Tag Archives: The Hobbit

One does not simply play the demo for LEGO The Lord of the Rings

LEGO The Lord of the Rings keeps surprising me. First, it is seemingly coming out at the end of this month instead of what I assumed would be a more timely release around The Hobbit, Part 1 on 34 in December. Second, out of nowhere, a free demo was dropped on the 3DS eShop this week; I stumbled across it blindly. Third, said demo begins with a crow taking a crap on whatever Hobbit you are controlling’s head, and that crow keeps crapping every 10 or 15 seconds until you progress a bit through the level. Oh boy. If dodging poop is what Traveller’s Tales is adding to the adventure to make it “funny” and their own, there is cause for worry.

The demo level is the scene at Weathertop, a hill in the Eriador region of Middle-earth. The hill itself is pretty important in terms of Middle-earth history since it was once a major fortress of the kingdom of Arthedain, home to one of the seven palantíri, and the place of several battles. For our purposes, it’s the spot where Strider and the four Hobbits pause to rest for the night only to then be attacked by several Ringwraiths. The Witch-king ends up stabbing Frodo with a Morgul-blade, which is not a good time for the wee halfling.

Anyways, it’s a moment in the books/films that I’ve experienced before in LOTR videogame form and will continue to do so long as they make these types of games. It’s hard not to. It’s both iconic as all gets and made for a “boss fight” kind of level. Most recently, I took down these Ringwraiths with sword and fire in Aragorn’s Quest, but I also recall doing it almost exactly the same way elsewhere. Or maybe I’m just crazy. It’s been a long time since I dabbled in The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, so if there was a Weathertop fight there, I don’t recall, but have to assume it would at least have been handled differently, seeing as that game is a turn-based RPG built on Final Fantasy X‘s battle system. I have a couple other LOTR games in my collection–The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (PS2) and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North–but don’t remember if there were any Weathertop fights in them.

Regardless, LEGO The Lord of the Rings handles it pretty much the same way, with Aragorn ultimately chasing these screeching undead away with fire. Before that happens, Frodo must slip the One Ring on, construct some decoy Hobbits, and have the Ringwraiths attack them in order to damage themselves and become dizzy, open for damage. And before that, you climb Weathertop, using Sam, Pippin, and Merry to do different actions while avoiding that crow that keeps crapping on you. It was extremely frustrating while trying to catch a fish because the crow always shits on your controlled Hobbit directly, knocking him out of the action animation, and you only have milliseconds to reel in a fish before that crow circles back for more. I did not like this part at all, and poor Tara had to listen to bird poop sound effects–think ppbblt–for several minutes on end; I’m sorry.

I won’t be getting LEGO The Lord of the Rings on the 3DS, as I prefer all my LEGO games on the Xbox 360 so I can S rank them like a crazy person–well, except for LEGO Pirates so far, grrr–but the game still looked really good on the portable. I even flipped the 3D effect on to see the One Ring in all its realness. Cutscenes were a bit brief, and it’s still extremely bizarre to hear the films’ dialogue spoken by these blocky boys, but whatever–that’s just something I’ll either get used to or I won’t. Based on what I saw of a Free Play level, it looks like we’ll be unlocking different “skins” for characters like in LEGO Harry Potter. I’m sure it’s still going to be a ton of fun to play co-op with Tara. I just hope we can get through the crow-crapping level part much faster if she distracts it while I fish for food. Guess we’ll find out relatively soon.

Not all glitters and is gold in Aragorn’s Quest for the PlayStation 2

For those not in the know, I am an avid fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. This admiration goes skin deep and covers everything from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings to his staggering level of detail on and around linguistics, both legit and fake, as well as his time with children’s books and the Middle-earth Bible called The Silmarillion. He created a number of powerful places, people, and performances from a wealth of sources: his imagination, his experiences in World War I and World War II, his knowledge as an Oxford professor, his love for his wife Edith Mary Tolkien, and so on. His work is never going to go away, and I love that. With Peter Jackson’s movies a huge success, all things LOTR-related have taken over pop culture in the last ten years or so and been embraced by nearly everyone, even those that probably wouldn’t be seen reading a book about Elves and Dwarves and the One Ring. It’s momentous stuff, capable of transforming the consumer and taking them away into another realm that is just as realized as our own.

That said, the character of Aragorn deserved better.

Aragorn’s Quest, published by WB Games and developed by Headstrong Games, is an action hack-and-slasher with some light RPG elements that came out in late 2010 for a number of different videogame systems: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo Wii, and the Nintendo DS. From what I can tell, I ended up buying the worst version of them all. Which is a bummer considering this was a game I actually wanted to play. Hmm. Well, let’s begin…

Things don’t start off terribly. In fact, one of the first things you hear in the game is the voice of Samwise Gamgee, with Sean Astin there to keep the character alive and full of heart. Though his narration of the journey that Aragorn took during the time of The Lord of the Rings is marred by a severe lack of background music–save for the cackling of a fire in the fireplace–and the bizarre reactions his hobbity kids evoke. Anyways, you play as Aragorn, and Aragorn only; other versions of the game, from what I can tell, feature Gandalf available as a co-op controlled partner. Not here on the PS2. This is Aragorn‘s Quest, dang it, and they mean it. And if you’ve seen the films or read the books, everything unfolds as it should. You are part of the Fellowship that plans to see Frodo to Mount Doom as the Hobbit plans to destroy the One Ring there. Along the way, you will kill a lot of Orcs/Goblins, complete quests, level up, and get really good at countering attacks.

