Posted by: smirkdirk | January 2, 2010

Some Thoughts On “Tomb Raider: Legend”

out of 5 cookies.
Totally liked it a whole lot, but just a few issues.

Funny. I would hazard a guess that though the character is little more than a decade old, Lara Croft is known by most Americans. Whether through her original introduction in the video games, or through the Angelina Jolie movies, she has undeniably become a small part of pop culture. Though not nearly as well-known as, say, Mario, she certainly occupies a space high up in the list of most recognizable video game characters.

I first became acquainted with Ms. Croft in the Angelina Jolie movies, and though I didn’t think much of them, the kids liked them. We also accidentally picked up a Playstation 1 Tomb Raider game on clearance at a video store three or four years ago. The kids excitedly popped the PS1 game into our Playstation 2 and were immediately underwhelmed. Lara ran around in a non-descript, dark, cavey-type place pushing about some generic boxes and after five minutes the kids couldn’t figure out how to get out of the dark cavey-type place so they gave up.

“Tomb Raider: Legend” is a lot more advanced and although it came out on the tail-end of the last-gen systems mainly for the PS2, it did get a spiffy, graphically superior version for the Xbox 360.

As the cookies above indicate, I liked it. It definitely knows that its pedigree is in video games but manages to bring things from the movies in an attempt at some sort of cohesion between the two mediums. For instance, Croft Manor is much as it appears in the film and acts as a sort of training ground and bonus area apart from the story portion of the game. Lara Croft herself is all video game vamp with big, wide videogamey eyes and a pixely/cartooney appearance, yet she still retains enough realness that she is extremely attractive – and though I may sound like a huge geek I will say, there are a lot of less attractive video game characters I have spent hours staring at. Lara Croft’s appearance (especially that cute, little flippy thing she does when she first climbs onto stuff if you hold the buttons in just the right way) paired with the excellent voice work by Keeley Hawes which consists mainly of speaking in the sexiest, British accent I may have ever heard, is hands down the second most attractive video game character ever. (Sorry, Lara, the number one spot is still retained by Elika, from the latest Prince of Persia game.)

Hi, I’m Elika, and the geek Smirkdirk thinks I’m hotter than Lara Croft.

The actual gameplay is based a lot on puzzles – Indiana Jones type, coolio, environment related puzzles. Turning this crank activates that thing which turns and reveals those gears which, when weighted correctly, turn counter-clockwise and open the door. Sometimes it takes a little investigating to figure out exactly what to do, but more than a few times I was impressed by the ingenuousness of the whole design. In fact, my little mention of Indiana Jones was purposeful. Excepting the Lego games, Indiana Jones has had a few go -arounds in the video game world, but none have met with much success. Hopefully on their next try Indiana Jones developers might play around with some of these Tomb Raider games to get a flavor of how this is done right.

The other thing that deserves honorable mention is the plot. It revolves around Lara’s mother being kidnapped by “dark forces” in – you got it – a cave when Lara was just a little girl. As an adult, Lara returns to the scene of the crime and with the help of her friends (and one former friend) proceeds to hunt clues as to her mother’s fate. By the time we come to the end of the game, not only has the plot neatly wrapped up, but Lara begins preparing for the sequel, the musical score crescendoing. As the game came to a close I knew I would be playing the next one. Luckily for me, this game came out in 2006 so the sequel, “Tomb Raider: Underworld” has already been available for years, and is even quite inexpensive these days.

I had seen both of these Tomb Raider games on the store shelf for over a while now, and always avoided them, thinking they were too old-school to offer much value. Needless to say, I was wrong. Tomb Raider has adapted quite nicely to the next gen systems, and though it may not be as mind-blowing and flashy as whatever the developers are pushing “right now” – the series has and continues to stand the test of time as a satisfying franchise.

I really, really, really wanted to give this game 4 out of 5 cookies, but have settled on 3 1/2 since there are small portions of it that could have been thrown out, for instance, the motorcycle parts which I can understand including just for variety, but just come off as lame as you ride through nondescript environments for sometimes as long as ten minutes. However, 4 and even possibly 5 cookie levels such as jumping and swinging through Tokyo, and an interesting visit through a rickety, abandoned King Arthur museum more than make up for the few short tarnished moments.

Lastly, not only did this game garner a sequel, (also really a last-gen game), but it inspired an updated remake of the very first Tomb Raider game called “Tomb Raider: Anniversary” which I can be fairly certain I will also be playing sooner or later.

To give you a taste, here is the trailer for Tomb Raider: Legend

Lastly, here’s what that first Tomb Raider game looked like:


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