Lara Croft made a triumphant return in early 2006 with the release of Tomb Raider: Legend for home consoles and the PC. But that's not enough for Lady Croft, as now she's making her debut on the PlayStation Portable. The game is essentially the same on the PSP as it was on the consoles, so if you've played it before then you can expect to visit the same levels and solve the same puzzles all over again. Unfortunately, the biggest difference between the PSP version and the others is also its biggest downfall, and that is the often cumbersome, imprecise, and downright frustrating control. But if you can learn to live with the control, you'll find that Tomb Raider: Legend is a mostly competent action adventure with more than a few enjoyable and exciting moments.
Lara looks as good as ever on the PSP, but the great-looking environments are the star of this show.
Tomb Raider: Legend follows Lara Croft as she tries to piece together the fragmented memories and knowledge of her past. Before the end of the story you'll learn about Lara's mother, an estranged friend and colleague turned nemesis, and even King Arthur. The story doesn't make a lot of sense, and it definitely isn't confined to realistic or even believable events. For the most part though, the story is just an excuse to travel all over the world in search of mystical artifacts and the answers to the questions about Lara's past.
The eight levels in the game take you to exotic locations on four different continents. You'll explore ruins in Bolivia, search an abandoned research facility in Kazakhstan, perform death-defying acrobatics high above the streets of Tokyo, race a motorcycle on a dusty stretch of Peru, and more. The levels are all fairly expansive and varied enough to keep things interesting. They also look great, and the visuals haven't been significantly diminished in the translation to the handheld. You'll see some clipping and collision-detection issues as Lara interacts with objects in the environment, but for the most part the game looks great. That is, until you actually try to move around. The frame rate in Tomb Raider: Legend is usually sluggish, but when there's a lot of action happening onscreen the game slows down significantly. Fortunately most of the game is dedicated to exploration, which isn't as taxing on the frame rate as some of the more lively action sequences.
Most of the levels in the game involve the same basic objectives. You move through a level from start to finish, solving puzzles to unlock doors, jumping between platforms to reach out-of-the-way places, and indiscriminately murdering any man or beast that you come into contact with. The platforming and puzzle-solving is the best part of the game. The puzzles aren't difficult, and if you've played the other versions of the game you'll be able to breeze right through this one. Lara has a handy magnetic grapple this time around that lets her grab distant objects, tow large items around to be used to weigh down switches and such, and swing across chasms like Pitfall Harry. She also has an impressive repertoire of slick moves. Lara can leap from one narrow cliff ledge to another, hanging on by only her fingers, swing on ropes or conveniently placed bars, and get up to all of the usual Tomb Raider fare. It can be exciting and rewarding to expertly navigate a tricky platforming section or solve a puzzle, and there are plenty of those moments to experience throughout the game.
Lara knows her way around a firearm too, be it her twin pistols, a grenade launcher, or a mounted chaingun. The gunplay is by far the weakest part of the game though, because it just isn't exciting or challenging in any way. You simply hold the L button to lock onto a target, and then hop around like a kangaroo while blasting away at your foe. You can do some fancy slow-motion moves like jumping off of an enemy's head and shooting him as you fly through the air, but those moves don't make the gunplay any more satisfying. There are also a couple of motorcycle levels that play out like a rail shooter. You have to ride along, shooting at waves of enemies and jumping over gaps. These sections aren't nearly as exciting as they sound, and they drag on for way too long.