2.10.2007

Tomb Raider: Legend DS Demo = Ouch.


This is the second time I've downloaded the Tomb Raider: Legend demo onto my lovely DS Lite at my local Walmart. No, the demo isn't that amazing. In fact, it's horrible. That's the exact reason I keep on playing it. I suppose I'm a glutton for punishment.

In the demo, you, yes you, play as the famous, beautiful heroine, Lara Croft. Unfortunately, she isn't very beautiful. You see my friends, Lara is a 2D sprite. This sprite appears on top of the game's environments, which are rendered in 3D.

It doesn't look great.

Lara is very jaggy and ugly, and she only appears in shades of tan, apparently. Her animation is somewhat clunky, particularly when she shoots out her rope, which, by the way, appears as a white line. Upon viewing Lara the first time I played the demo, I had a bad feeling that things would not progress well.

I was right.

In Tomb Raider: Legend, the action takes place on the top, while your inventory is displayed on the touch screen. Players move Lara Croft with the D-Pad, jump with the B button, take out her gun and fire it with the the A button, pick up items with the Y button, and shoot out her rope (if that's what it's supposed to be) with the X button. Oddly, Lara's gun cannot be equipped while moving, and for some odd reason, Lara can launch her rope if she's facing right or left, but not if she's facing north or south.

Of course, this being a DS game, developers simply have to use the touch screen for something. In the demo of Tomb Raider: Legend, this usage is quite clunky. Although selecting items on the touch screen isn't horrific, some of the screen's other uses are.

When the demo first begins (after language selection), it appears we're outside of a tomb or temple of some kind. On the touch screen we have our guns and a device that seems to be inactive in the demo. Upon entering the tomb, we meet Generic Bad Guy #1. This is where the demo's problems start to appear, as when you approach that bad man, the inventory display disappears and shows a very ugly close-up of our friend. Actually hitting him is done by tapping on his body on the touch screen, which causes Lara to fire her gun. At this point, the game forbids you from using left and right on the D-Pad, deciding that, instead, to move Lara left and right, you'll need to use up and down on the D-Pad.

Odd.

After the ugly enemy is defeated, the games allows for normal movement again, and so we continue onward to our dismay. First, however, Lara must grab the gun that our assailant left her, although the only improvement over the other gun is that it's automatic, which, honestly, isn't really that useful in the demo.

Proceeding down a ramp, there is a wonderful bridge that allows us to pass over the, um, spikey things that lie below. Of course, just as Lara is about to use said bridge, it retracts. In the upper-right hand corner of our top screen, we see an "X." I did not realize what this symbol meant until this very second, which is to press the X button. Jumping straight up and pressing X begins our swing across, until Lara hits the left ledge and falls, resulting in instant death.

...

Upon reaching the area again, diagonally jumping to the right before pressing X is obviously a better choice. Lara swings to the other edge successfully, although the animation of the rope is, well...bad. For some odd reason, the player can always use the rope when standing still on the ground, but when jumping in the air, it only deploys when that one target is near.

As we continue onward up a ramp, we come across another object that is around a corner. I have my lady pick it up, but I'm given no indication as to what it does. At this point, I've noticed how ugly the environment is. Oddly, it appears as if the area is twitching with all of the jaggies and graphical glitches. The music at this point is very grating, as it is the same, short, generic clip that has been playing throughout the entire demo. Lara's jumping grunt and generic weapon noises aren't too bad, but they don't exactly improve this mediocre experience.

Continuing down the path, there is a whole lot of nothing until Lara reaches an odd contraption. The first time I played this demo, I had no idea what to do. Apparently, Lara is supposed to climb this thing by jumping directly into it. As I prepare to do this, I notice that Lara's top half is twitching in place.

How attractive.

After I figure out how to climb upwards with the D-Pad, my inventory disappears to let me know how to do what I've just figured out. Thank you, Tomb Raider: Legend, thank you. Holding left, I jump off to the other rope, climb up some more, jump back to the other one, and jump onto the ledge. It's simple, really.

