Tomb Raider: Anniversary (360 Version)
So far, as difficult games go, I think it would be fair to say that Tomb Raider: Anniversary ranks up towards the top of my list in terms of hair-pulling, controller-throwing, spastic yelling that only some games can really offer. And as usual my tendency to enjoy masochistic-style video games continues. This is one of those games where you don’t use a guide because you want to complete it knowing that you did it. Having never played the first Tomb Raider in its entirety I decided maybe it was time to play through it in a more enjoyable way then simply getting the Playstation version. And rather than download two parts of one game through Tomb Raider: Legend I just went out and got it for my 360. It’s a great title to buy on disc. I would have never gotten the same enjoyment from a downloadable add-on.
This version of the game uses the same control scheme and level design as Legend. I played through on hard difficulty. One thing I noticed was that the enemies probably did more damage and took more damage as well, but that wasn’t what made the game difficult. It was the variety of puzzles and how many variations of switch puzzles they ultimately created. I have no reference of the original’s puzzles to know exactly how they were laid out. But I do know that in no possible way could they be similar to Anniversary. Even more so then Legend, Anniversary takes full advantage of the climbing and jumping Lara Croft. I think that the brilliant way the puzzles were designed can be considered better then a Zelda game. Yes, in terms of puzzle design…better then Zelda. It’s because you can do a puzzle different ways and still succeed in completing it. But those solutions are far more complex then Zelda.
It was really hard to imagine the original being as convoluted simply because of the tech at the time. With this new engine powering the original game there is probably a lot of the ledge jumping and swinging that wasn’t in the original. Subsequently, the game is significantly longer than the original. My interpretation has been that the game doubled in length based solely on the redesigned puzzles. And navigating those puzzles takes time. Egypt is the best example of a level with elaborate switch puzzles. I believe in the original Tomb Raider they were no more than hitting one switch, moving a block, and hitting another switch. But in Anniversary they add those ledges and swing poles to the mix and suddenly it takes four times longer to figure out how to make the puzzle work with water level changes.
And that is what makes the game hard. On hard mode, none of the enemies pose a real threat to Lara. Especially the bosses, who are stripped down versions of the Legend styled bosses, to be honest. Once you figure them out, it’s a matter of survival until you drain their health. But that isn’t a negative at all. They can be fun to fight and you don’t feel like you’re being unfairly punished playing against them. Anniversary still has those quick-time events that carried over from legend. Those are fun to play, if only as a diversion from the regular run and gun parts. I should probably note that Lara does not have the same weapon variety as she did in Legend either. Here, there are four weapons and none of them are completely effective, nor are they completely useless. They fall somewhere in-between.
By the end game I did grow frustrated with the monotonous puzzles and unusual pacing. The last level feels about two hours longer then what it should have been. That isn’t to say that all the puzzles are bad, just the few scattered around that Lost Island. I think as a story it’s passable and forgettable. That’s because the cut-scenes are done well enough that there is a noticeable gap between them. And there is no worse feeling then wishing the game would just end already so you can go on with your life. It took me probably twice as long as my overall play-time recorded just because I died so many times and had to restart at the previous check-point. Plenty of falling deaths to be had by all.
Generally Tomb Raider has never looked that good. Legend was basically an explosion of bloom-lighting and hi-res Xbox textures running on a 360. So, suffice to say you won’t find anything beyond that here. It’s refreshing for an original game from long ago to be updated so vibrantly but compared to even the most average looking adventure games it doesn’t impress so much as it meets the bare minimum. But the frame-rate holds a solid thirty frames the whole game. The only slow down was on an Egyptian water puzzle where, my guess, is that all the lighting and water effects were running in the background at the same time.
For anyone who might consider picking this up at some point, there is an option to download it as DLC over Xbox Live as I mentioned, if you have Tomb Raider: Legend. Unfortunately it isn’t cheap, and far more disappointing is that you buy it in two parts. Each pack contains two levels. So while it may be more convenient to have it downloaded, I highly recommend just buying the disc version. Not only do you support the business of remaking classic games well, but you also don’t run the risks of DLC. Plus, it’s just cleaner and nicer to have a packaged product that you’ll keep coming back to over time.
I’ve stayed away from adventure styled games outside of the Zelda franchise because they required thinking out of the box and planning ahead to complete the games challenges. But with something like Anniversary I stand back in awe of the quality. To think under the radar game designers were able to build and re-create such incredible experiences is really special. And I can appreciate great game design. There are hidden items to come back to if you choose to replay the game again. For me, I am glad to finish and forget. It felt like an accomplishment to complete it. There is no need to go back and ruin that experience.