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Review: Lego Lord of the Rings is a Fun Tribute to Jackson’s Trilogy

I finally completed Traveller’s Tales’ Lego Lord of the Rings, and just like their other brick infused games I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you’ve ever watched Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy then this game will serve as a reminder of how awesome those films were.  TT more or less created the Lego version of Jackson’s films in Lego LOTR, which is just fine with me.  They definitely infused their unique brand of Lego humor into their spin on the trilogy, but for the most part this game is a dead on portrayal of the film.

This is both a good and bad thing for Lego LOTR.  Good because the movies are so amazing, and TT did a fine job recreating them with the Lego brand, but bad because some of the technical execution just felt cheap.  It’s almost as if TT took the easy way out and just borrowed as many assets as possible from New Line’s trilogy without taking the time to finely tune every aspect of the game before shipping it.  Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a Tolkien fan you need to play this game, but don’t expect to be blown away by its execution.

Lego Lord of the Rings (Xbox 360 used for review)

EB 7.5 out of 10 Buddhas

The Awesome

  • Peter Jackson’s LOTR done with Legos
  • Boromir plinko and other cheeky Lego game nuances
  • Fun for all ages

The Not so Awesome

  • Same as every other Lego branded game
  • Touchy controls
  • At times the sound bytes from the movies sound rudimentary at best

Buy or Rent

  • Buy only if you plan on going for full completion of all achievements/trophies
  • Rent if you just want to play through the campaign

Story

For all intents and purposes Lego Lord of the Rings is a movie game based on Peter Jackson’s trilogy from the early part of this century.  Lego LOTR literally follows the plot of the three films from start to finish, and for the most part recreates a majority of the major scenes from the film to flesh out the game’s campaign.  In fact, the game itself is broken down into three acts to mimic the beginning and ending of all three movies complete with end credits to signify the transition to the next film.

Lego LOTR faithfully recreates scenes from the films

TT has definitely crafted a genuine homage to Jackson’s vision of Middle-Earth using their now infamous Lego formula that they’ve applied to other popular movie franchises, such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones.  Unlike those two franchises though, TT has liberally borrowed assets from the Lord of the Rings movies to the point of licensing abuse.  A majority of the cut scenes are dead on clones of the same scenes found in the movies.  I’m talking the same exact shots to a “T” complete with lines from the film and even similar cinematography.  It’s like TT said, “Hey, these movies made a gazillion dollars and won like 500 Oscars, so why recreate the wheel?”  It felt like they took the films and fed them into a Lego-izer machine to make this game, which almost felt like cheating to me.

Although, when you consider the success and legends of the LOTR films I don’t know if I can really blame TT for their liberal borrowing of assets from the movies.  They did manage to work in some of their Lego humor amongst the movie scenes, but I felt like there were less of these moments than in other Lego games (Boromir plinko was my favorite with surfing Ents taking the second spot).  I’m pinning this on the fact that TT now voices their Lego games now, where in the past they did not, so they had to evoke emotions from the gamer with pure animation.  It’s as if having the movie’s catalog of soundbytes caused them to get a little lazy.

Would’ve liked more cheeky Lego scenes throughout the game

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a Tolkien fanboy, and absolutely loved experiencing his fantasy world in Lego form.  I just would’ve liked a little more production value out of TT, and not as much dependence on the movies.  These guys are famous game makers for their Lego humor, and I just didn’t get enough of that in Lego LOTR.

Gameplay

If you’ve ever played a Lego game created by TT then you know exactly how the gameplay will feel in Lego LOTR.  Absolutely nothing has changed.  You control a Lego version of the cast of Lord of the Rings, and all you’re required to do is button mash foes to death while holding the B button at times to solve some puzzles.  Lego LOTR did change things up a bit due to the whole Fellowship aspect of Tolkien’s masterpiece, by allowing you at times to utilize any of the 9 members of the party to advance the plot along.  During these levels they crafted unique puzzles that could only be solved by a certain party member, which forces you as the gamer to try out each character.

Another unique aspect of Lego LOTR’s gameplay is the fact that you can switch between the two branching paths of party members at the end of the Fellowship episode.  We all know that the Fellowship gets split up during the events that take place near Rauros Falls, so in a new move TT allows you to switch between Frodo’s group and Aragorn’s group to mimic the film and books.  I quite liked this new feature as it allowed for a more authentic feel, and it also enables you to switch up your environment if you get sick of playing with one band of characters.  Don’t fret though because TT has put the Eye of Sauron in place so you can’t move forward with one group until the other has forced the Eye to focus on them, which is true to Tolkien’s tale.

