J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings Volume 1
In a fit of nostalgia I recently found myself perusing several retro gaming websites, pondering on some of the titles that I use to play on the Super Nintendo Entertainment. During the early nineties when this platform was my primary source of gaming I use to meticulously research new titles before purchasing. This was the pre-internet age and console cartridges came at a premium price, so you did not want to waste valuable money on a poor game. Magazines featuring previews and in-depth reviews were the main source of information. The other would be your local gaming boutique where you could hang out and discuss such matters with fellow gamers. Broadly this system worked and I enjoyed most of the games I played on the SNES.
However one title bypassed this screening process. It did so because I allowed my love of a particular intellectual property to cloud my vision. I refer to Interplay's J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings Volume 1. This was an adventure game from 1994, loosely tied in with both the Tolkien’s books and the 1978 animated feature film. Certainly part of the games aesthetic was influenced by Ralph Bakshi’s movie and the game used the font and logo from that film. At the time my default sense of scepticism was not as finally honed as it is now, so I foolishly allowed my optimism and imagination to side step the facts. Thus I purchased the said game and in a short period of time discovered it was one of the worse titles based on a license created for the SNES.
As memory serves, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings Volume 1 played more like a Zelda game and had very little to do with The Lord of the Rings in narrative terms. In fact the game showed a complete disregard to the lore. Within the confines of this game Bilbo gives the ring to Frodo at his leaving party and tells him to take it to Rivendell. Prior to the player actually embarking upon the said quest the game requires you to help Sam find his Gaffer's spectacles that have been lost in some local caves. These topographical features have fallen under the malevolent influence of Sauron (for some particular reason). Tedium ensues as the player pursues arbitrary task designed to extend a poorly designed games lifespan and plays through bland cookie cutter environments. I can distinctly remember naively hoping that matters would improve as the game progressed. Sadly they did not.
The game mechanics were very clunky, even by console standards of the console time. Characters would often get caught in the environment and the bulk of the quests were mainly of the "fetch multiple items" variety. The game graphics were far from original with many of the sprites and backgrounds sporting a generic look. Apart from some superficial attempts to make the main characters look vaguely like their counterparts from the movie, it was hard to see exactly how this was anything to do with Tolkien’s work. The game soundtrack was that tiresome Celtic style "Diddly Dee" nonsense that still seems to be de rigueur when developers try to interpret The Shire and other parts of Middle-earth. You could mash your controller endlessly in the vain hope of killing an enemy but more often than not, you’d simply die randomly for no discernible reason. The game also offered the facility to save access to completed levels via a serious of codes, but unfortunately unless you were a former employee of Bletchley Park, then the system was quite impenetrable.
Twenty two years on I still flinch while reflecting upon J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings Volume 1. It was and remains an excruciating game and insulting franchise cash in. Needless to say there was never a Part 2 as I believe there was a universal consensus that this was a shoddy product. It’s a curious thing that the platform that spawned Super Mario Kart, which is considered the embodiment quality design, also produced such nonsense as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings Volume 1. Now in the age of console emulators there may well be a few Tolkien enthusiasts that want to check this game out of some sort of idle curiosity. I would strongly advise them not to. A quick visit to You Tube will demonstrate the folly of such a notion.