"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," one of the best movie-to-games titles ever when it was released late last year on PlayStation2, enhances its reputation as it expands to GameCube and Xbox versions.
"Two Towers" was a PS2 exclusive until the final day of 2002, when Electronic Arts released GameCube and Xbox versions ($49.99) to legions of Tolkien-lovin' vidiots. The three titles are identical triplets, each one blessed with the same outrageous game play and stunning visuals as the others. This cross-platform success reaffirms that Peter Jackson's lavish "Lord of the Rings" epics are that rare movie treat -- films that leap from their supposedly passive medium into hyper-interactive game play.
Considering that Jackson's films are (ahem) towering achievements in art direction, gamers would have expected nothing less from the vids. Character models are all meticulously constructed on all platforms and look impressively like their human counterparts. The "Towers" locations, from the Mines of Moria to the once-impregnable fortress Helm's Deep, also have been painstakingly re-created.
The audio is outstanding in all versions. The soundtrack is full of the film's swelling, heroic marches and grim dirges, all perfectly gauged and timed to elicit the same tension from vidiots as audience members.
Better still, the film Fellowship lends its voices. Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and John Rhys-Davies all sound fantastic, and Ian McKellen, the actor behind Gandalf the Grey, has a rousing time with his voice work.
EA was also granted permission to stream film clips from the new flick between levels. Because of this, the PlayStation 2 version, released more than a month before "Two Towers" debuted theatrically, contained more than a few spoilers. Now that the film is out, GameCubies and Xbox owners only have themselves to blame if they haven't seen the film yet.
Many wondered where the "Fellowship of the Ring" game was last year, but EA decided to forgo vidding the film, which focused on character development and setting up the story -- not things that fare well in a video game. However, EA recognized that the fight in Moria against the Cave Troll, the showdown with the Ringwraiths on Weathertop, and the Uruk-Hai massacre at Amon Hen deserved their time on a console, so it has included these scenes in the beginning of the "Two Towers" game.
"The Lord of Rings" material begs to be made into a lengthy role-playing game, where you must manage the Fellowship's members as they quest to dispose of the Ring in Mordor. But the "Two Towers" game, like the film, is a solid action piece. "Towers" plays like an elaborate version of an arcade beat-'em-up, not unlike Capcom's classic "Final Fight" series. This classic game play is more than welcome amid today's glut of unnecessarily complex action games. As vidiots slash orcs and ventilate Uruk-Hai with arrows, they will build up experience points that can be cashed-in for supermoves that should make the going not so tough when the tough gets going.
EA promises one more action game, based on "Return of the King," next fall. Considering some of the coming events, such as Frodo and Sam's dance with a giant spider, the game should be every bit as engrossing as "Two Towers." Once the film trilogy is complete, EA has plans to release a role-playing game covering all three films. But for now, vidders of all console allegiances have zero excuse to pass over this great game. Let us just hope that, next time, nobody has to wait to join in the fun.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times