There are moments when The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria hints at what it could have been, such as when you’re mining a rich vein of ore in some dark tunnel, and your dwarf becomes inspired to sing. They’ll clear their throat and give voice to a story of trolls and orcs and the beating that will rain down on them if they cross your path. The game briefly feels alive, the story making the cold mines warm. But then the song stops, and you’re still mining, and all you have to look forward to is a long walk back to the forge.
There’s no story to discover, no complex rules to learn; just instant, appealing fun. It’s fun you’ll have already experienced if you’re a Mario fan, but with enough novelty and unexpected twists to prevent it from feeling over-familiar. And for those new to Mario – kids just ageing into video games, friends or family members tempted into a multiplayer session – this is a wonderful introduction to the fizzy creativity and attention to detail that has made Mario a family staple for nearly 30 years.