There seems to be no stopping the LEGO craze, and with The Lord of the Rings back in the public eye due to the recent release of The Hobbit at cinemas, LEGO The Lord of the Rings has arrived at the perfect time across all formats. Cubed3 takes the Nintendo 3DS version for a spin to see if it is better than other 3DS entries in the LEGO world, such as LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes and LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game.
The LEGO line of video games is a great light-hearted way of transforming what can sometimes be extremely serious content into something much more digestible for the wider audience. LEGO The Lord of the Rings is a perfect example, since as with the Harry Potter books/movies there are dark vibes in several parts that would leave younger ones quivering under the hem of their mother's skirt. However, in the LEGO version all the violence is handled using the tiny bricks and studs instead, there is no blood and the more gruesome elements are replaced by cheesy cut-scenes (voiced for the most part, pleasingly). The focus is more on co-operative adventuring with an emphasis on exploration, uncovering all manner of secrets and using some logical thought processes to overcome the intriguing challenges and puzzles found along the way to the final destination of Mount Doom.
Exploring Middle Earth and attempting to destroy The One Ring had the potential to be a wondrous affair, with character switching and use of various collected items to carry out all sorts of tasks - such as setting fire to objects to open new pathways, building platforms for reaching new areas, piecing together specific items to cross hurdles, triggering puzzling solving sequences - and taking part in some monumental battles against foes from the fantastical world. After all, LEGO The Lord of the Rings is based upon the immensely popular movie trilogy and includes all the well known characters and locations from The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. How could it go wrong? Well, the traditional LEGO elements are not the problem, and neither is the humour. It is the execution of the gameplay (accurate platform jumping? Forget about it!) and controls that hamper everything.
There is the chance for a second player to tag along for the ride, but each person requires a copy of the game when working through. Having a friend play makes for a slightly better experience as they can avoid walking into the path of weapons fire, but those choosing to merely go it alone will not miss out too much. The adventure itself should have been more than fulfilling enough to keep any level of gamer satiated until the end. Sadly there are some terrible flaws that drag this 3DS version down, mainly in the form of frustrating controls, leading to all sorts of untimely deaths that do not come down player error. Traversing the Misty Mountains, delving deep into the Mines of Moria, and smashing through the Black Gate of Mordor, unlocking more than 80 playable characters, collecting all sorts of weaponry and magical items - it all sounds superb, right? Well, in the home console versions it comes off slightly better, but this 3DS edition really struggles and the endless amount of deaths (including the in-game partner that can be killed by your own wayward attacks) will become infuriating to the point of either wanting to throw the 3DS out of a window, or simply taking the game back for a refund.
Overall, Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Sam, Legolas and Gimli cannot save LEGO The Lord of the Rings from being nothing more than a decent adventure that misses the mark on far too many occasions.
The core is as brilliant as ever, with plenty of exploration and puzzles to engage the player, but it is dragged down far too much by poor character control and general fiddly mechanics.
The various LEGO characters are as charming as ever, but not quite as much use of the epic world from The Lord of the Rings is represented elaborately enough to make this particularly special.
Some fantastic tunes and pleasing voice acting, but unfortunately the compression does not do it any favours.
There is so much to do and so many extras to unlock that it is such a shame about the flaws that will probably turn a lot of people off before reaching the end.
LEGO The Lord of the Rings almost defies all logic, setting itself up to be one of the strongest in the LEGO line so far, showing that the formula is by no means growing stale thanks to some extremely inventive puzzles and clever use of the settings to ensure long-term fans of the legendary series are kept happy, yet all family members can equally just have as much fun. Unfortunately, the entire experience is marred by poor controls and frustrating gameplay in general and pretty much spoils that to a large degree, dragging the game down and preventing it from fulfilling its potential. Definitely a missed opportunity.