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Tomb Raider: Legend Review

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Developer: HumanSoft Publisher: Eidos
Release Date: November 14, 2006 Also On: GCN, PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360

For years developers of console-to-handheld ports have tried to cram and cram until they just can’t cram anymore. This trend has yielded an extremely limited amount of positive results. Next up to the edge is HumanSoft with the DS iteration of Tomb Raider: Legend; does their jump end with a harmless splash or a deadly thud?

Tomb Raider: Legend is translated well, story-wise, to the DS. Almost every bit of CG animation from the big console brother was reduced to a blurry but still functioning and credible quality. The best part is that the voice acting was also carried over, so in terms of presentation, Tomb Raider: Legend delivers in every way. Unfortunately, a good story doesn’t save this game from playing poorly.

All of the levels from the console versions are recreated here, and they’re recreated fairly accurately. Players of those versions will recognize certain spots and even specific puzzles, but it’s disappointing that most of the puzzles and challenges are nowhere near as creative or challenging as they were in their console counterparts. The biggest problem is that this game plays in a “2.5D” style, similar to early PlayStation games like Pandemonium and Klonoa. This would work if it didn’t absolutely butcher the creativity and challenge of some the puzzles and limit the visibility that the player has. There are many times where it’s difficult to see just where it is that Lara needs to jump or swing, making blind leaps of faith a common thing.

Gunplay was never a Tomb Raider strength until Legend came out in 2006, and unfortunately the DS version of the game does little if anything to replicate the action from the console versions. When Lara encounters enemies, the player can press A to begin shooting her pistols and/or other weapons. The action is then taken to the touch screen, where players tap enemies to shoot at the enemies. The problem with this is that enemies do nothing but zigzag on the bottom screen, offering absolutely no challenge. It’s clear that the only time the player will die is at the bottom of a long, misjudged fall thanks to the limited visibility.

Visuals clearly aren’t a strength, either. Tomb Raider’s half-2D, half-3D look isn’t done very well, and Lara’s 2D sprite is more limited in animation than an AIM .GIF buddy icon. There aren’t usually muzzle flashes when Lara shoots a gun. Weak! If it weren’t for the cinemas and admittedly detailed backgrounds, Tomb Raider: Legend would be completely lacking in any sort of visual aspect. The soundtrack is filled with bland and repetitive jungle beats, and the sound effects are no better.

Tomb Raider: Legend isn’t the worst Nintendo DS game out there. It’s clear that HumanSoft tried to replicate a quality console title, but it seems that they tried a little too hard and just didn’t hit the nail on the head. Next time around, the puzzles need to be fleshed out, the levels more creative, and the DS’ hardware put to better and more efficient use.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 5
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 5
Written by Cliff Review Guide