Lego of my Hobbit (groan)!!!
First there was Lego: Lord of the Rings, a mighty fine game that easily stands as the best game in the Lego series barring Lego Marvel. Lego: LotR was packed with all those new goodies and became a free-roam experience where you scavenged Middle Earth's iconic locations for awesome secrets and unlockables. In many ways it was the perfect Lego game and it was lovingly crafted to pay homage to the books and the films.
So when Peter Jackson released the first two Hobbit movies, amid a mixed fan reaction, we pretty much knew as gamers it was only a matter of time before the Hobbit was immortalised in Lego video game history.
What we didn't expect was the game to come out now, before the third and final Hobbit movie this year.
Lego: Hobbit takes iconic characters from the films, locations and blends them with Traveller's Tales experience at crafting fun and engaging Lego games. You'll journey from Bag End to the Trollshaws, turn trolls to stone with some clever puzzling and find yourself furry Hobbit feet, or dwarf beard to face with the mighty dragon: Smaug. You'll be left on a similar cliffhanger to the 2nd movie and rumour is that the 3rd film will come as DLC.
Personally, and don't take this the wrong way if you don't agree, we'd have preferred all 3 movies in one game like Lego: LotR.
The game is built on the same style as Lego: LotR and you'll be unlocking characters, finding mini-kits and searching out secrets in/outside of the main game's movie-based levels as well as exploring the vastness of Middle Earth as you did in LotR. The locations don't quite capture that epic feel and high that we got from the LotR game though, feeling somewhat more confined and not as well realised. Yes, you can still move from one location to the next and explore Middle Earth, but we did that in Lego: LotR and it just doesn't feel as fresh here.
The main movie levels are well done, great puzzles using a lot of the characters and the typical Lego 'tongue in cheek' humour is prevalent to take the edge off some of the movie's darker scenes. TT have lifted a lot of things from their previous games in terms of the control and there's the solid 'wheel-based' character switch system, with the ability to swap characters in/out during free play as per usual.
What's new and fun is the crafting system lifted and modified from the Lego: Movie Game, you know, that one with EVERYTHING IS AWESOME?!?
This one: Benny Rules!
Seriously though, the crafting system in that game was pretty neat. Now it's been refined and you actually require crafting materials (obtained by breaking Lego objects, killing bad guys and just general play). Once you have the required materials you can make the thing, you'll be playing that similar mini-game with a more generous timer. It's a nice little refinement that elevates this particular Lego game into the same hallowed halls as Lego: LotR.
The levels play out as you'd expect with some nice puzzle-surprises and a lot of fun action. That's the best way to describe the game really, and when you add in the good old open-world style hub there's a lot to see and do. Fetch quests are back from LotR and usually the item you're looking for is hidden away in one of the game's movie-based levels.
Combat has been given the addition of buddying-up, the dwarves et-al can join forces and perform new attacks and combos with a simple press of a button. These new buddy-up moves can also be used to solve some breaking puzzles, as well as in other ways. There's aso a stacking mechanic that allows dwarf characters armed with spears, halberds, staves or big warhammers to stand atop each other and allow a final character to climb the stack like a pole or ladder.
Many of the game's locations act as a hub from which you can freely explore, find secrets and revisit them day/night to unlock even more content. There's the slew of mithril bricks, hidden secret levels and more to play with, so like LotR, Batman 2 and Marvel you're going to be with this game for quite a long time unless you get bored. (I haven't, so far)
TT seems to be on the right track with these games, even though it's ground that we've trodden before and there's one thing about the Xbox One version of the game, it's a beautiful looking game with lots of superb visuals and graphics that ooze character.
It doesn't look too shabby on previous gen either too.
The sound design is taken directly from the movies themselves, so the dialogue is as good as it gets, with a special treat recorded by the eminent Sir Christopher (Dracula) Lee narrating with his dulcet tones between chapters of the game. It makes me want the whole Hobbit, LotR as audiobooks narrated by him in my collection ASAP.
The music, well, Howard Shore is the king of Middle Earth music and the game ripples with his great score throughout.
The only Mordor-like Sauron-mark on the game is involved with the split-screen side of the co-op. TT still hasn't fixed the problems that are prevalent in the Lego games in that regard, frequent camera issues crop up, jumping puzzles can lose you studs as you fail to land correctly with a friend and some of the mini-games suffer from bad design when you play them with two people.
Barring those issues, it's still a fun game.
The only problem may be if you have played Lego: LotR. You'll feel like you've seen and done it before, even though it's just as fun as it was then. If you're coming in fresh, there's a lot to like and if you don't mind the repeat show, there's even more to like and do in the Hobbit.
It's not a ground breaking Lego game by a long shot, but it's not terrible and that's what matters!