Review by SethBlizzard
Tombs of Persia? Prince Raider?
Some game series become so synonymous with the system they were designed to play on, that making a game in that series for a different hardware becomes very tricky business. Virtua Fighter was converted to 2D and failed spectacularly. On the other hand, Super Mario Bros jumped to 3D with memorable success. So how do you make a Tomb Raider game, a series famed for its open three-dimensional exploration and combat gameplay, for the Game Boy Color, a system with hardly a fourth of the bits Lara Croft usually enjoyed at the time? The solution was to go 2D. Unlike Virtua Fighter 2, Lara Croft's first of two adventures in 2D isn't unplayable, but it is definitely difficult to love, and the problems begin right when you take control of Lara.
In most Tomb Raider games, Lara runs by default and you've gotta press a button to make her walk. In this game, it's the total opposite; you have to hold down the B button to make her run. There's no reason why the slow-as-dirt walking should be the default; in all Tomb Raider games, knowing when to be careful is the alternative, not the default. If playing this game feels a lot like Prince of Persia, that stands to reason. The control is exactly like Prince of Persia, in that momentum is always something you have to be careful of. However, basic things like climbing ledges and ladders become needlessly complicated when you don't run by default. Momentum of jumps is also a gamble to control. Outside Lara's 20th century days on PC, it seems only Tomb Raider: The Prophecy ever grasped the delicate art of the arcs of Lara's jumps. The worst thing about the controls, though, is how delayed they are... along with the fact that of all the buttons, the Up button makes Lara jump. Oh dear.
Combat is hardly better. It's cumbersome to deal with enemies, especially the scorpions, because you've gotta turn around should they pop up behind you as they often do. You also move much slower than them, and then you still gotta get in range. That's usually not much of a worry, though, because the enemies are a pathetic bunch. There are loads of scorpions and little bats (that emit repetitive squeaks until you take them down), but that's about it. Hardly any big enemies at all. You'd think PETA and Amnesty International were in charge of the enemy designs.
The look of the game is rather bland, much like many of the forgotten shareware PC titles in the early 90s that ran on DOS. The art design brings to mind games like Men in Black: The Series, and that sadly is indicative of the game's overall quality. Far starker than that, though, is the actual layout.
The level design is terrible. This game relies on the worst sort of level design labyrinthine! This is the first game I have ever played when I had no choice but to draw a map for myself in the first level. Because when each of the level's many branches contains a vital item, you are gonna forget where you've been and where you haven't. The level design is not only confusing, it's not iconic enough to make you recognize where you are. An added dimension to this annoyance is that there are some walls that you have to bomb, and you need to find TNT sticks to do this. However, some walls don't need to be bombed, while others do, and because of the confusing level layouts, sometimes you might bomb the wrong wall. Fortunately you can find new TNT bars, but that still means trying to find your way back to where you find the explosives.
The game is also annoyingly quiet. The music that greets you at the start of each level runs for about 10 seconds, then a deafening silence falls on your ears. Tomb Raider games usually only have ambience in the background, which may be above the Game Boy Color's abilities, but at least they have music cues. There isn't even any sense of accomplishment by clearing a level; the next just begins (save for the storybook moments that make you jump with their music cues). So the game doesn't really have any storytelling for it either.
Lara Croft's first foray into the handheld market is very much a mixed affair. In the guise of a sidescroller, it has far stronger shades of Prince of Persia and Out of this World than the better examples of the genre. With dodgy controls and confusing layout, a bland look style and very few threats to speak of, it's hard to recommend Tomb Raider for the Game Boy Color. If you are looking to kill a few hours while on a trip, though, it is a decent distraction, but one that has little in common with its parent. Tomb Raider: The Prophecy for the Game Boy Advance would capture the spirit of Tomb Raider far better, but hey, Tomb Raider for the Game Boy Color will at least keep you busy for a while. Just don't expect it to scratch any itches that the original games do.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Product Release: Tomb Raider (EU, 07/06/00)
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