When Tomb Raider first hit in 1996, it was nothing short of groundbreaking. While years of sequels that ranged from unremarkable to borderline offensive did a lot to tarnish the Tomb Raider name, developer Crystal Dynamics undid a lot of damage with last year's Tomb Raider: Legend. It focused on the strengths of the series--exotic locales, thoughtful puzzles, and incredible acrobatics--while modernizing the gameplay, as well as streamlining the whole experience. Crystal Dynamics continues its good work with Tomb Raider: Anniversary, which effectively goes back to the original Tomb Raider and rebuilds it from scratch. Now appearing on the PSP a few months after the PC and PS2 versions, Anniversary is still a solid action adventure game. However, some control compromises and inconsistent performance issues put a small dent in the experience.
This is one of those rare cases where the remake is better than the original.
Like the original, Tomb Raider: Anniversary follows the same basic tale of Lara's hunt for the Scion of Atlantis as she does battle with conniving businesswoman Jacqueline Natlas and her various henchmen. You'll explore ancient tombs and forgotten cities in Peru, Greece, or Egypt. You'll also perform plenty of death-defying acrobatics as you work your way through massive, ancient, and often deadly puzzles. The whole experience is highly evocative of the original, and there are certainly plenty of moments that seem specifically designed to create an odd sense of dÂ£jÂ£ vu. But nothing in Tomb Raider: Anniversary has been regurgitated verbatim: Everything is bigger and better. The environments are larger and more detailed, while existing puzzles have been elaborated upon, often to dizzying effect. The experience just feels bigger; there's so much new content that it honestly feels less like a remake and more like its own game.
A big part of that feeling comes from how much more talented Lara has become since the original Tomb Raider. Aside from a few, nominal differences, she's basically got the same abilities here as she had in Tomb Raider: Legend, which made her one of the most nimble action adventure heroes this side of the Prince of Persia. Her proficiency around ledges is incredible: She can shimmy across ledges, leap from one ledge to another, and scramble from one ledge to a higher ledge. She can swing from dangling ropes or horizontal bars, perform tumbling maneuvers to avoid projectiles, or climb up, leap from, and balance precariously atop vertical poles.
All of these acrobatics feel natural and not overly difficult to pull off, with the game allowing for just the right amount of margin of error. But as good as Lara is, she's got her limits, which is a big part of what makes the action feel dangerous. If your timing is off just a little bit when jumping for a ledge, Lara might only catch it with one hand, which will have you furiously mashing a button to help her recover. But if you miss the ledge completely, Lara's likely to expire or at least incur a serious amount of damage. These misses seem to come a little more often in the PSP version, which is due in part to some imprecision with the analog stick. Other minor sacrifices were made to the controls in bringing Anniversary to the PSP. The shoulder buttons are used to rotate the camera, and you can tap the triangle button to reset the camera position or hold it down to look freely around you with the analog stick. This works well enough most of the time, though during combat it can get a little sticky because you have to hold down both shoulder buttons to lock onto an enemy.