The Lord of the Rings: Gollum review – some great level design mired in problems

May 25, 2023
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The greatest achievement in The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is Gollum himself. He’s a beautifully realised thing. His stance is a nervous, weight-shifting crouch. His run is a giddy, loping scamper. His movements seem shaped by his own poor experience of the world, forever flinching from expected blows. And that head, on top of that short, sinewy body, it’s huge and filled with craftiness and sly wit. The large wet eyes shift constantly, looking for an opportunity, any opportunity. The mouth is a pinched snarl. Gollum, hidden in the dark, swimming in sewage, rattling through a blazing blood-coloured mine, looks like Linus van Pelt on the single worst day of his life. This is not a dig – it’s exactly how Gollum should look.

Gollum’s always been a fascinating splinter of chaos in the Tolkien books. The other characters simply aren’t like this, as broadly sketched on the surface, as openly cartoonish, but with such haunted depths. Other characters don’t argue with themselves bitterly over what to do. Other characters don’t kill people on their birthdays. Other characters don’t seem as strangely modern as Gollum, either. He has a wretched kind of star power that I reckon – don’t hate me – is missing from the other Hobbits and what-have-you. Gollum is unforgettable.

Now he has his own game, a stealth and action adventure with a lot of platforming. It’s set – I’m being loose here – in the gap between the Hobbit and Gollum’s reappearance in Lord of the Rings. Gollum’s lost his precious, but he really wants it back. Ever wonder what he got up to during this time? Now you can find out.

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