This review is for the Nintendo DS game, Tomb Raider : Legend, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos Interactive. The game is similar to the earlier Tomb Raiders, best known on the Sony Playstation, and involves exploring your environment, defending yourself and solving puzzles.
The general style of play hasn't changed from previous games, you can run, jump, swing, grab onto various rocks and ledges and also go swimming and riding, amongst many other activities. You're safe from too much damage however, as there are frequent first aid packages to find, and if you die, you just go back to the last save point.
You start your game in Bolivia, before moving on to Peru, Japan, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Cornwall (which seems a strange choice!), Nepal and then back to Bolivia. Before you start the game proper, you can if you want play the training level, which as with previous versions in this series, is set at Croft Manor. To unlock some of the areas in the training level however you need to complete the first Bolivian level.
Controlling the game isn't that easy, and can be frustrating at times when things don't go right. The fighting elements do work well in principle, as you have to use the stylus and touch screen to fight enemies, but it doesn't feel very pure when playing and doesn't really work well in practice.
The graphics in the game aren't the best I've seen, but are way above average, and they do vary from level to level and are interesting enough. There are eight different levels, and the scenery does vary widely showing some effort has been put into this. However, the camera angles in the game aren't as fluid, and it can be frustrating when you can't see the action in the desired angle. The background music and the sound effects are good, especially the music, and there's a lot of it. This music, and the generally impressive graphics, do add lots to the atmosphere of the game.
In terms of the long-term interest in the game, despite the problems in the game, there is enough here to make you want to complete the game. However, this isn't likely to take that long, probably no more than around ten hours of game play. This is a disappointingly small amount for a game of this depth, and there could have been even more levels and more challenges.
If you are a games player that likes completeness, then after finishing the game, you can play through again and try to find all of the hidden and secret objects in the game. If you obtain these, then you are able to unlock some extra features, such as some mini games and also some additional graphics. They're not fantastic extras, but they are appreciated and do at least act as an incentive to keep playing the game.
You are able to link your Nintendo DS up to consoles owned by friends, but there isn't much activity to this. There are no games which can be played by other players, simply a feature which lets you see your high score. Some work could have been done on this, even if it was just allowing you to play the mini games with friends.
The game is currently available on Amazon for ten pounds, but if you're happy with a second hand copy, at time of writing, these are available on sites such as eBay and Amazon for around six pounds. The game is rated as 12+, so is only suitable for older children.
In summary, this isn't a bad game, and actually is nearly a very good game. Unfortunately it's limited by being slightly too easy and controls which aren't that smooth. But if you can obtain the game cheaply, and were a fan of the earlier games in the series, then this isn't a bad game to get. Good graphics, good sound, sometimes clunky controls, but you're likely to want to play your way to the end.
The Tomb Raider genre is iconic and probably the best game ever available on the original Playstation and released some 10 years ago.
Lara the busty, sexy (well as sexy as a computer game character can be), heroic, gun slinging and tomb raiding heroine that jumps, leaps and vaults her way through various ancient environments collecting artefacts along the way used to keep me and my mates entertained for hours on end. The levels were massive and it used to take ages to search every corner of every tomb and find the solution to progress to the next stage.
When I saw it was released on the DS I just had to play it to see if it was as good as I remembered it was, or whether it is something that I should just leave alone and leave in the archive of memories as a great game.
Like the versions released on all other types of consoles. The game commences with Lara Croft, the heroine of this game, investigating the death of her mother, which took place some 20 years ago.
The investigation begins at an Incan Temple in Bolivia and then moves on to many more ruins, temples and dens all over the world collecting pieces of an ancient sword that is meant to solve the mystery that surrounds her mother's death.
****Controls and Game play****
Lara is controlled using the directional pad and other actions are carried out with the A, B, X and Y buttons. Other than scrolling through Lara's collectibles the touch screen and stylus are redundant.
There are 8 different locations that Lara needs to investigate, raid, smuggle and complete puzzles in order to discover the story behind her mother's death. In between the locations the story unfolds via computer animation and recorded dialogue, which is great especially since most portable consoles will carry out the same process using static pictures and text in dialogue boxes. This feature puts the DS version in the same category as 'proper' consoles.
There is a large variety of environments in both indoor and outdoor settings, including ancient ruins, jungles, soldier camps and skyscrapers.
