Joystiq hands-on: Tomb Raider Anniversary (Wii)

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Joystiq hands-on: Tomb Raider Anniversary (Wii)
Some things are obvious about Lara Croft. But Crystal Dynamics's Morgan Gray wants you to focus on Lara's more subtle assets, like her intelligence. The late-coming Wii version of Tomb Raider Anniversary focuses on Lara's actual career: babe, er, 'archaeologist'.

There's "over three hours" of Wii-specific content promised, and the majority of it comes in the form of motion-sensitive mini-games. There's Lara with a pick axe unearthing clues; Lara digging for buried treasures; and Lara taking charcoal rubbings for her journal. All use the Wiimote's pointer, mimicking what you'd normally find in a DS game (think: psuedo-archeology game Spectrobes). It's gimmicky, yes -- but there are times where the physicality adds an appreciable amount of depth to the experience. In one segment of the game, we had to uncover symbols, hidden away under some dust. With those symbols in mind, we had to draw them in sand to unlock a door. Drawing with the Wiimote added a whole new layer to what was originally a very simple puzzle. Thankfully, the system is forgiving enough to recognize even the shakiest of gestures.

Not only has Lara's "intelligence" been expanded upon for Wii, combat has received a major overhaul as well. For the first time in the franchise, players will aim and shoot freely while moving. Players will have to use the pointer to manually aim at the various enemies on the screen while performing Lara's signature dodges. It can be awkward at first, but Crystal Dynamics is so confident in their battle system that they won't give players the option to switch to more traditional controls. "All or nothing," as we were told by Gray. To ease away potential frustrations, there is an overly generous hit detection system that requires only a marginal amount of accuracy. Harder difficulties, we're told, will require a much steadier shot.

Platforming also makes use of the Wii's motion sensitivity. While moving around ledges, a quick whip of the Nunchuk will make Lara move faster. To use Lara's grapple hook, players will also have to shake the Nunchuk -- something we had significant problems with in our play test. Maybe our timing was wrong, but other journalists suffered through that portion as well. Hopefully, it's something the dev team addresses before the final build.

Finally, the cinematic QTE sequences of Tomb Raider Anniversary also get a Wii-makeover. Instead of pressing buttons, you'll have to perform motions, as shown by a mini-Lara that appears on the screen. It's an intriguing concept meant to make the experience that much more engrossing. But to be honest, it looks silly.

Nintendo fans have been traditionally Lara-deprived, and Anniversary is a welcome addition to the Wii library. The content added for this Wii port often feels gimmicky, but because motion controls are integrated into every facet of the game, this Wii production fares far better than other cheap cash-ins. In fact, the new Wii-specific content adds to the lore and mythos of the character, successfully reminding players that Lara is an intelligent archaeologist. So when can we expect the Nintendo follow-up that reminds us Mario's actually a plumber?
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