as obtrusive as some other figures that are plastered all over with advertising, be that made up or real. The comics seem to now have fully transitioned to the newer, more dynamic style in all magazines, so it’s pretty acceptable and, which is a bonus, can also almost be followed without reading the speech bubbles.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, June 2020, Cover

The Friends magazine is giving me a lot of grief, not just because they reduced its publishing frequency to only every two months. It’s just done so poorly from the lackluster comic to the ugly CG figures. The only reason I still buy it are indeed the extra buildable pieces. With the puppy training theme being the latest weird trend in the commercial sets it was inevitable that it would show up here one day as well. The good thing about it is that this way I’m getting a white little doggy without ever having to buy one of those sets, as indeed Bello with the grey dotted eye patch is completely new print variant of this molding.

The rest is really not worth mentioning, though at least it seems they have adjusted their target demographic’s age a little and the activities and some other things at least make sense in that context.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, June 2020, Cover

Finally there’s Hidden Side. The graphical fidelity of the series still impresses me and shows that a lot of labor was poured into it, the actual story and content not so much. At least the J.B. figure is pretty decent and they even were smart enough to include the ghost-hunting gun. That’s cool because it’s based on the newer 1×1 pistol piece, which due to its compact size and strategically placed studs opens up lots of possibilities to build custom weapons, household appliances etc. or even integrate is as a brick/ bracket of sorts into regular builds.

The poster with the different ghosts would actually be okay if it wasn’t so overstuffed, but Jack? SRSLY? Isn’t it bad enough that we’re getting yet another boring figure of him in the next issue? I’m sorry, but I’m literally facepalming myself over this…

April what…?!

As indicated last time, we’re getting yet another LEGO Hidden Side magazine issue with Jack all too prominently featured on the cover and while I would be glad that him receding into the background might hint at something better, that is far from the truth. Yupp, I thought my eyes were cheating on me, but the El Fuego skeleton is already visible in the exact same pose in the preview for the next edition in May.

Talk about over-re-using stock art! That’s like when you find the same stock photo being used in totally unrelated adverts for different products. This couldn’t be *facepalm*-ier and is a poor testament to the designers, given how much new artwork has actually been created for the series.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, April 2020, Cover

The minifigure of the bicycle gang member for me is a win, because I still haven’t bought the El Fuego’s Stunt Truck (70421) set where it was originally featured. the prints are nice and if you manage to buy a couple of those figs, vary their heads and other details and have some ideas for bikes an Easy Rider like formation is not impossible.

The magazine itself is oddly overblown and yet incoherent, trying to cram in a million story beats into the comic. This is just plain confusing and to me does only confirm how directionless Hidden Side is overall. It’s just jumping from subject to subject to crank out sets and that will be its undoing. The puzzles are only mildly challenging and the posters are as awful as the cover. Aside from the figure there’s not much of interest here, unfortunately.