TOMB RAIDER: ANNIVERSARY / Eidos / PC
When the original Tomb Raider came out in 1996 I was a perpetually broke teenager still running a 486 and thus did not have the processing power to handle Lara's groundbreaking polygonal titties. One of my best buds of the time had the game and the Pentium 100 Powar to handle it, but I tried playing it and just never could get very far with it - always felt the controls and camera were just too clunky. In the next few years I would give a couple of the Playstation 1 games a try, but the transition to console and gamepad didn't really help anything in my eyes. So it's been a franchise that has been on my Ignore List for the last 15 years or so.
Tomb Raider Anniversary was on one Steam sale or another for some ridiculous price like 1.50, though, and when I saw that it was a remake of the first game I felt like maybe this would be a good entry point into the franchise. The first game's structure with modern(ish) graphics and gameplay polish? Certainly could be a winner.
"Hey, this game has pretty good graphics!"
And that's basically what the game delivers. It retains pretty much the same overall story, levels and characters of the original. Some of the fine details have been changed - some levels have been simplified or had some of their content moved around to other levels (here's a good summary
.) The biggest changes are a small handful of new gameplay elements.
Lara packs a grappling hook now, but the mechanic for it is a bit goofy. It can be used to swing at certain points that are highlighted a la Windu Waika. Unlike Windu Waika, you can't just stand there and automatically throw the grappling hook at it. For whatever reason she can only throw it while jumping. So you have to get a running start, jump off the ledge in question, THEN throw the grappling hook for it to auto-target the grapple point. It's passable once you get the hang of it, and since grappling wasn't in the original game these points are relatively few and far between anyway.
One addition that's not so great - QTE boss battles. They're a lot easier than the QTEs in the newer game (plenty of time given and only one button input at a time) but still, y'know, QTE boss battles. Never a trend you want to encourage even when they don't cripple the game.
On the whole the difficulty is pretty easy. There's challenging segments in the later reaches, but there also tend to be checkpoints every five seconds. It's one of those games that isn't hard, but can be frustrating because you sometimes have to repeat a time-consuming jumping puzzle from the beginning just because you were confused about exactly what spot you're supposed to jump toward or there was just some tiny little slip on the controls or quirk of the gameplay engine.
Lara Croft and the Wet T-Shirt Contest
It's those jumping puzzles - which really constitute the bulk of the gameplay - that sent me home early as I really, really don't like those things. Yeah yeah I know "LOL REVIEWING ISNUT ABOUT WUT U WANTED THE GAME TO BE", but the greater point is that as with the more recent Prince of Persia games, you *really really* have to be into environmental platform-jumping puzzles to enjoy this game. All else that's on offer is dodgy combat against the occasional wolf or bear that can usually be won by jumping up to a ledge where they can't reach you and then shooting them in the face repeatedly while they look up at you quizzically.