Traveler’s Tales, why do you hate Vita owners? I love the LEGO games. Even though they are kids’ games they are some of the most relaxing and palette cleansing fun I have ever had in the modern video game era. Having a good LEGO game on the go would be a great addition to the Vita’s library, but once again we have just been treated to another 3DS port that doesn’t match up the Vita’s potential. While the Vita has yet to have a legitimate LEGO game I can say that LEGO The Lord of the Rings is a better made game than LEGO Batman 2.
LEGO The Lord of the Rings, like its console counterpart, tells the story of the three movies and does so with the movie voice-overs in the game. This was actually the first LEGO game to be announced with voice acting- it’s just that LEGO Batman 2 released first, so we should be able to move past the whole “Oh my god LEGO people are talking!” aspect and just focus on the other issue, which is the super serious movie dialogue mixed in with the silly actions of the LEGO universe. TheLord of the Rings for the most part is a serious story with straight forward dialogue and the LEGO games have legitimately been some of the funniest experiences I have had in gaming; these two aspects collide in very heavy hitting ways. There are actually some very funny moments in the game's cutscenes but when combined with the seriousness of the way everyone talks, it just comes off a little awkward at times.
Have you played a LEGO game before? Because it isn't really that different here. The game plays the same as every other LEGO game with some item building, puzzle solving and some really simple combat mechanics, but there has been a change in the level format. There is no HUB world, per se, instead you are traveling across Middle Earth on your journey and encountering the stages along the way. Even on the Vita version it’s almost seamless how the levels connect with the world and I sometimes didn’t even know I was in a level until the studs meter popped up. So you travel through all of the locations and levels inspired by the three movies and battle Orcs and Trolls and all other kinds of evil forces with your LEGO swords. Unfortunately, while the combat is improved from LEGO Batman, which I thought had terrible hit detection, it still isn't great here. Some of the slimmed-down versions of levels here also just feel really uninspired. I did have more fun with this game than any of the other LEGO games on Vita, but to me that just means they did a better job making this one for the 3DS and that’s plain sad.
As fans may know, there were nine members of the fellowship. But when you are walking through the world you are only treated to having two at a time because that makes sense right? Wrong. Because of the limitations of the port, you have to cycle through your characters with the triggers instead of just walking up to them and swapping. The Vita is really getting the short straw on LEGO games because they could easily put the full versions of these games on here (they did it with the PSP) but they insist on just porting their 3DS versions over and over again and it’s just insulting.
This may actually be one the best looking handheld LEGO games out there but the big screen on the Vita still just reminds you how disappointing the game is visually. The Vita has the nicest screen of any handheld and there is no doubt that when you are looking at this game that you are seeing a port and not a game made specifically for this device. I feel like a little more work went into this game than previous handheld LEGO games, and it shows to some extent, but the graphical capabilities of the Vita are far superior to what is actually being shown in this game. It doesn't necessarily look bad but nothing here is going to wow you. The best part about this game is that the cutscenes don’t have the same horrible compression that LEGO Batman 2 had. This time the look clear and aren’t a pixelated mess. Small victories I guess.
Previous portable LEGO games have left a really bad taste in my mouth, but LEGO The Lord of the Rings was almost like a shot of mouth wash. I did have more fun with this game than previous portable LEGO games, that’s true, but it isn't the LEGO games that Vita fans deserve. The combat is improved, but still feels a little clunky and like you are missing enemies way too often. The game does break some new ground with the hub-world being changed which is probably the best aspect of the game but since the actual playing part isn't that fun here, it really doesn't push the game forward. I think the source material is really what makes this game appealing to anyone but most fans of The Lord of the Rings will just be disappointing with this subpar game.
LEGO The Lord of the Rings feels like a refinement of the last portable LEGO game attempt that still doesn't meet the expectations of the device it’s being played on. As a 3DS game this would work fine but when you port it to the Vita you really expect more and Traveler’s Tales has really failed to deliver. I would say if you are looking for a LEGO game on the go then you should probably just keep waiting until they decide to put forth a real effort. If you still want to check this game out then I can only warn you by saying it’s only slightly better than their last attempt and can only hold up because of the source material.