Lego’s transformation from purveyor of plastic bricks to big-hitter in the digital world continues apace, with the first two Hobbit films the latest to get the Lego treatment in a seemingly endless production line of games. It would be easy to adopt a cynical approach, but like all the other games churned out by the wondrous TT Games, Lego: The Hobbit is so irresistibly beguiling that such thoughts seem beyond churlish.
If you’ve played any previous Lego games, you’ll know what to expect from Lego: The Hobbit: action-adventure gameplay involving platforming, puzzle-solving, fighting and building Lego objects, all played out to the backdrop of a Legofied take (with extra slapstick and humour) on the first two Hobbit films (the third will be added at the end of the year as downloadable content). But if that sounds overly familiar, don’t be fooled: TT Games’ legendary inventiveness adds some fresh spins to the well-worn formula.
In particular, having a large cast of dwarves, plus Bilbo and the wizards Gandalf and Radagast (who mainly solves puzzles by curing sick animals) generates all manner of possibilities. Dwarves with longer weapons can stack on top of each other to form makeshift ladders, or buddy up to smash through tough obstacles. Others have slingshots, arrows and flails, which can be used to hit targets, pull hooks, swing across chasms and so on. The rotund Bombur’s belly can even be employed as a springboard. You have to take a while to familiarise yourself with each member of the party’s specific skills, but that sucks you deeper into the story.
And the films themselves – An Unexpected Journey and Desolation of Smaug – when rolled into one, seem unusually well suited to the Lego-game treatment. TT Games has ditched Peter Jackson’s filler and boiled them down to their key episodes, and The Hobbit is by some distance the finest-looking Lego game yet – the way in which it manages to reconstruct the films’ breathtaking scenery using plastic bricks is mightily impressive. Plus, they benefit from little flashes of trademark humour – we’re pretty sure, for example, that Thorin Oakenshield didn’t windsurf on the molten gold stream at the end of the second film.
And when you have worked through the storyline, you have the whole of Middle Earth at your disposal – TT Games hasn’t skimped on the extra dungeons, side-missions and mini-games, and there’s an awful lot of collecting to be done. Plus, the whole thing is playable by two people co-operatively. So, once again – as long as you’re not suffering from Lego-fatigue – Lego: The Hobbit provides a thoroughly charming opportunity for some top-quality parent-offspring bonding.
Reviewed by Steve Boxer