Review :: LEGO Lord of the Rings

You should probably let this one pass...

Written by Super User

Published Thursday, 27 December 2012 19:00

Write your own review !

EDITOR’S NOTE: As both the console and handheld versions carry a tremendous amount of similarities, this review is similar to the console review, only with some tweaks added to address the handheld entry...

The Lego video game franchise has seen its highs and lows in the past. It was kicked off at a good start with the well received Lego Star Wars games, but continued onward with other licenses garnering a relatively unbalanced reception. Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars were arguably the low points of the franchise, but both Lego Batman and Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes had the advantage of original stories and even voice acting to boost the series to new heights. However, with a trilogy of films like Lord of the Rings, it could be easy to take another step back into those low areas once again. So does Frodo’s journey propel the Lego video games to newer levels, or does its fixed story make it feel like more of the same? While the home console versions of Lego Lord of the Rings bring the series to new heights, the same can unfortunately not be said about the far inferior handheld version.


The concept is so simple, even a Dwarf could understand it. Take some of the most well known licenses in pop culture and make a family friendly casual game with a Lego coat of polish. With Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean getting the plastic brick treatment, it was only a matter of time before Lord of the Rings had its turn. Lego Lord of the Rings’ spans all three film-adapted stories consisting of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King. As you probably know, the plot of the films takes a seat in the back of the bus while the series’ familiar tongue-in-cheek humor and family-friendly gameplay are the main attraction.

"If you’re looking for a unique experience with this game’s 3DS version, look elsewhere. You’ll find nothing more than a very watered and stripped down ghost of a great gameplay experience."

If you’ve spent time with previous entries in the Lego video game franchise, gameplay will largely feel familiar. Players will progress through a series of stages hitting all the most Lego accessible moments in the Lord of the Rings trilogy with some family friendly changes. Stud collecting, enemy hack and slashing, character unlocking, and some light puzzle solving permeates the experience. Free play mode also makes its obligatory return, allowing you to play through every stage with a variety of characters for even more item collecting. All the familiar Lego fun is present...which is unfortunately where the gameplay stops on the 3DS. Unlike the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, Lego Lord of the Rings for the 3DS has no customizable inventory, free roaming, or sidequests, eliminating any and all RPG elements that were so franchise-evolving on the home console versions. However, the most undoubtedly discouraging loss is free roaming. Lego Batman 2’s handheld editions shares the same unfortunate fate as Lego Lord of the Rings, and continues the tradition of being a huge disappointment. If you’re looking for a unique experience with this game’s 3DS version, look elsewhere. You’ll find nothing more than a very watered and stripped down ghost of a great gameplay experience.

Yes, "stripped down" describes Lego LOTR for 3DS pretty well, but sometimes it can even be an understatement. You know you’ve got a problem on your hands when the double jump feature is removed completely, aside from Elf characters. This change is unjustified, and makes entirely no sense. Having Elf characters double jump proves the 3DS can handle the woes of double jumping mechanics, so what’s the point of getting rid of it for everyone else? The pointless and gameplay worsening changes don’t stop there though, no, this time Legolas’ sword melee attacks have been completely removed. Yup, now you have to destroy the Lego bush directly in front of you with your arrows from point blank range. Even Gimli has to "learn" his jumping axe move along the way, rather than just giving it to us as soon as we can control him. The experience only gets worse with the omission of your item inventory that made the console version so unique.


If the one dimensional gameplay wasn’t enough to scare you away, the technical issues probably will. It isn’t very often you’ll struggle with enemy hit boxes, but in this game, you will. Too many times did my character randomly hack and slash at the enemy to my right even though I was pointing the circle pad directly towards the enemy facing my front. To make things even more sad, this game engine can’t seem to handle the literal armies of enemies on screen from the console version. Often times I’d have trouble targeting the correct enemy when I was only being ambushed by a terrifying count of four Goblins in the mines of Moria. Things only get worse when enemies have next to nothing of an attack reaction, allowing them to annoyingly chop you up regardless of the progress you are making on their remaining health.

