With success comes a responsibility too easily shirked. Tomb Raider star Lara Croft might just as easily live off her glory days while fans make do with a lazy sequel in which she pops to Matalan for a plug-in air freshener. Thankfully, such horrors remain the stuff of nightmares as Tomb Raider: Underworld is actually pretty darned good. It’s also that rarest of things: a multiformat release that in many ways shines brighter on Wii.
It seems that developers Buzz Monkey have taken a long hard look at what does and doesn’t work in a Wii game and what has and hasn’t worked in past Tomb Raiders. The result is a terrific globetrotting romp with an emphasis on platforming and puzzling, and logical use of gesture controls. You may well roll your eyes, lamenting that it’s just like every other Tomb Raider, but you’d be missing the point. Underworld makes no apology for doing nothing new and instead does everything right.
Not that improvements haven’t been implemented. A huge amount of small tweaks have been made to the gameplay, which when added up make for a much more satisfying experience. Most significantly, Lara has been given a set of new abilities. Taken alone, none of them are grandstanding enough to impress, but combine them and she’s more nimble than ever. For the first time ever, Ms Croft truly feels like mistress of her environment.
And what environments. Lara may get top billing but it’s the locations she visits that really allow her to shine. The improved move set has enabled the developers to produce some of the series’ most impressive locations yet. Each stage is distinct in its appearance and the challenges it presents, from the tentacled horror that lurks in the Atlantic to the rain-sodden puzzle box housed deep in the lush Mexican rainforest.