Games Gazette Logo
The HOBBIT (LEGO style):              Genre: Adventure 
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive     Developer: TT Games

   LEGO: The HOBBIT Trailer

You get to play as Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey, Thorin Oakenshield, Fili the Dwarf, Kili the Dwarf, Oin the Dwarf, Gloin the Dwarf, Dwalin the Dwarf, Balin the Dwarf, Bifur the Dwarf, Bofur the Dwarf, Bombur the Dwarf, Dori the Dwarf, Nori the Dwarf and Ori the Dwarf – each with his own useful and hilarious special ability!  Collect, combine, and forge new items in the Blacksmith Shop using Mithril, the most precious metal in Middle-earth!
Swap riddles with Gollum, Feel the power of the One Ring, collect all the hidden Lego coins and smash things up so you can rebuild them into objects of usefulness.

Play in this LEGO game is quite similar (in fact very similar) to the play in the other LEGO games, obviously especially the Lord of the Rings games. The movement is fabulous, I just love the way the LEGO characters trot around, jump and swing from weights etc and the combat is smashing fun; often literally. Put a LEGO character on a LEGO horse and I can watch it for hours - put me in control of a LEGO character on a LEGO horse and the gameplan can go out the window - it's just so much fun.

LEGO The HOBBIT is a game to really let yourself go wild with. It is like an old dungeon adventure in a way, you may remember the ones where you have to smash everything you possibly can and amongst the debris you find gold, equipment, clues etc. In the Dungeon games the wooden crates and barrels just disintegrated and either lay there as rubbish on the floor or disappeared as the built-in clutter-cleaner kicked in. In the LEGO HOBBIT the debris explodes into money that immediately swirls upwards to your character's bank (whichever character breaks the object and/or runs over the floating coins gets them) or otherwise stays on the floor shaking as a clue that there may be something you can do with the pieces - not always but often.

There are a number of characters you can play as you advance through the game and for each character there is generally a special piece (or pieces) of equipment you need to find and collect. Most of these are weapons particular to the character, such as Thorin's Orcrist as well as his personal Sword & Shield (2 pieces to find), Gandalf's Glamdring, Kili's Bow, Gloin's Axe (there is also a generic Dwarven Axe) - I could go on for some while but I am sure you get the picture.

           

I began the game playing two characters - using two controllers - running one after the other until I reached a cut-scene and they automatically caught up with each other. Most of the time when the characters are close together and you are using only one controller you can switch between them, though to be fair and although they have different weapons and special equipment, each character can basically (almost) compete at every puzzle, bust every object, collect every brick and build the special constructions. The possibility to drop in and out by connecting a second controller (apparently this isn't possible on the PC version) means that players do not have to wait if one of them has to take some time away from the game - they can drop back in at the point where the continuing player has reached as if they had never been away.

Grey stones similar to headstones occasionally pop up and by having a character attack them an onscreen message appears with a clue or a suggestion. It doesn't matter which character hits the greystone, both characters will see the message. When playing with two characters the screen splits into two separate personal views so you can see what the other characters is up to, where they are etc. The split-screen effect works extremely well and is both clearand sharp in its execution.

Graphically the LEGO backgrounds and locations are unbelievably detailed and so very like the scenes from the movies - the game at the moment being based on the first two Peter Jackson films and will culminate with downloadable content when (okay a short while after) the third movie launches. The characterisations are brilliant, the puzzles and challenges are fun yet doable and the voice talent is perfect - being mainly the cast of the movies, including Christopher Lee and Martin Freeman.

    

There are several Chapters or Levels of play that follow the film/Tolkien story towards its conclusion. Beginning in the Town of Dale. To get onto the road out of the Greatest Kingdom in Middle-Earth you have to solve the puzzles that open the locked doors. This includes pushing objects into the locks (breaking them) or climbing and swinging onto heavy weights that pull the locking bars away from the heavy doors. After Dale we make the journey to the Hobbit hole where poor old Bilbo Baggins is about to receive a horde of unexpected guests. The game follows the Hobbit's journey from then on, meeting Ogres, Giants, Gollum, Goblins, Spiders and all the scary creatures that the great man (J R R T) set in front of the little guy. Each level is conducted in a similar way but they each offer different challenges and Easter Eggs (hidden objects)

Playing the LEGO game is just like watching the movies - not the Hobbit movies, the LEGO movies ... <grins> only joking !!!  Seriously, when you play a LEGO adventure game, whether it is based on a book, movie or whatever, you get the best of many worlds. There is the play world (the world of LEGO), there is the adventure world, the world of action, the world of challenge, the fun of achievement (is there an achievement world ?) and the satisfaction of discovering the hidden objects, plus you have the extra pride and fulfilment of assembling the special objects which are needed for you to continue.

Yes, it has to be said that the LEGO Tolkien games are all quite similar - but then so are the fantasy MMO's, GTA games, CoD Ops, in fact almost every game franchise. But they all have that special something, what has been called the X Factor (just like they are looking for on the TV Show). If you can sit down for a game session and when you stop playing you are smiling and time has slipped past then you know you have been playing a good game - that's how I feel about the Hobbit (and other adventures), LEGO style.

The PS3 version, the one I have, is crystal clear and sharp as an Elven Blade. The sounds are good without being over intrusive and the entertainment is without a doubt one of the best you will encounter for a very long while, if at all. I am thoroughly enjoying playing it - no I haven't finished it yet, but that's not a problem, I have played it enough to know it is full of delights and surprises and to recommend it to anyone who has even the smallest soft spot for LEGO of any kind.
I will admit to going online and finding a walkthrough which I am using on the rare occasion I need to or want to move through the tale a little faster, though now this is written I need not hasten my gameplay (walkthrough found here). The help from this walkthrough has been mainly in finding the hidden pieces, the ones I wouldn't find on my own if I played from now until Christmas.

Like all adventure games you do need to savwe where and when and as often as you can. I got so caught up in it the first time I played I got a good couple or three hours into it without saving and then found that the preview copy I am playing still has an occasional bug - one of the characters got stuck and no amount of button pushing, stick waggling or any such combination would free him. This resulted in me having to start again and of course that meant, due to failure to save, starting again at the beginning. Luckily I remembered most of what I had to do, didn't need to hang around, and had a real fun time getting back on track, but I wouldn't want to do that too often. Save is the way to go.

So if you have any affinity to either or both J R R Tolkien's epic story and LEGO then there is a lot of fun game time coming your way whatever media version of LEGO the HOBBIT you purchase.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015