Review by KFHEWUI
"Tomb Raider Legend is a weak port that is derailed by sloppy controls"
Tomb Raider Legend marks the first time a Tomb Raider game is developed by different company, and the series has received a heavy duty make over. The game begins with Lara in Bolivia where she stumbles upon a fragment that look like a sword from an incident when she was nine years old, but turns out a rich and spoiled man named Rutland has started assembling the pieces of the sword. Lara must gather remaining pieces and assemble the pieces of the sword before Rutland can. While the plot was decent although somewhat generic in the port to the GBA, a lot of elements from the story were either omitted or dropped and some of the plot development that were removed or left out included key plot points. This makes the story for this port a complete mess that is hard to follow for anyone who has not played the console version of the game. The way the story is told is unique which is done through panels similar to comic book with a cut scene before and after each level and sometimes during the levels.
Bolivia starts off as a tutorial level which introduces the controls and the basic controls are not that bad with movement on the D-Pad and jump and shoot mapped to "A" and "B" respectively. The rest of the controls are where it can be troublesome, and the grappling hook is mapped to "L" while inventory is mapped to "R". When Lara draws her weapons, they have to be holstered by hitting "R" however for some reason when a health kit is used, and the player has none left well the player still has to reselect the pistol from the inventory before they can be used again. Why not just have the game default to the pistols if Lara has no items equipped instead of having to go through the tedious task of reequipping the weapon. It gets worse and in some level Lara will get to drive vehicles but honestly the controls are awkward, and the controls are mapped all over the GBA for drive and reverse which is "R" and "B" respectively while steering is done with "left" and "right". Why the controls were not mapped straight to the D-Pad is very good question. One problem I have with the controls is when jumping to a bar, Lara will not auto grab it like with ledges instead the player has to hold up which I learned the hard way thanks to a few cheap deaths.
Legend is composed of eight levels although one of the levels is repeated twice plus there is Croft Manor to play through, but ultimately Croft Manor is pointless and can be skipped. Lara's journey takes her all over the world including stops in Bolivia, Ghana, Japan, England, and Nepal to name a few areas. The graphics are a mix bag while locales do not look that bad, sometimes it is impossible to distinguish background objects from foreground objects. This can lead to some cheap deaths because it is impossible to tell the difference from a ledge that is scenery and a ledge that can be grabbed. On the other hand the character models are not that great, and the enemies or I should say the enemy since the game only has one model for human enemies is not that great looking. The cut scenes look great with the comic style, and the artwork is great.
The game plays like standard platforming affair including a lot of jumping sequences, swimming sections, and pitiful combat. Each level is composed of several different sections with a load screen in between each section yet these screens vary in size from a few seconds to pass through to minutes to beat. If the player dies, they will start over at the beginning of the section that they are currently on.
Enemies are scattered around the levels, but the game lacks variety when it comes to enemies. There are tigers, leopards, mercenary, and vehicles including motorcycle rider and van driver yet sadly the combat is pathetic and laughably weak. Most of the enemies put zero to little effort in trying to stop Lara while Lara can gain a machine, shotgun, and grenades to use her trusted dual pistols (with unlimited ammo) get the job done perfectly.
There are a few boss fights however they have been dumbed down heavily from the console version, and for example the fight against Rutland all the player has to do is pull down the eyes from the statues on the ledges then shot Rutland until his health is gone. On the console version the ledges have to be destroyed but cannot be destroyed until Rutland has jumped on them after taking enough damage. There are a few issues with combat. Lara cannot duck at all however enemies can so when enemies eventually shoot; there is no way to dodge their bullets. Also the bullets will sometimes fly past enemies but still do damage in the process. Eventually cheat codes can be unlocked that give Lara infinite health and unlimited ammo but both are useless since the pistols works fine and has unlimited ammo plus Lara will still take damage with the infinite health code since it only works for bullets so Lara will still take damage from taking falls from great distance.
To progress forward Lara has to use a variety of different techniques to succeed including shimmy across ledges, zip lines, puzzles to solve, swinging across bars, and traps to avoid. There is only a hand full of traps including spinning blades that instantly kill and out running a boulder. The escape boulder sequence represents what is wrong with the game, and the player must be quick to out run the boulder since they have to avoid objects. The objects in question are spikes that are jutting out of the wall except the spikes are so poorly drawn that they blend right into the background, and it took me several tries to finally see them. When the trap is so poorly drawn that they blend into the wall, the graphics have a serious issue however the rest of the background do not look that bad.
The second issue is with the fluidity of the controls. While the basic layout of the controls are decent, the controls are sluggish, and this can lead to few cheap deaths since Lara has to roll under a spike then jump over one and repeat this pattern a few times. On the flip side, Lara moves around like the ground is covered with ice just barely tapping forward will send Lara flying forward. This is a huge problem when on small platforms because if Lara goes to close to the edge, she will climb down. The player will have to wait for the animation stop before being able to climb up.
Ultimately the controls hurt the game the most while like mention the scheme is decent, the controls just are not fluid enough which can make several sections from later in the game a lot more annoying than they should be. The graphics also do play a part on another notable puzzle, Lara has to raise a bell and swing a chandler into it, but the weight to raise the bell looks like it is just a background object however the player has to jump to it from the ledge where the chandler is swung. Landing on the weight can be troublesome since Lara will sometimes slide right off the edge of the weight and take some damage in the process.
Levels for the most part are silent and have a nice atmosphere since the only noise is mainly ambience including footsteps and wind blowing. There are a few tracks in the game mainly for the cut scenes however they are completely forgettable.
Each level has a certain amount of secret objects to find which come in colors that range from bronze, silver, and gold with gold being the hardest to find while bronze (sometimes red) being the easiest to find. In this port the secrets perform a different task, and they are used to unlock extras. A certain amount is needed for each item to unlock, and these unlockable objects include mini games, artwork, and cheat codes. This is the reason why Croft Manor is pointless level in this port since serves as a place to farm for secrets however all the secrets can be unlocked by just playing through the single player campaign and finding most of the secrets.
Replay value of the game is quite high including a time trial, mini games, and unlockable artwork and cheats (granted the cheats are pointless). Also included are three difficulties and a save system which saves after each level.
Tomb Raider Legend is mediocre port that is hurt the most by the sloppy controls and questionable graphics that make progress troublesome in some levels and ultimately this port is worth avoiding. If someone is looking for a good portable Tomb Raider game check out the two GBC games or The Prophecy for GBA since those games are much better.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 12/19/12
Game Release: Lara Croft - Tomb Raider: Legend (US, 11/14/06)
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