ATARI VCS/2600 The Lord of the Rings: Journey to Rivendell - Complete Guide
By Scott Stilphen
“THE LORD OF THE RINGS, JOURNEY TO RIVENDELL is a new adventure game based on the fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Relive the adventures of Frodo as he travels from his home in the Shire to Rivendell. You’ll face constant choices as you journey through Middle Earth, trying to avoid the Black Riders. Use the unique map to pinpoint your location as you move through more than 2000 exciting screens. 1 player.”
† 2 different prototype versions exist, with 6 bytes different between them. The version dated "WIP .17" has different victory music than the version labeled "LOTR". Also, the LEFT difficulty switch works opposite from each other. With the "WIP .17" version, the settings are A - slow, B - fast; with the "LOTR" version, the settings are A - fast, B - slow. For the purpose of this article, all the information below applies to the "LOTR" version.
† The LEFT Difficulty affects the speed at which the Nazgul start at, which also affects how many additional bonus points you get for solving the game (see the Scoring section below).
† There’s only one game variation.
† You will die if you sustain 3 wounds. There is no way to heal yourself. Also, you’ll be moved 9 units DOWN from your current location each time you’re wounded.
† Viewing the map doesn’t stop time, but if you view it from a forest screen, the “wound timer” will be paused.
† There are 16 “time units” per day. When on either a forest or town screen, your icon will blink 4 times during 1 unit.
† The maximum number of days in the game is 7. If you don’t reach Rivendell by then, the game ends.
† The screen is 43 “screen units” wide (each unit = one screen, ranging from 3 to 45) and 63 units high (each unit = ~two screens, ranging from 0 to 62). The starting position (at Hobbiton) is at 28/62 (x/y). The road runs from 22/61 to 22/12. Bree is located at 19/50. The ‘center’ of Rivendell is at 20/3 (towns are larger than 1 unit, so you may lose points if you don’t enter right at that spot). The bridges are at 10/11 and 35/11. Gimli is at 19/12, Legolas at 19/12, and the first encounter with Gandalf at 26/66.
† There are actually 9 Nazguls throughout the land (4 before the river, and 5 after it), although it's hard for the player to notice since you can only be attacked by one at any time. There are two Nazgul indicators when they are nearby: The background color becomes darker at a distance of 1 or 2 units, and there are 2 different volume settings for the accompanying warning tone (the game calculates and stores distances up to 8 units, but it doesn't use everything above 2, so maybe there were more plans).
† The longer the game lasts, the faster the Nazgul get (up to an upper limit). Their speed is set at either 36 (B) or 66 (A) at the start, with the difficulty switches. The speed is increased massively by night (+64), reduced at the morning (-63), and slightly changed over the day. In total, it is increased by +13 each day. It also increases once you cross the river. Their speed value is copied into another variable where it is limited to 127. The Nazguls are constantly comparing their position with yours and then adjusting the direction they are moving. This is done in intervals and only while you are visible and not inside a forest or town. Note that Frodo moves slower at night, which makes the Nazgul even more dangerous then. They can also track you while you are in a town or forest, and can do so more effectively each time a bird is on the screen.
† Using the ring has 3 effects on the game - it makes you invisible to the birds, it makes it difficult for the Nazgul to find you, but only when they're very close to you (it causes the Nazgul to move in a random direction as you're partially invisible to them), and it also increases the Nazgul's speed (every second you use it, their speed is increased by 1). In theory (with a lot of ring use and after a few days) you might wrap the Nazgul’s speed variable at 256, so they may attack by daylight more than at night (this may be a potential bug, but chances are your game will end long before that happens).
† You can only have a maximum of 4 other people in your party, and you can’t have both Gimli and Legolas.
† The box artwork was taken from a scene from the original Ralph Bakshi movie version of Lord of the Rings. The 4 characters hiding in the background are Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin.
† From examining the code, it appears there was to be a 6th terrain. It's currently defined the same as the open areas but handled much like being in a town (slower movement; no Nazgul or birds). The map shows mountains in some areas, so it's quite possible that's what the missing terrain was to be.
† Early catalog screen depictions showed fences (see picture above). According to programmer Mark Lesser, these were later removed because there was a problem with how the Nazgul interacted with them. The graphics for this are in the program, at byte locations $028f - $029d, along with some of the code used to display them. Thomas Jentzsch reconstructed the missing parts of the code so that they appear in the game:
† You start with 10,400 points, and can earn more by finding other members of the Fellowship:
3,000 points for Sam Gamgee
4,000 points for Strider
5,000 points for Gimli or Legolas
9,900 points for Gandalf
† If you reach Rivendell, you get an extra bonus of 50,000 points plus 60,000 (Dif. A) / 160,000 (Dif. B) points if you are together with the Sam, Legolas, and Gandalf (the effect of the difficulty switches should be reversed).
