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Tomb Raider: Anniversary (PSP) artwork

Tomb Raider: Anniversary (PSP) review


"Lara Croft is the greatest adventurer ever. There’s no situation she can’t spelunk, shoot, or scurry her way out of. When at the bottom of a gigantic ravine filled with ravenous wolves, she will leap, somersault, cartwheel, and dodge her way to a cliff wall and proceed to climb it with near-divine grace and no need for rest. Huge uncrossable pit? No worries, Lara’s here with her trusty grappling hook and amazingly long legs, great for leaping long distances in a single bound of faith. Not e..."



Lara Croft is the greatest adventurer ever. There’s no situation she can’t spelunk, shoot, or scurry her way out of. When at the bottom of a gigantic ravine filled with ravenous wolves, she will leap, somersault, cartwheel, and dodge her way to a cliff wall and proceed to climb it with near-divine grace and no need for rest. Huge uncrossable pit? No worries, Lara’s here with her trusty grappling hook and amazingly long legs, great for leaping long distances in a single bound of faith. Not even a Tyrannosaur can stop Lara and her infinite ammo, as she rolls lithely out of the way of its attacks and can fire a bullet up its nose and into its brain from 1000 yards away. Yes, indeed, the Tomb Raider is a talented, athletic, stunt performing gal.

Which makes it all the more frustrating when I can’t get her to do any of these things I just described, at least not regularly.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a remake of the original game and in many ways an apt redesign of lady Croft’s epic first adventure. This version of the world’s favourite British archaeologist is stronger, faster, and much better looking. The story is still the same, which you can take or leave for better or worse. When Lara agrees to find the Scion, an ancient artifact she once searched for with her father, she embarks on a journey that takes her through an occult conspiracy spreading to all corners of the earth, from the canyons of Peru to the ancient temples of Greece. Which basically means you’ll find her corpse in a lot of historical places.

Lara Croft has a death wish that she never gets tired of fulfilling, time and again. At least, I can’t come up with any other plausible explanation for why she keeps disobeying my orders at every critical junction. Lara controls fine as long as there’s no danger. But the minute she has to be fast on her feet, she starts tweaking out more than a meth addict. And the camera doesn't help, stubbornly refusing to show you anything except Lara's rear assets the majority of the time, then suddenly whipping around like a mad snake in a box at the most inopportune moments. Together, the two of them can drag this twenty hour game out for several months. I recall one particularly crushing incident when I spent an hour directing Lara to the top of a large room. There I saw, at long last, the exit. There was only one final leap to make, a tiny gap between me and destiny. Confidently I ran and jumped... only to see the camera twist and change Lara's angle right before entering the air. Mouth open, I could do naught but watch in horror as Lara fell fifteen stories to her death. On the way down, she also happened to pass a checkpoint, so when I started back up, the game loaded me at the bottom of the room.

As if to tease me, occasionally Lara would do something incredibly awesome. I remember one time I had her jump off a rope onto a pillar that began to break under her feet. With a somersault, she leapt off the collapsing pillar and onto a ramp. Assuming a surfer position, she slid halfway down the ramp, then bailed, using her momentum to carry her to a distant ledge. Behind her, the pillar fell upon itself in a cloud of dust that washed over Lara and framed her in the dim mist of victory.

Then she walked forward two steps in the wrong direction and fell off a ledge to her doom.

The other thing Lara needs to work on is her intellect. She’s got this journal she keeps around to give her a chance to ruminate on her situation and to give you, the player, hints when you need ‘em. Seeing as how Lara Croft knows exactly 6000 times more about archaeology and spelunking than I do, I was happy to know I could turn to her in case we got in a tight spot and I couldn’t figure the way out of it. I was in for a rude awakening

I think the first time I turned to Lara’s journal was in the Greek ruins. I had been wandering around a single room for quite a while with little direction except the general guess that I was probably supposed to be heading for the top. I dutifully climbed and shimmied and leapt, but after reaching the same point and falling from it for the sixth time, I decided I was due for a hint. I opened Lara’s bag and told her to read me the latest entry in her journal.

“The ruins are in very good condition,” she read.

What? That’s it? The ruins are in good condition? I don’t know about you, Lara, but I’d like to get out of this underground temple before the end of the week. Altogether I was getting the sense the old girl wasn’t taking this expedition seriously.

Still, buckling down to solve a difficult puzzle is something I'm willing to put up with. A large part of Tomb Raider is puzzle solving, after all. Looking around your environment and figuring out what needs to change in order to give you a path to the next area is by far the most engaging aspect of the series. Usually, these paths are no cake walk, so I can understand the occasional screw up and broken neck as a result. However, there’s a big difference between a gamer messing up and a game messing up. If I do something stupid and die as a result, then I chalk it up to trial and error and a learning experience that is furthering the cause. But when I’m perfectly sure of where I have to go and what I have to do and the game simply won’t let me do it, then things stop being educational. It's times like these when Lara's journal made me question my own sanity and occasionally sent me off half-cocked in the entirely wrong direction.

Despite all of my qualms, I kept at the game. Of course I did, it’s Tomb Raider. Until Uncharted 2 comes out, there’s not many other places I can get my Indiana Jones fix. And it’s not like me and Lara didn’t have the occasional good time together. I might even be convinced to do it again with her sometime, if she promises to start working better with others and to stop cramming Sharpies up her nose.

Rating: 4/10

zippdementia's avatar
Community review by zippdementia (July 27, 2009)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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randxian posted August 02, 2009:

Likes

- Using specific experiences playing to game to highlight what's fundamentally flawed. Passing a checkpoint while falling from a ledge would really suck.

- Nice use of humor. Nearly chuckled at how she shakes like a meth addict line.

- Didn't realize she keeps a journal during her adventures. Having not played the game, this is nice to know.

- Like how you don't spend gobs of time on the plot and just get right to how the game handles.

Dislikes

- Don't really care for the intro. Reading the intro seems to be building toward a positive review, then you suddenly pull a 180. Personally, I don't care for that sort of thing.

- Most of the time, you speak as if you are directing Lara, then there is one line about halfway through where you say "Confidently I ran and jumped", which seems a bit awkward here.

- "...stubbornly refusing to show you anything except Lara's rear assets the majority" You could take out either "rear" or "assets" and this would still work.
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zippdementia posted August 03, 2009:

All good point, Randxian. I'm not sure I agree about the last one, though I see where you're coming from, but the first two are really observant. I actually have some issues with the intro myself, for the same reasons you mentioned, and I KNEW I left a stray personal pronoun around somewhere. Thanks for finding it.
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randxian posted August 03, 2009:

To be perfectly honest, I don't think the last "dislike" is that big of a deal. I only mentioned that because everyone kept critiquing my reviews in a similar fashion, telling me to chop unecessary words and make the writing as tight as possible.


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