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Shadows of Mordor

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Released: 1988

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Melbourne House

Developer: Beam Software

Submitted by: Ian Marks

Do you remember the Hobbit? It was a great little game. It had atmosphere in spades, and when you played it you really felt you were taking part in an epic journey, following the path set out in the book. It had a great little parser, called Inglish, that allowed you to complete complex tasks, such as telling Thorin to bloody shut up about his stupid gold, or you would cleave his skull.

Anyway I digress… the Hobbit was followed by the Lord of the Rings adventure game. It was crap. It was far too slow, you had to wait hours for stupid NPC characters to turn up and the atmosphere of the books and world was ruined by putting in descriptions that included photographs on a wall. Imagine, photographs in Middle Earth. Useless.

Melbourne House had another go soon after, and this time they called it Shadows of Mordor. It was a good start. The title sounded Tolkeinesque, and we all hoped the nonsense of Lord of the Rings was forgotten. Once the game started though, it was clear it was not a return to the glory days of the Hobbit.

It was brain achingly slow. You had to wait five seconds between each instruction before you could type another one. More worrying though was that it concentrated solely on the most boring bit of the whole Lord of the Rings bit. Frodo and Sam’s trip across mountains and marshes to Mount Doom. In the game this meant a lot of…

Frodo is at the top of dreary grey ridge in a range of dry hills.

You may as well remember this phrase, you’ll be seeing it a lot. You would trudge around the same description scenery over and over again, until you really felt the pain that Frodo was going through. The one ring was weighing heavily on your heart too.

Smeagol kept appearing and sneaking off, and Sam kept mumbling useless speech to himself.

There was a side two, which was a bit different, but I never got that far, so if someone wants to write a review of that game, feel free, I’d be really interested to find out what happened. Probably more dreary hills.

This game gives the great genre of text adventures a bad name. Don’t bother emulating it, play Lords of Time, or Red Moon, or the Boggit, The Hobbit, Sherlock, Adventureland….. in fact almost any other text adventure. Not Lord of the Rings though, that was still worse than this.