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Game Over Online ~ Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

GameOver Game Reviews - Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (c) Black Label Games, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (c) Black Label Games
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 60%
Date Published Thursday, October 17th, 2002 at 08:10 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

When dividing up the licenses to Lord of the Rings, Vivendi Universal got the rights to the print version of the text and as such, the Game Boy Advance Fellowship story is built upon the fundamentals of the printed word, rather than the flashier film. I must admit, before I begin a critique of this title, I am not a rabid Tolkien fan. If you were to ask me of Dickens' Great Expectations or Thackeray's Vanity Fair, I imagine I would be more forthcoming. But I have met Tolkien in my general literature courses but not in such detail that I will be able to illustrate disparities between the game, the film and the text. So let's dispense with that notion and analyze what Rings does offer to Game Boy Advance players.

While the licensing may be on the text alone, much of the dialogue is the same when the crossroads of the film and game meet. The beginning of the game takes place in Bilbo's farewell party and hardly any of the dialogue seems out of place. Indeed, most newcomers to Tolkien (such as those who haven't watched the film or read the book more than half a dozen times) won't notice the difference.

The game, however, takes you through the assortment of minor characters and these provide a handy way to introduce quests. The bulk of Rings will rest on solving these quests and they are divided into general areas but linked together through context. How so? Usually, one person has a puzzle problem, which requires an item, which in turn, requires you to do another favor, so on and so forth. This sounds a lot like the job of a FedEx courier. However, a lot of the puzzles remain clever and aren't straightforward at all. Without a proper guide, the game's younger audience may find the difficulty level a bit of a reach.

Juxtaposed against the thoughtful puzzles is a rather immature combat system. Yes, there is combat in Rings and you do get to use the full cast of the Fellowship; plot-permitting. Combat is not unlike most traditional console RPGs, with 18th century infantry mentality. Every creature is lined up staring at each other. After that, they take potshots until someone keels over. It's a classic turn-based setup but with little variation or depth. The combat constituted the most spectacular parts of the film. Unfortunately, it's a pedestrian affair here and never really more than a hassle during your travels.

The combat's relative childishness highlights a frustrating flaw with Rings. It's a very broad and horizontal game but not very deep. For example, you may have a lot of dialogue and plot through puzzle elements, but you rarely spend enough time with each character to really get to know them. The same goes for the Fellowship characters themselves. There's a lot less background and like the film, the game assumes you are already familiar with all of them.

In contrast, Rings is detailed in the visual sense because the artists have had a lot of narrated description to go on. The look of the game obviously reflects that, especially since Tolkien is known for his verbosity with the flora and the fauna. You won't find bland patches of green or brown here.

Rings is a slow and almost methodical game. Like a big novel, it plods along at a snail's pace at times. In the end, it suffers because it is a ship that can't reach port on either end of the sea. This is the quintessential problem. On the one hand, you have the visceral film experience, which you obviously cannot replicate on this platform; graphics or sound. Furthermore, a laid back and simplified combat system doesn't help pump up the action either. On the other hand, you have a novel that is very detailed, almost too detailed. Rings strikes me as a game where the developers seized on the most immediate details (that of the visual scenery and all the supporting cast) and suddenly lost scope of the entire game. Tolkien's narrative was so dense and thick for them, they could no longer find their way out to see the forest from the trees.


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