In the words of Catholic novelist J.R.R. Tolkien, there may be only "one ring to rule them all." But there is certainly more than one videogame adaptation out there of director Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy, based on Tolkien's timeless fantasy books.
Happily, "LEGO The Lord of the Rings" (Warner Bros. Interactive) -- which renders Frodo, Gandalf and Co., as well as their world of Middle-earth, in the building blocks of the title -- turns out to be one of the stronger offerings in the genre. The result is an experience that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
Thanks to its use of the soundtrack and voice acting from Jackson's films, the game savors of authenticity as the player romps through Middle-earth on a quest to destroy the Ring of Power.
The gameplay will be predictable to those familiar with Lego based adaptations of other movie franchises such as Batman and Harry Potter. The player (or players, as the game easily adapts to a co-operative mode) travels through the adventures of the various characters using each one's unique abilities to solve puzzles and problems.
Naturally, these journeys involve combat against such fearsome creatures as orcs and goblins. But the battles are far from graphic; defeated opponents merely fall to pieces.
The brainteasers aren't as varied as in some other Lego games. And dull environments -- such as open fields and grimy marshes -- are seen too often. Yet the title proves diverting enough, and parents and kids can play it together without either the oldsters getting bored or their offspring feeling overwhelmed.
Humorous asides and parodies of Tolkien's lore send up the classic story. So expect to see, among other comic touches, the treelike Ents using surfboards to dodge the water-based havoc they've unleashed.
On a more serious note, the game sticks to the fundamentally Christian narrative about good and evil that Tolkien originally laid out -- making it a highly appropriate choice for families of faith.
Some of the more frightening aspects of the films, moreover, are toned down significantly here, in part due to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the gameplay. This means that parents who might be concerned about allowing their children to view Jackson's movies can feel comfortable with this home-screen version.
Played for review on Xbox 360. Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS and Mac OS X.
The game contains frequent but mild cartoon violence, occasional light scatological humor and some scenes that sensitive children might find frightening. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Entertainment Software Rating board rating is E10+ -- everyone 10 and older.