LTTP or late to the party pieces are opportunities for us to catch up and write about games we missed out on the first time around. They may contain spoilers.
I am no stranger to the Tomb Raider and Lara Croft phenomenon. Lara’s debut in 1996 with the original Tomb Raider for the PC, PlayStation and the Sega Saturn sent shockwaves throughout the gaming industry. At the time I was stuck in the limbo of being a PC gamer without the necessary hardware to play the game. I also lacked a PlayStation and thus Tomb Raider’s revolutionary visuals and gameplay were a stranger to me. The Tomb Raider-esque experience would remain a mystery me until late November of 2007 with the release of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.
The similarities between Tomb Raider series and Uncharted are definitely present, but after playing Tomb Raider: Anniversary I can honestly say that the two are as distinct as Mario and Sonic. However, after finishing Uncharted, I wanted to see how much Naughty Dog differentiated itself from Lara and her style of play. I decided to skip over Tomb Raider: Legend and tackle Tomb Raider: Anniversary, the remake of the original Tomb Raider adventure. I also chose to play the game on the PSP.
For a PSP game, Tomb Raider: Anniversary’s visuals were functional, if not good. The framerate took dives, but it was not enough to ruin the experience. What impressed me most about the Anniversary’s visuals was Lara herself and how she animated. Leaps, rolls, jumps and wall scaling were all very smooth and life-like.
It did not take me long to discover what set Uncharted and Tomb Raider apart in regards to gameplay. Uncharted was more of a third person shooter with a handful of platforming moments. Tomb Raider: Anniversary, on the other hand, was a third person puzzle platformer with poor shooting mechanics wedged in.
I loved the satisfaction of solving the series of platforming puzzles in Anniversary. Most of the puzzles appeared to be overwhelming series of vaults, swings and ledge jumpings, but with a touch of patience and camera manipulation, they were quickly resolved. Crystal Dynamics did a great job pacing the puzzles; ramping up the complexity gently and provided plenty of checkpoints to curb frustrations.
I rather not acknowledge the fact that Anniversary had combat elements, but I guess I should explain why I disliked it. Enemies were few and far between, but when I did encounter them: not one provided any sense of challenge. It was comical to see gorillas bewildered by the fact that Lara was able to climb up onto an elevated platform. They would literally run around below Lara as she filled them with lead from her dual pistols of infinite ammo and auto locking. Why bother with the combat at all? I would have actually preferred all the combat sequences to be quick time events; at least then I get to see some decent kicking cutscenes.
I did not pay much attention to the story of Lara’s quest for the Scion. I could have cared less about why she was after it, but I did enjoy her sexy voice and tough attitude. I did not expect her kill so many “significant” characters and was glad she showed grit. Who knew Lara was more than a big breasted, gun wielding brunette?
Controls were hampered significantly by the PSP and while Crystal Dynamics did what they could to adapt the dual-analog centric game onto the PSP, there were plenty of unnecessary deaths. A majority of them were due to poor camera placement or incorrect positioning of Lara, but like I mentioned earlier, the frequency of checkpoints certainly mitigated what could have been an incredibly frustrating game.
In the end, I enjoyed Tomb Raider: Anniversary. The game was a healthy length, andI had great fun with the platforming and clockwork puzzle solving aspect. While, the game faltered at the end, due to the sudden shift in focus towards combat, it did not sour what I thought was a refreshing experience.
So if you have never experienced the original Tomb Raider before, I highly recommend Tomb Raider: Anniversary. As for which platform to pick it up for, I would suggest picking up either the PlayStation 2 or XBOX 360 versions if you did not want to deal unorthodox control schemes. I would only suggest the PSP version if you had patience. In any case, this excellent retelling of classic is hard to pass up for those who have not embarked upon it before.