Stupidly, everything is a quest. For example, as you go across a level, there will be, say, 10 bandit leaders. It’s not random or anything, that’s how many bad dudes are in the level to begin with. Naturally, before you start out, you will then get a quest called “Kill 10 bandit leaders”, and you can’t miss any of them as they are right on your path, so the quest is both unmissable and un-uncompletable. Just seems kind of unnecessary, but it’s all about leveling Aragorn up so that come the end-game fight you feel like a true and proper badass king-to-be. As you gain levels, you earn upgrade points to unlock a new skill for either the sword, bow, or general health aspects of Aragorn. By the end, I had more upgrade points to know what to do with, as not all skills are worth it. The jump-in-the-air-and-shatter-the-ground sword attack is great for when surrounded, as is the poison arrows for larger, tougher enemies, but otherwise you can make it out alive just hacking and slashing and blocking when you need to block. Oh, and every new weapon or piece of equipment you find is stronger/better than the one you’re currently using, leaving no strategy to play.

Two things Aragorn’s Quest does have going for it are its soaring orchestral score, taken right from the films, and its cel-shaded art. I know not everyone digs that kind of graphics style, but most of my favorite games feature it–Dark Cloud 2, Borderlands, Sly Cooper, Dragon Quest IX, Rogue Galaxy, and on for infinity–and, as an artist, I appreciate the look immensely. Other versions of the game feature more traditional graphics, and so I was surprised to see the cel shading at first. Surprised, but not disappointed. It’s a look that doesn’t easily offend.

One interesting idea that turned out to be a letdown are the arenas. After clearing a section of levels based on a main area, you unlock an arena in that area where you will fight eight waves of enemies. There are different challenges to accomplish during the eight waves–like take no damage or kill 15 Goblins with arrows–and if you earn them all, you get a reward, which the game claims will help you on your journey. Two problems there. First, I only discovered the arenas after I beat the game. Two, it is basically just grinding, and the arena I did in Moria took about 30 minutes to complete, and even then I missed several challenges. Basically, it’s not worth the time and dullness, when I’m guessing the rewards are just a new weapon or piece of stat-boosting jewelry. Oh wells.

If anything, when done right, this style of action RPG gameplay does fit Tolkien’s universe well–probably much more than RTS ever did–and so I was inspired by the failings of Aragorn’s Quest to pick up Lord of the Rings: War in the North recently for the Xbox 360. It plays similar, but is much better in achieving its goals. I’m playing as a Dwarf that likes two-handed warhammers and slicing the legs off of Orcs. Not sure how I feel about this same Dwarf using a crossbow, but more on that game later.

FIRST HOUR REVIEW – The Hobbit

If you’re an attentive Grinding Down reader, then you’ll clearly remember me picking up The Hobbit (GameCube version) recently. Well, I’ve now played the first sixty minutes of it, and you can read about all the exciting stuff that happened during said time over at The First Hour: http://firsthour.net/first-hour-review/the-hobbit

When asked if I’d continue playing, I answered “yes.” Alas, I’ve yet to dive back into The Hobbit and sneak past those three trolls, but I will. All in due time. Hey, Frodo didn’t destroy the One Ring in a day after all!

The road goes ever on, but only if you have a GameCube memory card

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates -
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

Bilbo Baggins also most definitely hates the entire population of Hobbiton. As he should. They’re nothing but a bunch of silly fetch quest givers, and shame on them for that. I mean, don’t they have better things to worry about? Like fourth breakfast or picking lice out of their hairy feet? Hogwash, I say. But I’m getting ahead of myself, even though, truthfully, I don’t get very far. You’ll see what that means in just a moment.

Tara and I were able to borrow an old GameCube controller from her brother so that we could test out the waters on Animal Crossing, LEGO Star Wars II, and The Hobbit. I literally looked everywhere on the Nintendo Wii to figure out where to plug this blasted thing in; the slots were hidden under a flap, next to another hidden flap; then, after starting the Wii up, I sat there pressing A on the GameCube controller like some kind of human reject, not realizing that we still needed to use a Wii controller to get to the main menu screen. Yup, smells like dragon dung already. Two very awkward controllers sat on my lap. Why can the Wii use a controller to play an earlier console’s games, but not allow it to function as a menu selecting tool? Is the science really that hard? Ugh.