† Points subtracted:
200 points for each distance unit to Rivendell (67 units at starting point)
100 points for each wound
400 points for each time unit (1 day = 16 time units)
† In a modified version of the game (with no Nazgul), it’s possible to get a score as high as 220,500 (with everyone except Strider). Using a patched version of the game that starts with you at the center of Rivendell, the score is 241,900 (theoretical limit).
The Friends of Middle Earth
You start your journey in Hobbitton with Sam Gamgee. Along the way, you will find 4 other characters, who are part of the Fellowship of the Ring:
Frodo Baggins - This is your character. Pressing the FIRE button makes use of the ring (i.e. makes you invisible). While you have it on, a tune will play and your character will turn grey. When you enter a town or forest, your character will change into a square icon.
Sam Gamgee - You start your journey with him. With him, you will not be wounded should a Nazgul attack you. However, if one does, you will lose him, leaving you vulnerable to any future attacks. To find him, go 6 units (12 screens) DOWN. He’ll
remain there until you get him.
Strider / Aragorn - He can be found in the town of Bree. Once joining your party, he will help you to locate Gandalf. An arrow will appear in the lower-right corner. Follow it to find him.
Gandalf - While with your party, your character will become white, and you'll be protected from the Nazgul. However, he won’t stay very long, disappearing to a different part of Middle Earth. The first time you find him, he will always be in the same location; after that, his future locations are based on where you are in Middle Earth when he leaves.
Gimli / Tom Bombadil - Allows your party to move at full speed through forests. To find him, from the starting screen go 2 screens RIGHT, and go UP to the 3rd forest.
Legolas - Allows your party to move at full speed across open land. To find him, go to the end of the path (at the river), LEFT 3 screens, and DOWN 1.
The Enemies of Middle Earth
Birds - Sauron uses them as spies. They patrol all the open ground areas, and if you see one fly overhead, you can be sure the Nazgul aren’t far behind.
Nazgul / Ring Wraiths / Black Riders - When nearby, the ground will turn dark green, and a tone will sound – the louder it is, the closer they are to you. At nightfall, they are at their most aggressive, and cannot be outrun. They also tend to hide at the screen borders. When attacked (w/o either Sam or Gandalf), you will be wounded and pushed back (down) about 18 screens.
Sunrise Day Sunset Twilight Night The Lands of Middle Earth
Watch the skies, for when the sun sets, you are at your most vulnerable to the Nazgul:
The Lands of Middle Earth
This is the map of Middle Earth, which shows the various towns and terrain (see below). The “world” is 43 screens wide, and over 100 tall. The 3 towns are:
Hobbiton is 1 unit high (it's coded as 2, but you can’t reach the very bottom of the map). Bree is 4 units high and Rivendell is 2 units high. All towns are 4 units wide.
Towns - To enter any of the 3 towns, go to the “+” symbol on the map.
Forest - Some characters are found here, but be careful – although it will hide you from the Nazgul, spending too much time in the forest can be harmful!
Approximately 4 time units is the maximum amount of time you can spend in a forest before being wounded. When this happens, you will hear thunder and the ground will flash.
Open ground - The brown areas will slow you down, as well as the Nazgul.
The road will allow you to travel faster (when on it), and lead you to the river.
Loudwater river - It can only be crossed at 2 different points.
Bridges - At the end of the path, go either 12 screens left or 13 right to find them.
On the other side of the river is an area completely devoid of any features, after which you will run into more open ground scenes. Forest areas line the West edge.
If you reach the Eastern or Western edges of Middle Earth, the ground will turn black.
Rivendell - This is your goal. You must reach it within 7 days, or all of Middle Earth is lost.
The solution (easy level):
† Go 2 screens RIGHT and then UP to the 3rd forest, where you'll find Gimli.
† Next, go directly LEFT and you’ll run into the town of Bree, where you’ll find Strider.
† Next, go directly UP until you find Legolas.
† Follow the arrow to find Gandalf, and then make your way to Rivendell. You will have to find Gandalf a few more times along the way.
† To find Rivendell:
Take the left bridge, go between 10-13 screens to the RIGHT, and go UP
-- or --
Take the right bridge, go between 12-15 screens to the LEFT, and go UP.
Once reached, the screen will flash colors, a tune will play, and your final score will be shown. Congratulations - you’ve made it!
Below is a video of a complete game:
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