Can you remember what you were doing in 1996?
I had been out of high school for the better part of a decade and was not yet married, which meant I was spending vast amounts of time trying to beat every Nintendo 64, PlayStation 1 and Sega Saturn game I could get my hands on. And if you’re anything like me, you literally lost your mind the first time you played through Tomb Raider.
It wasn’t just the fact that the polygonal 3D graphics were amazing, or that the game immersed you in challenging puzzles, platforming and dual-wielding magnum action in exotic locales – it was just plain old fun. Big, different, eye-popping fun.
When all the dust settled, the original Tomb Raider became one of the most lauded and successful games for both the PS1 and Saturn and spawned a list of spotty sequels, ranging from mediocre (2000’s Chronicles) to plain old bad (2003’s pretty but tired Angel of Darkness). Last year, developer Crystal Dynamics brought the series back to true form with Tomb Raider: Legend, which modernized the whole experience using ha-uge set pieces and adding retuned acrobatic control and gunplay.
Here again, Crystal D makes good with Tomb Raider: Anniversary, which is a near-next-gen redeux, rebuilt from scratch, version of the original Tomb Raider marking the 10 year anniversary of the original. Because Tomb Raider: Anniversary is based on a game many people have already played, it has an appeal on several different levels – for some of us, it’s a fun trip down memory lane, for others it’s an accessible way to get in on the origins of Lara in a version that’s arguably better than the original. Anniversary also has the advantage of ten years worth of hindsight and the developers have made plenty of fixes, nips and tucks to make this experience more than worthwhile.
If you did play the first game, you’ll find yourself on familiar ground – you’re still sleuthing out the location of the Scion of Atlantis as you make your way through Peru, Greece and Egypt, and you’ll still be facing off against that weirdo business lady Jacqueline Natlas.
And while the game will remind you of the original, nothing is a direct repeat, so it does feel like its own game, maybe more ‘inspired by’ than ‘remake’. Want a good reference point? Everything you liked about the original is here, it’s just bigger, better looking, better playing and more involved.
A large contributing factor is Lara, who has been working out – she looks great and is ever-flexible, able to pull of acrobatic feats that would make Ryu Hayabusa blush, which puts the action of the original to shame. If you played last year’s Legend, you know pretty much what to expect – you’ll navigate ledges like you’re feather-light, leap spanses, swing from ropes, tumble like a Cirque De Soleil secret agent out of the way of projectile attacks and climb, maneuver and balance almost anywhere perfectly (try standing atop a vertical pole – it’s rad).
That’s not to say Crystal D made Lara superhuman – she has her limitations, and if you push too hard, you’ll find yourself toppling down endless chasms, which gives the game a good feeling of danger. Combat is the typical Lara gunplay, which uses a lock-on system, giving Lara the keen talent of painting a tango whilst tumbling and flipping across a spanse.
There’s lots to do in Tomb Raider: Anniversary in addition to pulling off a boatload of ridiculous acrobatics. There are gigantic set-piece puzzles and more traditional locate key/flip switch-type stuff, but the real challenge is usually just figuring out how to use Lara’s acrobatic, climbing and balancing abilities to get from precarious point A to point B. The puzzles are fairly deep as well – you’ll be tasked with finding your way around environmental obstacles only to find keys to unlock doors and then go into larger areas with more environmental puzzles and then find another key or three, so some of the puzzles may take you some time, which most TR fans will love.
The beasties in Anniversary are big and bad, and will eat you for lunch if you let them – your biggest adversaries most of the time in Anniversary, though through your exploration you’ll regularly run into some antagonistic fauna like rats, bats, wolves, bears, tigers, gorillas, raptors, and the occasional Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary takes the careful work that Tomb Raider: Legend did to help the franchise to another level – it’s fun, looks great, has plenty of action, puzzling, platforming and huge sets to keep you busy during your summer break.
4 out of 5 STARSNote the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.