With a flurry of games based on J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Lord of the Rings books and the accompanying series of New Line Cinema films just around the corner, gamers from all of walks of life will soon be able to experience and interact with the characters of this high-fantasy universe on every single major platform, including the Game Boy Advance. In fact, Nintendo's handheld system is getting no fewer than three games based on Tolkien's work. One of these GBA games is Sierra's The Hobbit, which is based on the book of the same name. The game, which is scheduled for release later this year, is an action adventure that will feature all of the major characters from the book. As Bilbo Baggins, you'll travel across the vast reaches of Middle-earth, do battle with more than 40 types of enemies, and advance in level as you gain experience. To find out more about the game, we talked with Sierra associate producer Bernadette Pryor.
GameSpot: We haven't heard much about the Game Boy Advance version of The Hobbit, and it wasn't at E3. Can you give us a general overview of the game?
Bernadette Pryor: The Hobbit for the Game Boy Advance should appeal to GBA enthusiasts and Tolkien fans. The game is played from an isometric perspective, allowing the player to move in any direction around the screen. We follow the book in terms of the sequence of events, but it's a game, not an interactive novel. The player will have many puzzles to solve and foes to pickpocket, sneak past, or defeat. You'll also come across boss enemies who you must fight or outwit. Bilbo can hide, climb, jump, and shimmy across ledges. You can pull or pick up and throw rocks to clear them from your path, or, if you're out of ammo and your weapon isn't doing the job, you can throw them at your enemy.
There are many hidden levels and areas to discover and a slew of minigames to play. We are even planning a minigame that can be played with NPCs or against other GBA owners using a link cable, but we don't want to give more details on that until it's fleshed out.
GS: What's the control scheme like? Are you utilizing all four of the GBA's buttons?
BP: We haven't settled on the final control setup yet, but I can say that all the GBA buttons will be used.
GS: How long have you been working on the game?
BP: We've been in full production on The Hobbit GBA since March of 2002.
GS: Will it play similarly to, say, a classic Zelda game, or it will have more traditional RPG elements?
BP: We've taken gameplay elements from Zelda-style games and role-playing games. So, you'll see old gameplay conventions like power-ups along with improving skills as seen in traditional RPGs. We have a little of everything here. No matter what the convention, we've tied it in with the world of Middle-earth. You won't find hearts or stars as power-ups, though.
GS: How closely will The Hobbit for the GBA follow the GameCube game's plot?
BP: We have a completely different set of game designers and developers than the GameCube version. But players will see similarities in some of the art and music. The GBA game follows the story of Bilbo's adventures from the book more closely than the GameCube version, and you'll see more emphasis on sneaking and puzzles in the handheld game too. If players have the Game Boy Advance version and the GameCube version, they'll be playing two completely different games encompassing the same adventurous story.
GS: How many different environments will players get to see, and which one is your favorite?
BP: We follow the book, which lets the player experience everything from Hobbiton to The Lonely Mountain. We allow the player to open doors and enter and explore buildings, as well as adventure through the wilderness and dark forests.
It's really too early to say which is my favorite environment. For the moment, I'd say it's the Warg area, where you can slide down rock slides and try to avoid the huge boulders being dropped by stone giants.
GS: In addition to Bilbo, will you be able to play as any of the other memorable characters who make an appearance in the game?
BP: We focus on the adventure from Bilbo's perspective. We wanted the player to identify himself or herself solely with Bilbo and see the world of Middle-earth as he does. This is Bilbo's adventure, after all. Don't be discouraged: the dwarves, Gandalf, elves, and humans in Tolkien's book are also in the game. You can interact and converse with all the major characters in the book, as well as some of the enemies.
GS: Will the game release alongside the GameCube version?
BP: Yes, we plan for a simultaneous release of both games.
GS: Thanks for your time, Bernadette.