For quite some time, “Tomb Raider” hasn’t been relevant.
One of the most famous game franchises of the past 15 years, the “Tomb Raider” series has turned into little more than a long string of disappointing releases.
“Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light,” however, is the first game in the franchise since “Tomb Raider II” that I would consider a solid overall game. Released Aug. 18 on Xbox Live, “Lara Croft” closes out the Xbox’s Summer of Arcade. The game will be released on the PlayStation Network on Sept. 28.
Croft, a female, British version of Indiana Jones, takes her adventures to Central America to search for a magical artifact before some bad guys can locate it. It’s a pretty typical “Tomb Raider” plot.
What makes this game noteworthy, however, is that the developers went away from the conventional look of the series.
“Lara Croft,” developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, gives the series a different look with a top-down, third-person viewpoint similar to the ones used in classic Nintendo games like “Metal Gear” and the recent “Marvel Ulitmate Alliance” series.
It gives the game a fresh perspective, although it probably takes a little bit of a graphical hit from not showing the game from a first-person or traditional third-person vantage point.
The view presents some troubles. Sometimes it’s hard to see what Croft is targeting with a weapon, and certain locations aren’t completely visible from the overhead view. But overall, the change is refreshing, and I think it will work out well with the added multiplayer. Rather than a split screen or being hindered by a partner who doesn’t like to stay with the group, the overhead viewpoint for “Lara Croft” is perfect for multiplayer.
Some games in the past 12 years since “Tomb Raider II” have had high points, but none were complete. “Lara Croft” isn’t complete either, but it’s much further along than many of the other games. It’s fun, which is something other games in the series can’t claim, and it’s a smarter buy as a downloadable game than a full-fledged game.
It’s probably an oversimplification to say a downloadable game can rejuvenate a franchise, but “Lara Croft” can at least put the series back on the right track.