Lord of the Rings: Journey to Rivendell
|Lord of the Rings: Journey to
box also exists
If there was ever a prototype I doubted the existence of it
was LOTR. After seeing the mock up screenshots in the
final Parker Brothers catalog I was sure that little if any work
had actually been done on this title. Imagine my surprise
when not only did the prototype turn up, but it was nearly
complete! How could one of the most sought after
prototypes remain hidden for so many years? Was it worth
the wait? Did it live up to expectations? Would
Tolkien fans have a reason to to keep on living? The answer to
these questions is a resounding "sorta".
First lets make one thing clear, much like Star Wars: Episode I
there was no way this prototype could have lived up to the
hype. The 20-year wait had made everybody's expectations of
the game unreasonable, and poor old LOTR never had a chance.
While the game was good, it wasn't the ultimate fantasy game
everyone had been hoping for. Still, fans were happy with
what they got and we're all better for having played it.
That being said, here's a complete and thorough rundown of
The goal of the game is get from Hobbitton to
Rivendell in as short a time as possible. As you make your
journey to Rivendell you will be pursued by the deadly Nazgul
(Ring Wraith), who will attempt to kill you and take the ring.
Along the way you can meet various characters from the book,
each character will help you in a special way. Although you
can simply run straight for Rivendell without exploring the rest
of the game, it makes the game rather short and boring. The
game much more enjoyable if you attempt to follow the path laid
out in the book. This means stopping over in Bree, finding
all the various hidden characters, and not using the ring.
While the game ending is exactly the same, your enjoyment
level (and points) will increase dramatically.
You start the game in the town of Hobbitton with
Sam Gamgee (the red guy). The town scene is fairly well done
with rows of houses and streets dotting the landscape. All
the towns in the game (Hobbitton, Bree, and Rivendell) look
exactly the same, I guess the building codes of Middle Earth were
pretty strict. Your character is represented by a square (no
room left for your graphics I guess), which you can move around
the screen. To leave Hobbitton simply move one screen any
direction. Going to the left will bring you to the road, and
going either up or right will bring you to the forest.
This is probably a good time to explain how the
health, time, and map system work. Frodo can only take three
hits before he croaks. You can be wounded in one of two
ways: getting hit by the Nazgul or waiting in the forest for more
than four time units (I'll explain the time units in a second).
Unfortunately there is no way to heal yourself in the game
(I guess aspirin hasn't been invented yet), but the various
characters can protect you from the Nazgul (which I'll explain
Time works like this; there are 16 time units in
one day. Every second or so your character will blink, every
four blinks is equal to one time unit. You can tell what
time of the day it is by watching the hills at the top of the
screen. Over the course of the day the sun will slowly set
and the sky behind the hills will get darker and darker until
night falls. During the night the Nazgul become much more
active and will speed up considerably and will be able to out run
your character! The longer the game lasts, the faster the
Nazgul becomes, speeding up a bit each day (their initial speed
can be changed with the left difficulty switch). If you fail
to reach Rivendell in a week (7 days), the game ends.
The map can be called up in the forest or town by
pressing the fire button. The large pluses on the map with
the letters next to them are the three towns you can ender (the
pluses are he actual towns). H stands for Hobbitton (your
starting point), B stands for Bree (where you pick up Strider),
and R stands for Rivendell (your goal). The world of Middle
Earth is divided into a grid of 43 x 100 squares (screens).
If you reach the edge of a screen the world will turn black and
you will not be able to proceed any further in that direction (no
world wraparound I guess).
The fastest way to travel through Middle Earth is
by following the road (which incidentally leads to
Rivendell). While traveling on the road you will move at
your top speed and be able to outrun (or keep up with if its
night) the Nazgul. As you travel the road or open land
you'll occasionally see bids fly overhead, these birds are spies
for Sauron and help the Nazguls find your faster. You can
hide yourself from the birds by using the ring, but this will
speed up the Nazguls so it's usually not worth it (unless you're
sure the Nazguls are far away). Eventually the dreaded Nazgul will
show up riding his black horse and making a rather nasty
sound. If the Nazgul appears your only defense is to run
like hell towards the forest or let poor Sam take the hit for you
(assuming you have him with you). Veering off the path will
bring you to open ground, which looks the same as the road screen
but without the road (duh!). You don't move quite as fast
here, but you can still outrun the Nazgul in the daytime.
