Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest: Hands-On

We go hands-on with Headstrong's family-friendly take on Tolkien's trilogy.

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At E3, Headstrong Games was showing off its Wii version of Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest, while TT Fusion's PlayStation 3 version with Move integration was absent from the show. (There's no Xbox 360 version, Kinect-enabled or otherwise, in the works.) Our demo, taken from the last quarter of the game, was set in Pelennor Fields, which is the battleground that Tolkien fans will remember from the battle late in Return of the King. The game covers Aragorn's part in all three books, as told by Sam Gamgee (voiced by Sean Astin of Peter Jackson's movies) to his kids, some time after the events of the trilogy. Framing the game with a bedtime-storytelling narrator is Headstrong's way of turning the relatively dark fantasy of classic Lord of the Rings into a family-friendly Wii game, with Sam playing up Aragorn's heroism and omitting grislier details.

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At Pelennor Fields, Aragorn is backed by an army of soldiers--some ghostly, some human--as well as Legolas and Gimli--as he sees off Sauron's forces, siege engines and ogres among them. You play with the remote and nunchuk and, as the title suggests, only as Aragorn, but you can pick up items that buff your small party. In our time with the game, we picked up a battle cry that confers a reddish aura and extra power to each member. Aragorn and his group began by repelling siege engines from the city walls in a side quest, aiming and shooting fire arrows with the Wii Remote. These are optional, in addition to the main level objectives, and failing them doesn't end the game, though completing them earns you useful items, such as special arrow types.

Shield and sword combat, meanwhile, make good use of the nunchuk and remote together. Raising Aragorn's shield with the nunchuk enables a shield bash (when prompted with an icon overlaid on enemies), for example, along with a sidestepping evade move. There's also a selection of special sword moves, including a charged attack and a chain of sword swings. For Tolkien enthusiasts, there are lore items to be collected and read about. A swirling breadcrumb trails of lights can be called up to show you where to go next and, in another nod to accessibility, there's drop-in co-op play with Gandalf as a second character, tethered to Aragon on the non-splitting screen.

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Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest will be out this fall in North America on the Wii and PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PSP, and the DS.

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