The people, places and general game play are the same as the console versions although the environments, level layouts and graphics have had to be changed since the DS does not have the same processing capabilities of the more powerful consoles
Like all the Tomb Raider games each location involves searching the environment looking for clues on how to progress to the next stage. Lara retains are athletic abilities and jumps, swings, leaps and vaults through each stage with the grace of a gymnast.
However, unlike a gymnast, Lara has two pistols that are needed to destroy lions, tigers and smugglers. There are other weapons throughout the game, such as shot guns, machine guns and grenades, that can be taken from dying enemies and used on others.
There are levels that include swimming or riding a motorcycle and whilst these levels do not require much thought to complete them you will need good reflexes to avoid running out of air (and drowning) or crashing to your death.
Whilst a 'wonder woman' Lara is not immortal and attacks from animals, falling from high ledges or getting caught out by a booby trap will reduce Lara's health which will ultimately end up in her death, although there are first-aid packs dotted about that can build Lara back up again. If the worst does come to the worst and Lara dies then you can start from the last check point, meaning you do not have to re-do the whole level again.
The 3 dimensional graphics are on par with the original Playstation, which is very impressive for a portable console, however whilst the graphics are very good, there is a tendency for pixel issues and areas that look 'blocky'.
This does not affect the game play and I suppose I am just being picky since the creators have attempted to include a lot on such a small device and the DS processor is not quick or powerful enough to deal with it.
The environments contain a lot of detail such as flickering torches, running rivers, cascading waterfalls and bold lightening strikes which are superb.
The audio is nowhere near as good as the graphics but I suppose you can't have everything on such a small console.
The sound effects are limited to gun shots, groans, foot steps, the occasional environmental noise and splashes.
The puzzles and gunplay do not get too complex or furious, however it can sometimes take a while to find things as you will aimlessly go round and round the same are of the environment whilst getting used to it.
Whilst not too difficult I would not recommend this game to younger gamers, or inexperienced gamers since I think they will find it boring.
****Other bad points****
There is so much crammed on to the DS screen that Lara is tiny and as such not very detailed. Maybe the producers have tried to fit on too much?
I found that Lara occasionally missed a rope or a ledge when she's supposed to or will simply let go of a rope or ledge while climbing without touching any of the controls. Whilst annoying the effects of this (usually death) are mitigated due to the large number of check points on the DS version meaning that you only have to re-trace a few steps.
All in all this is not a really long game and I completed in around seven hours. The game automatically saves checkpoint data at the beginning of each section therefore you do not have to complete a level before you can quit the game.
It is highly unlikely that during the first time of completing the game you collected all the bonuses or did it that quickly, therefore you may wish to repeat the game to improve the time taken to complete and seek out all the bonuses, which are used to unlock minigames, artwork and cheats.
Mini games are accessed via the extras menu. The mini games are not that good and, in my opinion, add nothing to the game or its longetivity.
The mini games are Tomb Raider themed variations of classic logic puzzles and you will probably play them once and then forget that they even exist.
This is a single person player only, just like all the games in the Tomb Raider genre. There is the option of taking it online but this feature only allows multiple people to merge their time trial scores in to a single list, so it has no benefit whatsoever.
****Price & availability****
Tomb Raider can be bought from many online and offline retailers, and like many things the price tends to vary. At the time of writing it can be bought from SoftUk Ltd for £17.99 (excluding P&P) and from BuyitPlayit.Com for £24.00 (excluding P&P)
The DS version of Tomb Raider Legends is a bit of a 'man in the middle' game. It is superior to other portable console versions (the graphics are much better and it has the video clips and voice dialogue) but it is not as good as that of 'proper' consoles and to compare it to either would not be a like for like comparison.
The graphics are very good and offer a 'proper' 3 dimensional gaming experience. There is a great attention to detail, although there are some flaws and my main gripe is that Lara is just too small and not detailed.
The sound is pretty poor and limited. Whilst the sound effects in the original game were limited they were crisp and clear. This is not the case with this version.
I think that the producers have tried to do too much with the DS version and it is not powerful enough. Some elements of the game, such as the graphics, are great whilst other aspects, such as the audio and the size of Lara, are not so good.
All in all though, if you are a fan of Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider genre and have a DS it is definitely worth a look and I would recommend it. Personally, I would rent rather than buy but this is my view on almost all of the DS games I have played recently as whilst they are good I don't think that they are keepers.
This handheld version of Tomb Raider: Legend is designed to capture the detail and breadth of Lara Croft's comeback game.