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Handheld Tomb Raider: The Prophecy Developer: Core Design | Publisher: Ubi Soft
Rating: C-TeenBahn
Type: Action Players: 1
Difficulty: Intermediate Released: 11-12-02

Despite the volume of negative feedback surrounding the Tomb Raider franchise, Lara lives on to explore another day, this time on the Game Boy Advance. The question is - who's still fond of the busty explorer? Personally, I have never been fond of the series since its debut on the PS One several years ago, despite all of the hype from every mainstream gaming magazine. From the media's point of view - Lara was ushering in a new dimension of gaming; innovation (inserts more random hyperbole here). To me - she had ushered in an era in which developers could manifest commercialism and wooden gameplay elements behind sex appeal ("Hi profit; quality please show yourself the door!") In time, the very essence of her character paved the way for other sexy heroines (and more innovative gaming, or rather - the lack thereof.)

The Prophecy marks a new chapter in Lara's tapestry of epic quests to decipher the mystery behind a legendary, mystic power. Believed to be hidden within the depths of The Tomb of Ezekiel, Lara sets out to the icy, Swedish mountains (where the adventure begins) to find the Black Stone - the source of the "real magic". However, dark mages also seek to acquire the powerful stones and Lara will soon discover that she's battling against time (and yet another cliché storyline) to prevent a prophetic cataclysm before it's too late.

Boldly going (well, at least trying to) . . .

Despite my discontent with the franchise, I did my best to look at the The Prophecy with the utmost optimism. It was my presumption that perhaps something within the handheld installment could develop a newfound interest in its pseudo 2D form. Unfortunately, the game didn't boost my hopes of interest, it widened the void. As I briefly conveyed in our recent staff gaming feature, The Prophecy suffers from a very linear, rigid gameplay engine. The game literally leads you from point A to B using camera pans (associated by a redundant ambient theme). Essentially, its function is to guide the player to the next region of the level. On a 3D engine, such as The Thing for example; such a feature is not only feasible, it's a logical tool to aid the player without spoiling the art of exploration and entertainment. For a handheld game, it's a curse, it deceases the fun factor and challenge. It baffles me that Core Design chose to kill a potentially enjoyable game like this. Under optimal enjoyment, a player could beat the game in less than 10 hours or less (depending on their enjoyment level). Thus, should you ever turn the game off - remember to write down the password (what, haven't we learned how to provide an internal battery feature by now?)

Unlike her console counterparts, Lara's actions are limited to a standard complement of run and jump (the packaging on the back states ". . .arsenal of acrobatic moves.") Uh, where are they? Must I unlock them before I can begin to derive some true enjoyment from what I expected to be available from the start? Of course, she's packing heat (her trademark pistols which can be swapped for other types of weapons that are collected throughout the respective levels). I wish the developers could have found some innovative ways to give Lara some added depth here because it's simply too limited and unfulfilling. One aspect which I was extremely shocked to discover was that she lacked the ability to roll. No matter how you try to rationalize it,this makes enemy encounters very flat since her only option is to run in reverse (or simply shoot them immediately on sight). I encountered this all too often when I faced a pack of wolves (ok, it was a set actually. By the way, what's with the lack of enemy character diversity?) Had this been one of the PS One adventures, agility would be second nature since Lara always featured the ability to flip among other maneuvers. Not here, and thus - not exciting. You're bound to take damage on occasion (like getting bit from those blasted wolves I just discussed). Fortunately there are health items (medical kits) which can be collected throughout each level. Their availability is pretty plentiful actually. I'd gladly trade in half of the ratio of med-kits for a much needed roll maneuver.

In all its splendor. . .

Graphically, The Prophecy is rich with detail (as much as you would come to expect out of the GBA). Internal architectures boast intricate details throughout the Tomb of Ezekiel among Lara herself make up for the disappointing controls and gameplay faults. However, I would've preferred a pure, 2D sprite for Lara's design. I don't agree with the developer's prerogative to use 3D character models for everything on the GBA (we won't get on that discussion about 2D/3D use on the system right now; join us in the forums mmkay?) There's really nothing audible within the game, short of the occasional encounter themes, in addition to the umph's, and ooh's uttered from Lara climbing or leaping about to various platforms throughout each level. The gunfire is very well. . .unrealistic (not to mention the firepower rate is depressing - are those pistols or toys?) Fun factor, please come back to me.

A game worth hunting for?

It's a stretch to even acknowledge Tomb Raider: The Prophecy as an action game. Generally, the action is either far and rare or just very dull. Avid fans who can't get enough of Lara's adventures and eagerly await The Angel of Darkness are welcome to pick this up to hold them over. Other players are invited to keep exploring the depths of the gaming market for something more conducive to entertainment. Fortunately, quality handheld games like Metroid Fusion and Mega Man Zero are one among many gems to be treasured. Search them out and appreciate their value; leave The Prophecy buried deep within the clearance rack.

· · · Bahn





Rating: C-Bahn
Graphics: 7 Sound: 7
Gameplay: 5 Replay: 5
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