By Wayne Webb
I admit I am a fan of Lego games, particularly the slew of movie adaptations such as Batman and Star Wars. I am also a huge fan of Lord of the Rings – I read it when I was 11 and have re-read it dozens of times since ten. So I was predetermined to like this game, but a couple of unfortunate flaws have prevented me from loving it.
First, the good; like the films and book series, the game is a trilogy acted out in three parts. How can you not love that idea? Using the films as a guideline, and the licensed score and actors’ dialogue lifted from the film, this is as authentic an adaptation as you are likely to see. It is a kick to see the entire thing play out in Lego, right down to the last scene on Mt Doom and the fall of the Ring and Gollum. Up until then you meet the bevy of heroes and villains that comprise Tolkien and Jackson’s masterwork.
After the long and occasionally repetitive campaign (a common flaw in Lego battles) there are side quests such as crafting, collecting, exploring and much more. You can go for close to 100 percent in the game itself, but you will need to get the extra character packs that are downloaded and sold separately. These add little to the game itself unless you are the ‘must have everything’ kind of player, but with some obscure characters and items they are satisfying to have out of the gate. Likewise walking up and down the length and breadth of Middle Earth in explore mode is also a geek nirvana.
However, as mentioned, the game is not without flaws. The button to activate set tasks is the same as item selection, and more often than I liked the two would get confused – instead of taking action I’d be in the item wheel. Swapping characters is also problematic when you have the full fellowship to choose from. Nine playable characters who are all dressed in similar clothes and have the same basic look and colouring makes it confusing and wearisome trying to find the right one. Only Legolas can shoot arrows, only Gimli can hammer stone etcetera, and because everything is in Lego, the size and other differential distinctions blend together and become annoying. The fellowship breaks at the end of part one of course, and it gets less annoying as the game moves on. Finding levels again to play in Free Play modes is also different to previous Lego games. Instead of a handy Hub arrangement you must first find a map stone, which you can then access to find the right places.
Still a very good game and I played the campaign all the way through and have been back many times for replay and collection modes. The violence is Legoised and not too scary for kids, and my two kids love playing it more than me.
Pros: Pitch perfect adaptation, loads to do, long replay value, high standards of visuals and audio, lots of fun, roaming Middle Earth is cool.
Cons: Occasional design flaws hamper gameplay, navigation inconsistent, repetitive in places.
4 Shacks Out Of 5