The Monday review: Lego madness
It's the final week in the lead-up to Christmas, so the blog posts for this week are going to be - most likely - reviews of games that I haven't had space for in The Press and general nonsense.
First up is a review of Lego Lord of the Rings, a great game but I wonder how much longer the Lego train can keep being fun?
Lego Lord of the Rings
From: Warner Bros
Reviewed on: Xbox 360 but on multiple platforms
There's a moment in Lego Lord of the Rings, the latest Hollywood blockbuster to get the Lego treatment, when Gandalf the Grey is battling the fiery balrog in the Mines of Moria, that made me smile and summed up how I've found the whole Lego gamification for me: fun.
The sequence in question sees the player control Gandalf - after he has uttered his immortal ''You... shall ... not ... pass'' line - as he plummets toward the balrog, at first a glowing dot in the distance, but then more menacing as Gandalf closes the gap.
Mid-flight Gandalf grabs his sword, which is also plummeting, and lands on the balrog's neck. What follows is a sequence of events that sees the wizard hack and slash at the fiery beast - avoiding his fiery attack - as they both spin toward almost certain death. They don't, and the battle ends atop a snowy tower - but Lego Lord of the Rings could well be the best game in this much-loved series.
Lego games are fun but playing this one did also make me wonder just how much longer the Lego series can continue to be fun: eventually they'll overstay their welcome, surely? We have, after all, had games based on the Star Wars movies, Harry Potter, Batman, Indiana Jones and even Rockband.
As the title suggests, Lego Lord of the Rings deals with the three LOTR movies - The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King - each infused with the humour that you only find in a Lego game. Example? During one cutscene, Gimli the dwarf scratches his backside while a noble elf is giving a rousing speech; in another, one of the main characters is shot by an orc using a bow with both a garden broom and a banana. Humour is to the fore in Lego Lord of the Rings as it always has been.
And for a first for a Lego game based on a movie, the actual dialogue and movie is pulled straight from the movies, giving the game that greater air of authenticity and feel. And like other Lego-based games, you'll get several playthroughs, once you've unlocked all the characters (there are 80 to unlock) and the freeplay option for each level.
You'll find all the familiar cast from the trilogy of movies here - Frodo Baggins, Pippin, Merry Brandybuck, Samwise Gamgee, Legolas - all Legoified and on the quest to dispose of the One Ring to Rule Them All, and while not much has changed in terms of the tried-and-true - you still smash things to collect Lego studs and constantly swap between characters to use their abilities to solve the simple puzzles - Telltale Games has introduced a few new elements, such as each character having an inventory with slots that they can use to hold items, and larger characters can also pick up and throw Gimli to out-of-reach places.
This being the second Lego game to be released in 2012 - the last one was Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes. It's a stunning looking game, too, with sharp visuals and some of the locations looking as if they'd been plucked straight from the movie - right until you wandered over to a rock to smash it to pieces so you could collect the Lego studs it contains.
It seems, though, that problems which plagued other Lego games are still here, such as characters sometimes being hard to negotiate across thin ledges, due to the unforgiving camera, them re-spawning on the edge of a cliff.
Lego Lord of the Rings is another great game in the series - and fans, both adult and child, will find much to like here - but I do wonder just how much longer the series can go on before they become too familiar and start losing some of their charm.
The only other game I've been playing a bit of is Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation, the PSVita game, and you know what? Apart from the odd frustration, I'm actually enjoying it more than Assassin's Creed 3. Perhaps it's because the main character is a woman and a bit more interesting than AC3's Connor. Look out for a review later this week.
So, what did you play over the weekend?
Other stuff you might be interested in: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here, which was actually updated recently. You should check it out.