LEGO The Lord of the Rings review for Xbox 360, PS3

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: TT Games
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1-2
Online: No

It?s no secret that I have some fondness for the LEGO games developed by Traveller?s Tales/TT Games, and outside of a few bad eggs, they’ve been some of the most consistently fun single player and co-op experiences on this generation of hardware. LEGO The Lord of the Rings is no different, and provides players with a pretty faithful adaptation of the LOTR films in LEGO form, while carrying over new additions like open world travel from LEGO Batman 2 and voice over work, making for a sizeable adventure for those willing to dive in.

The game follows the theatrical release of the three films quite closely, with the story originating in The Shire, and ending at Mount Doom. Most of the important bits in between are covered, like the Battle at Helms Deep, the Ent assault at Saruman?s tower and so on. If you?ve got a favorite action sequence from the films, there?s a good chance you?ll play it here in LEGO The Lord of the Rings.

The core formula of the series remains largely unchanged, but there are some fun additions and departures from the norm. While you?ll still be going through a series of levels, ransacking LEGO structures to build up studs that can then be cashed in towards additional characters; you?ll do so with a pretty large party behind you. One other LEGO game, Pirates of the Caribbean, made an attempt at this that didn?t quite work due to some awful path finding. But here in LEGO The Lord of the Rings it?s pulled off extremely well. It?s really fun, and sort of epic, to see the entire fellowship strolling behind your lead character as you make your way through the Mines of Moira. And later, when the fellowship is split, there?s a lot of focus put on switching between groups in order to turn the gaze of Sauron, allowing you access to new areas when done.

Like most games in the series, LEGO The Lord of the Rings features a whole host of characters to play as. And while you?ll cover a lot of ground in the single player campaign, taking control of series favorites like Eowyn, Faramir and more, there?s nearly double the initial playing cast featured as extra unlockables once everything is done and through. And you?ll need to unlock a number of characters, as their unique special abilities will be the only way to fully complete a number of levels, provided you have an interest in uncovering everything the game has to offer.

Also, in addition to giving you most of Middle-Earth as an open world playground, LEGO The Lord of the Rings introduces unique quest givers, which will task you with finding a particular item hidden in different stages. Retrieving items will lead to different rewards, including the coveted red cheat blocks that?ll unlock options like invincibility, LEGO stud multipliers, and a whole lot more. Quest givers are a great fit for a fantasy themed game like this, and give added incentive for revisiting areas via Free Play mode. There?s also a lot of ground to cover in Middle Earth, with a number of hidden items and areas to explore.

Finally, another neat addition comes from the Blacksmith, and the ability to take mithril bricks and create useful inventory items to outfit your characters with. Mithril bricks replace your standard gold bricks found in other LEGO titles, and you?ll want to collect as many as possible for Blacksmith gear, which can come in quite handy. Gear can give your characters new abilities that are typically found only on certain characters, allowing one character to be more of a versatile tool if outfitted correctly. Again, it?s a great fit for the setting, and a fun game specific addition that gives added value to all those end of level blocks you obtain.

I absolutely endorse picking up LEGO The Lord of the Rings, whether you?re a big fan of the film series or the LEGO games. Your appreciation of the story will certainly hinge on whether you?re a LOTR fan or not, but regardless of that you?ll still have a whole lot of fun with this unique video game adaptation. It?s a blast to play through in single player and in local co-op, and despite a busy holiday season for gaming, really shouldn?t be missed.

Grade: A-