The Hobbit Review

If you've been introduced to the works of Tolkien by the Lord of the Rings movies, you may be surprised to learn that the book that originally started it all was written as a children's story.  The developers of The Hobbit have stayed true to the spirit of the book by giving the game a look and feel with which kids will readily identify.  A cartoon-like Bilbo inhabits a colorful and cute world and the gameplay is straight out of the kind of video game platformer with which kids are all intimately familiar.  If you're looking for a game set in the dark, dangerous, and dramatic Middle Earth of the films then you'll more than likely be let down by The Hobbit.  On the other hand, if you don't mind the videogame play and graphics you'll be rewarded with a game that manages to be a pretty average platformer despite the power of Tolkien's storytelling.

Meet Bilbo.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Hobbit, the story follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins after he is recruited by the wizard Gandalf to aid a group of dwarves in retrieving their treasure from the evil dragon Smaug. The game’s levels are set in the book’s major locations as our heroes make their way from Hobbiton to the Lonely Mountain. Events from the book are depicted through cutscenes and sketch drawings between the levels, but once you take control of Bilbo you become involved in standard platform jump puzzles and fetch it quests.  For example, the game opens in Hobbiton as the party prepares to leave on their journey to Lonely Mountain. The pending expedition serves as an excuse to send you scurrying about collecting provisions for the trip. Of course the provisions that you need are all in the hands of various hobbits who will ask you to do them a favor before they hand anything over. These all involve your fetching an item or solving a simple puzzle, which invariably require you to do a lot of jumping and looking behind trees and buildings.

The Hobbit is a collection of just about every element typically found in platform games.  There are coins scattered around the land that can be exchanged for health potions and similar such items between levels, and gems that can be gathered to increase Bilbo's hit points.  There are stealth-based sequences that are exercises in pattern recognition performed with one finger on the "sneak" key.  Expect to do even more sneaking around once you acquire the Ring and its power of invisibility.  And, of course, there are the aforementioned puzzles and jump sequences.  The puzzles are of the flip the switch, find the item, move the box variety, so they won't provide much of a mental workout.  The jumping sequences are made more challenging than need be by the game's camera.  It will often swing to the wrong angle or perch itself at a spot that makes it tough to judge your next jump.  All of these elements are pretty much standard platform fare, and are not particularly challenging or exciting.  It's not that they are poorly implemented, it's that they are all generic and derivative.  There's just nothing here that you haven't done many times before.

The game takes Bilbo's role as the group's "burglar" to heart by throwing locked chests into the game.  In order to open the chests you'll need to complete time-based reaction mini-games that involve hitting the button when various gears and wheels align.  It's interesting enough at first but grows to be a repetitive exercise as you move deeper into the game.