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Tomb Raider: Legend
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
Lara Croft makes her first appearance on the PSP with the latest action-adventure title Tomb Raider: Legend. And, with the massive Angel of Darkness debacle, many fans are saying it had better be good. Well thankfully, Legend generally makes for a great game, but it seems that the title's translation onto the handheld is a bit lacking.

As far as the game's visuals are concerned, the presentation is good, but not great. At times, animations seem a bit rough and the textures are definitely turned down a bit from the PS2 version. Aside from those exceptions, it is a good experience.

Vocals are solid and everything from Lara's British accent to the supporting characters really come through on the handheld, while at times the sound effects (gun fire, engines, background noises) seem fairly bland and just blend together way too much for my taste.

In Tomb Raider: Legend, we not only delve deeper into the Earth's past, but also Lara's history. The game opens up with us finally learning what happened to the explorer's mother and the rest of the game deals with the ancient artifacts surrounding that sad day. Throughout the rest of the game, you will travel from Bolivia to Peru to Japan in search of artifacts that are some how linked to the ruins where Lara's mother died and the legend of King Arthur.

As far as I can tell, the winning formula that made Tomb Raider as successful as it is (again ignoring the last game), continues on in Legend. Lara will move blocks, jump over perilous pits, and solve convoluted puzzles in order to collect treasures and solve the mystery in front of her. There are, of course, a few additions that add to the game's depth.

One of the new tricks up Lara's sleeve is a nifty, magnetic grappling hook that will help her not only cross large gaps, but pull boxes across fiery walkways or pull her along a raging waterway on top of an old coffin.

The game's graphics have also been improved. There are several puzzles sprinkled throughout the game that involve placing blocks on large see-saws and then jumping on one end so that the block can fly up and land on a higher platform. Other physics-heavy puzzles involve poles that pivot around as you swing on them. So now you not only have to time your jumps, but wait until the pole you are going to jump to is lined up with your current one. And on top of that, if you miss and have to start over, you need to use your grapple to pull the poles back into position.

At times, Tomb Raider: Legend seems really easy. Some of the puzzles and mechanics that have to be performed are just slight distractions and delays. But there are other times when stupid little issues just get in the way of the gameplay and it really makes certain parts of the game more difficult. One instance is the level where you have to drive a dirt bike through a desert. This could be a fun level and something that would add more depth to the game, but there weren't enough save points and the controls were just too twitchy to make it an enjoyable experience. Instead, I spent quite a lot of time running through the same series of dirt roads over and over again and it got very frustrating very fast.

Game Mechanics:
It seems the bane in the PSP control setup is its lack of 2 analog sticks. Like in many other games, Tomb Raider: Legend just begs to have the second stick to control the camera. Unfortunately, the only semblance of control you have is that you can line the camera up with Lara's view by tapping the Left shoulder button. In general, the camera does a good job of following your character, but when you have to line up jumps, it makes it really tough without the second stick.

The other major issue with the controls is the aforementioned bike-riding level where you use the analog nub to guide Lara all over the road. I'm not sure if this is an issue on the systems with full analog sticks or if its just the mechanics of the PSP's nub, but it seems like a small twitch on the stick will send Lara flying across the screen (and typically into a rock to her death). I got the impression from Psibabe that this was also a problem in the console versions (she has played this game on both the PS2 and Xbox 360), but I still feel like this was an even bigger problem on the handheld.

Tomb Raider: Legend is a solid title that will probably please all or most fans of the series. This incarnation of the game, on the other hand, might leave a few more frustrated. Unless you have a few long plane rides ahead of you, you might want to look into the console versions before you pick up Legend for the PSP.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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