We check out a couple of levels from the GameCube version of Sierra's Tolkien-inspired action adventure game. New screens inside.
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At a recent press event in Berlin, we were among the first people to get our hands on a playable version of The Hobbit. Only the GameCube version of the game, which is currently in development at Inevitable Entertainment, was being shown at the event, but Xbox, PS2, and PC versions of the game were announced.
In The Hobbit you assume the role of Bilbo Baggins, who leaves Hobbiton to travel across Middle-earth taking in such locations as Rivendell, Mirkwood, and Laketown en route to the Lonely Mountain. We were able to take a look at two distinctly different levels in the game, the first of which was a green and pleasant land not far from Baggins' hometown. This appeared to be one of the earliest levels in the game, since Bilbo was armed only with a staff and actually had no cause to use it. This level essentially seemed to be a chance for the younger players that the game is intended for to master the basic controls by jumping from platform to platform and exploring. The level looked great, and since most of the platform edges were masked by foliage, the area we were in felt much more natural than the exterior locations in a lot of games.
The second level we got to play was obviously taken from later on in the game and had Bilbo exploring a huge underground cave complete with giant spider webs and shimmering rocks. Graphically, this level wasn't quite as impressive as the first, but the gameplay was much more challenging, and we had plenty of opportunities to check out the Zelda-style lock-on feature, since we were confronted by multiple enemies. The combat in the game is actually very similar to that in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, although Bilbo's range of moves seems more limited than Link's, and the art of blocking or moving to avoid incoming blows seems fairly difficult to master. When enemies did eventually fall, they left behind gems for us to pick up. These gems could also be found lying around in various areas, which seemed to be the level designers' way of steering us in directions that might not have been apparent otherwise.
The Hobbit is definitely intended for young players primarily, but since the game incorporates elements of action, stealth, role-playing, and puzzle solving and sticks quite closely to the plot of the book, we wouldn't be surprised if it became popular with just about anyone with an interest in The Lord of the Rings. The GameCube version of The Hobbit is scheduled for release in the third quarter of this year, but release dates for the other versions have not been announced at this time. For more information, check out our previous coverage of the game.