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LEGO The Lord of the Rings PS3 Review

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LEGO The Lord of the Rings

LEGO The Lord of the Rings

Image © WBIE
It all started with such a clever idea -- merge the nostalgia that gamers feel for the days when they played with LEGOs with the fan base still rabid over everything related to the Lucasverse and you have "LEGO Star Wars," a massive hit back in 2005 and arguably still the most creatively vital game in one of the most profitable game franchises in PS3 history. Since then, Traveller's Tales has been pumping out LEGO games like Justin Bieber pumps out pop tunes with games like "LEGO Indiana Jones," "LEGO Harry Potter," "LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean," and "LEGO Batman." There were four LEGO games in 2011 alone. It's to the point that we've even started speculating on what could be the next LEGO cash cow (check out "Five Franchises That Need LEGO Games" and dream with us about how much "LEGO Pixar" and "LEGO 007" would RULE.) Until those franchises come to life we have the inevitable "LEGO The Lord of the Rings," a game that makes good use of the J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson universes with its unique sense of humor, addictive gameplay, and remarkable replayability. This game feels a little less creative than some recent installments and gets more repetitive as a consequence but if you have a young one in your house who's into either LEGOs or "The Lord of the Rings," this would make a solid holiday season gift.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • Developer: Traveller's Tales
  • ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
  • Genre: Action-Adventure
  • Pros: Vibrant Universe, Addictive Gameplay, Incredible Replay Value
  • Cons: Repetitive Action, Direct Narrative, Some Uninspired Puzzle Design

Follow through the action of "The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers," and "The Return of the King" in pure LEGO style with over 80 playable characters across the many settings of "The Lord of the Rings." While that may sound like epic gameplay, this game is very much in the vein of other LEGO games in that it's mostly about bashing items in the environment to collect LEGO studs and solving puzzles that allow your player to progress from point A to point B. While much effort has been made to enhance the story to make it easier to graft the LEGO gameplay on top of it, the linear nature of the "Lord of the Rings" story can make the game pretty repetitive. Unlike "Harry Potter" with Hogwarts or "Batman" with its Bat Cave or "Star Wars" with its various ships, the story of "LOTR" doesn't have as much of an inherent hub structure from which to branch out different levels. You can go back to and explore Middle Earth but why would you when Mordor awaits?

Gameplay

LEGO The Lord of the Rings

LEGO The Lord of the Rings

Image © WBIE

The "LEGO" games work from a very simple yet addictive structure. Each level features numerous items in the environment that can be destroyed to earn studs and the end of the level gives you a percentage of said studs that you collected. Hardcore players will want to go back to different levels to collect them all and many of the sections of levels can't be explored until certain characters are unlocked. In other words, the game has an inherent replay value that's high. It's impossible to complete the first time through as you'll need characters unlocked later to access parts of the game you can see now.

The creators of "LEGO The Lord of the Rings" wisely don't merely plow through the three films/books with little variance, knowing that previous games that attempted to translate this world to a video game have often failed by being overly linear. And so the game opens with a massive battle and then jumps around a bit in time and space, softening a few elements of Tolkien's story lines for a family audience but staying relatively faithful to the big moments that fans will remember from the films. Yes, you will get to ride a LEGO Balrog through Middle Earth as Gandalf tries to break him apart. Yes, you will get to battle countless Orcs and shoot Legolas' arrows. The set pieces that fans will come to this game hoping to play are all here. It's Traveller's Tales version of "The Lord of the Rings" but it's also quite loyal to its source.

As for gameplay variation from other LEGO games, this one is a bit more inventory-based than others. The fact is that characters like Frodo and Sam don't have the inherent magical powers of, say, Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker, to make them video game-friendly. And so there's a lot of this game that requires objects to be found and then used. Some of it is surprisingly lackluster in design. Find three bundles of wood to make a fire. Hey, look, there are three objects in this field for me to smash to get wood. Puzzle solved. There are other puzzles that are more advanced but I was surprised at how often boredom creeped into the Shire. More so than in "LEGO Harry Potter" or "LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes."

Graphics & Sound

If you've seen a LEGO game, you know that they're not designed to show off your HD TV's graphical capabilities. They're cartoons. But they have a consistency of tone and style across all LEGO games that's admirable and this one doesn't falter from the look of the series. It also includes voice work for only the second time ("Batman 2" was the first LEGO game to include vocals in its cut scenes) although it was taken directly from the films. Some of the environments look a little more non-descript than one would hope given the creative universe they could have played with but it is just a LEGO game.

Overall

LEGO The Lord of the Rings

LEGO The Lord of the Rings

Image © WBIE
"LEGO The Lord of the Rings" sometimes feels more like a product of inevitability than a truly creative project. What I mean is there are times when I felt like the game existed more as marketing product -- a way to sell LEGO toys and tickets to "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" -- than as anything driven by pure video game creativity. And perhaps one LEGO game a year is enough. I haven't even finished "LEGO Batman 2" yet. This series does run the risk of over-saturation although I doubt this average entry in the franchise -- it's not the best LEGO game but not the worst either -- is the one that sinks it.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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