The Lego games based on popular movie franchises are known for being fun as well as funny, and LEGO: The Lord of the Rings is no exception. With the release of a mobile version, the journey to Lego Mordor is now conveniently pocket-sized. As a fan of the console game my expectations were high, but I had my doubts. How could they shrink an already scaled-down version of such an epic story?
For the uninitiated, a Lego game follows the plot of the movie on which it’s based, often with adorable shot-for-shot remakes of key scenes, starring CG Lego minifigs. Gruesome or particularly dark scenes are usually swapped for some kind of comic relief to keep things kid friendly, and to fit with the goofy aesthetic of a bunch of hopping, plastic toys.
After learning the basic controls in the prologue / tutorial (where Isildur is supposed to destroy the ring but totally ruins everything) you play as Frodo and Sam in the Shire, adding more characters as your fellowship grows and the plot expands. Perhaps my favorite mechanic from these games, and the reason why so many of them are so popular, is the unique abilities given to different characters. For example, Sam can equip a shovel and use plants to solve certain problems, while Merry can equip a fishing pole and retrieve hidden items out of the water. While it’s not really “canon” it adds a layer of whimsy and complexity to the gameplay beyond simply walking to Mordor (and smashing every piece of Lego scenery for coins). It’s well done and stays with the general spirit of the characters, all while adding replay value to the different levels. At least, if you’re a completionist like me (who won’t rest until you unlock Gimli and return to the Shire to unlock that one piece of loot with the Dwarven Axe).
Unfortunately, a few things don’t quite translate over onto the mobile version. For one, though the graphics and music are as stunning as they are on the console, the action hasn’t been properly scaled for a small screen, which caused some eyestrain and headaches. For another, the game-saving mechanic was not designed for players on the go. If you exit the game in the middle of a level, say, to check the time or send a text message, you’ll have to start the level over again.
But the main thing lacking from this title is co-op mode, which, while not necessarily a deal breaker, was my favorite aspect of the console version. It added a level of teamwork to the story missions. One person could be using Sam’s tree planting ability to further the level while another person collects coins. Or, someone could play a human character and carry (or throw!) a smaller character and act out strategy in real time. A game centered on so many different minifigures feels lonely with just one player. Just like in the book: Frodo tries to go it alone, but in the end he needs Sam. Maybe I’m just a sentimental nerd, but I feel like a key component of this story (and the game) is friendship. I don’t want to walk to Mordor by myself.
That aside, the game is still fun to play. If you like action games, Lego, The Lord of the Rings, or any combination of those things, and certainly if you liked the console game, you’ll like this one too. It’s certainly one of the best Android Action games I’ve played in a while. You have my bow. Let’s do this.
Is it Hardcore?
While the absence of a co-op mode is noticeable, this game packs the same punch as the console version.