The brown roadside buildings are just there to slow you down
and serve no purpose. Moving through the open ground will
eventually bring you to the forest.
The forests of Middle Earth are very
dangerous. While they allow you to hide from the Ring
Wraith, they will wound your party if you stay in them too long.
If your character is wounded in the forest you'll hear a
thunderclap and the screen will flash briefly (Frodo should know
better than to take shelter from a thunder storm under a tree!)
Various characters can be found in the forests, so ignoring
them completely is not a good option. Just be careful and
limit your time in the forest as much as possible.
If you keep heading north you will eventually come
to the Loudwater River. Since Hobbits can't swim, you'll
have to find a bridge across it. Luckily there are two
bridges, which will take you to the other side. The other
side of the river is completely void of any features, but it
really doesn't matter since you're close to winning the game at
this point. Simply make your way to Rivendell (consult the
map) and you've won. The ending is pretty cheesy and
consists of the town screen flashing a few pretty colors.
Apparently there wasn't any room left over for a flashy ending. Oh
well, at least the game HAS an ending unlike most 2600 games of
So what about the ring? While the ring is
present in the game, it's not particularly useful other than for
hiding from the birds (at the cost of speeding up the Nazguls) so
it's best to only use it sparingly (just like in the book).
The ring can also be used as an emergency escape from the Nazgul
if used while on the same screen (they canít seem to find you)
which is completely opposite from the book. To use the
ring, press the fire button while you're not a square (on the
road, forest, or open land). You'll know you have the ring
on as your character will turn gray and a tune will play.
As I mentioned earlier, there are several
characters you can pick up along your journey that can help make
things easier. Finding these characters are beneficial to
your progress and will give you bonus points, but they are not
necessary to win the game.
||You start the game with Sam in Hobbitton.
Sam's only purpose is to take a hit from the Nazgul for
you like a human (err Hobbit) shield. If the Nazgul
touches you with Sam in your party you will not get hurt,
but Sam will disappear. You can find him again eight
screens down from where you lost him (hiding from the
Nazgul I guess).
||You can find Strider in the town of Bree.
Once joining your party, he will help you to locate
Gandalf. An arrow will appear in the lower-right
corner, which will point you in Gandalf's direction.
||While Gandalf is in your party your
character will become white, and the Nazgul won't attack
you. However, he won't stay with your party very
long, disappearing to a different part of Middle Earth.
The first time you find Gandalf, he will always be
in the same location; after that, his future locations are
based on where you are in Middle Earth when he leaves.
||Tom allows your party to move at full speed
through forests. To find him, from the starting
screen go 2 screens right, and go up to the 3rd
forest. Note that you cannot have both Tom and
Legolas in your party at the same time.
||Legolas allows your party to move at full
speed across open land (very useful). To find him,
go to the end of the path (at the river), left 3 screens,
and down 1. As is the case with Tom, your party
cannot handle the combined awesomeness of Tom and Legolas
at the same time.
All in all Lord of the Rings isn't bad, and is
pretty complex for a 2600 game. LOTR main problem is that
it's boring! All you do is run away from things until you
reach Rivendell, there's no way to defend yourself. This is
an unfortunate side affect of basing a video game off a fantasy
novel. Having Frodo take out his sword and slice the Nazgul
in two just wouldn't fit the character (but it would make for a
much more exciting game). LOTR was never released due to two
different parties owning the rights to the characters.
Tolkien's son owned one set of the rights (to the books),
and some company owned the other set of rights (movies, games, and
action figures). Parker Brothers was able to get permission
from one group, but not the other so the project stalled.
It's just as well I suppose; the game is average and
probably wouldn't have been a great seller. Of course with
the Lord of the Rings name on it, rabid fans probably would have
gobbled it up anyway. Either way, we can finally close the
book on one of the greatest prototype mysteries of all time.
||Different Victory Music
to 2600 Software