It obviously took some work, yet Eidos has managed to squeeze the revitalized Tomb Raider series onto a DS cart. It’s a wonderful piece of design, squeezing nearly the entire game into a 2-D based world, complete with nearly all the puzzles, though sometimes in severely condensed form. It’s a faster game, more focused on platforming and action than its console counterparts.
The developers have obviously taken the time to craft this game right, making the open 3-D worlds work on a linear 2-D scale. Lara’s movements allow for some small vertical movement. For the most part, this sticks to a strict left to right movement.
The graphics are one of the bigger hurdles for the DS to overcome. Climbable ledges, ropes, pipes, and ladders are obscured by pixilated background detail, and if you’re unfamiliar with the level layouts from other versions of the game, this could be a challenge. Lara is now a fluidly animated sprite, and looks fine on the small screen.
Combat is the game’s most unique DS game play change. While the lock-on targeting remains, actual firing is handled on the touch screen. Once the enemy has been spotted, a poorly animated figure appears on the bottom screen. The stylus dishes out the punishment with each tap. This makes one kill headshots almost guaranteed depending on the weapon.
Other uses of the DS include selecting items from the menu (weapons, health, PDA) or uncovering artifacts. The latter is done by rubbing “dirt” off the item by sliding the stylus around. Other items are too fragile to be brushed, and the microphone comes into play as you blow away excess dust.
Compromises to the level design end up helping this DS Tomb Raider. Levels flow by rapidly, and there’s a sense that fantastic speed runs could be completed with practice. With no camera control, certain areas (especially King Arthur’s level) have highly disorienting camera movements. These moments are brief, and the generous checkpoint system means a second try doesn’t cost that much time.
Motorcycle levels return, and they bring a nice retro feel along. These straightforward action sequences are wonderful in bridging levels, making up for long sequences of platforming, and adding a nice touch of danger. Nearly all video cinematics have been retained as well, though the heavy compression makes some of them impossible to make out.
While uneven in spots, it’s nice to see the effort put forth in keeping Legend intact on the underpowered hardware. The remapping of the levels makes this near classic adventure title feel new to players of the console editions, and it’s not hard to imagine seeing a Tomb Raider like this on the PlayStation if 3-D hadn’t become the standard.
Tomb Raider: Legend is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Violence. This game can also be found on: GBA, GameCube, PC, PS2, PSP, Xbox, and Xbox 360.