Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (GBA)

A few months ago I was asked to play Fellowship of the Ring on the Game Boy Advance, and I kinda hated every minute of it. This time around they've requested the sequel, The Two Towers, so either they liked what I wrote, or they hate me and want me to suffer some more.

Hey it's playing the real music from the movies. Okay first up I've got to choose my hero from the five available. There's Aragorn the ranger, skilled with blades. Gandalf the Grey, master of arcane magic and wielder of the Flame of Anor. Whatever that is.

Uh, shouldn't that be Gandalf the White if this is The Two Towers?

Also there's Frodo the hobbit, skilled at running away. Probably not going to be my first choice. And Legolas, an elven prince with superhuman archery skills.

And finally there's Gimli the Dw... what, there's no John Rhys-Davies? Why is Eowyn a playable character? Did she even do anything in the movie? Even the game is struggling to explain why I should choose her. 'Well she's... independent. And beautiful!'

The thing is, she's actually a decent warrior and wins a fairly important fight if I remember right. Just not in this movie.

As usual I went with the most boring possible choice, and started the game as Aragorn. I get a short montage from the movie and then it's straight into the first cutscene.

I don't know where this is or what's going on, but I'm pretty sure she's already holding a sword there Aragorn.

Seriously, the game's just dumped me into the second half of the second part of a trilogy with pretty much zero explanation of anything.

But before I can figure out what's going on, the cutscene jumps into a flashback taking place... in the second half of Fellowship of the Ring. I thought I'd escaped that damn game, I thought I was safe!

Well what was the point of that first scene then? It didn't work as a hook, it doesn't set anything up, and it doesn't make any sense at all unless you've seen the movie (or perhaps read the book).

Nice Diablo style interface there. Though the music and graphics actually remind me of Jurassic Park on the Amiga/PC. And the sound effects remind me of 80s arcade games.

This is actually a very different game to Fellowship, as it's all combat and cutscenes, and no wandering around bringing stuff to people. This time I'm fighting battles in real time, hacking orcs up with one button and healing myself with the other.


There's some nice cryptic descriptions on the skills page. I think I'll stay clear of the ones that say 'corrupt' on them, because I doubt that'll be anything good.

Sword throwing sounds nice though, assuming I get my sword back afterwards.

Well this screen looks pretty much as you'd expect. Lots of standard rpg attributes.

I appreciate them showing me exactly how my stats are affected when I distribute the extra points, but it's still tricky to figure out what to go with. Is it better to have 1 extra damage or 4 extra accuracy? I feel like I should be getting out a calculator.

Well at least I've finally got Aragorn some footwear so he's not barefoot any more. Though now I have to choose between +defence shoes or +speed sandals. I think the poor guy would prefer +warmth boots in this weather to be honest.

As far as I can tell there's no easy way to compare what I've got with what I could have, so I have to keep switching between them to see their stats.


I'm still hacking and slashing. The enemies seem to get stunned while I'm hitting them so I'm pretty much just wading right into everyone I see and tapping attack.

Enemies often drop items like food (for health), herbs (for mana spirit), and swords (for stabbing people), so I'm not struggling to keep my spheres filled. In fact my spirit recharges over time.

I was looking for a map of the level, but this is all I've got. Still at least it's nice to know what I'm supposed to be doing. Even if it is just 'make your way through the level'.

Damn, I was dreading this. I've finally come across a problem that can't be solved by hacking OR slashing. The others apparently just climbed over when they came through here, but Aragorn's too stubborn for that so I suppose I'll have to wander off and find a different way.


Oh that's nice. The top path was a dead end too, only this time the game also dropped rocks on me. Fortunately one of the boulders bounced off my skull and crashed into the rubble below, opening up the blocked path.


It's okay game, I'm through the rubble now, you don't have to keep throwing rocks at me.

Damn, I've grabbed so much gear from dead enemies that I've already filled my tiny eight slot inventory. Now I have to destroy something in my bag before I can pick up anything new. I was hanging on to the stuff so I could sell it, but it's just occurred to me that the Fellowship don't visit another town until way later in the movie, so there's no point in carrying any of this.

Oh great, there actually ARE shops in this game. Fortunately I managed to grab some more stuff to fill up my inventory along the way, but I basically just threw money away by discarding all that gear.

Finally I catch up to the rest of the Fellowship. These bastards totally ran off on me at the beginning of the level. Apparently I'm totally superfluous here, I was only able to catch up at all because they'd stopped to say goodbye to their pony.

