At first glance, the LEGO Hidden Side Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000 looks the same as any other LEGO set. It comes with 689 pieces — including five mini-figs — for kids ages 8 and up to assemble. It features tons of moveable parts, hidden compartments, and accessories for imaginative play. 

However, because it is part of LEGO’s Hidden Side series, the bus has another, tech-infused way to play. Using the companion Hidden Side app, kids can play augmented reality (AR) games with it.

The free app has a lot going on, but not in a bad way. Kids can choose to play as a ghost or as J.B., a ghost hunter. Kids can play some of the mini-games even if they don’t have any Hidden Side sets, but there is certainly a lot more play value with the sets. Once they build the bus, they can select it as a location on the app, then scan the set using the device’s camera. The app will also give you these tips, but the game does work best when the bus is on a flat surface without clutter or patterns in the background. Once they scan the set, the bus becomes haunted (it’s the Hidden Side!) and kids must use the on-screen tracker to find, reveal, and blast ghosts. The more they play, the more ghosts they will uncover and add to their in-app collection.

Unlike some AR apps, Hidden Side actually requires kids to interact with the built set to complete the on-screen challenges. For example, the bus’ satellite has a color wheel on its base. While catching ghosts, kids have to turn that wheel to find ghosts in each color frequency.

There is also a larger community and storytelling aspects to the app and the entire Hidden Side world — there is even a multiplayer mode so that kids can battle with their real-life friends. While one LEGO Hidden Side set is certainly enough to get a lot out of the app, additional sets will unlock even more content. You can learn more about the Hidden Side, the haunted land of Newbury, and some of the most notorious ghosts here!

Overall, the Paranormal Intercept Bus set provides a lot of opportunities for play. The app isn’t perfect, but it is one of the better examples of AR-infused play to hit shelves in recent years. One word of caution, though, to anyone interested in exploring the Hidden Side: The app does require a fairly up-to-date operating system. Check this web page first to be sure that your device is compatible with the app!