Reviewed on 3DS XL
I haven't played a Lego game since Star Wars Episode 2, largely because I ignorantly wrote them off as mere child's play. However I had seen a few videos and read a few reviews for Lego: Lord of the Rings and I decided that it looked quite cool so I went and bought it for the 3DS. I'm glad I did because this game is an absolute joy to play. It remains loyal to both The Lord of the Rings and Lego featuring a fantastic re-imagining of The Lord of the Rings story whilst also having the humour and design elements that you'd expect from a Lego game.
The game plays much as you'd expect it to. There are a series of levels which follow the outline of the story and they feature a good mix of puzzles, exploration and combat. The really cool thing is that when you have the whole Fellowship under your control you have to switch through them quite a lot to use the character who is best suited to your situation. Legolas might be needed for his double jump but Gimli can smash through things that others can't. This keeps puzzles feeling fresh because when you are solving them you rarely play as the same character for more than a few minutes. The puzzles aren't overly complicated, the game is made to appeal to anyone over the age of seven, but they never get dull thanks to the variety of characters and abilities that are on offer to you. Of course this only increases as you unlock new characters and revisit levels in free play to reach areas that you couldn't explore in the story mode. The combat is equally fun and equally simplistic. You can do basic combos with the Y button or you can use jump attacks, charge attacks or ranged attacks which use bows or magic depending on who you are playing as. Certain characters also have special weapons such as Aragorn who can use his torch to set enemies on fire. Enemies will sometimes have shields so you will need to shove them to knock them off balance and there will also be occasional boss fights (such as the Watcher or the Cave Troll in Moria) and these really showcase the variety of weapons and abilities that the Fellowship possesses.
I don't know how things like character selection and the map are done on the console versions but I assume that the characters are chosen via an irritating wheel menu (I hate those things) and that a button such as the Select button brings up the map. The 3DS version makes an obvious albeit appreciated use of the second screen to pick your character and open up the map, which means the map can be constantly open, or the selection wheel can be. You can also switch between your current character and the next one using a simple button press. This is hardly a jaw dropping, innovative use of the second screen but its still a great use of it because it makes playing the game more simple and more enjoyable.
The sound for this game actually features the game's biggest flaw. The voice acting from the film is used and is mostly pretty good quality but occasionally the characters sound like they are talking through an old fashioned radio, the same goes for the music. This doesn't happen often but when it does it is pretty jarring and really takes away from what is otherwise a fantastic Lord of the Rings experience. I don't know if this happens on all versions of the game, maybe there is a problem with my speakers but my 3DS XL is very new so its unlikely to be this. Aside from this though the sound is great with good voice acting and a great soundtrack being complemented by good sound effects.
Graphics wise the game is very impressive, the mix of Lego and real world textures does take a bit of getting used to but if you can get used to it then the world and characters look really good. The environments look great and the characters are detailed and well animated. It's also a real treat to see enemies like The Balrog or a Cave Troll rendered in Lego form. It's a great looking game on all of the platforms and really doesn't suffer from any huge issues in the graphics department.
I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that this is the best Lord of the Rings game ever, its definitely close but I did love the PS2 trilogy so I'm not sure. What I am sure of though is that this is definitely the best Lego game to date and its made me very excited for Lego: City Undercover later on this year.
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