Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game is the latest in a long line of Lego video games based on movie properties. Though they’ve only been making them since 2005, developers Traveller’s Tales have brick-ified Indiana Jones (twice), Batman (also twice), Star Wars (three times) and many, many others, creating family-friendly 3D platformers with their own unique look, feel and sense of humour, all centred around everyone’s favourite plastic building blocks.
The team are so trusted, it’s almost inconceivable that TT wouldn’t do the films justice. The bigger question this time around is whether they can rejuvenate a series of games that’s so set in its ways it’s practically become its own genre.
Encouragingly, TT’s previous Lego game, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, was a huge leap forward for the franchise, creating a more open world for Lego fans to explore, fix and smash up. But the second plastic coming of the caped crusader was limited to Gotham, whereas a LOTR game would have to take the fellowship from sleepy Hobbiton to the altogether more lava-filled Mordor… how on Middle-earth could they satisfy fans with their reinterpretation of all three vast films, as well as bringing their own Lego personality to the table?
The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is by hiring some hardcore Tolkien aficionados and not doing anything by halves. As the ultimate proof that cutting corners is definitely not on TT’s agenda, the game follows all three movies in their entirety, recreating almost every scene along the way using the voices lifted directly from the original films. That’s right, you’re going to hear Sir Ian’s voice bellowing, “You shall not pass!” at a brick Balrog, making this toy/film/gaming crossover arguably the closest anyone’s ever going to get to actually being in Lord Of The Rings outside of creating their own underground house in the side of a hill.
Playing the game at a special preview event, TT developer Phil Ring – no really, that’s his actual name – showed me how Jackson and Tolkien’s world aligned with Lego’s. Walking around Bree, Aragorn and the four hobbits can explore the town, solve physics puzzles and steal one of Peter Jackson’s carrots as he sits chomping them in the middle of the square. Later, Ring tells me, the Battle Of Helm's Deep will see Jackson recreating another cameo appearance as one of the Rohirrim, slinging one of his Oscars at an orc instead of a javelin.
This Oscar lobbing serves as a good example of the Lego humour working around the otherwise unfiddleable withable dialogue from the films – in the Weathertop level Ring shows me, Merry and Pippin are seen suddenly wearing nurses’ outfits as they pick up a stretcher to carry the now injured Frodo. Soon after, Arwen arrives surrounded by a beam of angelic light, her Lego hair shining as she swishes it about like she’s in a L’Oreal advert. Catching Arwen’s eye from the off, Aragorn then throws Frodo belly-first onto her horse and makes his best Lego flirty face – you know, just like the movies.
Then there’s the technical stuff. The graphics are marginally better than previous games, but not significantly so, and despite new, more cinematic, floating camera angles, the movement feels intuitive. To keep the world friendly and explorable, there’s no obligation to do the next plot level immediately after the previous one – Arwen and Frodo can have a wander if they like, despite his injuries – and there are hours and hours and hours of fun to be had just poking about, smashing stuff and unearthing appendices-inspired secrets.
Fetch quests from towns will also encourage you to go dig more into LLOTR – that stands for Lego Lord Of The Rings, by the by – and special Mithril bricks will allow you to create more powerful versions of armour, weaponry and trickets like the ‘Disco Vial’ that makes enemies burst into dance. Not that this is a Skyrim-for-kiddly-winks wannabe, but it does contain RPG elements, including a fast travel map system, inventories and an appropriately, ahem, Tolkeinesque setting.
The most pleasing thing about the whole game is its length. King assures me that even if you know how to do absolutely everything, LLOTR would still take 22 hours to complete. By his reckoning, a first-time non-completist playthrough would take a solid 40 hours, making it the biggest and most fulfilling Lego video game yet. This is helped in part by certain levels having snuck away sections that can only be accessed by characters with a particular set of skills – Sam can start fires that burn down inconvenient bushes, and Frodo can hack at orcs with Sting – and with 80 characters out there, there are plenty of people to play as and even more to bash into a shower of bricks.
Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game is out on November 23, and below you can see a teaser trailer that shows off a little bit of the humour in the game. Pre-order now to make sure your December is the most Tolkien-filled month of all time – after buying the new special 3D Hobbit issue of Empire, of course.
MD3 Posted on Tuesday November 6, 2012, 19:45
I am ridiculously excited by the hope that I may have this game wrapped and with my name on it under the Christmas tree - I may have to fight off my 9 year old son but it's his mum who is the biggest fan. I have loved all the Lego games on the Wii and can't wait - perhaps because I am into middle age and enjoy the formulaic nature of the previous games, it's kind of comforting to put my 2 favourite things together - Lego and LOTR; a match made in heaven