- Publisher: Warner Brox. Interactive
- Developer: Traveller's tales
- ESRB Rating: “E10" for Everyone 10+
- Genre: Adventure
- Pros: Exploring LEGO Middle-Earth; voices, music, sounds all right from the movies; tons of content; fun gameplay
- Cons: Camera occasionally hinders platforming; changes to make LotR more kid-friendly
LEGO The Lord of the Rings takes Peter Jackson's three LotR films and LEGO-fies them. In a great touch, all of the music and sound effects are lifted right from the movies and it sounds fantastic. The voice work is also directly from the movies, but sometimes remixed a bit where key phrases aren't always word-for-word here the same as they are in the movies. Because of the violent and sometimes scary nature of the story, however, some important elements are omitted here entirely (Denethor isn't in the story whatsoever, for example) or modified with that trademark LEGO humor (Boromir gets shot with giant bananas and other silly stuff) to make the game more kid-friendly. For us, it was kind of weird to have these serious scenes re-created in the game, with the real dialogue from the movie, but with goofy LEGO humor everywhere. Sometimes the humor worked. Sometimes it didn't. It was always kind of jarring, though, and doesn't work here as well as it did in LEGO Star Wars or LEGO Harry Potter or even LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. For a more serious take on LotR, you might want to consider Lord of the Rings; War in the North, which we quite liked as well.
Making up for the uneven mission selection, however, is the fact that everything is connected by a large open world that lets you literally walk from Bag End all the way to Mordor and everywhere in between in a condensed version of Middle-Earth. Visiting all of the key places and interacting with the characters is really, really cool. This is probably the best videogame version of Middle-Earth, at least the Lord of the Rings parts, we've ever had. The world is also filled with puzzles to solve and items to collect along with hidden characters to unlock. You also take quests from NPCs which usually require you to go back and find something hidden in one of the story mission levels, and then your reward is one of the red "cheat" bricks.
What also makes it interesting is that rather than gold bricks like past LEGO games, silver Mithril bricks are the main reward here. They are used to make new items like special ropes or swords or armor for characters to use. The twist is that to make the item, you first have to have the blueprint for it, which are hidden in the levels or around Middle-Earth, then you have to have enough Mithril to actually make it. It means the quests you get from NPCs are usually surprisingly lengthy and involved since you have to find multiple pieces to put everything together before you actually finish the quest.
These Mithril items, along with other items you find as you play, also contribute to the game in Free Play after you beat the story version of the missions. In LEGO LotR there are a handful of character types - Hobbits fit into small areas, Sam has rope and can make fire, Merry can use a fishing pole, Gollum can climb on special walls, Elves can use bows and jump high, Uruk Hai are strong, etc. - but most abilities can eventually be used by anyone if you equip them with the proper items. This way, instead of just character types you have to swap between to find all of the hidden items and collectibles, like it was in past LEGO games, now you also have a ton of different items that you need to first find, and then use to solve puzzles. It is an awesome setup that makes the game really interesting to play since there is so much variety to everything and most puzzles require multiple characters and several items to solve. In Free Play you can easily select any character you've unlocked as well as any of the dozens of items right from the in-game menus, so in spite of having a ton of content, it is all easy to access and use.
The core gameplay isn't drastically different from past LEGO games, you're still destroying LEGO items and then re-building new stuff, jumping around, climbing around, fighting easy A.I. enemies, and all of that stuff, but there is a lot more variety here than ever before. Each level is distinct and different and offers some new and enjoyable twist on the traditional formula. The game is just flat out fun to play. There are occasional moments, usually out in Middle-Earth when you're trying to round up collectibles, where the camera doesn't quite give you a good enough view and platforming sections can be a chore because you can't see (usually a depth perception problem more than anything), but aside from that the game controls just about perfectly.
Graphics & Sound
The sound is also great, in no small part because the sound is ripped straight from the movies. The music is just as great and memorable as you remember, and is well used here.