Hobbit: The Prelude to The Lord of The Rings Review

I first saw marketing for The Hobbit on the tele and for some reason I just knew I had to play the game. Normally when a game with a movie license comes out with a ton of hype I know better than to be sucked in. Unfortunately my excitement turned to dismay with this one. It’s not absolutely horrible but it definitely isn’t good. Read on to see why.

One of the positive things about the game is the visuals. Characters are drawn in a three dimensional caricature sort of way. Environments are unique and are very large and detailed, for the most part. Lighting effects are good, and water effects are okay. Enemies are animated well and are very detailed. On the other hand I did run into quite a few places where frame rates were a problem.

This game also suffers greatly from “camera-itus” and intentionally it seems. There are quite a few places where you would really like to look around for secret caverns or jumps, but it is impossible to look around because the camera is stuck in a spot that is completely useless. This usually causes a fall, right to the last save game.

Music in The Hobbit carries medieval style tunage, with Scottish type flair including flutes and other basic instruments. The tunes are actually pretty good but get repetitive. Battle music is mediocre. Sound effects are average. Not much else here except that the game doesn’t support anything beyond stereo. I can safely say however that the voice acting is well performed. The Hobbit has very easy controls. It includes your standard buttons for jump, attack, change weapon, use ring, move camera etc. etc. If you’ve played any 3rd person type game, The Hobbit controls are extremely similar. If only the camera would cooperate when you need it to.

The Hobbit is played from a 3rd person perspective with a floating movable camera much like Mario Sunshine or Zelda. The different levels have different objectives but you will be spending most of your time jumping on ledges or platforms and mashing your attack button. You do have an inventory, but it only consists of healing potions, antidote potions, courage gems and cash. Cash is fairly useless as there’s not a whole lot of stuff to spend it on.

Courage gems enable Bilbo to increase his life bar. Levels are FILLED with them. Once you’ve filled out your courage bar you get another “heart.” Most of the secret areas reward you with more courage gems. Unfortunately since most levels are already filled with them this usually fails to feel the least bit rewarding. To be fair, you can find scrolls that teach you special fighting maneuvers that help you in battle, but they don’t enhance the experience too much as the techniques aren’t very useful. Another aspect of the game is picking locks. If Bilbo finds a locked chest he will be presented with the pick lock screen where you have to time your key press with a green colored tumbler. If you fail, a trap will be sprung, and Bilbo will either be hurt or poisoned.

The basic objective of each level is to get to the end of the map. There are small objectives in between, but they just delayed me getting to the end, which is what I REALLY wanted by the time I had completed the first three or four levels. Eventually Bilbo gets the ring and is able to turn invisible for short spurts. But even this ability is lackluster. Each progressing level puts you into a certain piece out of Tolkien’s story and generally sticks fairly well to the overall story.

The first level is about the only place I had fun. This is because every level after that felt like almost the same thing over and over and over again. Granted the game is played in different environments, which are neatly rendered and detailed, but glamour over gameplay is almost always a recipe for a Lampoon turkey. In one level after jumping over multitudes of rocky platforms collecting courage gems, you have to sneak through leaves to steal a wallet. Yes the sneaking part may sound like fun but its not. It was just drab. It was more a game of figuring out a pattern and then getting lucky. Another level places Bilbo amidst a multitude of cliffs in which he must perform a multitude of jumping from cliff to cliff, platform to platform while collecting courage gems. He eventually gets to some ruins where you have to jump some more to collect pieces to a broken machine to open a door. Repeat fix broken machine quest two more times, mash attack button to defeat boss.

More variety in the game would have been extremely welcome. Unfortunately every level feels like more of the same. Don’t get me wrong, the levels are all unique as far as how they are put together and how they look but there just wasn’t enough variety in the gameplay to keep me interested. Just understand that this game is a platformer. If you like jumping from place to place, collecting things to make something work, pushing a button to open a door somewhere, running errands for random characters and loading a lot, this one is for you. The developers did do one great thing however: There are save game spots EVERYWHERE. This means that missing a jump and falling to your death only costs you a little bit of time.

I didn’t want to play through again, and there’s nothing to unlock so there really isn’t a whole lot of replay value. Fifty bucks is what gamers play for primo games. In my opinion this isn’t one of them. The graphics were great but there is a big chunk missing from the gameplay.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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