2005’s LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game took many by surprise. It’s hard to think that, after so many adaptations and sequels, people were actually sceptical as to whether the toy-inspired tie-in would originally work. Today, however, LEGO spin-offs seem to spring up left, right and centre and even though they all use a similar template, we’ve yet to get tired of them.
From Harry Potter and Indiana Jones to Batman and Pirates of the Caribbean, there are few popular entertainment licenses developer TT Games haven’t worked with, but the one that really caught my eye was The Lord of the Rings. Needless to say I’m a huge fan of the Peter Jackson trilogy. I usually cop a fair bit of flack when I admit to not reading the books, but I’m a fan all the same and credit LOTR for my interest in not only fantasy fiction but wargaming, RPGs, MMOs, and much more.
Having played Star Wars and dabbled with a number of other LEGO tie-ins, I managed to dive in straight away with no barriers in sight. Within minutes I had smashed my way through the Battle of the Last Alliance and was roaming the Shire with Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin.
That’s one thing that stands out about LOTR and the LEGO series as a whole; you can pick any one of the games up and immediately get stuck in. Whether you’re new or experienced, old or young, there’s a definite universal appeal.
Once outside of the hub or open world, you go hands-on with the game’s linear design. Now, those last two words usually warrant a shake of the head, but TT approaches each stage with care, combining the right blend of combat, puzzles, and platforming. One (slightly unfair) advantage most LEGO games have is that they’re loyal to the films they emulate. Therefore, instead of waiting for the narrative to astound you, you’re anticipating each and every set piece.
This is yet another area in which the series performs well, LOTR better than any other. For the first time, TT Games used recorded dialogue from the actual film instead of leaning on mute characters and a myriad of dramatic facial expressions. The result was fantastic and, in my opinion, just what the franchise needed to further woo film fans.
It has to be said that there are no fundamental flaws with LEGO The Lord of the Rings. If there were, they would have been brought up and ironed out since 2005.
I suppose my only real complaint is how similar it is to TT’s previous work. Combat is still severely limited yet passable; puzzles often require specific characters; studs are used as the central currency and replaying levels never really seems like a chore.
TT has definitely played things safe with LOTR, more so on the Vita and 3DS versions than on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, which brings me onto another point. Despite its evident technical prowess, the PlayStation Vita has been short-changed when it comes to LEGO ports. Harry Potter, Batman, LOTR, and the recent Marvel Heroes have each been identical to the 3DS version of each game. Though I’m sure TT has its reasons, it’s easy to call them out as being a bit lazy, especially when you see games like Killzone: Mercenary cropping up.
Still, it’s a solid game, and one that appeal to just about any Middle Earth fan out there. It’s simple, fun, and has a ton of replay value despite its linear design.