Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review #378: The Hobbit

 More than just a silly cash in.
 Back when Peter Jackson was making mad cash with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, a curious little thing happened... somehow, two companies made out with the rights to The Lord of the Rings, EA had the rights for movie adaptations while Sierra had the rights for Book adaptations. So of course they had to churn out crappy little cash-ins, like that terrible PS2 game. Or that RPG on the GBA that would freeze after a certain battle. Or that fun, if generic, RTS for the PC.... and then there was The Hobbit.

 Based on the book by the same name, The Hobbit puts you in the role of reluctant hero Bilbo Baggins as Gandalf the Grey sort-of forces him into accompanying a group of dwarves on a quest to get back their gold... this quest will take Bilbo through forests, elven towns, human towns, mountains an even face to face with a mighty dragon. Changes in order to make it more 'gamey' not withstanding, it's a decent adaptation of the book. Graphics are colorful, if a bit lacking in detail, music is fine and the voice acting is fine.
 The Hobbit is a linear adventure game. You go from stage to stage solving puzzles, battling enemies and platforming your way through bottomless pits. Most stages have a fair amount of sidequests to complete, as well as a ton of hidden collectibles to find. Collectibles that matter come in three forms: Courage Points, which will increase your HP, money, which can be used to buy items and upgrades after each stage as well as scrolls to enhance your combat capabilities. Sometimes, goodies will be locked inside chests that must be lock-picked in order to pillage them, lock-picking consists of a series of simple minigames that don't really overstay their welcome, and can be bypassed by finding or purchasing skeleton keys.

 Combat and platforming are... serviceable. They are not horrible, but they are not great either, they work just well enough to be considered acceptable. Bilbo relies on three means of offense: His staff, his blade, Sting, as well as throwing stones. The staff works great to defeat fast moving enemies, since the swings cover a wide area, but deal little damage. The sword is your main goblin slayer, able to break shells and deal more damage than the staff, while rocks can be used to slay enemies from afar. For this type of game, the combat showed a curious semblance of depth, since there're reasons to swap weapons depending on your foes, but you'd do just fine sticking to a single weapon as well. Sometimes collision detection might feel a bit wonky, but it's passable.
 Platforming can be a bit challenging since there're a lot of botomless pits and sometimes it's not very clear if you'll make a jump... or even if you were supposed to land a few jumps! At least Bilbo will let you know if you can jump from a rope to another rope, if he extends his arm forward, he can make it. Each level is VERY long, but the game is very generous with multiple save spots... and you'd do well to use them, since death means starting back at your last save. Trust me, you don't want to lose hours of progress due to a poorly planned jump!

 Lastly, there're a few shoe-horned stealth sections, but save that one level, these sections are fairly short and fairly easy, plus, as soon as you get The One Ring you can go invisible for a while and it turns stealth sequences into cake walks.
 One of the game's biggest flaws are the loading times, they're excessively long, but, at least, most levels only need to load once, and continuing after death is seamless... That said, a few of the larger levels will have a few loading screens peppered through, but these are much, much shorter than the initial one. It also has to be said, Bilbo moves rather slowly... running around is very slow, and at times exasperating enough as to warrant trying to bunny-hop your way to your destination! Climbing ladders can also be a bit annoying, since Bilbo is so slow!

 Surprisingly, The Hobbit is a rather good game, limited only by the low budget. Exploring levels is fun, the platforming can be fun as unpolished as it is, and combat needed a lot of tightening in order to make it rewarding, but as a whole, the game works fine. It's no masterpiece, nor a 'hidden gem', but it's definitely worth a look.
 6.5 out of 10

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