day five

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

First Hour Review
Lord Of The Rings Two Towers Cover

This is the start of a marathon of Lord of the Rings gaming, in which I play the first hour of three games based on the Lord of the Rings movies. Strangely enough the three games are not one for each movie; there was in fact no game made for the Fellowship of the Ring movie. Instead, I'll be playing Lord of the Rings: The Third Age as the third game.

The Lord of the Rings is one of the most beloved series of books ever written, and the movies based on them are some of the best-selling of all time. What I want to find out is if the IP was able to make the jump to video games with the same fidelity.

I read these books some years back, before the movies came out, and they are some of my favorite books. Because of this, I may throw around a few terms that are unfamiliar if you have not read the books or watched the movies. If this is the case I strongly urge you to read the books.

Electronic Arts had the video game rights to the Lord of the Rings films (Sierra had the rights to the books; I'm not really sure how that works), but since the first film came out around the time the console cycle entered the next generation, EA decided to skip Fellowship of the Ring and instead focus on releasing a game that coincided with the premier of The Two Towers. Because of this, the game starts with several scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Which stigma will this game live up to: Lord of the Rings, or movie game? Find out. Here's the first hour of The Lord of the Ring: The Two Towers for the Nintendo GameCube.

Wheelman

First Hour Review
Wheelman Cover

Wheelman is one of those games I always thought looked interesting, but it got luke-warm reviews and slowly faded into obscurity as more popular AAA franchises consumed the markets (as well as my) interest. That is until one fateful day at Target when I saw it on the clearance shelf. Reviewers Note: Just in case you aren’t aware, Target stores generally have a clearance shelf near the electronics department. It’s usually an end-cap and that’s where they put the unpopular games out to pasture, along with poorly selling MP3 players, Barbie-themed boomboxes and other retail failures. Whenever I’m at Target, I make it a point to check that shelf. When I saw Wheelman for $14.99, I had to pick it up. Was it a mistake? Did the game hook me? Read on to find out.

Okay, so here’s what I knew going into Wheelman. I knew it was a pet project for Vin Diesel, an action star whose movies I’ve more often enjoyed than disliked (although Babylon A.D. was a particular stinker). I had read that Vin was an avid gamer and always wanted to be involved in the production of an action game. That sounded interesting enough, but then I found out it was going to be an all-out, over-the-top, in-your-face driving game and that there might even be a movie attached. Okay, so the movie didn’t pan out, but the heavily hyphenated Game got made and was even published by TWO major players, Midway and Ubisoft. The game was developed by Tigon Studios and Midway Newcastle. So, let’s see what the first hour of Wheelman looks like.

Editor's Note: Tigon Studios was founded by Vin Diesel and their first game was The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, a game I started to play once and I will admit, has a pretty amazing first hour.

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee

First Hour Review
Oddworld Abes Oddysee Cover

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, a puzzle-platformer developed by Oddworld Inhabitants, was released in 1997 for the PlayStation and PC. It uses pre-rendered graphics for its backgrounds and sprites, and has a large list of actions that can be taken by the player, including making the player character speak.

I remember playing the demo of this game at Toys'R'Us, and being impressed by its graphics and gameplay features, as well as the odd feeling of it all.

Oddworld is now available through Steam for play on the PC, and that's where I got the copy I'll be playing. Although it can be played with the keyboard, I will be using a gamepad because I find it very cumbersome to use a keyboard to play a game designed for a controller.

Chibi-Robo!

First Hour Review
Chibi Robo Cover

Ever get tired of fighting? Can't someone make a game about something besides combat? Those were questions I was asking myself when I discovered Chibi-Robo. I remembered this Nintendo-published game vaguely from when it first came out, but looked into it with more interest as I tried to find a game about something other than violence.

Granted, games like The Sims are about something other than fighting, but what I was looking for was a game that used familiar game elements in a non-combat setting. For example, could you earn experience points by talking to people? Explore and find something other than more enemies to fight? Surely it can be done, but it didn't seem to exist in the wild.

That's when I found Chibi-Robo. Developed by Skip Ltd. and published by Nintendo, it seems to be an adventure game in which you play as a tiny robot and explore a house. Your mission is to make the host family happy, which you do by cleaning up trash and spills, finding lost objects, and sundry other tasks.

But will a non-violent game be able to offer an exciting first hour experience?

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