With the new Hobbit movie out, I thought I'd look back on a classic that never got its due. Still easily available for $1.50 and up!
Game: The Hobbit
Platform: PS2, Game Boy Advance, Windows, GameCube, Xbox
Publisher/Developer: Inevitable Entertainment/Vivendi Universal
Describe This Game in Three Words: A Grand Adventure
Plot Synopsis: Bilbo Baggins is a mild-mannered Hobbit, but when he is recruited by the wizard Gandalf to aid Thorin Oakenshield and his band of dwarves to recover their lost treasure from the dragon Smaug.
Up Up: The Hobbit was actually the first game I got with my PS2, because I have a very good wife. It's part Legend of Zelda, part Legacy of Kain and just in general a roaring good game that sort of got lost in the shuffle before Peter Jackson brought the Tolkien universe back front and center.
The Hobbit proves that you can make a good licensed game as long as you don't have a bunch of Hollywood producers breathing down your neck to rush the tie-in out for merchandising. Its setup is a simple set of linear dungeons that are nonetheless grand enough in scope that you don't feel as if you're being led along. The game does use a lot of fetch quests and such to pad its length, but it does so with a very deep knowledge of the more esoteric parts of the mythology so that you spend more time being impressed than annoyed.
The voice acting in particular is very good, and for early PS2, the graphics more than get the job done. They seem a little rough up against PS3 stuff, but not overwhelmingly so. If you're the kind of gamer who has missed a simple story mixed with solid progressive gameplay, then this is definitely the game for you.
Down, Down: I've pointed this out in a previous article, but the hacking games for chest utterly screws over the colorblind with obnoxious red/green puzzles that also require split-second timing. You can buy your way past most of them, but in case you're afflicted like me, you should add The Hobbit to the list with BioShock 2 of games that mock a tenth of the male population.
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Another complaint is a lack of engaging boss battles. Though that's extremely faithful to the book, it's kind of a gyp in the game to never really engage in an epic battle with a massive antagonist. Mostly you run away. Speaking of, there is a lot of sneaking and stealth sections, which again is hella accurate, but also irritating as balls the fifteenth time the trolls catch you.
Left, Right, Left, Right: If you played Ocarina of Time, you'll have no problems controlling Bilbo. It's almost the exact same battle system, and he can jump to boot. All of his movements are as smooth as silk.
B, A: The game has an amazing soundtrack, one of the best I've ever heard. Ironically, it sort of sounds like an exact meshing of the Lord of the Rings symphony by Johan de Meij and the score Howard Shore would put together for the Peter Jackson films. If your gaming chair has a headphone jack, throw it on and you'll really get a treat.
Start?: Still a fantastic piece of gaming that it would be really nice to have re-released on the PSN or XBL. I wouldn't buy a whole sixth generation system to play it again, but if you happen to have one lying around, or one the high-end PS3s that is backwards compatible, then by all means take up Sting and get going. It'll help tide you over to the next film.