If you're a grown-up gamer whose mental image of Middle-earth is of blood-smeared swords, raving ores, and other nightmare snapshots from Peter Jackson's trilogy, you'll likely dismiss The Hobbit as a squeaky-clean Tolkien adaptation for tots. And that's a shame, because under the overly colorful graphics and so-cute-they're-ugly character designs lies a fun, little adventure. The gameplay and sprawling environments are scraped from the Legend of Zelda mold, with crafty puzzles and an emphasis on stealth--thanks to the invisibility-granting ring--and platform hopping. Fuzzy-toed hero Bilbo does get bogged down in tedious fetch-the-doodad missions later in his quest. In fact, the game flat-out misses some opportunities from the book. It glosses over Bilbo's snatching of the troublesome ring from Gollum (the whole exchange happens in a cinema), but then we get entire levels based on finding firewood and solving crime for townsfolk. Maybe the tykes crave that kind of busy work, but mature gamers demand more--like a hero who doesn't look fresh out of training pants.
Tolkien purists will no doubt be thrilled to hear that this game lovingly recreates the beloved prequel's lengthy platform-jumping passages. Yow. The Hobbit plays like a mix of Zelda and Tomb Raider--anti fittingly has a lead character that looks like a blend of the two lines' heroes: an awful, pointy-eared little girl. Sure, like Crispin says, The Hobbit isn't a terrible game, but its sketchy camera, imprecise controls, and lackluster combat relegate it to the realm of the terribly average to me. I've been there and back again, and next time, I'm staying home.
So what if Bilbo looks like an Ape Escape reject? Any Tolkien fan should still get a kick out of this adaptation of The Hobbit. As an action-platformer, the game brings almost every book chapter to life through some long (sometimes too long) levels full of simple yet interesting puzzle-solving and fun combat. A faulty camera and some sloppy rope-jumping cause many cheap deaths, but you never feel overly frustrated--just kind of annoyed. The Smaug level alone makes it all worthwhile.