If you thought The Lord of the Rings books were way too long with all their many, many words …
Or if, perhaps, you figured that the movie versions of the tale were just a little too dark and monster-filled …
Or if you're an LOTR die-hard and you'd buy up Gandalf Chia Pets if they were available …
Then the gamemakers at TT Games have a bit of fantasy fun just for you.
But if you're one of the few folks who has barricaded himself behind his little round Hobbit hole door and doesn't yet know a single thing about the Rings story … well, I won't be able to do it justice here. So let me just say that it's an ancient adventure in Middle-earth centering around a little Hobbit named Frodo who's charged by a wizened wizard named Gandalf to destroy a powerful ring and save the world.
Theirs is a land of magic and elves, sword-swinging princes and fire-breathing dragons. And now it's also land of plastic. Somehow LEGO The Lord of the Rings boils down that enormous tale of evil power-grabbers and brave, heroic questers into one blocky video game. It's a title filled with original dialogue from the films, lots of side quests and quirky characters, and just enough of that legendary LEGO block gaming humor to keep fans and adventuring newbies alike coming back for more.
One Game to Play Them All
Gameplay is pretty typical LEGO stuff. (See our reviews of how LEGO tackled Batman, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean for reference.) You control Frodo and his pals as they spend time solving block-building and item-smashing puzzles. Along the way they collect tradable LEGO studs—that are either laying around on the ground or appear when you smash nearby objects—and/or pick up a plastic sword or frying pan to fend off small groups of enemies.
Frodo generally travels with a group of his own, and you can switch between the characters to gain access to their respective abilities. Gandalf, for instance, has magic bolts he can chuck or a protective force field dome he can project. Frodo's best buddy Sam can light fires and plant quick-growing flowers and trees. And the elf Legolas (of course!) is adept at archery and jumping to those high spots others can't reach.
There are ultimately 80 different characters that can be purchased and unlocked with those collected studs. And the game welcomes any passing friend or family member to pick up an extra controller and jump in for some multiplayer cooperative play at any time.
Gamers can also build some handy equipment for their travelers as they quest. After obtaining item blueprints and uncovering special white mithril building blocks, a quick trip to a local blacksmith will produce just the right widget or thingamajig to make the campaign journey easier. And no matter if you're on a main story quest or agree to help out a needy soul and venture off the beaten path, your way forward is made plain by a translucent stud trail that pops up to show the way.
Skewering Arrow or Squawking Chicken?
What about all that aforementioned plastic sword-swinging, you ask? Well, there's lots of it as you run into large-scale grunt- and roar-filled conflicts, fend off giant beasties and take down charging orcs. But the nasty side of the equation is kept to a minimum, since all participants are constructed of LEGOs. Enemies' snarling faces and skull-like sneers are painted on smooth plastic and far from intimidating. Baddies crumble into their LEGO pieces when bested. And good guys break apart briefly too, but almost immediately reconstruct for action.
Many of the movies' more visceral moments are diffused with humorous substitutes, such as when a skewering arrow is replaced with a launched banana or squawking chicken.
Still, you run into the giant spider Shelob and other uglies like an enormous cave troll. The fires of Mount Doom blaze. And the ancient evil being Sauron makes sure you know he's watching. But when it's all rendered in plastic and accompanied by quick injections of tongue-in-cheek humor, the overall darkness of the magic-infused tale is quickly diffused.
That lets the sense of human-dwarf-hobbit-elf teamwork, loyalty and bravery travel the distance. In fact, it wouldn't be hard to suggest that the LOTR story as a whole becomes a lot more kid-friendly when wrapped in compelling gameplay and colorful cubes.
Hmmm. Kind of a precious ring to that, isn't there?