A middle ground Middle Earth
Another month, another LEGO game. These things are starting to be more frequently released than yearly Call of Duty games. And with that frequency comes some caveats, such as this month's title only including the two Hobbit films that have been released thus far.
Does that put a damper on the entertainment value found within? Only time -- or reading on -- will tell.
LEGO The Hobbit (3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PSVita, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Xbox One, WiiU)
The long and short of it is, LEGO The Hobbit only encompasses An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. Apparently, we'll be seeing the final section of the game once the final film is released (though most folk know how the story goes, as I'm sure, like me, you had to read it in grade school).
That said, what is found within this game is more hit or miss than previous LEGO titles. You still have your typical romp around the levels, bashing enemies and smashing objects for LEGO studs, a whimsical version of the films recreated with the mini-figures (with voicework directly from the original films, just as in LEGO The Lord of The Rings), and the level design and plot mirror the source material almost to a fault from a pacing standpoint.
However this time through, the levels are a bit uneven. There's almost too many things to smash, and not enough enemies to fight. Because of this, some levels can seem short, while still other can drag on far longer than they should. When smashing open items, you can now gather LEGO pieces, or mine them from items via a mini game, which you can save to use to build things later -- which begs the question, why hasn't this been included before now?
Most noticeable, however, is the lack of character diversity. While LEGO The Lord of The Rings had a wide range of characters, each with their own unique abilities, LEGO The Hobbit seems a bit more limited as far as choice, and sadly, this appears to be partially due to the source. The numerous different dwarves are all comical and unique...in the film. Here in the game, it's really hard to tell one from the other and despite the game's new addition of listing a character's attributes or abilities on the menu screen, there's not a lot to differentiate one from another.
Still, there is a good bit to like about the game as well. If you've enjoyed the many other LEGO adaptations, this one is not without it's charm. The characters and backgrounds match the films well, and the game follows the story of the movies very closely, down to the questionable bonus material padding. Though again, being a bit limited by the original voicework may not allow for the normal LEGO slaptick-type humor, and a few scenes of real tension and whimsy from the films seem to fall a bit flat.
Of course, as stated before, the biggest disappointment is that the game isn't actually complete. It's a pretty safe bet that the final section of the game (now called "The Battle of the Five Armies") will be offered via downloadable content, but considering the game itself is being sold at full price without it (especially on the next-gen consoles), I'm wondering if they'll be offering it for free or not. I certainly hope so, as charging for an entire films worth of bonus content would be the most substantial -- and potentially pricey -- LEGO DLC of all.
When it comes right down to it, LEGO The Hobbit isn't a terrible game, but it's isn't a terribly good one either. The LEGO formula may be finally getting a bit stagnant, and the new additions, while cool, may be too little, too late. If the final section had been included at retail, I'm not sure my opinion would have swayed much more in either direction, but it certainly is noticeable in it's omission.
THE VERDICT - LEGO The Hobbit
Reviewed by Ian Bonds