I keep telling myself that I’ll get bored with the next LEGO game, and that Traveller’s Tales can’t possibly maintain their string of advances with every title. Then LEGO The Hobbit gets released, and not only am I happy to swallow my assumptions, but also, I’m somewhat convinced the developers read my prior reviews for the other LEGO games. If you are another long-time Tolkien fan who felt personally slighted by the latest Hobbit movie, well then, don’t fret! Not only is this game of the movie ridiculous fun, but Traveller’s Tales have my undying gratitude for respecting the story, and for intentionally poking fun at the parts of the movie that were so laughably out of place.
First and foremost, the presentation of LEGO The Hobbit was far and away the most beautiful release from Traveller’s Tales. The cinema-quality cut scenes and action sequences crafted an impressive interactive retelling of The Desolation of Smaug. The lighting effects alone created surroundings that seemed so lifelike until little, squared off plastic men began trudging on screen. Even then, though, the effects and animation were so great that not only did they not look out of place, but I wished the entire Desolation of Smaug was a film made by LEGO. Every level was easily traversable, and the irritating two-player “vision pulling” is all but a thing of the past.
In terms of narrative, how could you possibly go wrong with a story that’s already written and proven to be insanely popular? By following the path of the film adaptions, in lieu of the original literature, and still calling it “The Hobbit,” of course! The game is advertised as “The Hobbit,” and not as the game of the recent movies, therefore, I know I’m not alone when I say that I was disappointed to have my playthrough cut short at the same point where the Desolation of Smaug ended. The rest of the play through, as far as the narrative is concerned, was still enjoyable, though. Most of all were the occasions where the developers poked fun at the deviations from the books, which the movie offered. Namely, the wheelbarrow down the river of gold becomes a comical golden windsurfer and fits the tense scene while still maintaining its ridiculousness. The same goes for the Lake Town rumble ending with Legolas chasing Bolg with just a tad too much CG too be believable; TT offers up a giggle by having Legolas run up walls, akin to “The Exorcist”, and ride off on a barrel while accompanied by cartoon music.
The game’s core design gave us an expansive world to comprehensively relish, and let us do so with many improvements to the location detail. In other LEGO games, it would not have been possible to walk up the side of certain mountains, but The Hobbit’s design allows for discernable paths where there would customarily only be unreachable inclines. Some areas on the map made no sense to the story, such as Bree, but the locations were so moreish that I played well into the 25 hour mark just to do all of the map justice. The only other aspect of the game which I felt let it down was the loading screen narration. While the pre-level story art and gameplay introductions utilized a very functional and fitting narration, it was the bridging narration that ultimately let it down. The narrator, Christopher Lee, has one of the greatest voices in all of creation, and his audio book of The Hobbit is well spoken “ear-honey.” However, its insertion here felt out of place as the audio quality fell well below that of the rest of the sound, and it also followed the actual book; not the movie storyline that was implemented.
Of course, I saved the best for last: the gameplay review. As I mentioned earlier, Traveller’s Tales have obviously taken on board everything fans and players have submitted in their feedback, and as such, they have implemented several changes. The action sequences are smooth and satisfying, with quick response moves, and the same goes for the new combos and special moves that are individual to each character. Only a few of the dwarves have any separating skills, but they are all useful. LEGO The Hobbit also uses an auto-change function for interactive areas, which means if you walk up to a fire or breakable brick with your axe in hand, your character will automatically change what they have equipped, to the object needed; so long as they carry it. This saves time and all the messing about on item catalogues. The entire functionality of this latest LEGO game shows a dynamic and evolving franchise that once again made a “better” game, instead of simply churning out just “another” game.
I was disappointed when I realised that I’ll be stuck with a LEGO version of Desolation of Smaug, until the rest of the game is released. However, any narrative woes pale in comparison to how much good, clean fun I’ve had with this game. I tell myself these are kids games, but I believe that’s just because of the lack of graphic violence and “f-bombs.” Honestly, The Hobbit will always be one of my favourite tales, and I loved the care-free way I could re-enter that world through a LEGO game. I have not forgiven the existence of Tauriel or the invented love-story in the movie, but TT retains my loyalty by giving story additions like that a comic do-over. I’m looking forward to the rest of the release, but until then, I suggest you all jump in your physics-ruining wheelbarrows and enjoy the ride.