The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Certain elements always carry over between Lego games, regardless of the attached franchise. The series has found a winning combination of action, exploration, and puzzle-solving, so getting familiar experiences doesn’t kill the fun. Some might say that Lego The Hobbit goes too far; several characters, locations, and concepts are recycled from 2012’s Lego Lord of the Rings. However, that title wasn’t just my favorite Lego entry – it was also my favorite game adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary universe. Instead of being outraged at the repurposed material, I am happy to have another reason to retread Middle-earth brick by brick.
The core elements of the Lego formula are all intact. Using a wide cast of Tolkien’s characters, players smash and jump through stages based on the iconic settings from the films. I looked forward to seeing key moments represented in Lego form, and I wasn’t disappointed. TT Games strikes the perfect balance between remaining faithful and injecting humor, whether you’re watching two stone giants fight or sneaking around a dragon.
The action is not complex or challenging (apart from some occasionally spotty platforming), but it provides simple fun for solo players or co-op duos of all ages. Simple puzzles are scattered throughout, requiring you to use specific characters to overcome obstacles, like Gandalf blasting blue bricks with magic, or two hobbits using a buddy-up move to break barriers. Slightly more involved solutions are required if you’re trying to collect every item and secret by replaying levels, but you can engage in that kind of post-game play as much or as little as you want.
Like Lego LOTR, I had the most fun after the credits rolled. With the story missions complete, you have an entire world to explore. Unlock your favorite characters, earn cheats to amass a fortune in studs, and perform quests for Middle-earth citizens in need. The variety of activities is improved over the last installment, but still not ideal. Expect to fetch or craft a lot of items for people, though most of these objects are useful in your adventures, too.
The biggest step down in Lego The Hobbit is the addition of a more complicated – but not better – crafting system. As you smash objects, you collect new resources like gems, metals, and food. These are used for performing special builds in designated places and in crafting Mithril items (which no longer depends solely on collecting Mithril bricks). The problem is, if you run out of an item you need, you either have to hunt more down (which is tedious and time-consuming) or buy them at high prices (which is a hassle). Neither option is fun, and the whole process just puts up an unnecessary roadblock between you and the cool thing you want to do. I appreciate the desire to set Lego The Hobbit apart from it predecessor, but this “innovation” does more harm than good.
One of the strangest things regarding Lego The Hobbit isn’t part of the game at all. Warner Bros. decided to release the game to coincide with the home video release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second movie in the series. That means the story doesn’t actually conclude – it stops right where the second movie does, then drops you in the world for free play. As jarring as that may be, the gameplay doesn’t suffer. With all of the side quests and collectibles, Lego The Hobbit is a complete and entertaining game. If you were counting on the Lego version of a movie adaptation of a 70-year-old book to deliver an unsullied narrative experience, you were expecting too much anyway.
This review pertains to the PS4 version of Lego The Hobbit. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment did not provide us with early copies of the game on other systems. Lego The Hobbit is also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Vita, 3DS, and PC on April 8. A Wii U version will be available on April 22.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.