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Preview and review by Steve Cooke
(The White Wizard)

 

 
Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Lord of the Rings
1985 Melbourne House/Beam Software
By Philip Mitchell et al
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the twelfth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: March 13th, 1986) and the preview published in the tenth issue.
 
FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
An early look at Melbourne House's new blockbuster
 

elbourne House are now on the verge of releasing their long-awaited mega-game, Lord of the Rings. The game is in the form of a trilogy, and the first part (Fellowship of the Ring) has already appeared on a certain home computer that I shall not mention here.


Just to keep you on your toes, here are some hints as to what to expect when we review it in full next month. The White Wizard has been swallowing his pride and playing the Spectrum version, and although we all know that the Commodore version will be far superior, I can reveal some interesting facets of the game . . .

First, you can choose to play the role of one of four hobbits; Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry. Frodo carries the Ring and, for the benefit of those who don't know the story, the ultimate objective is to destroy this evil token by hurling it into the depths of Orodruin, the Fire Mountain, deep in the dark land of Mordor.

At the beginning of the game you get the chance to choose which of the hobbits you wish to control. You can choose more than one, and from then on you can play the game using that character by typing 'BECOME PIPPIN' or whatever. The characters you are not controlling directly are controlled by the computer -- and believe me, it keeps them busy! Unfortunately (on the Spectrum, at any rate), this means that the old CPU has really got its time cut off, and as a result the pace of the game is very slow -- almost unacceptably so at times. Let's hope the 64 version is much improved, in this respect at least.

The format of the display is unusual and very effective. The display is arranged rather like an open book, with a page laid flat across most of the screen, on which graphics come and go, and across which the text scrolls as you move around and enter commands. The faces of the four hobbits appear down the edge of the page if they are present in the same location as yourself -- otherwise they appear down the extreme edge of the screen, as if they were printed on earlier pages that have already been overlaid. Unfortunately, time delays occur here as well -- every time a hobbit enters your location its image must be erased and redrawn -- all rather tedious.

The best thing about the game, however, is the expanded version of Inglish -- the name Melbourne House give to their input system. It is certainly streets ahead of the Hobbit, and considerably more reliable and easier to use than Sherlock. I reckon that it's getting very close to Infocom standard and is certainly most impressive for a cassette-based game.

The White Wizard will give you a full-blown account of this major release in next month's issue. Until then, remember to brush the hair between your toes!

LORD OF THE RINGS
Melbourne House, 15.95 cass
 

t's here! Blow me down with a Balrog, I never thought I'd see the day. But here I am, sitting at my trusty 64, watching the Pavloda stripes loading Melbourne House's latest blockbuster. So what's it like, then?
.

Well Wizards, I have mixed news for you. You may recall that when I previewed Lord of the Rings I was concerned by the speed at which the game ran, or rather crawled. The bad news is that the Commodore version certainly isn't faster than any of the others, and I'm even inclined to think that it's a wee bit slower . . .

Kicking off in the first location, you have to wait nearly half a minute while the program first draws a rather uninspiring picture, then prompts you to hit return before printing the location description! This isn't necessarily the worst case either (although location description number one is particularly long). Another location I encountered took an astonishing one and three-quarter minutes to process! In fact, in this last instance, I would suggest that there is a bug at work somewhere. If you enter a dark location without light, you may find yourself in difficulties. You have been warned!

As far as the game itself is concerned, I have nothing but praise, though I have to admit that I have not yet finished the first part. The program comes in two cassettes and is accompanied by the book Fellowship of the Ring (first of the Tolkien trilogy). This isn't superfluous, as there are a number of occasions in the game when you need information from the book. Tolkien fans will obviously applaud the faithfulness to the original, but I'm not so sure that it's a good idea. The Hobbit, for example, did not require you to have any more than a cursory idea of the original, but in Lord of the Rings you will find that doing your homework is quite important, especially as far as names and aliases are concerned.

Apart from the innovations which I mentioned in the preview (especially the ability to 'become' any one of the four Hobbies), the other thing I particularly like about the game is its logical design. Right near the beginning you are faced with the problem of crossing a river by ferry, which can only be done by careful use of your companions. Indeed, all the obstacles I nave yet encountered have a pleasingly logical solution and don't depend on obscure magic spells or the right combination of mystical objects.

I also like the way time is handled in the game -- with the exception of the time it takes to work it all out. For example, when you start the adventure, Merry is absent and in another location. If you get there in time, you find him. But if you're late, all you get is a note telling you how he waited for you, but has now gone on ahead! It's little touches like these that make, the game enjoyable despite the occasional annoyance and the slow pace.

There are a large number of locations to explore, many of which are simply there for the atmosphere. The Wiz approves of this approach entirely -- I have never been one for 'a puzzle in every place'. I like to be able to do a bit of aimless wandering on my travels, provided that there's a reasonable degree of interest in the places I visit. The other nice thing about the game is that, depending on timing, there are occasionally different ways of approaching different puzzles. For example, if you dilly-dally at the beginning, you have to take shortcuts later on to avoid the Black Riders, whereas if you get on quickly you find yourself being able to take roads that were previously impassable.

The characters in the game appear to be far more intelligent than those in other recent adventures, and are certainly a far cry from those in The Hobbit. Even so, they do occasionally make obscure statements when spoken to. However, you will find that the need to communicate with your fellows is all-important if you are to get anywhere in the game.

Lord of the Rings is a large, ambitious game. The blurb claims over 200 locations and I haven't visited nearly that many yet (about 100 at the last count). Apart from the occasional bug (like the dark location mentioned earlier), the very slow pace, and the need to reload data from cassette if you QUIT or die, I found myself becoming more and more involved in Tolkien's world. I am inclined to think that this is more of a tribute to Tolkien than to Melbourne House, but nevertheless I feel this is a game I can safely recommend to the more wealthy Wizards among us.

 
Atmosphere 86%
Interaction 85%
Lasting Interest 87%

Value for Money

81%

Overall

85%
 


If you want a walkthrough, visit
Jacob Gunness
' Classic Adventures Solution Archive or
Martin Brunner's C64 Adventure Game Solutions Site

The later re-release, Fellowship of the Ring, containing full location graphics, is also worthy of your attention. This version also removed the character faces and the 'pages' layout, resulting in a much faster and better game.

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (26 Apr 2004)
There were no screenshots in the original review.

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