Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Enough of the pieces

Lego Lord of the Rings has either crossed the line between game with lots of hidden stuff to find and game with nothing to do but find hidden stuff (see Epic Mickey 2) or it has successfully split the two into separate experiences that live on the same disc. Before I get to over analyzing a goddamn Lego game, I will freely admit that Lego Gollum is wonderful, tossing Lego Gimli is hilarious, the little Lego touches to cut scenes almost always succeed it pulling a laugh out of me and that I would spend Texa$ dollars on a Lego balrog.

Enough fawning, time to apply grown up metrics to a game aimed at the young and young at heart. Lego games have always been packed with things that cannot be accomplished on the first time a level is played. Usually they require an ability than the current characters do not have. Solving them created wonderful non-sequiturs like having the Joker explore the Batcave or Mola-Ram running around with Short Round. Lego Lord of the Rings takes it one step further with quests that are handed our for the previous level. There is nothing difficult about them as they are simple fetch quests but there is no way to obtain the requested item prior to it being requested regardless of how carefully the previous level was played. It's the worst kind of busy work: the kind you don't get paid for.

These quests are all obtained in the levels between levels that have replaced the hub areas from the previous games. Each of these is easily the size of one of the standard levels and equally filled with things that you cannot do when you first arrive. I have even run across help text for items that I did not have yet, one of which caused a search of embarrassing length for a bucket that I would be given an hour later. The interim levels are all connected in a linear fashion and there is no quick travel between them (yet). It's long walk from the Black Gates back to Hobbiton, but if I want to retrieve every last bit of junk there is no way around it.

This is where the game splits: if I wanted to find it, I would have to walk back. There is nothing preventing me from walking forward, ignoring all the extra Lego collectibles, and enjoying the game in my own way. Lego Lord of the Rings made the part of the game that I do not play more difficult but also made it easier to ignore that part. I am content to see the Lego manifestations of  treasured fantasy characters without searching every nook and cranny for enough mithril pieces to forge the super secret hat that sets off Legolas' ears in just the right way. I am having my cake and eating it, too.

Having dialogue from the movie makes it much more enjoyable. There is nothing better than delivering your heart felt last words with a banana sticking out of your chest.

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