So I’ve been playing quite a lot of Tomb Raider: Anniversary, which is basically a do-over of the original Tomb Raider with snazzy graphics and a bunch of new puzzles. It’s a sharp reminder of what I loved so much about the first game – and what I hated.
It’s at its very best, always, when it is you vs. the environment. As limited as the original was, the at-the-time freedom of exploration was immense and felt very liberating. Lara could run, roll, backflip, grab and slide around a complex and solid-feeling environment without feeling hampered by invisible walls or illogical dead-ends. Of course, they were there but very cunningly disguised.. and we were less used to looking for them. This new iteration does a good job of giving you a similar feeling (although the more savvy gamer will now notice the strictly linear progression of the levels more acutely), and the increased flexibility of both Lara and the world she inhabits is at times an absolute joy. The simple touch of the way her body strains to stretch far enough to grab an almost-out-of-reach ledge is a neat shorthand for "this is a real person, sort of".
So, yes, when it’s running, jumping and swinging off poles it’s an absolute blast. The puzzles are often vast – though they usually boil down to Pull Lever A, Place Object B, Run Through Gate C, but who cares when it’s that much fun?
The only problem, as ever, is combat. I never liked the fighting and with the Wii version even the nifty auto-aim has been removed, making it even more of a trial to run about, avoid damage *and* aim with the remote. Nightmare! Still, the use of QTEs to short-circuit a lot of the boss battles has drawn the sting a little. The fight with the Tyrannosaur was, inevitably, more fun than the fights with the raptors.
So on with it I plug. I’m now in Egypt. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the moment that the giant Sphinx is revealed. That was my favourite bit in the original. Don’t screw it up, guys!