The history of videogames is littered with the rubble of bad titles based on popular movies.
But even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while, and so it is with the subject of today's tirade, "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," provided by Electronic Arts and developer Stormfront Studios for the PlayStation 2.
If you're awake, you'll notice the title matches the second episode in the movie series, which is due to debut in December, although events in the early rounds are based on the first movie, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."
That bit of confusion aside, EA has managed to put together a solid title, especially if you're a fan of the hack-and-slash school of gaming.
Stormfront has done an admirable job of blending clips from the movie with animated cut scenes and then segueing into the parts of the game you control - the battle scenes. It's beautifully done and the transition from movie to game cut scene is seamless.
Playing as either Legolas, Gimli or Aragorn, you must fight through more than a dozen levels. Doing well in battle will earn you points which can be spent to upgrade weapons, unlock new fighting combinations and even interview the film's actors.
Saving comes after you successfully dispatch the level's boss.
The game offers one of the best defensive moves I've seen in a hack-and-slasher, and it is really vital to learn to use it properly, in combination with your various attacks.
When playing as Aragorn, for instance, your main weapon is your sword. But Aragorn also has a bow, which must be used to dispatch some enemies and the end-of-level bosses. So - block the attack, hit a shoulder button to draw the bow and fire, then back to defending until you get another shot. Done right, you take minimal damage and inflict maximum pain on Sauron's flunkies.
Graphics get an A. They are beautifully drawn, shading and detail are excellent, and they reproduce almost perfectly what you see in the movie. Snow scenes will give you shivers, and entering the Mines of Moria is a truly frightening experience. Action is handled well and there's no visible slowdown.
Control gets a B. The controls work well, but there's a lot to do and some chores, like aiming arrows, take a lot of work.
Sound gets an A. The lush score, the voices by many of the real movie actors, the sound effects, all blend perfectly for one of the best aural experiences in gaming.
Give "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" a B+. It's one of the more entertaining games I've played this year, and whether or not you're a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic tales of hobbits and gobblins, you'll love the game.
"Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" is rated T, for ages 13 and up.
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