It seems that even after all of the bad press Lara Croft gets for being over-exposed and having too many games we still cannot manage to get rid of her. Now she is on the Dreamcast, the Gameboy, has her own comic, and a new movie in the works for next summer. Some may say that this is overkill but I say as long as the games are good I will forgive the endless magazine covers. And in the case of Laraís new adventure for Gameboy her exposure is warranted.
The most remarkable thing about he Gameboy version (simply called Tomb Raider Starring Lara Croft) is its similarity to its 3D counterpart. Though it is only a 2D sidescroller, it mimics its predecessor in control, animations, as well as the overall feel. Though Lara is limited to being built with pixels the creators used a whole bunch of them in order to give Lara definition and shape. (Insert boob joke here.) This allows Lara to have all the animations you are used to seeing including running, rolling, swimming and even smacking into walls and falling down. When was the last time you saw a Gameboy character fall down and pick itself back up? Though, most of the other creatures in the game are given the bare bones treatment in the way of graphics, they are still clear.
Not only are the in-game animations well thought out, but the story line pictures are beautiful as well. These pictures take the place of the FMV you would see delivering the story on the console and PC versions. They manage to use light and color in a way that sets the mood and tone that you come to expect. The plot is very generic. There is some powerful artifact housing a lost soul that Lara is sent to find. Of course it is well protected and highly sought after so that means danger at every turn both from natural and super-natural forces.
Unfortunately the problems apparent in the earlier TR games are also present here on the Gameboy. The levels often seem cramped and repetitive as you take Lara from tomb to tomb. There is a great deal of running back and forth as you try to find out what lever opened up which door. Sometimes I found myself running around stuck in an area with no visible exit. A word to the wise: dynamite will get you out of most precarious positions.
The control definitely takes some getting used to and will probably be too hard for younger players to get down cold. The jump is a bit unresponsive meaning that you will have to jump a few steps in advance to clear the ledge at the last step. If you hit the jump any later you will find Lara falling off the cliff. Sound familiar? However, if you are used to the control on the other games then you should be able to pick up the idiosyncrasies of this version. You cannot shoot and swim, climb with a gun drawn, and so on.
Fans of the Tomb Raider genre will definitely be happy with the Gameboy version. The developers have definitely managed to get all of the Tomb Raider gameplay squeezed into this tiny little cart complete with puzzles, enemies and tomb design. Those of you who are just plain tired of hunting through tombs after 4 games may want to steer clear of more of the same. However, you have to hand it to them. They have captured the essence of Tomb Raider and put it on the Gameboy. Lara Croft is here to stay and if she continues to look this good Iíll let her.
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