|Publisher: Feral Interactive Genre: Action|
|Min OS X: 10.4 CPU: Intel @ 1800 MHz RAM: 512 MB Hard Disk: 4000 MB DVD-ROM Graphics: 640x480 @ 16-bit, 64 MB VRAM|
Lara is the face in the misty lightCan it really be ten years? Have we really known her for so long? Though it scarcely seems possible, that's the anniversary being celebrated in the subject of this review.
Of course, now it's 2008, and the original Tomb Raider game was launched in 1996, so it's twelve years rather than ten. Even the PC edition of Anniversary was a year late, appearing in 2007. For us Mac users, though, it's actually less than that because the first Tomb Raider game to appear on the platform was Tomb Raider II in 1998, and the Gold edition of Tomb Raider followed it some months later. But anyway, it's roughly a decade, so who's counting?
Tomb Raider has done pretty well on the Mac, with all but one game in the series making the transition eventually. The missing game is Tomb Raider: Legend, produced by Crystal Dynamics, which is the immediate predecessor to Anniversary, and on whose engine Anniversary is based.
Tomb Raider Anniversary actually has an interesting history, because two separate anniversary games were in concurrent but independent development, with Eidos apparently leading the game's original developers up the garden path: Core Design, creators of all the original Tomb Raider games, was quite far along the road to a remake of the original game when it was discovered that Eidos would be publishing a separate 're-imagining' (rather than 'remake') of the first game by Legend producers, Crystal Dynamics. One can only feel sympathy for the Core Design team, and be intrigued by their game-that-never-was. Yet fortunately, there is no denying that Crystal Dynamics' completed game is both a splendid creation in its own right and an excellent tribute to the seminal original.
Amazingly, it's now four years since Lara last appeared on the Mac. Since then, new producers of the game have taken over, in the form of Crystal Dynamics, and the Mac-version publisher has also changed: unlike all previous Tomb Raider games, which came from the Aspyr stable, Anniversary is published by Feral Interactive. Anniversary is therefore an interesting game for Mac users, because there's been a long gap since the last game and hence there's been a big jump forward in technology. At the same time, the game is a conscious tribute to the original, so the result is an intriguing blend of the familiar and the entirely new.
Those eyes, how familiar they seemIn this review I shall assume that you, dear reader, as a Mac user, have not seen Tomb Raider: Legend. This is an easy thing for me to do because I haven't seen it myself. Although I'm a fan of the series, and have played all the games on the Mac, buying a PC or console just to play Legend didn't seem a terribly sensible thing to do, so the Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider Anniversary engine is new to me. It may be that it's exactly the same as the Legends engine, and that Lara has the same moves as in that game, or maybe there are differences; I just don't know. What's important for this review, though, is how this new game compares with previous versions on the Mac.
Gameplay: Keyboard gymnastics and immersionIt's not worth trying to recap the story and locations of Anniversary. For one thing, it would spoil the story. For another, discounting the 're-imagining' that has resulted in different emphases in the new game, they're roughly the same as the original. To summarize, though, the game takes place in locations in Peru, Greece, Egypt and on a lost island, though England features in the tutorial mission set in Croft Manor, Lara's home.
Controlling the game is the typical mouse-plus-keyboard affair, with the player's left hand needing to be particularly dexterous, as directing Lara involves playing rapid keycap tattoos on six main control keys and at least two important secondary ones, all with that one hand. Luckily this is less difficult than it sounds, in that the controls feel very logical and natural once you've got used to them. The control system and range of moves available actually surprised me on two counts, compared with previous Lara games. On the one hand, several moves that I expected to find were no longer available; Lara no longer has direct controls to sprint, roll, crawl or sidestep, for example. Yet the subtlety of the controls, and the range of gracefully athletic moves she can perform, was much greater than I had expected. The controls aren't nearly as simple as 'press this to do that'; sometimes, tapping a control repeatedly can cause an unexpected, lithe motion, and controls sometimes need to be tapped in rapid succession rather than being pressed together to achieve a particular effect. It takes a little getting used to, but I found it helpful to pretend that the keyboard was hot, and to stab at it rather than holding keys down. Holding a key, perhaps by accident or in subconscious anticipation of a move that you're about to perform, can have catastrophic results that cause Lara to plunge to her death. Once the initial learning curve has been overcome, though (which doesn't take long), the controls become very natural.