Developer: Warner Bros.
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

LEGO Lord of the Rings takes the standard formula of other LEGO video games, bringing familiar characters and settings into a light-hearted world made of LEGOs. This latest character-swapping action game puts players into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, following the Fellowship of the Ring as they try to cast the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom once and for all.

LegoLOTR-1This is a 3D action-platformer, where there’s enemies to fight but also plenty of puzzles to solve. Swapping between characters is very important as certain environmental objects can only be interacted with by one character type. This can seem complicated, but the game does a great job of holding the player’s hand in telling them who can interact with what.

Story-wise, LEGO LotR is a lot more concerned with getting across the major points and events of the story without necessarily going in too deep as to the why of everything. This is the Cliffs Notes version with subtle slapstick humor, like Gandalf whacking his head on lamps or things being dropped. I shamefully still haven’t seen the movies, but I’m familiar with the general plot points through cultural osmosis and a Two Towers game for Game Boy Advance, so I had half a clue of what was happening, if not a detailed understanding of it.

The game is much the same way – even from the beginning it’s not shy about mentioning that certain items can only be affected by certain characters whose existence is nowhere close to being revealed. There are a lot of characters too, and a lot of content for a $4.99 purchase – based on length alone, this is worth the value, and the game is charming and fun enough to be worth the cost, not even including trying to find everything in Free Play mode.

The game does have a variety of in-app purchases, mostly for additional characters to use in Free Play, but many are unlockable through spending the LEGO studs earned in-game. Multipliers of up to x10 can be had, though. All these trappings are optional; just there for people who want to play as a certain character in a certain outfit, really.

LegoLOTR-4The controls are a mess. The default touch-based controls work well enough for movement, but are clunky in combat. The virtual buttons are better, but the joystick being static makes no sense when swiping and dragging to move is available in the other control scheme. Regardless, the virtual controls are the superior option, though there is a lot of fighting of the controls in any sense.

Really, even for someone who’s criminally underexposed to Lord of the Rings, I was charmed by LEGO LOTR except for when I was fighting the controls. It’s frustrating, but fun.

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