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Tomb Raider: Underworld

For: Mobile   Also on: DS, N-Gage

Lara Croft, tamed

Product: Tomb Raider: Underworld | Developer: Distinctive Developments Limited | Publisher: EA Mobile | Format: Mobile | Genre: Action, Adventure, Platform | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 1MB | Reviewed on: N95 other handsets | Version: Europe
Tomb Raider: Underworld Mobile, thumbnail 1
It's a sensitive subject, but there's a good chance that a fair few of our male (and, indeed, female) readers will have spent several minutes of their teenage lives thinking about Lara Croft in her various guises – and I very much doubt any of her tomb raiding adventures were at the forefront of their minds. Lara, and the assorted models and actresses that have played her, is gaming's wild poster girl, so would it really be wise for EA Mobile to try and tame this beast?

Don't be mistaken. Tomb Raider: Underworld is no slack adventure, but it does confine Lara's travels via some fairly high metaphorical walls, enabling her to have a 3D adventure without forcing your phone into a graphical meltdown.

Is that a sacrifice worth making? Well, it leads to a game that ticks all the boxes that you could wish a 3D platformer to tick. Lara leaps, Lara shoots, Lara climbs, Lara runs, and Lara searches for trinkets, and she does it all with panache.

The basic of premise, as fans of Lara's adventures on any format will know, is to make your way through a series of levels, picking up various items essential to your progress. In Underworld's case, these items tend to be keys and statues, amongst other things, with levels only coming to an end once you've picked up everything you need and made your way to the exit.

Though said levels appear to be 3D, they are essentially fairly linear 2D affairs, where your only options are to move forwards or backwards, occasionally choosing a path on the left or right to deviate down.

This doesn't mean that things are straightforward, however. On your travels, you'll be required to make timely leaps over pits, hang off the edge of ledges, shoot cavern-dwelling creatures and climb your way up towering cliff edges. The best thing about all these actions is, activating them is almost self explanatory – '5' being jump or shoot, '2' being leap up or '8' drop down.

There are some activities, such as the climbing, that are a bit more random than this, however, with each ledge requiring a tap on one of the numbered keys (handily flashed up onscreen) before time very quickly runs out. These tap-happy sections are beautifully offset by some of the slower elements of play, such as the puzzle that blocks some of the doorways, requiring you to form of chain of turning cogs with only a set number of moves.

You simply can't fault Tomb Raider: Underworld for the range of activities it manages to string together from beginning to end, but there is a feeling that it's all been done before (the above cog puzzle recently mirrored in an iPhone game, for instance) and that Eidos has essentially pulled together lots of old concepts and tied them up here in Underworld.

That, perhaps, isn't the criticism it might sound, as it makes Lara's latest the perfect hunting ground for anyone new to the adventure genre.

Even for seasoned veterans, though, this is nothing to be sniffed at. Visually, Underworld harks back to the franchise's PlayStation beginnings, and there's even a nice bit of plot told through neat snippets of dialogue laced in between levels. Tomb Raider: Underworld is accomplished, polished and impressively varied – just don't expect a reinvention of the wheel.
Tomb Raider: Underworld
Reviewer photo
Keith Andrew | 1 December 2008
Underworld is the kind of game that does its franchise real credit; it's a professional outing that comes with everything you'd expect from Lara Croft, but perhaps without the kind of progressive play people might hope from such an established series
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