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'Tomb Raider: Anniversary' goes back to its roots with a smooth, fun ride
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It's been more than 10 years since the original ''Tomb Raider'' was released for the PlayStation. At the time, it was groundbreaking both for its use of three-dimensional exploring and its strong female lead.

But the years that followed weren't so kind, as the series slowly sank into the ranks of bad games.

Last year's ''Tomb Raider: Legend,'' with a brand new developer, gave gamers the first genuinely good ''Tomb Raider'' since the original.

So to celebrate the anniversary of the series, we have ''Tomb Raider: Anniversary,'' a re-imagining of that first game.

''Anniversary'' isn't exactly the same as the original. The story and levels in general are the same, but Lara Croft uses new moves that she gained in ''Legend'' and levels have been redesigned. Lara is much more acrobatic. The final result is a smooth, fun homage to the original.

''Anniversary'' has much more emphasis on puzzle-solving than did ''Legend,'' mostly because the original game did. Maneuvering Lara through expansive ancient ruins can be downright difficult. These aren't simple puzzles, and most will require a death or two to figure out.

The puzzle emphasis also means the enemies --- mostly wild animals --- aren't many in number and aren't too difficult to defeat.

Graphically, it's a huge improvement over the original, but I was still a little disappointed. ''Anniversary'' looks good, but given that the PS2 is at the end of its life, it wouldn't have been that difficult to hit the ''great'' plateau.

The camera also poses problems at times. It's frustrating to plummet to your death because the game decides to swivel your view around the moment you're about to jump off a ledge.

''Anniversary,'' while considered a ''remake,'' has so many changes that it is rightly a game to itself.

Another remake of sorts is ''Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree.'' The original ''Big Brain Academy'' came out last summer for the DS.

My experience with the Wii's controllers has been at both extremes --- when it works well, it's a blast, but when it's bad, it kills a game. Considering that the quizzes in ''Big Brain Academy'' depend a lot on how quickly you can solve them, I was concerned that the Wii's motion sensing capabilities wouldn't be responsive enough.

No fear, though. For the most part, the controls are point-and-click and uncomplicated. I at no time had a poor performance for technical reasons.

Using the same five categories from the DS version --- identify, memorize, analyze, compute and visualize --- ''Wii Degree'' gives players 15 new quizzes in which to test the size of their brains.

Players can either practice individual tests and earn medals, or they can take the big test, which assigns a letter grade based on scores for all 15 of the quizzes.

''Wii Degree'' adds a multiplayer element, too. Mental Marathon involves solving quizzes to buy more time, but wrong answers end it. Mind Sprint has players race to finish a set number of quizzes. Brain quiz sets up a board full of tests, and players take turns selecting one and earning points for how many answers they get right.

Unfortunately, two of these three events involve passing a controller back and forth, which is annoying.

The game makes good use of the Wii's Miis and keeps track of each player's records. As you practice, your score is compared with other players'..

There's no online multiplayer mode, which is disappointing though not entirely surprising. The Wii has dropped the ball with online so far.

Source:, by AIMEE GREEN, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, June 28, 2007