I'm always impressed at the bad design issues we'll put up with because we don't know any better. Think back to all of the classic games we grew up loving only to experience them again a decade later and find them practically unplayable. A perfect example of this would have the be the original Tomb Raider, the classic 1996 adventure game that introduced the world to one of the biggest video game stars of all time, Lara Croft. With its insanely frustrating puzzles, unflinchingly difficult jumps and a control scheme that seemed to work against you at every turn, Tomb Raider is one of those games that are almost impossible to enjoy eleven years later.
Perhaps this is the reason that Eidos Interactive (along with developer Crystal Dynamics) felt that it was a perfect candidate to be remade. A lot of game remakes fall into the trap of only updating the graphics and sound, but in Tomb Raider: Anniversary the developers have gone back to not only reimage the best elements from the first game, but fix all of the problems that makes the 1996 version so unplayable. It may not do anything new or original, but this classic remake is a much needed reminder of why everybody liked the original Tomb Raider all those years ago.
This brand new Xbox 360 game turns out to not be very new at all. Tomb Raider: Anniversary is actually a port of a game that was released on the PlayStation 2, PSP and PC earlier in the year. This not quite new, not quite old video game remake is built out of the same engine that powered the 2006 surprise hit, Tomb Raider Legends. In some ways that's a good thing, since Tomb Raider Legends was hailed as a return to form for Lara Croft. But at the same time this opens up the possibility for critics to argue that this is nothing more than a shameless cash cow. I don't subscribe to the latter way of thinking; instead I'm happy to see Lara's first adventure retold using this brand new engine.
If you haven't played the original Tomb Raider (or any Tomb Raider game, for that matter), then here's what you've been missing: Tomb Raider tells the story of a young female adventurer named Lara Croft (think: Indiana Jones with enormous breasts). In this particular adventure we find Lara fighting through the lost tomb of Qualopec in hopes of recovering a mysterious artifact called the Scion of Atlantis. Of course, finding the Scion isn't going to be as easy as it sounds. In order to succeed Lara is going to have to brave the dark caves, fight plenty of wild animals and solve a number of difficult puzzles. She's also going to have to use her acrobatic skills to jump over large holes, climb up rocks and shimmy through tight areas. Will you be able to weather the elements and survive long enough to find the artifact? Let's hope so, because Lara is depending on you.
While the simple story is nothing to write home about, it does its job to set up a reason for you to get yourself into exotic locations so that you can solve puzzles, make extremely difficult jumps and fight a bunch of animals and dinosaurs. It's the exploration coupled with the ingenious puzzles that makes Tomb Raider what it is, and if that's what you're looking for then this remake will deliver the goods. Obviously if you're looking for an involving story, non-stop action and mindless fun, then Tomb Raider isn't for you. But then again, by now you should know what to expect from a Tomb Raider game ... especially one that came out eleven years ago.
As in the original 1996 game, Tomb Raider: Anniversary will take you all over the world in search of adventure and hidden treasure. You'll start out your quest in Peru searching through dangerous caves, eventually you'll move on to abandoned buildings in Greece, the temples of Egypt and the mines and pyramids of the Lost City. All along the way you will be asked to solve increasingly more difficult puzzles that will require you to hunt down specific items and intimately learn your surroundings. While the puzzles in the first few areas won't seem that hard, by the time you've made it to Egypt and the Lost City you'll be rushing for the guide to see just exactly where you're supposed to go and what you're supposed to do. The good news is that none of the puzzles feel nonsensical, you always feel like these brain teasers fit in with the environment and what you're trying to do.
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