LEGO The Hobbit (PS4) - ReviewChris Matulich , posted on 23 April 2014 / 4,802 Views
When it comes to yearly game releases, titles like Call of Duty, Madden, FIFA, and, more recently, Assassin's Creed come to mind. There are plenty of supporters and detractors for such releases and this has spawned some vicious internet arguments. One series, however, seems to get overlooked in terms of these well-versed arguments, mainly because of its sheer attraction to both children and adults alike - the LEGO series. With bi-yearly, major license releases since 2010, TT Games has consistently developed great LEGO experiences while slightly improving upon the formula. LEGO The Hobbit is the latest release in their long line of licensed titles. While there are some slight issues, it comes as no surprise that LEGO The Hobbit continues TT Games' impressive hit streak, delivering all the LEGO fun you've come to expect alongside some welcome improvements.
Much like all of the licensed games before it, LEGO The Hobbit follows the narrative of the first two films, complete with the original score and dialogue from the movies. While it remains unchanged for the most part, there are times where parts of the narrative are mixed around or characters are added in order to enhance the gameplay, making the plot feel more forced and unnatural. Yet LEGO games never take their plots too seriously, and The Hobbit is no different, adding many humorous moments throughout the game. Though none will really have you in hysterical fits of laughter, many chuckles and chortles will be had at the sight of Gandalf being an old coot unable to stay awake, Legolas scampering away with cartoon tiptoeing sound effects, and plenty of slapstick comedy that adds to each part of the main narrative. LEGO The Hobbit finely intertwines the events of the first two movies, even to the point where the cliffhanger at the end of the second movie still leaves that sour taste of wondering if anything of importance actually happened during the movie.
Continuing with the formula that began with LEGO Star Wars, the gameplay features much of the same simplified action and puzzle solving that has helped make the series so popular. There are a total of 16 levels that can be played throughout story and free play mode, with free play mode allowing you to use the vast cast of 100+ characters in order to find each of the level’s minikits and special items. Like each entry in the series, it can be played through local co-op, but the split screen in LEGO The Hobbit uses a dynamic view that moves the screen of each player depending on how they are situated in the level, combining into a full screen when players are close enough together. Though it can get confusing at times, especially when you encounter some finicky camera angles or you get trapped in a falling death loop, the dynamic split-screen feature ultimately allows for a larger and more convenient view for each player.
Each character has at least one specific ability, such as Dwalin having a giant hammer that can be used to move extremely heavy objects, Fili being able to shoot targets with his bow, or Bilbo’s ring allowing him to interact with wraith-like objects. While there are quite a lot of characters and items to choose from - which helps make for a dynamic experience - much of the level-based puzzle solving is incredibly straightforward, and the action sequences usually take little more than a few swings of your weapon followed by a simple QTE. This simplicity does, however, bolster the game's charm as a LEGO title, and the open world gameplay in-between the story levels provides for more varied activities and quests that require a bit more brain power and skill.
You’ll access most of Middle Earth as you traverse the game’s levels, stretching from The Shire to Dol Galdur, with fast travel provided by the Eagles. Throughout the world there are NPCs who offer quests that require certain items to be either found, mined, or created at the blacksmith. Mining - a new edition to the LEGO franchise - is added thanks to the license centering around the Dwarves, and requires you to use a certain character or items to mine precious metals and gems that are then used for many different parts of the game, especially when building larger LEGO structures. Aside from building simple LEGO structures by holding down a button, you’ll also have to collect and mine materials to build larger sets, and this introduces a new minigame. After throwing in your materials, you’re brought to a new screen where the building is in construction and are tasked with adding in the missing pieces that complete the LEGO set. The faster you complete the set, the more studs you're rewarded with. It’s a welcome change to the system of building sets as it allows for more active involvement in the building process. Even though this minigame is simplistic, it’s a reasonably good attempt at creating the feeling of building a set yourself.
The blacksmith system is identical to the one found in LEGO The Lord of the Rings, requiring you to have the design, certain items, and the right number of mithril bricks to create items, with mithril bricks being granted as rewards for completing different objectives or quests during the story or free play mode. Mithril bricks can also be found all over Middle Earth. Much like fishing, mining, and nearly every other item-based minigame in LEGO The Hobbit, you’ll need to time button presses as they pass into a circle, yet with blacksmithing there are two circles, with the smaller of the two allowing you to create a shiny and non-shiny version of the item. These minigames are by no means difficult, except for perhaps a few of the mining spots.
Much of the appeal of LEGO games comes from their ability to recreate LEGO worlds with great accuracy, and like LEGO Marvel Super Heroes before it, LEGO The Hobbit recreates LEGO models and mini-figures almost flawlessly. Each LEGO character and set holds the realistic plastic gleam of fresh pieces straight out of the package, which should instantly bring out the inner child of every adult who spent time building with LEGO when they were younger. The parts of Middle Earth that aren’t constructed out of LEGO help recreate the overall feel of The Hobbit, combining the realism of the sprawling landscape with the charm of the LEGO universe to form a wonderful world to set out and explore. Enhancing the LEGO charm are the fantastic sound effects used when manipulating different LEGO pieces and using the characters’ different abilities, as well as the slapstick effects used during the story which bolster the already-great use of the two movies’ original dialogue and score.
Although they have a simplistic feel to them, LEGO games undoubtedly provide an immensely entertaining outlet for a number of licensed properties, and LEGO The Hobbit delivers another great experience. There are some new issues with the camera and its unfortunate tendency to trap you in an infinite death loop while playing co-op, and the general simplicity of the game and limited innovations to the gameplay will put off some, but LEGO The Hobbit is definitely fun to play. With a campaign that will last a good dozen hours between its story and free play mode, as well as the ability to explore Middle Earth, find mithril bricks, and purchase dozens of characters, there’s no reason why fans of LEGO games should pass this up, particularly with the third move coming as DLC in December.
This review is based on a retail copy of LEGO The Hobbit for the PS4
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