Thursday, 17 January 2013

Review: LEGO Lord of the Rings (360)


After playing hours and hours of Traveller's Tales' licensed LEGO games (directly and indirectly, i.e. watching), there's a definite boundary being built between kid friendly/accessible and pre-teen/less accessible. LEGO Lord of the Rings lands on the "difficult" end of the spectrum as evidenced by the fact my kids were initially excited by the game but after about a week returned to the favoured LEGO Batman 2 where they felt like they could mess around more. Plus, the popular consensus was that they'd rather be the Flash than Frodo.

That doesn't mean the game is any less engaging in the usual LEGO manner, which means switching between characters to perform specific actions to overcome obstacles and move the story forward, using some clever split screen spinning that always means the action is moving on-screen.

The story is lock-step with the movies, right down to music, sound effects and dialogue. There are some humorous sight gags but for the most part, the game sticks to the film source, which is a decade old at this point.

I don't think one need look any further to confirm the “difficulty” than the fact a radial menu needs to be brought up to switch characters and, at least initially, I had the impression that LEGO Lord of the Rings might have been planned as a four player game. And that just me thinking about Gauntlet.

So, LEGO Lord of the Rings skews older, which is okay by me. Finally, I have a bullet-proof reason for playing the a LEGO game for long stretches – “It’s beyond the kids!” It's not gory or anything, just a little more complicated and because the film source is relatively alien to them, they don't have much of a connection or reference to what's happening.

Maybe what’s most amazing about LEGO Lord of the Rings is the fact the LEGO formula hasn't grown thin, hasn't gone sour.

If you recall the Tony Hawk games. Think about how quickly that went from critical darling to derided also-ran. There have been approximately 12 LEGO games in the last seven years in the style of LEGO Lord of the Rings and slightly more than a dozen Tony Hawk games over the span of decade. I’d argue that less has changed about the licensed LEGO games – other than the licensed property – than the Tony Hawk games did and LEGO is still going strong. It’s quite an amazing accomplishment! Or it speaks to a personal fondness for LEGO and the kind of childhood memories it evokes.

Either way, LEGO Lord of the Rings is worth a look.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Licensed LEGO formula has yet to get old
- Some funny sight gags
- Really sticks to the source material

The Bad:
- Might be a little too complicated for the younger set

Score: 8.0 / 10