LEGO has been a foundation in children’s entertainment since 1949 – well at least until the dawn of the digital revolution. Then the Danish LEGO dudes got clever and decided to get a slice of the gaming action.
It certainly paid off, as for example, LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game has sold over 6.7-million copies on the PlayStation 2 alone. This is due to the development magic that oozes out of Travellers Tales Studios (aka TT Games).
One of the key ingredients to their success has been that they have taken huge franchises and made them child friendly whilst still sticking to the core storyline. This has been done by making the stories rather humourous through the use of slapstick comedy and an overall happy tone.
This theme has successfully been grafted into LEGO The Lord of the Rings : The Video Game. However, this time around they dulled down the over the top slapstick approach and stuck to the darker theme of The Lord of the Rings. TT Games have somehow managed to merge the grungy, dark, sullen tones of LOTR with the upbeat LEGO universe. The amazing thing is how they manage to have all of these themes and emotions visually displayed at all times.
What really helps you immerse in the game world is the use of the voices from the character’s movie counterparts. They have been lifted directly from the movies but never feels as though this is a copy-paste situation – the entire product feels polished and well rounded.
The game spans 15 levels, which should you play by yourself or with a friend in split screen co-op, will take no more than 8 hours to complete. When you do play with a less experienced gamer or one of your children it could take you quite a while.
I am not a huge fan of RPG games; while the concept of becoming the “super-macdaddy-ruler-of-the-universe” is rather awesome, it soon becomes very tedious and somehow feels as though it should be left to those who suffer from OCD. That being said, in LEGO The Lord of the Rings the RPG elements are never too over-the-top or too tedious.
Questing involves going to find some lost item, or act out and complete some mundane task, such as lighting a few fires. These tasks are never too hard to complete and they don’t carry on for too long – just long enough to hold a 4-year-old’s attention (and more surprisingly my own).
Like all the previous LEGO titles, LEGO The Lord of the Rings is a linear platform-style game that puts you on a mission from point A to point B, solving puzzles and battling baddies. Along the way you will encounter all of the major bosses and set-piece highlights from the movies.
There are some areas where you are let loose to do your own free roaming thing; however these are mostly used as framing devices to find the afore-mentioned lost items. You never get the feeling that you are lost, which is pretty important in a game that has been overly simplified for children.
This is emphasized by the controls which provide a simplistic and pleasurable way to play the game. There is one attack button, a jump button, an action button, and finally a character change button. The character change button is somewhat important as you will have to use certain characters in your group to achieve certain goals, or complete certain tasks. For example, Sam is the only one in the group who can make plants grow and make fire; Frodo gets to whine like a little girl; and Gandulf has awesome wizard powers. There are over 90 different characters to unlock, and with the completion of each level, free-play mode is unlocked for you to go back and replay the level with the new characters that you have unlocked.
The camera is often a huge issue particularly in co-op mode where you have the option of either a dynamic or fixed split-screen. The dynamic split screen is rather nauseating, and the fixed camera isn’t much better as it halves your screen size, rendering the near-perfect level design rather useless.
Visually, LEGO The Lord of the Rings has to be the prettiest LEGO game we’ve have seen so far. The levels are immaculately detailed and flawlessly rendered. Minor details, such as dust that gets kicked up to the water that flows from the rich environments have been lifted straight from Peter Jackson’s trilogy.
I would recommend this to fans of either series, or to parents looking at getting a game that they can play with their children.
As mentioned before, the emotion which is visually conveyed is something to behold, the addition of the original voices from the cast of the trilogy, and the use of Howard Shore’s musical score makes LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game a beautifully crafted homage to two hugely successful franchises.