back to the library

'Anniversary' re-imagines 'Tomb Raider' experience - Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Lara Croft gets back to doing what she does best in "Tomb Raider: Anniversary," and that is, to be quite obvious, raiding tombs. More puzzle than action, it's a re-imagining of the original title released in 1996, with gorgeous environments, graceful acrobatics and controls simple enough that even a novice raider shouldn't fear the death-defying spelunking.

"Anniversary" looks very much like "Tomb Raider: Legend" -- after all, the two were handled by the same studio, Crystal Dynamics, which saved the ailing franchise from its descent into the abyss of shamelessly terrible sequels.

"Anniversary" doesn't rehash step-by-step the first title; instead, it expands upon it and gives our outstandingly agile Lara a modern-day makeover.

Gunfire plays a minor role in the gameplay, but the majority of combat will be against creatures so stupid, it's hard to imagine how they survived so long in nature. For example, tomb-dwelling bears can't climb stairs, so Lara can blast the beasts from the safety of, oh, about five inches off the ground. And yes, you still get to fight the T-Rex, as "Jurassic Park" as it may feel nowadays. I'm so over fighting dinosaurs.

New to the "Raider" series is the adrenaline dodge. A button prompt appears on screen during an attack, and, if you time it just right, your shot packs more punch. With all those lions and wolves and bears -- oh my! -- popping up unexpectedly, it's a nice feature to fall back on. Not that the encounter doesn't just devolve into rote shoot-dodge-repeat anyway.

The difficulty of the puzzles seems to build as you progress through the levels, and trying to figure out how to open a door in front of you can become a multi-tiered task of epic brain-bending proportions. But that is the allure of "Tomb Raider."

However, the camera sometimes works against you. It's often in too tight or switches your perspective in the middle of leaping over a chasm to a ledge directly behind you. That, and every once in a while, the landings get a little finicky. What should be a simple leap from a grapple to a ledge turns into a half-hour-long trial and error of finding just the right angle for that perfect 10 landing. I like a challenge, but c'mon -- save it for the puzzles.

Overall, it's Lara lookin' good after years of climbing, jumping and raiding like a champ. It's still genius how the levels act as the unbilled co-star, because the layered complexity of getting from point A to point B truly is the heart of the game.

As for Lara, well, she's certainly the embodiment of the game. How she back flips up a ledge, I'll never comprehend.

Source: TRIBUNE-REVIEW , by Jessica Severs, July 26 2007