LEGO has employed clever marketing and innovation to strengthen its classic toy building blocks brand, branching out into the fields of movies and videogames. The latest game arriving on Mac, published by Feral Interactive, is based on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films. Tolkien enthusiasts will immediately love it too, as it drops them into Bilbo Baggins’ diminutive shoes for a story campaign encompassing classic moments from An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. This is where LEGO: The Hobbit excels, in presentation and faithfulness to the franchise. Settings such as Hobbiton, Misty Mountains, Mirkwood and Rivendell feel recognisable despite the cutesy LEGO twist. Factor in the filmic musical score and authentic voice work, which includes narrator Christopher Lee, and this becomes essential for Hobbit fans.
However, it must be said that these stellar details are no longer enough for broader appeal. The strict action-puzzler gameplay offers few surprises for series veterans, becoming rather formulaic. LEGO objects are smashed, often mindlessly, until you happen on special blocks to ‘build’ routes through levels. Building is largely automatic but for the same piece-picking mini-game found in LEGO: The Movie, so it no longer feels fulfilling.
Your growing cast of characters boast abilities you must cycle through to progress, often by pure chance. Mining and collecting various objects for forging special items is a nice new touch, while Middle-Earth events are amusing side quests to sustain play. This adventure places more emphasis on combat, working in scenes of epic hordes locking swords and adding in quick time events for specific battles. A buddy system introduces the ability to combine attacks for maximum damage, too.
All these things are only really made challenging, though, by the confusing button prompts that still mar the Mac LEGO games. While third-party gamepad support
is good, the inability to relabel in-game commands to fit your controller is jarring.
LEGO: The Hobbit looks fabulous and sounds great, with enough magical moments to entertain gamers of all ages. It’s just a shame that unlike the iconic toy at its heart, this stellar series is finding reinvention a tough block to chop.