Let’s address the elephant in the room. As of this writing, there are over twenty Lego licensed games. The template is simple; faithfully recreate the original property’s narrative with Lego’s unique sense of humor. Combine that with simple puzzles involving building, mild combat sequences, and a huge amount of playable characters and collectables.
The Lego Hobbit doesn’t do much to change the status quo. Smashing faithfully recreated Lego objects to collect the studs inside still remains a cornerstone. But is that a bad thing? Not really. Hobbit might not offer a unique gameplay experience but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in polished. Still, your mileage will be based on your enjoyment of Peter Jackson’s adaptations and the familiar lego style of games.
Tolkien’s tale of Bilbo Baggins joining Gandalf and a gang of dwarfs to defeat the greedy Smaug has been around since 1937. The Lego Hobbit retells the story of two of the Hobbit film adaptations, and that’s sort of the problem. Every moment feels devoted to telling a complete story, but just as a major turning point occurs the credits begin to roll. What’s here though is well done. Taking all the music and voice acting directly from Jackson’s films creates a sense of authenticity. Of course Lego adds it own slant. One dwarf is always seen with a bratwurst regardless of how dire the circumstances are. The goblin Azog chases after his own severed hand in a Sylvester and Tweety like scenario. It’s moments like this that will keep even the most familiar intrigued in the story beats. Still, they can’t make up for a story that’s obviously missing it’s third act.
The gameplay remains tied and true to the decade plus Lego style. While in single player, you’ll still retain control over multiple characters, each with their own abilities and items. Quickly analyzing situations and identifying which character’s you’ll need to use to advance is still the cornerstone of this Lego title. As someone who isn’t quite familiar with the Hobbit films, I often found myself confused as to which lego with white hair had the hook item I need to swing across gaps. Worse yet, selecting the character and checking their inventory feels stiff and slow. After a few hours, you’ll get the hang of character swapping. But during some segments with 8+ characters I still found myself confused as to who I was switching to.
Still, Hobbit is a game of simple pleasures. Recklessly destroying your surroundings for their contained collectable is still a joy. But it’s the small additions that make it exciting to play. At one point, Bilbo joins forces with a confused goblin who will occasionally attack you until Bilbo knocks him on the head. Another inspired moment involves the band of dwarves climbing up an ice giant that’s already in combat with another ice giant. Of course you’ll still engage in the troupes of the Lego series. A number of co-op puzzles involve one character holding down a switch while another character activates a passage way. Other times you’ll be hunting down a number of certain items to unlock a door. It’s not terribly original but it’s easy to see that Telltale has a real knack at creating simple but enjoyable adaptations.
I was able to beat the main campaign in roughly 8 hours despite taking my time to stop and explore the environments and hidden objects. If that sounds a bit short, don’t worry, there’s a whole lot of bonus content after the story ends. The extra quests mostly involve collecting particular items and returning them to the quest givers. None of them truly feel rewarding, but for those looking to rinse out every last environment. Considering the explorative nature of the quests, you’ll easily double your playtime.
One side note for PS4 owners, the remote play on the Vita is excellent. The game rarely requires timing based input and even when it does, it’s generously allows delayed button presses.
Graphicly, Lego does a great job of recreating the look and movement of the toys it’s based on. Watching dozens of studs fly out while shattering objects is still a joy despite it only being a pretty version of what’s come before it. Every lego object has that plastic shine to them and even the more realistic environments do a good job of representing the set designs of the films. If there’s one knock against the visuals it’s some of the foliage. While they look fine from a distance, getting a close look reveals a series of ugly clip-art-esque image. You’ll never have a reason to get that close so file this observation under “nit-pick” but I found myself shocked by the low quality of these images.
Do you enjoy Lego? Do you enjoy The Hobbit? Are you a parent or a child? If you have answered yes to at least two of the follow questions then Lego The Hobbit is probably up your alley. If not, it’s difficult to recommend. Even if you are a fan, even with all the additional questions, you’re only getting two thirds of a story. While the ride may be fun, it’s hard to not feel slightly cheated by this premature release. The Lego Hobbit is familiar, simple, and fun. But if you’re burnt out on the series thus far, this wont change your mind.