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Game Over Online ~ Tomb Raider: The Prophecy

GameOver Game Reviews - Tomb Raider: The Prophecy (c) Ubi Soft, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Tomb Raider: The Prophecy (c) Ubi Soft
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 74%
Date Published Thursday, December 19th, 2002 at 08:47 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

To my knowledge, this is the first Tomb Raider presented in something other than the classic third person, behind the back, action-adventure mode Eidos pioneered way back when this 3D mode was actually original. Nowadays, just about every action-adventure or platform title has it. The puck now being passed to Ubi Soft, Tomb Raider: The Prophecy has taken on a top down birds-eye view although the marketing literature very much wants you to believe otherwise. Quasi-3D anyone?

This iteration, more than ever, is what you would call Tomb Raider classic. You're put in an enclosed space, combing through musty dungeons, climbing over obstacles, throwing switches and opening doors to find treasure. There's a good mix between puzzles and action. This title certainly pays homage to the earlier Tomb Raider titles with two parts puzzle and one part action. The mechanics, even in a 2D format, play out pretty well and it's helped by some good design decisions.

Often times, I give up on the maze-like corridors simply because obstacles don't flow very well from one to another. I'd find one obstacle and then find the solution halfway across the map. I'd find the solution and the next obstacle would be back at the starting location. This makes for a jarring gameplay experience with the level design backtracking and meandering, which definitely is not what you want when you're stuck in a claustrophobic (and often bland) setting. Prophecy is able to solve this with an expert camera pan trick. When you throw a switch, for example, the camera pans not directly to the door or object you activated. It pans slowly across the route you should be taking and that helps eliminate a lot of instances where you're at a loss for what to do or where to go. Great use of the camera certainly makes up for the smaller screen real estate.

Another facet that Prophecy is able to nail down is the audio. Sound effects are crisp and there's a lot of ambient noise to convey a sense of dread and foreboding. Unfortunately, the developers have junked the Lara Croft voiceovers. Her accented narration is sorely missed here and the game lacks the sassy character that Lara's personality tends to produce.

As you jet from one locale to another, you'll find yourself mostly spending time indoors. The Prophecy engine is basically a 2D one but height elevations are artificially put in. You can tell the difference between one ledge from another by the change of texture but this isn't apparent at all times. Sometimes you might run by some ledge you could jump on and not know it because the textures are not evidently different. Stone, after all, can only appear in so many combinations before it becomes muddled into the same identity in one's eye.

On the other hand, Lara herself is animated fairly well. Of course, the expectations are low because she obviously isn't in her full 3D splendor. There are many moves for her though. She is able to shimmy along ropes and ledges and she's able to climb up and down, as well as back pedal when her pistols are out. This is one clever thing the game does. When you have an enemy within a close proximity to Lara, moving away will cause her to back pedal or strafe around the enemy target. That way, you don't have to point your guns elsewhere and you can continue shooting.

A lack of weapons (less than a handful) included really implies that combat isn't the focus of the game. Unfortunately, the very end of the game is punctuated with mindless boss fights that don't really challenge you. Most of the time, I had to dodge incoming projectiles and try to keep my guns firing in the general direction of the enemy; not exactly what I would call challenging and the pace of the projectiles will be a cinch for veterans of Space Invaders and up.

Tomb Raider has never had a multiplayer mode. Even on the PC, the most advanced platform for multiplayer, there has never been an option to play with different Laras. With developers finally waking up and including co-operative mode (the recent No One Lives Forever 2 comes to mind), I hope that will change but I don't think this particular title should be penalized for lack of gameplay beyond finishing the initial story.

What should be questioned, however, is the reliance on a different camera angle. This title is published by someone else; from Eidos to Ubi Soft. But recently, Eidos managed to crank out a faithful 3D recreation of Tomb Raider for handhelds; albeit for the Pocket PC. While that type of hardware may be more powerful, it's a little disconcerting for Tomb Raider purists to see Tomb Raider, which has always been a 3D third person action adventure, shown in such a view.

However, for those who don't quite care about the Tomb Raider lineage or about getting new glances at Lara Croft, Prophecy is an enjoyable by-the-book outing for the gaming industry's favorite heroine. Her voice and 3D model may be missing but the spirit of adventure is definitely something not forgotten here.


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