- Characters in "LEGO The Lord of the Rings" deliver real lines from the movies
- The company behind the game says the blocky characters lighten the mood
- Producer: "It's what LEGO brings to the party. That lightness of touch"
Most console video games these days imitate box-office blockbusters with life-like, amazing special effects, dramatic dialog and powerful storytelling.
With its blocky cartoonishness, the LEGO franchise flips that convention on its head.
Developed by the company Traveler's Tales, the latest in the LEGO series, "LEGO The Lord of the Rings," puts Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn and the rest of the characters from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy into block toy form as they trace storylines from the popular books and movies.
This isn't the first time Traveler's Tales has taken aim at a popular movie icon and transformed it into LEGOs. Harry Potter, "Star Wars" and Indiana Jones characters have been made into toy-like video games with some success.
With the popular Lord of the Rings franchise, however, the stakes are higher, and the company rose to the occasion by staying true to the story as it was presented on the big screen.
In "LEGO The Lord of the Rings," the characters' voices are the same as those heard in the movies; the dialog, too, is unchanged.
Nicholas Ricks, executive producer for Traveler's Tales, said that true-to-movie setup created some challenges.
It was unclear, for instance, if dramatic dialog would translate into lighter, LEGO humor. Fortunately, he said, it worked out well.
"We actually gained quite a lot of humor and, in addition, we can also convey the complexities of the characters a lot more easily than we thought," Ricks said.
He added: "It's what LEGO brings to the party. That lightness of touch, that familiarity, that humor brings those darker moments up to a level that seems age appropriate."
Here's an example: In one Lord of the Rings movie, Frodo and Sam look upon Mordor for the first time. Frodo says, "Sam, I'm glad you're with me."
The LEGO version uses the same scene and the same lines. But, as Frodo delivers his line in the game, he also loads Sam up with gear supplies.
"The inclusion of the dialog allows us to retain the cinematic quality, although it is LEGO-recreated," Ricks said. "It allows us to tell the story a lot better. But we still have bags of humor that plays with that irreverence that you'd suspect from a LEGO game."
The appeal of these two popular franchises combined in a video game is expected to hit a wide audience from older fans who read the J.R.R. Tolkien series in the 1960s and 70s as teens to the younger generation who can quote lines from the movie from memory and who are the target audience for the LEGO toys.
The balance between the two audiences is tricky.
"For our youngest gamer, say a 7-year-old lad, we need to ensure they can play this story, have fun and be rewarded and still feel like it is an epic adventure," Ricks said.
"But playing through all the game, through the free play sections, collecting the 40 new magical items and finding and discovering new characters -- those kinds of things go for the old gamers."
The game does include some dark moments. Ricks said the company doesn't shy away from characters getting killed, but they do it LEGO style.
"LEGO The Lord of the Rings" was released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC and Nintendo Wii on November 13 in North America. It will be released in Europe on Friday.