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Lego provides building blocks of a fun LOTR spinoff

Frodo Baggins — in Lego form — volunteers to carry the One Ring to Mordor, cast it into Mount Doom and destroy the ring forever.

Small and blocky, Legos bear certainly some resemblance to characters from JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” And with “The Hobbit” hitting theaters this week, Middle-earth and the plastic building blocks seem like a perfect match.

If you’ve played any of the Lego video games, you know what to expect from “Lego The Lord of the Rings”: blocky representations of favorite characters reliving familiar scenes from the movie. There will be co-op play, lots of puzzles and an abundance of humorous twists on the action.

The only question is how well developers pulled all this off. This is a very big question after their last effort, a lackluster Batman project that was the first Lego game to feature characters with voices rather than a silent mime-like treatment.

Fortunately, TT Games, which developed the game for Warner Bros., accomplished the task with flair and fun.

The game follows the action from the movie trilogy that came out about a decade ago. It also uses the original vocals from the films. I was a bit skeptical in the wake of the Batman experience. I thought that it would be hard to pull off the trademark Lego humor while bound to those original voices and their timing. However, it works pretty well, with most of the humor still coming from slapstick moments involving secondary characters. But I have to admit that talking Lego characters still don’t offer the same magic and whimsy as their silent kin.

Of course the action revolves around the Fellowship of the Ring’s efforts to transport an evil ring to the volcanic fires of Mount Doom, where it can be destroyed. All the important events and battles are represented.

In case that sounds like a dull re-creation of something you’ve seen before, don’t worry, because there’s much more. Characters scattered along the way will offer you side quests, and there are plenty of extra activities that keep things entertaining. Completing these activities will usually earn you a brick of Mithril, which can be forged into new weapons and implements.

And for those who love collecting shiny Lego “coins” during their adventures, there are plenty of tables, plants, rocks, statues and other objects to smash to release the shimmering loot. As usual, the loot can be spent to unlock additional characters, who can be used in the free-roaming mode that allows you to explore each level more deeply.

In most missions, you have at least three characters you can switch among. Each character has different skills that are needed to solve the puzzles. For example, the dwarf Gimli can smash stone, the Hobbit Sam can light fires and the wizard Gandalf can levitate objects. The puzzles are very well constructed and usually fun to solve.

Game play is pretty good. The controls are smooth and easy to use. I didn’t encounter as many glitches as in previous games — characters getting stuck in odd places or wonky camera angles.

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The dynamic split screen works pretty well for co-op play, twisting and turning to accommodate both characters as they scurry around the setting. However, if this gets confusing, there’s an option for a fixed split-screen.

Hardcore gamers might scoff at this lightweight entry, but it’s definitely fun and one of the few games you can play with the kids.

Bottom line: “Lego The Lord of the Rings” gives a fun spin to the classic fantasy tale.

Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested on), PlayStation 3, Wii, PC

Online: thelordoftherings.lego.com

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