Anyways, The Hobbit. It’s the prelude to The Lord of the Rings, and I know it in and out, up and down, left and right, troll and orc, wolve and eagle, and so on. I’m mostly playing it to see how they handle the story, which is its most important aspect. The 2003 title hits the high and low end in the graphics department. In-game cutscenes and graphics are horrific and bland, with Bilbo’s mouth moving as if his jaw is ready to fall off any minute. Yet, there’s these storytelling sequences that use hand-drawn art and are voiced over by a decent Gandalf, which are surprisingly potent. I almost want to just watch them all in chronological order and call it the movie we’ve all been waiting for. Sorry, Rankin/Bass.

Alas, I did not play much of The Hobbit. I could not. Only got through Bilbo’s dream sequence and then wandered around Hobbiton for a bit, accepting stupid quests from stupid hobbity neighbors. Seriously, Hobbiton natives. Bilbo is not your bitch. That should be on a t-shirt. What was holding me back, you ask? It’s not like the difficulty is cranked up higher than Ciroth Ungol on a day when every orc has off. Memory, dear readers. Memory held me back. To be more specific, not having a GameCube memory card. Again, the Nintendo Wii fails to impress me as a piece of future tech in that it also can’t save data from GameCube games to its own, built-in harddrive. The dragon dung pile gets smellier.

Saving one’s progress is very important to me. Even if it’s only 30 minutes worth, or 15 minutes worth, or even five minutes worth. I want that experience locked in so I don’t have to repeat myself. And so I knew that I needed to stop sooner than later in The Hobbit, not wanting to get too far, to lose too much.

I visited the local GameStop during my lunchbreak to see if they sold any GameCube memory cards. Nothing was visible out on the floor, and they only had one guy working behind the counter. He was pretty busy with a line of middle-aged women, one asking about something called Dead Spaced Tools. Seriously, that’s what she asked for. Dead Space 2 much? So I’ll try again tomorrow. Once I do get hold of this legendary GameCube memory card, it’s go time for Bilbo and his gaggle of dwarves. Also, I can’t help but feel like this would make for an interesting review over at The First Hour. Do I even need to call dibs?

Our latest and greatest videogame purchases

Tara and I went shopping over the weekend. I bought jeans and two flannel-infused shirts that go well with–wait, what? You don’t care about the good deals I got on clothes from Kohl’s? Hmph. I see how it is. Bunch of anti-fashionistas. I guess you’d prefer me to talk about all the many videogames purchased this weekend. I guess your wish is about to get…granted!

Warning: this list of games bought is going to blow your mind. Can’t say from what. Surely not the total awesomesauce. Maybe more from the randomness, the WTFs. Steel yourself!

Paul’s Purchases

It was selling for a cool $39.99, and the Internet will not shut up about how good it is. Haven’t touched the multiplayer except for the tutorial level. Oh, I tried. Waited for 15 minutes to have it log me into a new session…and then summarily kick me out. Boo-hoo. Single-player is a much improved performance over the original Assassin’s Creed. Never got to play Assassin’s Creed II. Anyways, if anyone wants to help me give online multiplayer a try, my Xbox Live Gamertag is PaulyAulyWog. Please?

It was dirt cheap. I’ve played maybe an hour of it and also tried Firefight by myself. I’m a smidge above a vacuum. Meh.

Oh man. Where do I begin? Actually, let’s just keep this short. Now that we have our Nintendo Wii set up in the Leaky Cauldron, I’d like to catch up on some GameCube games I never got to play. Such as Pikman and Windwaker and Luigi’s Mansion. All in good time though. And I believe I’ve also previously mentioned my obsession with all things Lord of the Rings. Now, here’s the real tough question; did this version of The Hobbit cost me $1.99, $2.99, $3.99, or $4.99?

It cost less than The Hobbit, and its cover made me laugh.

Tara’s Purchases

This is now our third version of this game owned. Tara’s more interested in it than the Wii version because the controls are simpler. Plus, I heard that you can actually play old Nintendo games within this game–wicked! She liked the sound of that, too. It’ll be curious to experience this version last, seeing as I started out on Animal Crossing: Wild World and then moved on to Animal Crossing: City Folk. Granted, they are, more or less, the same game, but the minute differences are actually where it counts the most.

Mmm…LEGO games.

And those were our big purchases. The funny/annoying thing is that I assumed one could use the Wiimote to play GameCube games on the Nintendo Wii. Y’know, turn it sideways like a traditional controller. Nope. Because the GameCube controller was freakish and had so many random buttons. So we haven’t got to try any of our GameCube buys just yet. We also need an old memory card. The only good thing the Wii does is…uh, let you put the CD into its slot. Geez, it might have been easier just to buy an old GameCube system, but truthfully, we’ve run out of outlets and the back of our entertainment stand looks like the Great Cthulhu, but with wires instead of tentacles. Truly nightmarish.

Pretty sure Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Fallout: New Vegas, and some other games will be able to keep my attention busy until February, and then it’ll be time to travel through alternate dimensions in Radiant Historia.