There's something of the uncanny about Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game for Vita. It's difficult to put your finger on, but it's definitely there.
At first glance this game is a conversion of the home console releases: a quality product, made with a passion for the subject at hand, and a high level of attention to detail. But the more time you spend with it the more you start to see where corners have been cut.
You're reminded constantly, though almost subconsciously, that this isn't the big budget triple-A Lego release you were expecting. Instead, it's just a decent enough port to a less powerful device.
Which is a pity, because LTLotRTVG (I'm pronouncing it "luh-tea-lot-rut-vug") has a lot of solid ideas - some you've seen before in the series, and some that are brand new.
If you're new to the Lego games then all you really need to know is that they're family-friendly adventures with plenty of action, a few environmental puzzles, and enough all-ages gags thrown in to keep mums, dads, and children chuckling away - preferably together.
LTLotRTVG is best enjoyed with others. If you have multiple Vitas in your home, then firing them up for some local co-op could - I imagine - be a great deal of fun. Of course, that's quite a rare situation, and while the single-player experience it's still entertaining the AI simply isn't as much fun to muck about with as another human being.
LTLotRTVG places a fair amount of emphasis on combat - as you'd expect - and though this is basic fare it's enjoyable. There's not much of a penalty for death, and you can make it through most scrapes through sheer persistence in lieu of skill.
It's not for hardcore fighting gamers, then. This is for those who want pleasantly undemanding gameplay and plenty of humour. It really is pretty funny, too. There's reverence for the source material, but equally LTLotRTVG is happy to send up the epic storyline of Lord of the Rings where appropriate.
When not fighting orcs, you're compiling Lego structures to forge new paths through the environment, firing arrows at specific targets to solve puzzles, and taking part in some light platforming.
This last element isn't terribly worried about precision - which is a good thing, as the slightly too low camera angle in action sequences can make platforming a bit tricky. Again, though, there's no real consequence if you send Boromir tumbling to his death.
Instead of a hub-world there are multiple areas along the main story where you can buy extra items in the game, or send to friends through near. There are usually little secrets to be found here, too, many of which can be used in the Freeplay mode, which allows you to replay sequences from the main story with any combination of characters.
The quest feels large, covering all the main story beats of the trilogy. It's a whistlestop tour of Middle-Earth that's best appreciated if you've a love for the films.
But poor presentation lets the whole package down. It's a visual step down from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 releases, with a few rough textures and a fair amount of animation frames dropped when things get hectic.
And the sound is even worse. It seems to be sampled at a very low bit-rate, and the dialogue is all sampled from the films rather than recorded for the game. It's all very staccato, and several times the tone of the voiceover changes suddenly, putting it out of place in the scene. Still, the original score returns, and it's as bold and stirring as ever.
Deep down, LTLotRTVG is good, with some new twists on the Lego formula and a wonderfully playful take on a potentially po-faced story. However, the presentation leaves a lot to be desired for such a powerful system, resulting in a title that has an air of missed opportunity about it.