Lets be honest, previous Lord of the Rings titles have been about as much fun as choking from asphyxiation from the thighs of Vanessa Feltz, and equally as attractive. The series though has nothing to be particularly apologetic for, as very few cinematic experiences make a successful transition to the simulated screen, with many misinterpreted intentions. But where others have failed, the Lego franchise confidently strides on with tenacity empowering every assured step, looking to successfully mould another beloved series into plastic greatness. Your instant reaction is one of nostalgic wonder, as you attempt to control your inner geek from squealing like an Essex pig as you enter the Shire for the first time, or stare helplessly at the beautifully rendered, fully explorable middle earth. There is of course a set path that your eventually have to indulge in to progress to the next area, but deviating from the highlighted path, or illuminated studs in this instance, is instantly rewarding allowing for further variations of exploration as you uncover special blocks to unlock further trinkets.
The story follows the movies faithfully, with only minor alterations that allow the game to flow. It’s not attempting to reinvent the series, nor is it ripping off the existing template and making it more palatable for a younger, less astute audience. It’s just an engaging retelling with vibrant plastic building blocks, that has an incredible understanding of its own context as well as its sense of humour. Its confident in its own ability to mock as well as beautifully encapsulate the moments of tension, poignancy and epicness. It’s the humourous touches that really sparkle, such as the Black Gates opening for a pizza deliverer, or the Nazgul bursting into the Prancing Pony, prepared to….use the facilities?! It’s these moments of hilarity that shouldn’t, and wouldn’t fit comfortably in the core presentation of the movies, that strangely establishes LEGO LOTR’s dominance.
The entire cast has been wonderfully reanimated into little plastic bricks, faithfully depicted with only minor, noticeable variations to they’re personalities, accompanied by their respected voice talents lifted straight from the movies themselves. Aragorn’s chivalrous good looks and glistening hair swaying eloquently in the wind is thoughtfully mocked, with Gimli continually weeping at….. well everything, as he’s consolidated by the distinguished, more composed elf, Legolas. The interactions between these varied, intrepid adventurers are still as touching, just with a little humidity and charm to distinguish itself from the movie its inspired from, with Borimers heroic demise handled with the same overarching poignancy, competently portraying the antagonistic sensitivity of the situation with due diligence and care….but is instead fatally wounded by bananas rather than arrows! Each character has their own specific attributes, allowing for much more varied gameplay, with familiar set pieces carefully, meshed and accurately portrayed in LEGO form. From the Shire, to the Mines of Moria, to fiery heart of Mount Doom, they’re all accounted for. You could carelessly discard hours just captivated by the familiar surroundings of the movies.
The music, themes and pathos have been rendered to great effect and beautifully envelops the series as a whole, though it is rather let down by its Co-operative play, or more specifically, its erratic camera angles. Its adjustments are dependant on the distance between you and your accomplice, as it tries desperately to synchronise with your movements, but rather than splitting into 2 separate screens the camera functions much like a security system, operated by one panicked adolescent, spinning the camera wildly which is both distracting, and oddly nauseous, particularly when differing events are occurring on both screens simultaneously. Theres also no online play, which is probably for the best considering that communication is a necessary requirement when attempting to decipher the more obscure puzzle sections. With the right communicating etiquette, any puzzle is instantly solvable to the point where you begin to feel a little weak-minded for your previous apprehensions. Curiously though, at a much later junction, I did discover a bug that prevented me from pressing the designated button to progress, though thankfully a save was made before my encounter restricting repetitiveness to a minimal, and is not likely to become a lingering problem.
The map is so vast that it can be initially overwhelming, with an almost encroaching sense of trepidation faltering your progress, with puzzles that can be meticulous and often frustratingly unclear, but what LOTR’s has to its credit is a fully explorable interpretation of Middle Earth, albeit through the medium of the LEGO brand. The cultural significance of this series can’t be overstated enough, and it was imperative that the acceptable humour is delivered appropriately, without hindering the dramatic sequences to avoid alienating existing passionate fans, which achieves with some aplomb. LEGO Lord of the Rings is certainly no trinket, but something very, very precious. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Have you played LEGO Lord Of The Rings? If so what are your impressions of it?