The Hobbit

17Some books shouldn’t be turned into platformers.

Based on the popular adventure book by Tolkien, The Hobbit lets you to pick up a virtual walking stick and strike out for the frontiers of Middle-Earth as Bilbo Baggins. You’ll explore the green lands of the Shire, meet up with Thorin and his band of dwarves, cross paths with Gollum in the caves of Moria, and collect gems carefully scattered throughout the countryside. Wait a minute — gems? Oh yes. Vivendi Universal has crafted a game of tried and tested console-style staples.

I don’t recall any chapters of the book in which Bilbo had to navigate jumping puzzles. To be fair, the developers had to take some creative license, and fortunately the most memorable parts of the text have made it through intact, such as dealing with the Orcs and meeting up with Smaug. But at the same time, you’ll handle menial chores that do little more than lengthen the game.

The Hobbit is a platformer at heart, and it definitely feels like it’d be more at home on the GameCube than on the PC. Bilbo moves about like he graduated from the Mario School of Platforming — you can jump, climb, and sneak past almost any obstacle as him. You’ll also see quite a bit of combat against goblins, wolves, and other creatures. Weapons-wise, you start out with just your walking stick; eventually you’ll get your hands on the fabled sword Sting and build up a repertoire of special moves. But the combat just never gets your heart pounding like it should.

3While The Hobbit’s visual presentation is nice (the shire looks especially colorful), its graphics are very kiddie-oriented. In fact, every character has a plastic shader that makes him look like a Happy Meal toy. The voice acting is well done, and the music is a fine mix of strings and percussion, but the whole tone of the game and its gameplay is very cartoon-like. The Hobbit is definitely not a bad game in the end, but it continuously sidetracks you with diversions that aren’t in the book, insisting on tried and tired console conventions.

System Requirements: Pentium IV 1 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 1 GB HDD, WinXP

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