Lego The Hobbit

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My love of Lego as a child has stuck with me ever since. I used to play with it a lot. My younger self would hungrily build sets received at birthdays and Christmas, then quickly repurpose their parts for far grander designs: studded brick landscapes that stretched from living room wall to kitchen door.

Face-Off: Lego The Hobbit

Digital FoundryFace-Off: Lego The Hobbit

One brick to rule them all.

It may feel like a conveyor-belt process at this stage, but TT Games' Lego titles are not just reliably scheduled - they're also dependably solid productions. While the basic gameplay rarely changes, the developers always seem able to translate their tried-and-tested concepts across wildly differing entertainment franchises, seamlessly integrating the unique mythology and humour of each subject in the process.

The technology behind the games is similarly solid and dependable, disciplined enough to save big leaps forward for when they're ready rather than going out on a limb, delivering only subtle tweaks and incremental changes in the meantime, and Lego The Hobbit is one of the more subtle updates. It seems to have been built using the same blueprint as Lego The Movie and Lego Marvel Super Heroes, which means those lovable plastic bricks and Minifigures are in for a mixture of post-process effects, advanced shading and lighting that work together to create a more realistic and cinematic presentation than last-gen.

There is a change, but it's mostly down to the art style rather than the underlying technology. Compared to Lego The Movie, Lego The Hobbit's art is a lot more organic, allowing surfaces like wood, mud and rock to display a range of different characteristics to a greater extent than environments in previous games, leaving the famous Lego sheen mostly to the bricks themselves. It's a style that suits the world of Middle-earth very well, even if it means there are less of the iconic bricks and pieces on-screen than usual.

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Lego The Hobbit review

Lego The Hobbit review

There, but not yet back again.

As much as Lego The Hobbit was inevitable - as well the last words Bilbo would ever want to hear while being flown around by those eagles - it does rather beg the question: "Wait, now?" We're only two thirds of the way through the unnecessarily bloated film trilogy, leaving a gap the size of Smaug's corpse in the story, with a concluding DLC pack nothing more than a rumour at present. For now, though, we have the initial parts, "Too Many Dwarves" and "Holy Crap, What an Awesome Dragon": two blockbusters, now with endlessly more blocks to bust and enough irreverence to make that barrel ride look like the Silmarillion as read by Orson Welles.

If you've played any of the Lego Whatever games before, that about sums it up. They don't change a vast amount between licenses and this one is no exception. Two-player co-op that's perfect for parents and kids, running through a slapstick version of the first two movies, swapping characters to use different skills and smashing everything that can be smashed for both items and the delicious jangling sound of thousands of Lego studs going into the pot. Levels are linear and recreate moments from the movies, unlocking for free play once completed, with plenty more to do on a sprawling world map full of additional characters, quests and other goodies to make 100% completion a solid challenge for any player.

Like Lego The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit uses the actual voices from the movie, with the growling seriousness of the characters, to great advantage. It's a whole universe of pratfalls and visual gags: building a giant key to open a door only to have the dwarves use it as a battering ram, leaving armoured orcs in their comedy boxer shorts with a good hit and stuffing Bombur with food to turn him into a bouncy trampoline. It doesn't work quite as well as last time, but only because The Hobbit is already a much goofier adventure than The Lord of the Rings. Making fun of something with its tongue in its cheek is always harder than spoofing the serious, especially when restricted to visual gags and clips of the original dialogue. (There is additional voice work too, which immediately stands out as "wrong", especially the narration - but it's restricted to characters like the traders who hand out quests on the world map.)

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Lego: The Hobbit gets UK release date

Lego: The Hobbit gets UK release date

I'm Baggins me a copy.

Lego fans will be able to return to Middle Earth on 11th April, Warner Bros. has confirmed to Eurogamer.

The upcoming Lego: The Hobbit game will launch for 3DS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and cover the first two films in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy.

Word of its release date first appeared online yesterday along with new details of its gameplay mechanics (thanks, Digital Spy).

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Lego The Hobbit video game due out next year

UPDATE: Due in spring, but will only feature first two films.

UPDATE: Warner Bros. has confirmed Lego: The Hobbit for a spring 2014 release on 3DS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.