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Toss this one into Mordor

By Joe O'Leary
On November 27, 2012


In 2005, "LEGO Star Wars," the first LEGO adaptation video game, was released to coincide with the final episode of the saga, "Attack of the Sith." It received high sales and rave reviews for its entertaining, though slight, adventure game treatment of the first three movies, made especially for children to enjoy. After its success, LEGO has attached its horse to about a dozen different franchises, each one using the same engine as the others.

Now that the long-awaited "Hobbit" is three weeks away from hitting theater screens, the latest adaptation has hit stores shelves perfectly timed with it: "LEGO The Lord of the Rings." Adapting the three films/books' storylines in classic yellow blocky LEGO style, the game doesn't differentiate itself far from any of its fellow LEGO games, which is both a good and bad thing.

"The Lord of the Rings" is a solid franchise to give the LEGO treatment, both due to its wide cast of characters and its sprawling storyline rife with moments to relive. The gameplay of the series is pretty straightforward: LEGO figures of characters from the "LOTR" series act out the story of Frodo, Aragorn, Gimli and the like, with frequent family-friendly jokes thrown in along the way and dialogue taken directly from the films. Gameplay-wise, you're basically roaming Tolkien's lush settings with familiar characters, with light platforming, puzzles and hack-and-slash elements thrown in. However, the game's idea of a puzzle is "break everything until you can progress" and there's no penalty for death, removing all challenge from the game. As such, the game's perfect for kids, but too repetitive for anyone over the age of 13 to enjoy for more than a little while.

The graphics are pretty solid, the gameplay's decent until you get sick of it, and the extras and gag jokes are all quite fun and funny. But that doesn't mean "LEGO The Lord of the Rings" is really all that passable. In seven years, the franchise's gameplay has barely changed, with only a change of characters, scenery and box art between releases. The core elements have remained the same, and they've pretty clearly stagnated. 

While I understand the reasoning behind "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" - as I'm sure there's a small-to-medium Scrooge McDuck money vault belonging to whoever came up with the "LEGO" video game concept - why hasn't Traveller's Tales, the developer, attempted to improvise or improve on the formula? Sure, the money of parents who don't know what to buy their kids for Christmas and just pick the thing that looks inoffensive has probably kept them afloat in the volatile modern gaming market. But it comes at the expense of their games being completely ignored by anyone who knows better. There are a few features in this LEGO game that show future promise, but not nearly enough for me to recommend it to anyone, unless that person is babysitting nine-year-old kids.

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