LORD OF THE RINGS, VOL. 1 / Interplay / SNES
Some heart and effort went into this game, but it appears to have been restricted only to the soundtrack, animation and incorporation of Tolkein's original text. The actual gameplay got short shrift, with incredibly clunky combat and a truly obnoxious system of juggling multiple characters in real-time, and it's just so bad that it sinks anything else that was enjoyable here.

As the title indicates, the original plan was for this to be a three-part series roughly following the books, but it never made it past this first entry. This one takes you up to the escape from Moria and the fight against the Balrog, though I only know that from reading online as I would never actually play the game enough to get anywhere close to that point.

So you start out with Frodo in the Shire, with the game following the overall outline of the events of the first book, and even incorporating the actual text for conversations where appropriate. But it also makes numerous diversions for the sake of padding -- for example, you open by having to track down Merry and Pippin in a wolf-filled wilderness, and also have to explore a series of caves to find Gaffer Gamgee's missing glasses before Sam will join you.

It's an action-RPG with a very strong emphasis on action, and that's where things go off the rails. It uses a relatively primitive 4-directional engine, which by itself makes combat cumbersome. But once you get party members, things really get effed. You switch between controlling them one at a time by holding down L or R, having to switch on the fly as monsters attack. And it's very important to do so, as most of them are fragile and when they die they're gone for good. Yep, every character has permadeath with no way to revive them, except for Frodo and Aragorn who end the game when killed.

There also isn't an inn or any way to easily heal characters. At the game's outset, you can't heal without prowling around in a dangerous bat-filled cave for mushrooms, often getting killed in the effort. Add in no battery for the cartridge and long-ass passwords to continue, and the game is just way too much of a headache to bother with.
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