"You Have My Bricks"
After venturing off into galaxies unknown with Luke Skywalker, treasure hunting with Indiana Jones, deterring crime in Gotham as Batman, and fighting off armies of dark wizards with Harry Potter, the developers at Traveller's Tales (TT Games) have finally found it suitable to tackle orcs by giving the adaptable LEGO treatment to the venerable The Lord of the Rings series. The timing is ripe, of course, what with the toy line just being rolled out over this past year and with the blockbuster film adaptation of The Hobbit hitting theaters in the coming weeks. With that knowledge, this game can be viewed as some meager cash-in, but luckily, both the LEGO charm and The Lord of the Rings brilliant narrative mix well for an expectedly simple, but no less fun adventure.
As is the tradition with these LEGO-licensed adaptations where multiple films are combined into a single game, LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game covers the entire trilogy of motion pictures. If the game had instead taken the novels as the source to adapt, it certainly would have been possible to split this game up into three separate ones, considering their substantial length. However, by using the films as a base (which provides the most popularized and relatable character and venue likenesses), and covering only the most prominent of the epic tale's highlights while simultaneously avoiding some of the more dreary narrative aspects, the result is a brisk and exciting retelling of the fantasy story.
In addition to reconstructing the familiar characters and locations, the developers have appropriated both the stellar dialog and superb soundtrack of the films to ensure that the presentation here is both authentic and filled with emotional gravity. However, it can get a bit jarring when these expertly delivered lines are interspersed with the series' known slapstick humor, as the film's original recording and source material is inherently devoid of it.
There is not much time to dwell on that, though, as puzzle-solving and trinket-collecting remain the order of the day in LEGO The Lord of the Rings. Each film is split into multiple chapters wherein you bust up enemies and the environment to collect loot that is subsequently used to unlock characters or abilities. The gameplay might sound droll to older gamers, but the story's execution is sure to keep them entertained.
One of the mainstays of the LEGO-licensed series of video games is a humorous take on the subject's proceedings. True to form, levity is present throughout LEGO The Lord of the Rings as, even during some of the most dramatic and dire of narrative sequences, characters might offer a knowing glance or uncharacteristic smirk in addition to the more physical, slapstick humor of previous LEGO games. This approach provides some much needed comic relief to the overall oppressive and gloomy nature of the original source, which is understandable, considering that the main target audience for the game skews young (it is LEGO, after all).
While the game is certainly a more family-friendly jaunt than either the books or movies it is based on, it is still one that can be enjoyed by all. That is the other series foundation that remains: easy drop-in, drop-out support for cooperative play that allows anyone to play together at any point in the game.
While each of the playable characters in LEGO The Lord of the Rings control similarly, the major ones do have unique abilities that provide enough diversity to keep the gameplay fresh as you switch between them. As you progress, you will gain access to over 80 characters to play around with. A series first, a selection wheel allows for quicker character rotation than the customary singular button-press cycling (though it is a bit odd that there are only 8 slots to allocate characters, considering how many members there are in the Fellowship).
It is the traditional LEGO video game formula wrapped in a Lord of the Rings veneer that might wear thin if you have played enough of these games and are conscious of the pattern. Regardless, LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game is undeniable fun, especially when you are playing with someone who enjoys either of these properties.
GameDynamo's Score for LEGO The Lord of the Rings (PS3)
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