Sinclair User27th March 1987
Published in Sinclair User #63
Shadows of Mordor
1987 is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit, a simple tale of folk with furry feet.
Melbourne House's The Hobbit is probably the all-time most successful adventure. Its sequel, based on the first volume of the Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, was a good deal less successful. it was too complex, too ambitious and there was the odd bug or two.
Now here's Shadow of Mordor, based on events in the second volume of the trilogy, The Two Towers.
As with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Shadow of Mordor uses the books as a basis for the plot of the game but doesn't follow it slavishly.
You can type in what are basically proper English sentences, and the program will, in most cases, understand you - assuming that the words you use are in its vocabulary. You can also string commands together so you can input two or three orders at once. And, central to this game, you can talk to the other characters, who may or may not be willing to help you.
On the 48K Shadows of Mordor is, essentially a text adventure, although you can load in the graphics from the other side separately to look at them. On a 128K the graphics screens are integrated into the game you can flip between the text and graphics screens. As for the graphics screens themselves they're quite neat - in a kind of low-res Level 9ish kind of way.
Meagre is a good word to describe the information you get about each place you visit - 'a dreamy swamp', 'a high cliff', and so on, and so on, and so on...
Smeagol is another annoying thing about the program, in more ways than one. Yes, he's a right pain in the ring finger, popping up all over the place and getting into places you've spent hours figuring out the route to like they were on the main line from Victoria. But at the same time he's a very shadowy character, in the sense that he's practically not got one. You're expected to know just who he is and what he does, and you're given no clues as to what he looks like or where he came from. OK, so read the book and all will be revealed - but it's still a bit lazy on someone's part. Plus, why does he have to keep disappearing into the bushes all the time? Does he have some sort of terrible bowel complaint Tolkien never mentioned?
Problem-wise, its difficult I mean really very incredibly difficult! I would have got absolutely nowhere without the special reviewers help-sheet sent out with the tape. At the start of the game you can wander around the first few locations to your heart's content, but you will have to get down to some really strenuous activity before you're going to get anywhere.
If this game had been released at the same time as The Hobbit adventure came out, then it would have been a winner. But things have moved on rather in the last five years. Simply being tough isn't enough any more, at least not by itself. Adventures have to have atmosphere, especially when they're based on books as familiar as Tolkien's. Even the disappointing Lord of the Rings had more oomph when it came to the dramatic bits.
There's no doubt it's more polished than LOTR and it works - there are no massive Melbourne House patented super style bugs - but it's still missing something.
More Tolkien stuff. Better than Lord of the Rings (and no bugs), but still something of a disappointment.