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The Hobbit (Commodore 64) artwork

The Hobbit (Commodore 64) review

"Ah 1985, what a great year. Madonna was ''Getting Into the Groove'', Whitney Houston was ''Saving all her Love'', the threat of imminent nuclear war had us all nailing doors to the wall's at right angles to create fall out shelters and most importantly I briefly acquired a Commodore 64 computer and a stack of games! "

Ah 1985, what a great year. Madonna was ''Getting Into the Groove'', Whitney Houston was ''Saving all her Love'', the threat of imminent nuclear war had us all nailing doors to the wall's at right angles to create fall out shelters and most importantly I briefly acquired a Commodore 64 computer and a stack of games!

Back in the mid-eighties there were no console wars in the UK. Nintendo and Sega were yet to leave a mark on home gaming. No, the real battles were between those who own the British made ZX Spectrum computers and those who had the flashy American Commodore 64. Personally I coveted a rubber keyed Speccy computer like all my friends had, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend a summer with a brand new C64. I got it home and hooked it up to the TV, I sifted through the stack of games I had been given. Various titles like ''Aztec Challenge'', ''Summer Games'' and Potty Pigeon'' looked good fun. But one game really caught my eye.

The Hobbit.

The Hobbit was The first text based role playing game to appear on a home system. It stuck closely to the plot of the book with the player taking on the role of Bilbo Baggins in his quest to kill Smaug the dragon and recapture the stolen dwarf gold. All the characters from the book, Gandalf, Elrond, Gollum and Thorin were all there to help/hinder you on your quest.
I had recently read the J.R.R Tolkien book the game was based on and was currently reading the Lord of the Rings (The Hobbit was the prequel to that famous trilogy). So I got very excited and booted the game up.

Of course in those days computer games came on cassette. So booting up a game involved putting it in the computers tape drive and waiting half an hour for it to load. During which time it would probably crash, or overheat and melt the tape or just stop for no reason. But hey in those days that was part of the fun. After about two hours I finally loaded the game and was treated to an awesome picture of Smaug the Evil Dragon I had to defeat. Then the game began.

You are in a comfortable tunnel like hall. To the east there is a round green door.
You see:
The Wooden Chest
Gandalf is carrying a curious map
Gandalf gives the map to you
Thorin says ''Hurry Up''
I do not know the verb ''look at''
Me (consults manual) EXAMINE MAP
There seem to be some symbols but you cannot read them.
Gandalf opens the round green door.
Thorin waits.
I do not know the word ''left''
Me (arrgh) GO EAST
[Sreeen draws a gloomy desolate landscape]
You are in a gloomy empty land with dreary hills ahead. The the west there is around green door.
Visible exits are east, north, northeast. You see:
Gandalf enters
Gandalf says ''Hurry Up''
Thorin enters
Thorn sits down and starts singing about gold.
Me (thanks for the help guys) HIT THORIN
You attack Thorin, but the effort is wasted. His defence is to strong. Thorin attacks you. With one well placed blow Thorin cleaves your skull.
You are dead.
You have mastered 0.25% of this adventure.

Well that was rpgaming in the mid-eighties! Of course in comparison to todays games the graphics are primitive, the sound non-existent and it's awkward to get into at first. However once you had mastered the right commands the game progressed very imaginatively through a reasonably close interpretation of the famous books plotline. Although it is a very simple game there are some lovely touches in it and I remain fond of it still to this day for that reason.

The script is often Pinteresque in its strangeness and quite evocative ''Time passes, Nothing Happens, Day Dawns'' years before Zelda 64, the Hobbit pioneered the idea of Day and Night affecting game scenarios (the troll's clearing is one. Try and pass through in the day and you will die. Come back at night and they have turned to stone).

To beat the game you had to avoid being killed by the trolls, navigate the mountain maze (which I once spent several hours trapped in), find Elronds House, get captured by the goblins, escape, steal the Ring of Invisibility of gollum make your way to Smaugs lair, kill him while invisible and then push off with all his treasure..simple right? Yeah right.

This was in the days before you could just look up a problem on a website like gamefaqs. if you were stuck in a game you stayed stuck until you sorted it out! Many games ended with me stuck in a goblin prison cell with only a dead Warg for company and Thorin singing about his gold!!! In fact the phrase ''Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold'' has entered UK gaming legend as one of the most infuriating things a non-player character has ever done in a game ( and that includes Natalya headbutting bullets in Goldeneye). Especially when you are trapped in the Goblins prison and it is not at all obvious what you should do next. (You have to dig a hole, smash a trapdoor with your sword and then carry Thorin out on your shoulders in case you were wondering!)

I love this game and spent many an hour trying to finish it. In fact I never have finished it! I had to give the Commodore 54 back before i could, Boo. I've finished Final Fantasy's 6-9, Resident Evil 2 and Zelda 64. But not the Hobbit! having recently reacquired a Commodore and a copy of the game I thought I might have a chance now I am 16 years the wiser. Fat chance, I keep getting frazzled by Smaug and have never mastered more than 75% of the adventure. Maybe one day I'll find Gollum and get the Ring off him, but until then the Hobbit remains the game I never beat.

falsehead's avatar
Community review by falsehead (March 08, 2004)

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