From the Snows of Caradhras to the Plains of Rohan - a Review of Electronic Arts' Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for GameBoy Advanced
The most striking aspect to Electronic Arts' Gameboy Advanced Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers game is how different it is from the Playstation 2 game. These aren't just subtle differences; no, the GBA game has a totally different manner of play, rewards, and strategy. Completely different. They are not the same game at all; the overall storyline is, of course, the same, but how you play and what you play make the GBA TTT game well worth investing the gaming time.
I confess that I wasn't too terribly excited about playing the EA Two Towers game especially since I thought that I was going to be playing it "again"; and especially on that teeny weeny little Gameboy Advanced screen. I definitely don't like the graphics that I've seen of other GBA games so I was more than happy to let my nephew play the game first and give me his impressions. I was floored when he called to tell me that he had already finished the game as Legolas and, in his own words, the GBA game was "better than the PS 2 game".
Better than the PS2 game? The game that he and I had raved over? The game that we had bragged was so much like being in the movie? The game that kept me up way past my bedtime and had my wrists and thumbs sore from trying to master all of the special attack moves?
I was still skeptical, but I was ready to put my nephew's claim on the line. Was it possible? Could the GBA game be better than the PS2 game?
I first played as Eowyn. I was disappointed that Eowyn's adventure begins as something that's neither in the movie nor the books: You are sent out to find Theodred somewhere upon the Plains of Rohan. My disappointment was soon pushed to the side, though, as Eowyn began to whack and stab away at Orcs and Wargs. I was DELIGHTED when the orcs began dropping gems and equipment! Wow! The orcs of Saruman are not only tough and ugly, they are RICH! Gems, ring mail, magic cloaks, magic shields, magic swords...the Uruk Hai are a treasure trove of ugly critters! Eowyn became, very quickly, a rather well armed shield maiden that could kick some serious Uruk Hai monsta booty.
However, I must say that I was and am extremely disappointed that the great gear and arms do not change the visual aspect of your character. Nope, poor Eowyn, though equipped in ring mail, coif, boots, and longsword, still runs around the Plains of Rohan in a....dress.
Yes, a dress. EA, ever heard of Dernhelm?
In their defense, EA is not prejudiced against Eowyn. None of the characters change in visual appearance per their won or bought gear. However, at least Aragorn, Legolas, Gandalf, and Frodo already look like adventurers; poor Eowyn looks like a house maid who has been tossed onto the Plains in her one good dress.
So, what do you do with all of those gems that the orcs drop for you? In a very nice difference from the PS2 game, you come across forges within Middle Earth where you can buy and sell gear. Now, how you rationally, in a Middle Earth-y way, explain how these forges are out there on the Plains of Rohan or the Passes of Caradhras, I can't tell you. I can't explain the forges any more than I can explain the health and mana shrines that pop up as well. However, they are all very nice additions to the game. A little Diablo-ish, perhaps, but what else are you going to do with the orc gems and dropped loot? There aren't exactly merchants thriving within the wilds of Middle Earth, ya know.
Eowyn begins her adventure in Rohan while Aragorn and Legolas begin theirs at the Pass of Caradhras. Like in the PS2 game, Legolas is my favorite GBA character. His knives and varying types of arrows are just too much fun. Even the way that he moves in the GBA game is cool. I think that this proves my theory that Elves are, simply put, cool. Thanks for confirming that for me, EA.
Leveling up allows you to distribute points between strength, accuracy, health, defense, and courage. You also distribute points between active and passive abilities. For instance, with Legolas, you can put points into the active abilities of: Overdraw (massive arrow damage); White Knives; Forest Friend (summons hawks to distract and injure foes); Summon Gimli (summons Gimli to fight with you); Suppress (25% chanceof knocking foe down); Spread Fire (shoots 2 arrows).
I confess that I have not completed the game with any of the characters, though I have played them all; my nephew has only completed it with Legolas, (though Aragorn is close). In my own defense, though, with Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Eowyn as player characters, one can expect to invest some serious gaming time before you can pronounce, VICTORY!
(Or, things that make the GBA LOTR:TTT Game well worth playing especially if you've already played the PS2 LOTR:TTT game)
**Gear upgrades (ring mail, brigandine armor, coifs, mantles, etc)
**Cloaks: One of my favorite visual gaming elements--cloaks that blow in the breeze; very cool aspect of gaming that most gaming companies still ignore. Thanks, EA!
**Wargs that look like Wargs: Unlike the cat critters from the movie, somehow EA managed to make their GBA wargs look like...well, like wargs.
**Abilities: The special attacks in the PS2 game were nice, but in more of an RPG style game, the GBA game allows you to build your warrior abilities and put points into either passive or aggressive special abilities. Very nice.
**Not necessarily the movie: You're a purist who can't stand the movies and/or refuse to have anything to do with them? Rest assured that the visuals in the GBA game are not the movie sets. Moria looks very different from the Moria in the movie and you get to explore a Pass of Caradhras that is much more akin to the book than the movie.
**Eowyn: You get to play Eowyn. I was more excited about this aspect of the GBA TTT game than any other. I hated that she runs around in her Rohan maiden dress, but it sure was fun to whack those orcs!
**Gandalf: You get to play Gandalf which was a major missing component of the PS2 game.
**Frodo: If you're a Hobbit type, then no doubt you missed being a furry footed critter in the PS2 version. Not so here in the GBA game; Frodo is alive and well!
**Multiplayer: What's the perfect way to have MORE fun with LOTR:TTT? Add more players! Exchange gear! Fight side by side!
SO FEW...SO FEW OF YOU HAVE RETURNED!
(Or, missing elements that would make the GBA LOTR:TTT game perfect)
**Differing types of sword / weapon attacks
**Aragorn needs a bow
**Visual aspect of characters change per gear upgrades
ELBREN'S PETITION OF COMPLAINTS AGAINST GBA IN GENERAL
**This evidently does not affect the younger gaming generation, but after a few hours of running around and slicing up orcs, I was nearly blind thanks to the horrid lighting and the teeny weeny GBA screen. I suppose that I have to buy a GameCube so I can put this thing on my TV screen or risk going blind, eh?
**GBA allows you to save four games; LOTR:TTT has Gandalf, Frodo, Aragorn, Legolas, and Eowyn. That's five, count'em, five characters.
**After a few hours of running around and slicing up orcs, I was nearly blind thanks to the horrid lighting--oh, I've already said that?
In conclusion, if you've played the PS2 LOTR:TTT game by Electronic Arts and you've not played the GBA because you fear redundancy, fear no more. The GBA LOTR:TTT game is completely different; repeat, it is no way, shape, or form the same game as the EA PS2 game. Even better, if you don't own a GameBoy Advanced, unlike an XBox or the like, a GBA is quite affordable. Despite nearly going blind because of the GBA's tiny screen, I have thoroughly enjoyed the game and the gameplay. In fact, as soon as I finish this review, I am going back to the Plains of Rohan and continue seeking Theodred as Eowyn, Shield Maiden of Rohan; or, perhaps I will continue to explore the Mines of Moria as Legolas, Elven Warrior; or, maybe I'll scout the Pass of Caradhras as Aragorn, the Ranger. See what EA has given us? A passage to Middle Earth!