The Retro Critic


Something a little bit different this week, let’s take a look at a text game!

I’ve been playing a bunch of them over the past month so I thought I’d talk about The Hobbit since the movie’s out this week and all.

Back in the day, the game did really well in terms of sales and it got gamers slightly closer to J. R. R. Tolkien’s work, so close in fact that the game even came with the book! The scripting language in the game (or “parser”) was slightly more advanced than in a lot of other text games in that you could actually combine items and ask more complete questions with adverbs and such.

So that all sounds pretty awesome. Can you imagine? Actually interacting with Tolkien’s novel?!


I’ve been playing a nice-lookin’ version of the game but chances are you’ve come across this one:


Anyway, you start the game in Bilbo Baggins’ house, of course.

In some versions of the game the colours kinda take forever to fall into place and in others Bilbo gets a personalised welcome mat!

But anyway, Gandalf and Thorin are hanging out when they decide to leave with you and finally get the adventure going.

Oh, that’s right, I forgot to mention the game is in real time so every second that passes you’re officially waiting and making others wait. No pressure.

This means that there’s very little room for error there. If you don’t have the guide that came with the game and you’re going into it fresh, chances are you’ll die A LOT when you get to this bit:

These two trolls show up out of nowhere, one “hideous” and one, I’m guessing a little bit handsome, “vicious,” and you really need to react quickly, preferably by running away because otherwise:

Oh sure you kill him but not in the way you probably should.

Just go North or something, otherwise you’ll be seeing that 2.0% a hell of a lot. I know I did. Don’t even try to fight them, there’s two of them and Gandalf and Thorin are smoking something dodgy somewhere East…

I’ll tell you right now, I’ve never completed the game. Not even close. I’ve gotten a bit further than 2.0%, of course, but I’m usually better at silly text games like Fish! where there’s very little pressure and you can just try over and over typing in increasingly absurd things until you actually start moving forward with it. The Hobbit isn’t like that, if you get pretty far with it and you lose: It’s painful. You’re going to have to remember exactly what you did and do it all over again, as fast as possible, while trying to figure out what went wrong the last time.

Bring a pen and paper, just sayin’.

Occasionally, when you’re waiting for someone to say something or do something and they don’t, the game can turn into the occasional Abbott & Costello routine:



Elrond’s a dork.

What’s with all the “Hellos”? And by the way, game, “to hello” is not a verb.

Not in English, not even in Elvish, so stop it.

As for Thorin, he’s a weird one. One second he’s obeying my every command:

Which is awesome.

The next he’s muttering or singing to himself about gold:

Thanks for THAT, trailer for The Hobbit, by the way, I’ve been singing that Misty Mountains song for a month!

It’s like I’M the text game!

What you soon come to realise, as you get further into the game, past the rocky vagina hills of Rivendell…

And through the fiery colon tunnels of Gondor…

… is that Gandalf and Thorin are no help at all.

All they do is tell you to hurry up and send you mixed messages.

Eventually, you’ll get to a point where Goblins keep kidnapping you and locking you up in this creepy-ass dungeon. You’re meant to dig into the sand, find Thorin somehow, then order him to open the window and carry you out West. The first time it goes fine but then sometimes Gandalf is there too. He’s walking in, jumping out the window by himself, it’s nuts!

What is this? A Tex Avery cartoon?

“You dig some sand. Gandalf appears.” ?


Then even Thorin joins in and everyone becomes a douchebag!

Are they f***ing with me? No wonder I keep losing with these guys around…

I don’t recall Legolas passing some key around with Aragorn over and over like they’re INSANE.

Besides, I’m pretty sure, about 98.5% sure that Gandalf was senile looooong before he even met Frodo:


Right, I’m fighting this warg, whatever that is, and I keep fighting back. Meanwhile the old dude’s closing windows, saluting God knows what…

And I’m dead.

Whatever, what’s a cleaved skull between friends?

I could go on forever so let’s wrap this up.

The Hobbit is a fun text game, there are some nifty language tricks you can pull and it does really well to immerse you in Tolkien’s world. I’d say if you haven’t played it, give it a go. I can’t guarantee you’ll make it to the end but it is pretty satisfying when you see that percentage go up as you get better and better at it. That said, be warned: It tends to lose its mind occasionally, it can get a bit confusing at times and you’re really relying a lot on trial and error. It remains entertaining throughout, though.

I shall vanquish it one day but in the meantime, I’ll just sit here, mumble about gold, wait for the release of Peter Jackson’s take on The Hobbit and play that good old A View To A Kill text game.

Oh James…


You. Are. Incorrigible.