Oh shit, a tentacle monster from the deep! Looks like I'm going to have a boss battle.

Or not. We just ignored the thing entirely and walked inside the Mines of Moria, a dwarven city. Or at least it was a dwarven city until orcs came and killed them all.

Yeah, this game really is like Diablo with a d-pad. And now it's gone from 'hack and slash', to 'hack and slash and clear out my inventory every few rooms'.

I've been trying out some of the skills I've spent points unlocking, but it's hard to cycle through to the exact thing I want to use. So I'm walking around with the spin attack already selected, trying to get surrounded so I can hit a group with it.

Mines of Moria, level two.

I finally managed to get Aragorn killed. I had a special attack selected, and I couldn't switch back to healing in time to save myself. Though I just reappeared back at the stairs with all my stuff, so it wasn't a massive catastrophe.

Damn, look at that doorway. The game's been as graphically solid as GBA titles with prerendered sprites tend to get so far, but it looks like they drew the lines for the door frame in quickly and forgot to finish it later.

So many bloody switches in this place, all linked to off screen doors. I have to go wandering around trying to find the new opening each time I press one.

I was hoping for a bit more variety, to break up the hacking and slashing and item discarding, but this is the opposite of interesting.

Agh, monkey ambush! Uh, I mean orc ambush! Actually I'm not sure what these things are supposed to be, I've forgotten what attacked them here in the movie.

They're yellow because enemies seem to be colour coded to indicate their toughness. In the movie they stick some war paint on, in this they must be dipped in the stuff.


Thanks for that, helpful objective arrow. You've led me to another dead end.

The thing points directly to where I need to go, rather than how to get there, so it's pretty damn pointless at times. In this case what I actually have to do, is go in the exact opposite direction.

I finally caught up to the rest of the Fellowship again just in time for us to team up against a giant cave troll. This could be a pretty tough fight alone, especially with enemies pouring in, but together I think we have a chance.

I can't carry any healing potions in this, so if that blue spirit sphere runs empty I've got to run like hell and hack up some grunts for refill items, or wait for it to recharge.

A little help here Gandalf! Frodo, try to get his attention so I can stab him in the back. Legolas, see if you can backflip onto his shoulder and shoot arrows in to his brain. Oh alright FINE, I'll take him on all by myself then.

Just don't run off without me this time when I'm done.

I beat the troll with a combination of hacking and slashing techniques, then those assholes ran off without me again. To be fair though we are being chased by a Balrog.

I remember this sequence being a little more dramatic in the movie, with the stone staircase crumbling into the abyss around them as they raced down the steps. But in this I just walk down a couple of stairs, hit a few enemies, and I'm done.

Is that thing meant to be the Balrog then? It looks more like... I don't even know what it looks like.

Just like the iconic scene in the movie, Gandalf heroically stays behind and sacrifices himself to stop the demon and save the group. Only this time the others didn't even bother to glance over their shoulder to check if he was still with them as they raced to the exit.

"Fly You Fools!" he yells to an empty room.

They're not grieving mate, they're just exhausted from all their running. They don't even know Gandalf is dead yet, not one of them bothered to wait for him.

Well I've been playing for an hour and a half, killed 550 enemies, and I still haven't reached the beginning of The Two Towers yet. I was going to keep playing until Fellowship ended at least, but I just remember how long that story is, so I going to quit while I'm ahead.

Just out of curiosity I decided to check out the other characters, and it seems that they actually have different stories. Here I start off as Gandalf the White chatting to the restored King of Rohan... and the game still makes absolutely zero attempt to explain who any of these people are or what's going on.

It seems that Gandalf gets a flashback too. Wait a minute, this is the same level that I just played through as Aragorn. Only this time I'm playing as a wizard instead of a fighter.

Presumably his story branches off after the fight with the Balrog though.

Legolas and Frodo get the same first level too.

This time as Frodo I decided to just put the ring on, turn invisible, and just walk past the enemies. But it seems that raised my corruption level (indicated by the Eye of Sauron in the corner probably) to the point where a Ringwraith teleported in and stabbed him to death.

It wouldn't have surprised me if Eowyn had a flashback to Fellowship of the Ring too, despite not actually being in the movie. But no she does get her own first level.

Apparently this time I'm helping her brother to, uh... find Theodred I guess. You know, I have no idea what's going on here and I really don't care. I sacrifice my final character to the orcs and turn the game off.

Next game.

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