This is a Lego game full of standout moments, partly because it wisely takes those standout moments from the films. Sneaking past the Black RIders on the path to Bree becomes a tense passage of puzzles and (very simple) cat-and-mouse stealth. The siege of Helm’s Deep becomes a series of battles, crowned by a glorious sally right out of The Two Towers. Frodo and Sam’s escape from Nazgul in Osgiliath becomes a brilliant sequence of combat and puzzling, as you switch between Frodo, Sam and Gollum in one plane of the action, and Faramir providing support with his bow in the other.
And, like Lego Batman 2, Lego Lord of the Rings is a game of hidden depths. As with every Lego game, there’s the lure of collecting characters, retrying missions with new heroes and new abilities, and working your way towards the maximum score in each level. Even before you’ve cracked the main adventure, you’ll start to note secrets, additional side-quests and the huge number of forge designs and characters dotting the landscape, In every town and major location there’s someone wanting something, whether it’s just a lost pot or a Mithril top hat. Getting them what they want won’t be easy - some of these missions involve multiple activities - but it’s the only way to get yourself the perks that will make 100% completion that bit more possible.
Combine these more sophisticated bonus objectives with the massive explorable landscape, and you have a Lego game with an already very meaty main campaign, but an even more satisfying endgame. It’s always fun in single-player, but it positively shines when played in split-screen co-op, which is how any Lego game should ideally be played.
Lego Lord of the Rings has its share of minor problems. The way the B button doubles as an inventory button and an action button causes the odd annoying slip-up, and fixed camera angles make a handful of precision jumps as frustrating as they were in previous games. It’s not always quite clear enough where you have to go and what you have to do in the side quests, and some of the features of the map aren’t really explained - you’re left to work them out for yourself.
As complaints go, though, we’re talking pretty small beer - the kind of niggling that had some people moaning about Fellowship of the Ring because the Tom Bombadil bits had been mercifully cut out (funnily enough, Tom does make it into the game), The fact is that this is a brilliant, hugely enjoyable and richly satisfying game, that works as well as an affectionate tribute to the movies as it does a game to play with the kids.
Not simply the best Lego game to date but the best adaptation of The Lord of the Rings as well. Refinements to the Lego formula make the bash and build gameplay even more entertaining, and a deeper, richer questing and collecting end game make this a serious keeper. Best of all, it’s a hugely lovable homage to an exceptional series of films. You’d need to be a Nazgul not to love it.