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Tomb Raider: Anniversary: Rookie Redux

It is a sad commentary when a game featuring masterful puzzle and platforming sequences is best known for the cup size of its main character. Unfortunately this has become the case for Tomb Raider. However, our sex-crazed society isn't solely to blame for this. After a phenomenal debut game, the series slowly began to focus more on Lara's physical attributes rather than the things that made the first game so great. The series finally hit rock bottom with Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, which if I had kids is something I would strongly consider as a form of discipline. With Tomb Raider: Legend, the series made a comeback as powerful as its debut - a trend Tomb Raider: Anniversary is looking to continue.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary isn't an entirely new game in the series, but calling it a remake isn't entirely true either. Although Anniversary follows the plot and features locales from Lara's first adventure, it takes these familiar aspects and infuses them with more "modern" gameplay mechanics, giving the game an entirely new feel. It is like someone telling an artist about a painting and the artist giving his own take on it.

The most noticeable upgrade is, of course, the visuals. Anniversary uses the same graphics engine as Legend. Lara now looks more like a human than Bizarro Barbie. The overall look is simply incredible, though you need to go back to the original's environments to really get an idea of just how much things have changed. Temple entrances that were once just a series of cloned, textured blocks are now fully-realized entrances that would intimidate even Dr. Jones.

While the visual upgrade is expected, the unexpected thing is that most of the level layouts have been altered to make use of Lara's new tricks. Nearly all of Lara's mechanics from Legend are present, including her grapple cord. Lara also has full freedom of movement (as opposed to the hex-based system used in the original), which makes for plenty of death-defying leaps.

Playing through the short demo, a re-imagination of the Lost Valley level (home of the T-Rex), I was amazed at how intricately even the most minor of sections was planned out. Although Lara does engage in a few rare instances of combat, most of the game is about jumping, making it feel like more of a puzzle game than an action game. Everything, even the smallest of ledges, play into the bigger picture.

The best example I came across during the demo involved two posts, a ledge and a hole I needed to get through. Looking at the obstacle, instinct told me to climb on the post and jump to the ledge. Instinct, it seems, was totally off on this one. Instead, I found a small, out of the way ledge that allowed me to jump on top of the post, giving me the extra height needed to get to the hole.

In addition to a PC version, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is scheduled to also appear on the PS2 and PSP next month. A Wii version is slated for release in the near future. Tomb Raider: Anniversary is poised to be a great commemoration of the first game and a reminder that the series is about more than a pretty girl.

For a chance to check out Lara's latest (earliest?) yourself, head on over to the Official Site to download the demo.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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