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The Hobbit Xbox

Published by Sierra Entertainment
Developed by Inevitable Entertainment
Released: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Any self-respecting Tolkien fan will tell you that the story of Sauron's ring does not begin with the The Lord of The Rings but in it's prequel, The Hobbit. The Hobbit, as I am sure most of you will know details how Bilbo Baggins came to possess the Ring. In The Hobbit though it's not thought of as a weapon of evil and is used by Bilbo as a means of making himself invisible and for most of the story he keeps it as his own secret. The story is a classic of course but does the game based on the book work? Let's take a look.

The Hobbit is a mix of genres and can be summed up as part adventure, part action and part platformer. Bilbo will have to fight but don't worry if you don't like combat in a game because the combat is fairly lightweight. Bilbo has his short sword, a walking stick and can also throw rocks at his enemies. The combat is never difficult and the save points appear to be liberally spread around so you shouldn't ever have to backtrack too far should the worst happen. Bilbo can restore his health with either mushrooms, water of vigour or magic potions and there are a few other things to collect too such as silver pennies, keys, courage points and waters of fortitude (which increases the amount of damage that Bilbo can take). The platform sections are straightforward thanks to an easy to use control scheme. Occasionally Bilbo will have to use stealth to avoid enemies but once again thanks to a good control scheme and a good camera there are no problems.

What might upset Tolkien fans is how briefly certainly elements of the book are portrayed in the game. All the important parts are there of course, the Trolls, Gollum and Smaug but the key incidents feel a little rushed. The incident with the trolls is a good example. After delicately sneaking Bilbo around the three ugly brutes in order to collect their wallet ,the game just moves on to the next section and misses out on the best bits from the book (I won't mention what they are in case you haven't yet read the book). However liberal editing of the book aside the game hangs together rather well and even if you haven't read the book, you'll still enjoy the games story and it should encourage you to read the book.

Graphically the game looks like it was aimed at a younger audience and has an almost cartoon appearance to it. Whilst the main character, Bilbo Baggins, wasn't exactly what I had expected the other characters such as the dwarves and Gandalf all look good and how you would expect them to look. The only character I was disappointed by was Gollum who could have looked much better. However this is a personal opinion and not a criticism. The game itself has many different environments ranging from the Shire to Smaug's den and most of them have been nicely created to more or less what you would expect from having read the book. The game does slowdown on the odd occasion but overall the framerate is very good and much smoother than last years 'The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring'. There are some clipping issues but nothing unusual for a game of this nature. The camera is fairly well behaved and can be controlled with the right analogue stick. If objects ever get in your way they become transparent so you can still see what you are doing, which is a very good way to deal with such problems.

Tolkien fans will be pleased to know that The Hobbit is subtitled. There is one exception though: the introduction is not subtitled, which is a shame but not of the greatest importance as it only gives a brief summary of events in the game. The subtitles do have to be enabled but once they are, you won't miss out on anything. Pressing the start button will give you access to your quest log which allows you to see your required and optional objectives as well as any quests that have been given to you. You'll also be notified of any new objectives that you pick up by a book icon that appears onscreen.

Whilst last years The Fellowship of the Ring was a disappointment, The Hobbit is actually a good game that most gamers should enjoy. While there are quite a few events from the book missing from the game, a lot of them feel rushed and are too short to be fully satisfying. The platform elements of the game can be a little irritating but thanks to a good control setup it's not half as irritating as it could be. The puzzles in the game are all straightforward and whilst some are a little on the challenging side, most will cause no problem at all. It also makes a nice change from the very combat heavy Lord of the Rings titles too.

Overall Game Rating: 7.9/10
The Hobbit has a more relaxed feel to it than the combat heavy Lord of the Rings titles and younger gamers and those who don't like sore thumbs will be pleased about this. It doesn't go into enough detail though and several key parts of the story feel rushed and too short.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The introduction which gives you a brief insight into what happens in the game is not subtitled but everything else is.