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.

January Jack (again)

Guess what? It’s January and Jack is back! Not that that’s a good thing and yes, before you ask, he’s also going to feature on the cover of the next issue according to the preview page. I’m really stumped by the unimaginativeness of the LEGO Hidden Side magazine designers in that regard.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, January 2020, Cover

The minifigure this time features El Fuego, which is sort of a good thing for me because it’s not redundant. I never could get myself to buy the Stunt Truck set (70421), at least not yet, so this is an easy way of getting the dude. Especially the helmet with the bullseye markings is a fun little addition that could be useful even if it’s only put up somewhere as decoration e.g. in a garage scene.

What I don’t get with these LEGO magazines are the CG-based posters. I mean this issue has several comic panels almost covering a full page and any of them would have made for a gorgeous poster. This seems such a waste, even more so since it’s apparent that some artists have been working hard for the past years creating all the graphics for Hidden Side. In my opinion this would have much more value instead of LEGO trying to force force the AR gimmick down everyone’s throat and thus every set and magazine being demoted to being just a tie-in to some ill-conceived bigger plan.

The activities section is adequate for the targeted slightly older kids and will keep them occupied for ten minutes, but on the whole the magazine feels terribly lightweight. I’ll keep on it for a few more issues, but if it doesn’t improve notably I think I’ll ditch it in the long run.

October Dèja-Vu?

As I keep on chewing through some of the Hidden Side sets, a new issue of the companion magazine has just arrived, so let’s have a look.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, November 2019, Cover

See something in the images below? Yepp, the cover is almost identical, a few minor differences notwithstanding. This had me confused at first until I checked the included minifigure. As hinted at last time it represents a version of the pizza guy also included in the Shrimp Shack Attack (70422) set. That’s good in that in its regular form it perfectly fits into an ordinary City scenario just as well. At the same time it’s a bit boring because it is way to unspecific and mundane for the ghostly world of Newbury.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, November 2019, Cover LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, October 2019, Cover

The rest of the magazine is very much in line with what you know from the other LEGO comics. What rubs me the wrong way, though, is that you can clearly see that a lot of effort has gone into some of the graphics. According to hearsay some illustrators labored over this for the last five years to prepare enough content for at least that long a publishing cycle as well, it seems. Yet it barely seems to pay off due to the individual panels being cropped and overlaid on top of each other in rather odd ways, obscuring large parts of some images.

Overall it is my impression that the mag has quite a way to go before reaching a certain level of quality. It likely doesn’t really help that for the next issue they are including the umpteenth Parker. L. Jackson figure. I really wish there was something a bit more exclusive as incentive to actually buy the mag regularly…

Ghostly October Apparition

As I was writing just a few days ago, I quite like LEGO‘s new Hidden Side series (minus the interactive features, of course), so I was wondering whether it would at least get some special issues in magazine form. Lo and behold, it looks like it’s even going to get a regular bi-monthly publishing cycle for the next two years at least. So let’s see what the first issue has in store.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, October 2019, Cover

First, let me be clear about one thing: While the main protagonists are supposed in their early teenage years, i.e. early puberty, I don’t think the magazines will do anything for this target demographic or appeal to them specifically. To me this whole concept seems like some people in their mid-forties decided to be zeitgeist-y and in a corporate meeting came up with something that they think younger people might consider hip. It always feels a bit embarrassing and ingratiating.

Why is this important? Well of course the magazine can’t stay away from giving everyone a short biography. I’d rather they would not and left it open to everyone’s imagination what specific age the figures are. It’s already bad enough that they all are explicitly named. You know, LEGO are always beating about the bush on fostering creativity like e.g. with this week’s launch of their Rebuild the World campaign, but at the end of they day they way too often try to lock people into specific play scenarios. Arguably, with this being also being tied into their digital games some of that is inevitable, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

With all that said, the magazine isn’t half bad. It comes with a version of the Jack Davids figure that also is included in pretty much almost every single one of the buyable sets. I couldn’t say that I needed the umpteenth iteration to stash away in my boxes, but if e.g. you only got the Newbury Juice Bar (40336) as a freebie while buying other stuff at the LEGO store, this is a good complementary figure to get you started. The rest of the magazine follows very much the same pattern familiar from the Star Wars and City versions.

The comic is drawn nicely, but not least of all due to that odd age thing doesn’t quite click with me. But perhaps I’m really getting too old and stay away from all this new-fangled social media stuff too much. The poster has the artworks of the commercial sets all munched together on one side and while this provides a clearer look at some of the pieces, I still wish they’d tackle this one at a time. It seems a bit of a waste to come up with the designs and then print them so barely recognizable over and over again.

Overall it’s okay for a first issue, though I hope they will amp it up quite a bit in future mags. The next one due in November is going to include the pizza shirt dude from the Shrimp Shack Attack (70422) set with an alternate “possessed” head and hair piece, so that’s at least a tiny step up already. In the long run I would like to see something a bit more exclusive, however.