Lego movie adaptations are their own subgenre at this point, having tackled Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and both Marvel and DC superheroes. With Lego The Lord of the Rings for iOS, they put the entirety of Peter Jackson’s adaptation into one game, with the same familiar gameplay but a tone that’s markedly different from other Lego games.
Adapted from the console game, Lego The Lord of the Rings is a puzzle/platformer where characters battle, explore, and solve simple environmental puzzles. Tap on an enemy and a character will fight, tap on the ground and they’ll move, two-finger tap causes them to jump, and holding on your character with one finger and aiming with the other will cause characters with ranged weapons to take targeted shots. The controls, while simple, can also be frustrating, especially those that involve more than one finger, and doubly so if you’re using an iPhone screen. Often Legolas would jump while I was trying to hit a target, jumps wouldn’t work, and the character would fall off a ledge.
Like other Lego games, you play with two characters on screen at once, though the character you’re not controlling is largely useless in fights. But even though you only see two characters on screen, you’ll have access to others. In story mode, for example, you’ll have the entire fellowship in some scenes, allowing you to take advantage of their special abilities: certain objects can only be destroyed by Dwarves or special weapons, and other objects can only be used by certain characters (Hobbits and Dwarves can use tiny tunnels, Gandalf can levitate certain objects). Aragorn can activate track puzzles, Sam can start fires, Merry can fish, and when Frodo holds the ring, he can interact with the spirit world.
All of this will feel instantly familiar to anyone who’s played a Lego game; you smash Lego objects to collect pegs, which can be used to unlock more characters. You can replay levels with new characters to explore other areas, and you’ll solve puzzles by building objects, pushing obstacles, and gathering items.
What’s missing from the game is much of the trademark humor of a Lego game. You’ll run into occasional jokes—a Snowman in the mountains, villains using bananas as deadly weapons—but the game otherwise plays the story more or less straight, with grim soundbites from the film and fewer visual gags. One of my favorite moments in gaming came during Lego Indiana Jones, when he ran past a wintery cave where Luke from Empire Strikes Back is hanging from the ceiling. There’s virtually no jokes in Lego TheLord of the Rings, to the game’s detriment.
Another weird element is that in a game that covers the entire trilogy is which scenes are simply not present. You’ll sneak Sam and Frodo past Farmer Maggot, but the Siege of Isengard is completely absent. Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard in a cutscene, but that’s the end of it. Gandalf and Aragorn never confront Saurumon. Also, objectives are either completely spelled out for you or obscure. I spent 30 minutes in Gondor trying to figure out what I needed to do to move on to the next level, before accidentally knocking out Denethor. Turns out that was it. Didn’t happen in the movie, wasn’t explained by the game.
Lego The Lord of the Rings was enjoyable enough to play, but doesn’t live up to the previous Lego games. Granted, that’s a very high bar to clear, but you’re also dealing with one of the richest, most influential stories in English history. The makers failed to take advantage of the story that was there, the material that was unexplored in the films, the controls are lacking in parts, and it’s just not as much fun as I hoped it would be.
Seller: Warner Bros
Requirements: iOS 6.0 or later
Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
File Size: 1.37 GB
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Age Rating: 9+