Monday, November 26, 2012

Video Game Review: "Lego Lord of the Rings"

Posted By on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 5:44 PM

I'm not a hardcore gamer, but I've got my franchises: "Resident Evil" (except I'm ready to bail on "Evil" after the lackluster "RE 5" and the dreadful "RE 6"), the Batman "Arkham" series, and the "Lego" games by Traveller's Tales.

The "Lego" games are endlessly inventive -- I've played all of them -- and I often find myself wide-eyed with admiration for the designers. The worlds are richly imagined, the interplay between the characters is often amusing, and there is a ton of replay value.

"Lego 'Lord of the Rings'" is clearly influenced by its progenitors: the "ghost studs" that appeared in the first Lego Harry Potter are here, for example. The map is thankfully more intuitive and easier to use than the map in "Lego Batman 2" -- though you still have to go through a few steps to get there. (Can't we have the map somewhere on the screen for constant access, with a blow-up option?)

There are no prisoners to rescue, though you are asked to complete a number of quests for random villagers, Orcs, and ginger lumberjack types. (Seriously, let me stop saving the world for a few hours so I can go look for your soup pot.)

I have not read the Tolkien books, and have seen only fleeting glimpses of the movies, so I worried that ignorance of the source material would hinder my enjoyment of, and ability to complete, the game. Those fears were unfounded, however. I'm making do just fine. Having played previous Lego games helps.

I love "Lego LOTR," but the game has some killer glitches -- frankly, the most and the worst I've ever encountered in a Lego game -- and what I assume to be design flaws. I'm playing on a PS3 and the game has frozen several times. Other times, the game gets "stuck" and you can't proceed. Example: in the "Taming Gollum" level, you're supposed to use Sam to tie Gollum up, after you've lured him down with a fish. The prompt to use the rope appeared, then disappeared and never came back. As a result, Gollum sat there tearing at his fish until I restarted the game.

Without a doubt, though, the most frustrating component is the character switching. If a task requires me to be a certain character, but my partner is already that character, the action simply switches to my partner. And in the half-second it takes to switch back, my original character has reversed all the progress I've made. Sometimes the action switches to my partner even when I'm trying to be a different character.

Maybe the game tries to do too much. Buttons have several uses and the game doesn't always correctly intuit which action I'm trying to accomplish. And Legolas' aim sucks.

Bottom line: Great game, but the glitches are maddening.

Anyone know the next TT title?

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