Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great blend of mirth and epic mischief, November 20, 2012
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= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: LEGO Lord of the Rings - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
Remember back when Lego Star Wars was announced, and how it sounded like a bizarre April Fool's joke? Several years on, and it seems almost routine to see a new Lego game popping out and tackling some of entertainment's biggest properties (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter DC comics, etc). Yet, it was strange how we never got a LEGOfied version of the biggest fantasy epic of all...Lord of the Rings. Now, almost seven years later, the omission is corrected, and ringers can finally see their favorite universe filled with adorable little figures and plastic studs.

Following the plot of all three films, LLOTR has players play through almost every notable scene from the films, such as the Last Alliance prologue, the journey through Moria, Helm's deep, the battle of the Pelennor Fields, and the final confrontation in the Crack of Doom. While a few scenes are either missing or not playable (The bridge battle against the Balrog, Lothlorien and the Siege of Minas Tirith, for example, only appear in cutscenes, and the Mouth of Sauron is completely absent), the game stays quite faithful to Tolkien's narrative, albeit, with a simplified, kid-friendly version.

Those who have played through previous Lego games can know what to expect here: traveling through levels, smashing up random object to get studs, while solving puzzles and fighting enemies, and little has changed here from prior installments. What has changed are lots of little tweaks that really enhance the gameplay, and make it more fun overall.

It's always been a staple of Lego gameplay that each character has a special skill (or two) that requires switching around to make it through each stage. While this remains, what's unique is that virtually every character now has the ability to learn skills as well, thanks to forging mirthril items. For example, Sam has the ability to use elven rope in all matter of ways. By finding mithril blocks, and a blacksmith's blueprint, players can forge a rope that any character can use, which adds a nice touch of customization that can lead to some hilarious situations (The Witch-King going fishing, for example, or Saruman digging in the dirt to grow plants).

Much like prior Lego games, there's a hub world where the player can access any of the game's levels. What's great about LLOTR, however, is that the hub world is Middle Earth itself: in the style of Grand Theft Auto, players start out in one end (Hobbiton), and work their way across the world as they complete stages, eventually being able to walk the length and breadth of Middle Earth without seeing a single loading screen. Granted, Middle Earth isn't true to size, being more like a very large amusement park, but it's a very impressive feat to stand upon the top of Orthanc and see Minas Tirith, Minas Morgul, Mordor, and Mt. Doom all in one shot.

And the hub world itself isn't just a pretty show: in a way, it is like an amusement park, full of items and people to find, hidden treasures to locate, and attractions (levels) to experience. As you make your way through the game from area to area, you'll find people who offer side quests of the "Give me this item and I'll give you this item" variety, giving you access to new abilities and skills to make the game a little easier, or more enjoyable. If you also keep an eye open, you'll run into the many, many, many characters you can buy and use in freeplay mode (though in a nice touch, you'll have to fight some of them to buy them. Encounter the Witch-King with a good guy, for example, and you'll have to beat him senseless before buying him).

And what would a Lego game be without the humor? Like the prior games, LLOTR takes an inherently serious story and makes it kid friendly by tweaking little things throughout. While we have the standard "everyone pops into Lego pieces with an amusing scream" deaths, the story elements are great. Boromir, for example, gets shot with bananas and brooms instead of arrows, and his funeral barge gets stuck on a boulder, necessitating rocks being thrown at it to be put back on course. I don't want to give anything else away (save that one cutscene at Weathertop nearly had me in stitches from laughing so hard), but rest assured that if you want silly Lego humor, you'll find it here. Be sure to keep an eye out for Peter Jackson's cameo!

Still, for all it's fun, there are a few areas where LLOTR fumbles. The controls are, for the most part, fine, but I never really felt comfortable with jumping, and characters sometimes have a hard time grabbing onto things, such as ropes. I also had a lot of trouble using Gandalf's magic as an offensive and move-objects power, and had a hell of a time trying to get Legolas to shoot Oliphaunts in the right spot AND jumping on while they were stomping around.

Context commands are also a bit finicky, and require the player to be in the exact position needed with very little room for error, which led to a few deaths while I was trying to put blocks together (you are invincible while doing so, which is very appreciated), or characters shrugging in confusion.

While it may be more immerse to travel around Middle Earth to buy characters, it is a bit odd how there's no teleport feature to get to really distant areas, as the only to get around is either on foot, or by horseback. I also wish you could buy characters from a store, rather then having to find them, as it would be easier and more convenient. If you want to buy Saruman, for example, you'll have to climb up to the top of Orthanc to find him (you'll also need a character with extra-strength to get into Isengard in the first place), and it's regrettably easy to fall all the way to the bottom, and have to start all over again.

I was also somewhat disappointed with freeplay mode. While you can indeed replay any level with any character (Boromir battles Sauron with the Last Alliance! Gollum fights Gollum in the Crack of Doom!), and select any character while playing, instead of picking one from the menu before starting, I was very disappointed that some events cannot be changed, such as the stage where Gandalf fights the Balrog while plunging down Khazad-Dum. Ever since seeing a gameplay video of that fight, my mind had been filled with fanboy images of Sauron (yes, he is playable) battling the Balrog in freefall, or Gimli, or anyone else. While it's a minor complaint, it's a bitter one for me personally.

I'm also wondering as to why the game never talks about the Character Creator feature. The mode itself is located inside Bag End, and is as awesome as ever(it's great fun to create myself wearing Sauron's armor and lugging his mace around), but you could go through the entire game without knowing it existed, as it's never mentioned in-game, or even in the manual.

Minor quibbles aside, if you're a huge fan of Lego games and Lord of the Rings, then LLOTR is a no-brainer. Even non-LOTR are likely to find a lot to enjoy here with the humor and highly refined gameplay. People who like fast paced action may find the pace a bit slow at times, with the focus being on puzzles and platforming, but for good, family friendly entertainment, Lego Lord of the Rings is tough to beat.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 29, 2012 12:50:45 PM PST
You can fast travel (teleport) by selecting the map stones on your map and selecting it as a destination. The game prompts you "do you want to travel to this destination?". Very helpful for the long distance travels.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2012 4:08:41 PM PST
Ian says:
Really? Wow, that is helpful! Thanks for pointing that out! Kinda frustrating to learn that from the internet, rather then the game itself...the manual and in-game information can be very spotty, or practically non-existent, in the case of the travel feature you just mentioned.
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