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‘LEGO The Hobbit’ Is Familiar Yet Still Fun

‘LEGO The Hobbit’

Warner Bros.

Microsoft Xbox 360 (PS3)

$49.99

ESRB rating: E10+

Review rating: 3.5 stars

After the success of “LEGO The Lord of the Rings,” it comes as no surprise to see a LEGO game based on “The Hobbit.” What is surprising, however, is that “LEGO The Hobbit” has been released before the final movie in the trilogy hits theaters, so it’s essentially incomplete! Nevertheless, anyone who finds their dwarven gaming needs to be in ... err ... short supply will surely find much to enjoy.

Based on the first two Hobbit movies, “LEGO The Hobbit” follows Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins and his newly acquired band of merry dwarves as they attempt to reclaim the lost Kingdom of Erebor. Of course, Bilbo eventually obtains the One Ring from Gollum, but I’ll have to wait for the next game to see the rest of the story.

Just like past LEGO games, this one tasks players with guiding iconic characters as they engage in simplistic combat, collect LEGO pieces and reconstruct items. One cool new feature is the ability to mine certain areas for special pieces used to construct useful items like weapons and equipment. This simple addition can add hours to game play for those willing to scour Middle Earth for the correct pieces to construct these rare items.

In addition, each character has at least one special ability that comes in handy for solving basic puzzles. However, the problem is that random abilities are assigned to the dwarves, and there are so many dwarves that it’s hard to remember which one is needed in each situation.

I appreciate the open-ended nature of the game as it allows me to explore well-known Middle Earth locales such as Bag End, Mirkwood and Rivendell. It’s also cool to discover hidden locations and secret quests that are all optional.

“LEGO The Hobbit” offers lots of content, but the experience isn’t much different than “LEGO Lord of the Rings.”

‘Trials Fusion’

UbiSoft

Windows PC

$19.99 Download

ESRB rating: E10+

review rating: 4.0 stars

“Trials Fusion” is the official sequel to the unexpectedly popular 2-D motocross game “Trials HD.” This series takes the “easy to learn, difficult to master” concept to the extreme because it’s more likely that players will quit in frustration before they actually master the game. Regardless, it’s hard to top the overwhelming endorphin rush that comes from finally beating a difficult level after countless attempts.

This version still incorporates the challenging simulation-style controls but also injects an arcade-like futuristic element in the form of surreal courses. What other racing game lets players ride on tracks made of solar panels or cruise on floating blimps floating above skyscrapers? Early levels offer simple courses with standard jumps while later courses require an understanding of weight distribution and physics.

Speaking of which, the physics in this game are eerily accurate and are also what makes the game play so entertaining. Every single motorcycle, and even the new quad bike, handles differently, so what works with one likely won’t work with another. For example, the Pit Viper has an extremely sensitive throttle while the Fox Bat seems to spin in midair if you accidentally breathe on the controller.

Over 40 standard tracks are at the player’s disposal as well as skill games and the new FMX tracks. These trick-oriented courses let players perform cool freestyle tricks in mid-air, which offers yet another level of challenge when negotiating the courses themselves. There’s also a cool level editor for player’s to create their own tracks and a local four-player multiplayer mode.

Sadly, online multiplayer is not present yet, but it is promised as a free download in the future. I also find the announcers to be very annoying, but they can be turned off in the options menu.

“Trials Fusion” isn’t for everyone, but it speaks to the hidden masochist in all of us.


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