As Lara continue around the ugly corner, it is clear that there is a pool of water for us to swim in. Upon landing in the water, another use of the DS's touch screen is revealed. The underwater portions of the game appear on the bottom screen, kicking my inventory out and moving all of my meters and things. Gimmicky and useless, but at least it doesn't really have a negative impact in the demo.

...

Apparently, Lara hold her breath for long.

Ah, sweet water, I have reached you again at last! Thankfully, water control isn't horrible, but it doesn't exactly feel perfect, either. Moving Lara in any...

...death...

...and...more...death...

...

Multi-tasking and making Lara swim doesn't work too well, especially since the demo lacks a pause function.

Swimming control in Legend's demo is quite simple. Push any direction on the D-Pad, and Lara will swim in this direction. Lara's swimming animation is bad, but not quite as bad as her other animations.

Amusingly, as I just fell into the water, I accidentally grabbed the left ledge, which causes the game's camera to freak out on the top screen. Very nice. The normal, non-glitchy shifting between land and water is somewhat odd, as the camera seems to jerk around quite a bit.

At this point, I realize how unreadable and indistinguishable Lara's two, generic life meters are. The meter on top of Lara's current screen shows her health. When the meter is completely blue, Lara is perfectly unharmed. However, upon taking damage, Lara's meter begins turning into a shade of grey that is so similar to the healthy blue color that one must almost squint his or her eyes to see the difference. Upon swimming under water, a new meter appears below it that shows Lara's oxygen, with the problem being that it. looks. exactly. the. same. as. the. other. one.

Anyway, upon continuing, I take the time to jump out to grab another useless item. How exciting. Diving back in, I continue to the right until I reach the next portion of our journey.

Oh no! Another generic enemy! Upon disposing him with the power of the Nintendo DS's touch screen, Lara picks up what he has dropped...a grenade!

There isn't much to throwing grenades. Tapping the grenades icon on the touch screen inventory equips it, and upon getting close enough to the next generic baddie, pressing A throws it. It explodes on contact with an ugly explosion, as expected. He drops a med-kit of some kind, which appears on the touch screen inventory as an ugly red box with a cross on it, while everything else is yellowish/orangy.

As I take a few more steps to the right...oh, the demo has ended! Why was I just given a med-kit at the end of the demo? Oye...

The screen is telling me that the game is available in Fall 2006! Hey...that's already passed, hasn't it? Hmmm...

Upon pressing a button, the demo has restarted itself. I would not like to play it again, thank you.

Nevermind the fact that the boxart with Lara Croft on it is misleading (since she barely resembles Lara Croft within the game). Nevermind the generic environments. Nevermind the the continuously looping demo music. Is the final game any good? After all, I only played a short and unpolished demo. Certainly, the final product must be good.

Well, if this is any indication, I think not.

Upon seeing the IGN review of the final game, the two screens shown inside prove that there have been a few improvements to the game graphic-wise. Lara appears in her normal colors, and the rope almost looks like a rope in one of the screens.

I am overjoyed.

As IGN sums it up:

It's the puzzle elements and the collection portion that gives Tomb Raider: Legend its challenge, not the weapon combat, but it certainly would have been nice to have a bit of focus in the latter segment of the game design. The entire product is solid enough and shows that the development studio's getting a grasp on DS game production, but the little loose ends scattered around the product are a little too obvious to ignore. If you haven't experienced the Tomb Raider: Legend story on the console yet this game's a way to check out the tale...but the DS product is no substitution for the bigger product from Crystal Dynamics.


IGN rated gave the game a 6.1 out of 10, or "Passable."

Even though the demo and the final product weren't amazing on the DS, the console versions of Tomb Raider: Legend fare much better, particularly the PlayStation 2 version, according to Game Rankings.

I suppose that, even though the DS version is horrific, at least it isn't as bad as Ping Pals.

Be afraid, be very afraid...

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