I'm very much of the opinion that Tomb Raider is a great franchise for the mobile platforms. When you break it down into its raw components, Tomb Raider is essentially a puzzle game, and the puzzle genre is easily the most suitable style of gameplay for the portable systems.
Tomb Raider: Underworld pretty much follows the pattern laid down by the rest of Lara's series, in that it sticks very closely to the original game's formula, only with a different ancient artefact to be raided each time.
This time around it's Thor's Hammer, which takes Ms Croft on a journey across Thailand, Mexico, the Arctic and other such exotic places packed with precarious precipices for our heroine to jump off.
There's no real addition to the Tomb Raider gameplay model in the long-awaited N-Gage version, but that's not really expected. Perhaps that's no excuse for the developer to allow a game to stagnate, but as a fan of the series I find I'm always happy to go back to the unique rock climbing and leaps of faith synonymous with Tomb Raider, and in that respect the N-Gage adaptation doesn't entirely disappoint.
Nokia's mobile platform handles 3D visuals beautifully, and it's always easy to see the subtle yet important details in the landscape. Lara really stands out from the backgrounds, and it's easy enough to pick out the handholds so you don't spend too much time scaling great heights just to dash Lady Croft upon the rocks from the same location, repeatedly.
The quality of these smooth-moving visuals is something of a letdown, however, and it looks suspiciously like a Java port, rather than a game built specifically for the far more capable N-Gage.
The linearity of the levels also suggests a game that was designed for a lesser platform, leaving the strengths and capacity of the N-Gage mostly underused. Tomb Raider demands a strict formula of dexterous puzzle solving, but Underworld takes that to an extreme simplicity of run, jump and grab, without any particularly acrobatic cleverness in between.
The shorter levels are welcome, and feed into the dip-in, dip-out model of mobile gaming, but this takes its toll on the depth of the puzzles Lara is faced with.
As a mobile game, Tomb Raider: Underworld was reasonably impressive, but for an N-Gage game swinging in at twice the price, the sheen is taken off Lara's otherwise seductive veneer.
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