As dull as this 3DS version can get, there is some light in the murky darkness of the gameplay. Surprisingly, a lot of fun gameplay mechanics from the console versions remain here. Legolas can still shoot arrows onto acrobat targets, and he can still swing on them. Throwing rocks at objects to progress through the level remains, though target assist is eliminated. Gimli can still be hilariously tossed, though the opportunities are more restricted on the 3DS. Even the ability to climb Lego coated walls is available for all characters here, unlike the console version where you needed to play as Gollum to do so. Additionally, while true free roaming isn’t present, there are a few obviously more "open" environments to explore with a camera that can be controlled by the two shoulder buttons. Many of the fun gameplay elements from the console versions don’t go away, but they are unfortunately still stripped down for an inferior handheld title.

While there is plenty to unlock in the 3DS version, it is once again very watered down. Free play mode allows you to replay your already finished levels with any character you please, so you can reach those unreachable areas from before. True Adventurer status can still be reached if you fill up that Lego stud meter, and you can still get your hands on all the little collectibles from the console version. Of course the big problem with obtaining these extras is that it’s both less thrilling and interesting with the omission of free roam and side quests. It’s enjoyable to be wandering Middle Earth and suddenly have an Orc walk up to you and ask you for a favor. It’s fun to be searching every nook and cranny for a new item while you’re traveling on your horse. On the 3DS, you’ll be restricted to the linear design of the levels when it comes to extras, and you may get bored quickly.


The presentation may have been the best thing about Lego LOTR for home consoles...but on the 3DS, it’s the exact opposite. Both sound and visual presentation have received the lowest level of dedication on this handheld version, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. In every Lego game, the environments have been slightly realistic with usually only the interactive objects being actual Lego objects. This is what makes the areas in the Lego games so visually appealing. However, this 3DS version of Lego LOTR is so poorly polished that nothing pops out. The non-Lego environments look grainy and dull, and combined with the Lego objects, it isn’t a very pretty sight. To make the gameplay sections even worse, the epic feel of the fights is nowhere to be found here. At the beginning of Fellowship, you’re supposed to have an epic fight with an army of Orcs as well as the evil Sauron, right? Wrong. In this version, you do battle with bursts of two or three Orcs at a time in a very claustrophobic and dull rocky environment. The 3DS can handle more than this. This isn’t a matter of hardware, it’s a lack of dedication.

The problems with presentation only get worse from there. Gameplay is one thing, but to use the exact same cinematic sequences from the console version and still make them look a lot worse is just depressing. On the home consoles, the cinematic videos look vibrant and beautiful. On the 3DS, the colors are washed out, the graphics look too pixelated, and the audio, still being the audio from the films, manages to sound like a bootleg theater recording. Once again, this is not a matter of the 3DS’ limitations as games like Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance prove the handheld can have absolutely gorgeous and eye popping cinematic sequences. These handheld Lego games use an outdated engine, and if the games are to stack up to the console versions, a change needs to be made.

Final Focus

With their pick up and play attitude, the Lego franchise sort of lends itself to handheld systems due to people often playing the games in quick, short bursts. This is why these handheld versions of the Lego games are so saddening. You’re not getting the same experience as the home console version by any means. The gameplay is inferior and the visual presentation is even more so. There may be a little fun to be had here for some people of a certain age group, but even then, it may be few and far between. Lego Lord of the Rings for the 3DS is merely a very thin and virtually broken shell of an extremely fun and beautiful game.


+ Could be fun for kids?
- Stripped down, inferior gameplay - No RPG elements from console version - Dull environments - Washed out cinematics

Final rating
4.0 / 10
More Nintendo 3DS reviews
2013-08-01 :: Project X Zone
2012-10-26 :: Spy Hunter
2012-08-12 :: Heroes of Ruin
2012-04-18 :: Kid Icarus: Uprising
2012-03-23 :: CRUSH3D
2012-02-09 :: (eShop) Zen Pinball 3D
2011-11-17 :: Super Mario 3D Land
Game details
LEGO Lord of the Rings
Release date : 2012-11-18
Platform :
Publisher : Warner Games
Developer : Traveller’s Tale
Gameplay : Action-Adventure

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