You Shall Not Pass On This Game
The Lord of the Rings brand has become an almost sacred property. So beloved are the books and movies that expectations have grown to proportions nearly as epic as the journey the nine must make to Mordor to destroy the one ring. So how can familiar and exceptional stories be reworked into the video game medium while maintaining the elements that breed popularity while expanding the universe and reaching innovation? Throw LEGOs into the mix. Boom. This is LEGO Lord of the Rings, and you need it.
Tolkien’s massive tale of power, corruption, love, adventure, and orcs transitions into the LEGO universe with ease. That said, the iOS version is definitely smaller than previous releases. LEGO Lord of the Rings will be especially familiar to those who played last year’s handheld or PC/Mac versions of the title, but whether through platform limitations or conscious choice for mobile style of play, everything has been diluted.
Encounters and boss battles play out a bit differently, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. It is, however, something to be aware of for those who are curious. In other words, there are more expanded iterations of this game floating around and just about all unnecessary mechanics have been cut, so should LOTR fans wish to experience a deeper adventure they might be better off playing the more expensive bigger brother versions.
Mobile or not, there is no denying that Warner Bros. have executed a fantastic game. The LEGO gaming brand has long been known to infuse subtly humorous moments into not-so-humorous properties, and these spoofs fit with LOTR surprisingly well. For example, the opening moments—Cate Blanchett/Galadriel’s speech from The Fellowship of the Ring film transposed over LEGO versions of the same events—provides a moment where one of the kings of men drops his newly-gifted ring.
It’s a dumb sight gag, a fleeting moment, but one that sets the stage for countless other blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes. And yet, despite these gags, Warner Bros. has achieved a more grownup tone to the overall package. The lore at play here is nothing if not dark, and the impact of certain events is conveyed with seriousness and respect.
Packed with gameplay and content, LEGO Lord of the Rings stands strong on the three tenets of exploration, combat, and puzzle solving, and mechanics and overall execution are tight. There are central hub areas with shops to check out (Rivendell, The Shire, etc.) and you’ll even travel into the realm of the wraiths upon wearing the iconic ring. It’s just plain cool.
Perhaps even more exciting than the content is that, for once, touch controls are implemented in a clever and functional manner. You character moves either by tapping the location to which you wish to travel or by virtual joystick. Combat is utilized by tapping enemies or by other innovative means like drawing a circle around your character for a power attack. There are certainly questionable design choices such as a two-finger jump technique that is best described as maddening. Still, there are so many characters to unlock, so many collectibles to find, so many orcs to slay that you’ll be too busy accomplishing these tasks to worry about controls that aren’t pitch-perfect.
If there is one deal-breaking flaw, it is the lack of mid-level checkpoints. Chapters aren’t what you would call exceedingly long, but making sure you have the wherewithal to complete a level is key to avoiding frustration. Additionally, events that occur during The Two Towers seem to be criminally overlooked, especially considering it’s the coolest book of them all. Hell, Shelob alone is almost enough to overlook this shortcoming, and film fans probably won’t even notice.
It all comes down to one question: have you had enough Lord of the Rings? Certainly many gamers have seen the films, read the books, and dissected the fiction – so what does LEGO Lord of the Rings have to offer that is new? For starters, the novel take on the subject matter is a nice derivation from the formula. LEGO games are straight up fun to play, goofy or not, and despite minor limitations here and there, this is a benchmark for both mobile gaming and fantasy fans to enjoy. If the number one goal of gaming is to have a good time, then this is a great way to do just that.