Top of The Blocks
Lego has handled all the big franchises in recent times: Batman and Robin, X-Men, Star Wars, Harry Potter and of course, the famous Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey. Hmm, perhaps not the last one.
Whatever. The point is that if a blockbuster film, book or other type of media exists, Lego will be there to put their spin on it, and with Lego The Lord of The Rings, they’ve done it again. Except without actually spinning.
Lego The Lord…look, let’s just agree to go with LTLOTR shall we? (And even that’s a mouthful). It’s the iOS version of the game based on the epic movie trilogy, based on the Nintendo DS game, based on…I don’t know, base jumping or something. Base, base, base. If you’ve touched anything with the word ‘Lego’ on it in the past five or six years – other than actual Lego of course- you’ll know exactly what you’re getting: a mixture of platforming, action and puzzling. There isn’t anything groundbreakingly different here from past Lego titles (although there is a lot of ground breaking), but it’s a solid plat-actioner nonetheless.
As you take control of a variety of major and minor characters from the LOTR , you toddle around Middle Earth through a story featuring great cut scenes that always had me enthralled, but none of which I fully understood. I know to die-hard LOTR fans, the entire legend is as simple as understanding a McDonald’s menu, but unfortunately, I was lost somewhere just past the first seven seconds. Don’t be offended, as cut-scenes go, that’s pretty good for me.
Each level is full of environmental puzzles which are almost the Lego series hallmark by now – you’re switching between two characters at any time, and each of their different abilities must be utilised to help you progress, as well as searching for cues from the environment itself. Many a time I was stumped about how to continue, until I spotted some platform or lever or beaver I had ignored in my previous 45 minutes running round in circles wondering if video game reviewing was actually my calling. Forget the beavers by the way. Once you’ve moved on, another puzzle presents itself, then another, then another and just as you find yourself suffering from puzzle fatigue, some orcs conveniently pop up for you to bash. How thoughtful.
Controls can be a bit unintuitive – to switch characters you tap the icon at the top of the screen, then select your player from another list at the bottom. Fair enough, but why not just tap the player directly? And casual controls involve swiping up with two fingers to make your character jump. That gets the finger from me, and not the index one.
Trying to negotiate your way across a narrow rocky path over a river of lava, or find your way successfully around a cliff face are simply precarious with the twitchy movement on offer. As you inch your way forward rather than bounding like an intrepid adventurer, I guarantee 67% of all your deaths playing this game will be from falling to your death. And yes, I understand that negotiating your way across a narrow rocky path over a river of lava is precarious at the best of times. Smarty pants.
Characters look sharp and clean, but some of the backdrops can seem a bit…blocky – I won’t ask you to excuse the pun – full voice acting featuring dialogue from the movie as well as the score gives it a LOTR seal of credibility.
It’s also less wacky in its approach, and for me that’s a bit of a shame. There are still moments of signature Lego humour, but it feels a little subdued compared to previous titles. This could be the most serious Lego game yet. Perhaps they’re branching out with the franchises they tackle, moving into more mature territory. Lego War and Peace anyone?
Lego: The Lord of The Rings is available now for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Get it now from the App Store.