The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers Review

It's surprisingly fun to roam throughout the lands of Middle-earth, slaying orcs and goblins, leveling up a character, and snagging all of the loot you can before the game ends.

Although the Game Boy Advance game The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers is based on the upcoming motion picture by New Line Cinema, it's mainly a Diablo or Gauntlet clone with story elements from the movie sprinkled throughout. With that in mind, it's surprisingly fun to roam throughout the lands of Middle-earth, slaying orcs and goblins, leveling up a character, and snagging all of the loot you can before the game ends. You'll still experience most of the major events from the movie, just not necessarily from the same perspective or in the order that you're familiar with.

Play as Rings characters and slay orcs for loot. For one or two players.
Play as Rings characters and slay orcs for loot. For one or two players.

Electronic Arts may be open to criticism for finagling with the finer points of the film, but the game is more interesting because of it. First, some of the story elements and levels change depending on the character you choose. There are five unique characters: Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo, Legolas, and Eowyn. If you select Frodo, you'll generally see everything you'd see in the theater, whereas the plotlines for Gandalf and Aragorn will detach from the main story at appropriate points and take you through events that Frodo or the other characters didn't experience. As such, when you play through with a new character, you're not just seeing the same things over and over again.

Another nice twist is that all of the characters are unique--not just in terms of looks, but in their abilities as well. Frodo can use the One Ring to turn invisible, and he's really good at backstabbing opponents. Aragorn has a skill that lets him wield two swords at once, and he can develop a charisma technique that stuns opponents for significant amounts of time. Each character has anywhere from 10 to 20 various magic and attack skills, which you can improve throughout the game with the points you earn by gaining experience. Some skills are passive and take effect without your input, so it's not like you have to spend an interminable amount of time mashing the L button just to do something like recharge your spirit level.

Regardless of the variety that it offers in the way of story and character development, The Two Towers is shamelessly straightforward when it comes to actual hands-on playing. Just like in games such as Diablo and Gauntlet, all you're doing much of the time is swatting the same carbon-copy creatures with your weapons and gathering the items their carcasses leave behind. It's not as boring as it sounds, however. The orcs and goblins you defeat will give you experience points that you can use to improve traits such as health, strength, and courage, and they'll drop weapons and clothing that you can equip your character with. The overall selection of clothing, items, and weapons is rather large, so you could potentially invest a bit of time searching for rare items with which to outfit your character. If you want to linger, you can linger. If not, all you need to do is slay creatures until you've gained a satisfactory number of levels to move on to the next area.

Another nice feature is the game's multiplayer aspect--you and a friend can play together through three different stand-alone adventures with the characters you build in the solo quest. The rules are fairly open in this mode, so you and your partner can fight together or split up and explore different areas of a stage. Similar to the cooperative areas in Sega's Phantasy Star Online, the cooperative areas in The Two Towers are more challenging than the solo game, and the rewards are generally higher as well. Besides that, you can trade items with one another, which will come in handy when your friend has an obsidian longbow that he can't use because he's playing as Gandalf.

As you play through the game, the plot of the film will unravel, and you'll visit many familiar locations, such as the Mines of Moria, the Plains of Rohan, and the walls of Helm's Deep, and at least a dozen other large, multisegmented areas. Some areas drag you into the events of the film, so there are at least a few occasions when you're not just slaying anonymous goblins but are performing tasks. These tasks can range from something simple, such as destroying the siege weapons at Helm's Deep, to more complex endeavors, such as sneaking past Sauron's Crebain (crows) at Amon Hen. You also need to take care not to overdose on certain magic skills, as these will elevate your corruption status to a point where Sauron's ringwraiths can attack you.

If you use corrupt magic, the ringwraiths may come for you.
If you use corrupt magic, the ringwraiths may come for you.

The fact that the game doesn't hold your hand and force you through the story is certainly one of the finer points of The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, but that isn't to say that the sights and sounds of the films are absent. After all, if you're buying a video game based on one of your favorite movies, you at least want it to remind you of the film. All of the background music is taken directly from the motion-picture soundtracks, and there are tiny video clips that play at various intervals. The scenery within the game is colorful, although there isn't all that much detail to the environments besides a few flickering torches and a couple of nifty rain and snow effects. The main characters look similar to their onscreen counterparts and move with a good amount of animation. Their opponents aren't as lifelike or detailed, however, so you might be a little bored after slaying your 500th orc. Even so, the few giant ogres and uruk-hai that serve as the game's bosses break up the pace with reasonable frequency, especially since they're interspersed with the in-game dialogue and video clips.

The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers doesn't outdo games like Golden Sun or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past when it comes to overall depth or polish, but it is a fine example of how a motion picture can be transformed into a video game and still turn out enjoyable.

The Good

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The Bad

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