The Hobbit

Format: PS2
Vivendi Universal/Sierra Entertainment
Age Restrictions: 7+

Explore the mystical world of Middle-earth where you'll need to jump gaping chasms, climb treacherous mountains, solve puzzles and battle hordes of enemies just to survive. Meet enchanting Elves, battle-ready Dwarves, a powerful Wizard, massive Trolls, bloodthirsty goblins, and more as you traverse from the peaceful lands of the Shire to the harrowing forests of Mirkwood...

Anyone over the age of 20 will already know that The Hobbit is a prequel to The Lord of The Rings (You'd be surprised how many teenagers have never heard of it). And, while it's certainly not essential that you've seen the Lord of the Rings movies, it will help to immerse you in this fantasy world if you have seen the films.

You start the game in the thick of a raging battle between elves and humans Vs orcs and goblins. Unsheathing your trusty sword you slay the bad guys all too easily... but then, as you awake in your bed, everything becomes clear. It was all a dream. Now the real quest begins.

The first level sees you leave your humble dwelling to make it to the pub (Ah! Now that sounds like something I can relate to), in order to meet up with a band of dwarfs who are about to embark on a great quest. But getting to the pub is not going to be easy. You will have to run a few errands for the local population and gather a few provisions for the huge quest ahead.

This first level is really a training level to help you get used to the controls and the general gameplay. And it works too. Aiming stones to knock down apples from tree branches may seem pretty pointless, but you'll be grateful for the practice when on later levels you are attacked by hungry wolves.

If I have one complaint about this game, it is that there are too many unnecessary characters milling around and it can be annoying when you have to talk to half a dozen people to find which one has a quest for you. That, and the fact that you can spend ages wondering around a level trying to find where to go. For example, in the "Roast Mutton" level you have to go and see whether a distant light is actually an enemy campfire. Sadly the ground and hills all look the same (green) so you are never totally clear if you are going around in circles or heading in the right direction. And the graphics are a little too cutesy-poo for my liking.

One of the novel ideas here is the lock-picking ability that you have acquired from your mother's side of the family. This allows you, with a little skill, to unlock chests that contain goodies. But it means that you have to have good reflexes. Each lock requires you to tap the X button to stop the action of the locking mechanism at the right place (when it turns green) but there are a number of different variations on the mechanisms, so you never get too good with one sort of lock - and you have to unlock a set number of mechanisms per lock in a given time period.

The gameplay is above average and the levels do get progressively harder (so don't be under the misguided view that this is a child's game and too simple for you to tackle - it's not).

While it can be a little frustrating in places, this is still an above average game with lots going for it. Fans of The Lord of the Rings should certainly think about getting hold of a copy.

Pete Boomer

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