Review: Lego Lord of the Rings is precious stuff
When I first heard about Travellers Tales working on a Lego Lord of the Rings game, I was skeptical. Not because of their work, as the team has always put their heart and soul into their Lego-based games, whether it was Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga or this summer's enjoyable Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. No, I was skeptical because they stated they were using the original dialogue from the films…which doesn't exactly bode well for the light-hearted nature of their games.
But silly me for doubting their abilities. The fact of the matter is, Lego Lord of the Rings remains quite true to its source material, while at the same time providing plenty of eye winks for players of all ages. Both fans and kids are likely to enjoy it, provided they can deal with a few of the small quirks that we've become used to with Lego games.
Lego Lord of the Rings spans the original trilogy (nothing from The Hobbit, sorry), having you control various heroes across each level, unlocking them in a free play menu for later. You'll switch back and forth between certain characters, as only some, like Gandalf the White, can access particular areas due to his capabilities. But no matter who you're playing as, you'll be able to beat up Orcs with ease (well, some of the smaller ones) while putting together Lego pieces to build items like switches and other useful objects to get you further into the game.
To run through each of Lego Lord of the Rings' stages blindly would be doing it a disservice. Despite the "kiddie" appearance, this game was built with a whole lot of depth, including hidden secrets, gold bricks and other little extras. In fact, the more you dig, the more you're rewarded in the long run with additional characters and secrets. It pays to explore here.
On top of that, you can take a friend with you. Lego Lord of the Rings provides co-op support for two players locally (no online, unfortunately), and it goes into an awesome split-screen effect, so you aren't limited to the same area. That said, you should keep kind of close with one another, just in case of an ambush. No one should leave Gandalf hanging.
The gameplay hasn't changed much from other Lego titles, save for particular abilities well suited for each character, but it remains moderately fun for fans, and considering the content is made with all ages in mind, friends and families can enjoy it together. Even the rougher moments of the trilogy are coated with some sort of humorous reference. Like when you get to the Black Gate of Mordor and someone's already passing around a pizza.
Graphically, Lego Lord of the Rings is one of the more accomplished games to date from Travellers Tales. The environments are strikingly similar to those featured in Peter Jackson's films, and the animation, as far as Lego goes, gets the job done. Sometimes the camera can be a pain though, and other times, ledges are a little further out than they appear, causing an accidental death. It's nothing to really fret about though.
And yes, Lego Lord of the Rings uses voice acting from the films, but, again, Travellers Tales did a splendid job making it fit in their world, so fans will feel it's vindicated, while still getting a kick out of how it all melds in with the Lego universe.
There are a bunch of AAA titles that you're probably picking up first before you give Lego Lord of the Rings any serious consideration, but I definitely recommend checking it out, particularly if you're looking for something to get you into the "vibe" for the forthcoming Hobbit movie. It truly is precious.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]