Travellers Tales have made a game based on The Hobbit, not a dark, violent semi -sequel starring an undead ranger murdering his way through Mordor, nor a loosely affiliated MOBA staring characters from the films and books but having very little to do with either : It is a Travellers Tales game, and that means LEGO.
LEGO means comfort; well it does to me anyway. Sometimes you just want a game where you know the rules and can sit back and have fun. There’s something about the LEGO games that always keeps me coming back to them; that air of familiarity and simple pleasures. They’re a happy place. A comforting fire, a good smoke and some hearty grub: they are the gaming equivalent of The Shire.
If you have ever played any other LEGO game you’ll know exactly what to expect from LEGO: The Hobbit: an anarchic and often hilarious retelling of Peter Jackson’s latest opus (well the first two parts of it anyway) combined with a familiar mix of platforming, puzzle solving, mindless destruction and grabbing anything that isn’t nailed down to become a ‘True Burglar’.
LEGO: The Hobbit also see the return of my favourite new feature from The LEGO Movie Videogame; building larger structures using instructions via a mini game in which you have to find the right pieces slowly building up the layers of all kinds of weird and wonderful contraptions until they are complete. However, this time rather than being linked to Emmet’s innate ability to follow the instructions, it is linked to a new LEGO loot and mining system that taps into the Dwarves love of digging stuff up as well as giving the games wanton acts of vandalism more of a point. Need more wood for that catapult? Break up that table and chairs over there. Need more copper? Bofur can dig it up with his pickaxe.
An even greater importance is placed on teamwork than in previous entries as well, thanks in part to the new buddy system that has the dwarves linking arms in order to overpower larger foes and tear down parts of the scenery by spring boarding and swinging each other at whatever they want to destroy. Many of the game’s puzzles now also require you to use several characters in conjunction with each other in order to explore parts of the environment for example having one Dwarf swing on a vine and then the next be thrown by them to get over gaps or lance and hammer wielding members of the company balance on each other’s heads so another can climb up them like a ladder to reach high areas.
There are of course also character specific actions like Bibo’s ability to use the Ring to turn invisible and Bombur’s gut can be used as a spring board once you’ve fed him enough grub as well as the usual puzzles that require the use of certain weapons such as bows , catapults and axes. However, unlike previous games these aren’t all bound to one particular member of your group. This makes a weird kind of sense seeing as there are up to eight characters that you can potentially control on the screen at any one time. But it also makes many of the party feel somewhat superfluous and interchangeable, but the same could easily be said of the Dwarves in the films.
Come to think of it, the few minor problems that the game has are mostly down to the source material, the chief of these being the fact the game only covers the first two movies in the trilogy, ending somewhat abruptly in the same manner the film did. I won’t spoil it for those of you that haven’t seen The Desolation of Smaug but considering what comes directly before it, both the film and game feel like a damp squib, as if the real ending has been walled off for the inevitable final act – The Hobbit: The Quest for More Money.
To make up for this, Telltale have made sure that there is plenty to do after the credits roll. There’s numerous side quests dotted all around the games relatively large map, mithril tools to smelt, ore to mine, animals to heal and all kinds of fun little asides to be getting on with. As well as the usual replay value inherent in getting everything you can out of each of the games levels.
That’s not to say that the journey to the lonely mountain isn’t a lot of fun, because it is. Telltale have once again shown their talent for retaining the essence and feel of the source material perfectly whilst putting their own idiosyncratic spin on things. Highlights include the Dwarves dash through Goblin town, bobbing down the river to Lake Town and every scene that features Smaug (How can you not love a giant LEGO dragon voiced by Benedict Cumberbach?). Although my personal favourite is the recreation of the dishes scene from An Unexpected Journey that Telltale have recreated as a rhythm game that work in a similar manner to the dancing sections in the LEGO Movie videogame.
In short, LEGO: The Hobbit, is a very fine game, one I am very fond of, the latest addition to a slowly evolving body of work that continues to charm and entertain with each new iterative entry and I would recommend that you add to your collection. With that out of the way, fancy a smoke?