Tomb Raider: AnniversaryESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: 3rd Person: Action
Developer - Crystal Dynamics
Publisher - Eidos Interactive
Wii remote and Nunchuk Specific Control
Ahhhhhhhhhhh Lara Croft, she’s been around for years. I remember the first time I fired up the first Tomb Raider on my original Playstation 10 years ago. It brought adventure gaming into the realm of 3D polygons. Well over the years there have been many sequels, the last one being Tomb Raider: Legend, but with each sequel came recycled gameplay and the series started to falter. Well Eidos has gone back to the vault so to speak and has released Tomb Raider: Anniversary (referred to as Anniversary in this review). Although already released on the PS2 and Xbox 360, this latest release on the Wii is a celebration of sorts as Lara has been a videogame icon for 10 years now. Anniversary is a retelling of the original game but updated for the present day. After some time with my review copy I have to say not only does it make for a great romp down memory lane, it’s a pretty good game too.
Having seen this game on the PS2 and the Xbox 360, the Wii version lands squarely in the middle of them in terms of the visuals presented. It looks somewhat better then the PS2 version, but it cannot match the Xbox 360. Level designs are original and each locale has very specific look to them. The varying designs are a nice touch and everything from underground caverns to ancient temples manages to feel different. There is some good use of the Wii’s hardware too. Water manages to shimmer and sparkle with a very realistic look to it while lighting and particle effects are abound. A prime example of the lighting is the flashlight that Lara carries with her. The way it can light an area of a darkened temple is quite impressive. Lara also animates quite well. Her actions are smooth and the transitions between moves (e.g. from running to jumping to shimmying along a wall) are all very well implemented and don’t seem clunky or out of place at all. This was nice to see as it managed to give Lara a somewhat realistic look to her.
With all that goes on during your adventure the game does manage to have a pretty good framerate, however there are some instances of some nasty slowdown. This was quite surprising to me given that this is an update of a game of past and the Wii and it is already out on two other home consoles. Although not as powerful as “the other two” next-generation consoles, the Wii is no slouch and is capable of some pretty good visuals. That being said, the slowdown more of an annoyance then a deal breaker but it still can be bothersome now and then.
The audio in Anniversary is pretty solid and helps makes this a good game. What really stood out for me was the ambient sound effects and how they managed to bring each and every level to life. Details such as the growl of all the animals to the sounds of water drops dripping into larger bodies of water, everything manages to bring the gamer into the world of Tomb Raider. Lara herself has a pretty good repertoire of sounds too, from her grunts as she jumps to her yelps as she gets hurt, everything she utters manages to convey the action going on with and around her. As for the music, well there is not a whole lot of it going on, but what is there is solid, and if anything it manages to hit at the right time allowing for parts of the game to take on a more cinematic feel to it when needed.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary follows the life of Lara from her early childhood, when by chance, she takes on the task of exploring her first ever environment. Now if anyone has read many of our reviews on gameboyz.com you are well aware that we try to be a spoiler free site, and as per usual this will be the way here. That being said Anniversary takes Lara’s life and interweaves her adventures through ancient cities, temples and underground caves while searching for treasures and rare artefacts and fighting lots of baddies and legendary monsters. As you make your way through Lara’s adventure you will cross the globe to such exotic locales as Peru and Greece to name a few. These locations are varied and full of various types of challenges including gorillas, crocs and even a well-known dinosaur. As mentioned much of the game is a retelling of the original but developer Crystal Dynamics has taken some liberties and added new areas while taking away some old ones. As I played I found that some of them were very familiar while others added a new and fresh feeling to the game.
Where Anniversary has an advantage over the original is that the control is much more refined and really brings the series into the next generation world. You move the nimble Lara around with the analog stick on the nunchuk, and she controls very well and responsively. Of course this is a Tomb Raider game so Lara can still climb platforms, hang from ledges and shimmy across them, and leap from pole to pole. You’ll notice some new control schemes that didn’t exist in the original such as being able to move diagonally as well as being able to grab onto objects or balance on top of thin platforms. You will also have to press up on the d-pad when Lara grabs onto any ledge in the game so that you do not fall off. The latter offers a bit more interactivity as you have to pay attention to what you are doing. Veteran Tomb Raider players who have played the series since its’ inception will really appreciate what has been done with the controls, as for noobs to the franchise, well just be happy you didn’t have to play this game in it’s original state on the original Playstation d-pad when analog controls didn’t exist.
Anniversary seems to take the Tomb Raider legacy and rebuild where it started. And where this game somewhat excels is in making what was an original and inventive game back in its’ hey-day fun again. When the original Tomb Raider was released no one had done anything like it before, and the experience was fresh, fun and very new. Well 10 years later they have taken that original game and managed to maintain the fun, just like the first time you played it. This has to do with the levels and how they are designed and implemented. Trust me; the first time you have to do a variety of actions to reach your final destination in any of the levels is quite satisfying. To have to climb, swing, jump, and take a leap of faith to get from point A to point B will bring a smile to your face once you finally reach your goal. It is this ability, which was prevalent in the original and is still prevalent now, that still makes this an enjoyable game.
For those looking for some Wii remote specific abilities, well it is a given that the game would do so. Of course there is the already aforementioned use of the analog control on the nunchuk. You also use Wii remote to point at the screen and shoot or target enemies. This is quite intuitive and kind of cool. Something also added is the way that Lara’s flashlight is mapped to the Wii remote’s pointer functionality and how it makes it somewhat easy to see in the dark. Finally there are also Wii exclusive puzzles. Here you can use the controller to point at and pick up objects or scroll on pieces to solve them. Overall this implementation of the Wii specific controls is pretty neat and seems to add a bit more oomph to this title.
So everything sounds hunky dory right? Well unfortunately there are still some issues that make this game feel somewhat its’ age. First off Lara herself still feels somewhat sluggish. Don’t get me wrong, she is quicker then the original, but when compared to other adventure games of this nature she is kind of slow. Secondly, the in-game camera still has problems as it can get in the way of your view. Although it can be controlled manually by holding the C button and dragging across the screen with the Wii remote, there is still some areas that you just can’t see where you really want too. For example, there were more then a few times that I just could not gauge my distance when making a leap with Lara and this was due to the angle that the camera was at. This was just one example of how the troublesome camera can make this game feel a bit old. However, these complaints don’t make this game a bust though, it is just that I felt compelled to note them as they do exist and can affect some of your actions. But given the nature of the game, and how the original has come so far in this rebuild, they are able to be overlooked and won’t totally ruin the experience for you.
With most single player games this is the section where I would really complain about the lack of any sort of multiplayer. However, as this is a re-imagining of the very original Tomb Raider, I think I can overlook this omission as it was not a multiplayer game and was never designed to be one. The fact that we are getting a new look and a new feel to an old and original title that started the Tomb Raider franchise, that is good enough for me.
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