At one point in time you’ll have all 9 Fellowship members to play with

The downside of Lego LOTR’s gameplay is the fact that it’s more of the same.  For the most part TT didn’t innovate a single aspect of their gameplay in a Lego game.  The controls are still extremely touchy, which makes some of the platforming sections a nightmare.  Puzzle solving becomes an exercise in repetition, and fighting takes no more skill than the ability to smash the “X” button.  I would’ve appreciated more variety in the puzzles, as well as an overhaul of the controls.  I could tell that TT knows that fans will buy their Lego games no matter what, so it’s like they don’t even have to try to improve upon the gameplay mechanics to keep their fans happy.

The whole open-world setting of Lego LOTR didn’t work for me either as it feels like an after thought to the main tale.  It’s more useful during your second play through, but during your initial run I think you’ll agree that it’s more fun to carry on with the main story rather than farting around with some crappy side missions, and puzzles you can’t even tackle until you can pick your own party members.

Graphics

Lego LOTR is no Halo 4 or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 when it comes to graphical prowess, but it’s a solid looking game none the less.  The Lego version of Middle-Earth looks as charming as you probably imagined, and like I mentioned above nearly every cutscene is a clone of the same scene from Jackson’s films.  I definitely appreciated reliving some of the more iconic moments from the movies in Lego form, and TT did a great job of executing them with their mastery of the Lego style.  Just don’t expect to see anything ground breaking when it comes to the graphical department of Lego Lord of the Rings.

Sound

The sound profile of Lego Lord of the Rings is at times the biggest downside of the game.  TT used the same exact dialogue voiced by the actors from Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy to bring their Brick men to life, but at times the production value was piss poor.  For example, one cut scene would sound just like the scene from the films that it was portraying, but in another the dialogue would sound like someone stole it from some shady sound byte site on the Internet.  These scenes felt cheap, and sounded like the Brick men recorded their lines in a toilet.  If you’re going to use the Lord of the Rings movie license why not perfect the sound in every scene?

Outside of the mismatched voices the sound scape of Lego Lord of the Rings is identical to the movies.  Howard Shore’s fantastic score helps to make this Lego game feel even more epic than the ones before it, and it brought back musical memories that I have from Jackson’s trilogy, which made me smile.  It made the fact that some of the voice editing was crap that much worse, because how can you screw with perfection when it’s served to you on a silver licensing platter from the care takers of the Tolkien licensing conglomerate?  Sometimes movie licenses make game developer’s jobs a little easier, but this can also lead to shortcuts being taken, which I think happened with the overall sound design in Lego LOTR.

Multiplayer

Once again I’m befuddled by the fact that TT hasn’t implemented online multiplayer yet in any of their Lego games, and their Lord of the Rings offering is no different.  I truly feel that these games are meant to be played with a buddy, but the fact that co-op can only be achieved locally is so 1985.  To make things even worse TT continues to take up a large section of the top right screen to let you know that you could be playing their game with a friend.  For the life of me I can’t understand why they feel it’s necessary to constantly flash a reminder that another controller can be used to play with a friend while I’m playing the game on my own.  I’m at an age where it’d almost be considered odd to be playing a Lego game with another man in the same room, so I would have liked to have had the ability to play co-op online in an attempt to hide my shame that I have no friends in real life.

The absence of online multiplayer is mind boggling in the year 2012

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, if you’re a fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, and Tolkien’s world in general, then by all means you should play Lego LOTR.  It’s a Lego version of the films that faithfully recreates Jackson’s vision to the point of plagiarism while mixing in some of TT Lego humor that we’ve come to love in these types of games.  The sound design seemed lazy to me, and the graphics aren’t eye meltingly awesome, but Lego LOTR still provides a solid 9-12 hours of fairly stress free gaming.  I give it an EB 7.5 out of 10 Buddhas.  If you plan on going for all of its challenges to reap its cheves I’d tell you to buy it, but if you’re only interested in playing the campaign once I’d recommend renting it.  Lego Lord of the Rings is a fun homage to the films, but it’s far from a new gaming experience with the Lego brand.

LEGO Lord of the Rings Launch Trailer [HD]

 

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Tags : Game ReviewLego LOTRXbox360
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.