Game Reviews

Tomb Raider II

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| Tomb Raider II
Tomb Raider II
| Tomb Raider II

It's not an enviable task, reviewing the re-release of a console classic on a smartphone.

It's not just a case of a round peg and a square hole. This is a collectible, rare imperial measurement peg in a brand new system that now uses a type of complex valve and mesh system that's made holes entirely obsolete.

Tomb Raider II is the most precise demonstration of such a conundrum that we've seen in quite a while, and leaves us wondering, on the cusp of the PlayStation's 20th birthday no less, if we've finally hit the wall in the practicality of retro revivalism.

Or, dare we say, perhaps Tomb Raider II just wasn't that good in the first place? Nah (we daren't).

Digging for relics

Tomb Raider II is fondly remembered for introducing Lara as more of a globe trotting archaeologist, which was a legacy that's stayed with her ever since.

The rumour of a mythical Chinese dagger that once belonged to the Emperor and could turn people into dragons has her on the hunt once again in tombs around Venice, China, and a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean.

Honestly, all the elements of an outstanding adventure are present and correct, making it easy to see why we loved this game so much. Back in 1997, that is.

And while this is a pixel perfect reproduction, it's been brought onto a platform that's entirely unsuitable, and serves only to spoil the reputation of a once great game.

As is often the case, controls are the crux of the touchscreen adaptation problems. The display is busy with buttons.

An analogue stick for movements (good luck trying to get Lara to run in any kind of straight line, and forget about accurately turning corners), a button for drawing your pistol, a grab button that's used to take hold of ledges when you've jumped toward them (miss, and you fall), a jump button, and a 180 degree turn.

And there are 'strafe' buttons, for want of a better word, which allow Lara to sidestep while facing the same direction. Admittedly these are essential, but only because the rest of the movement controls are so wild and undisciplined.

Add in a camera button for looking around Lara's immediate environment and a walk slowly button, and you've got a veritable airplane cockpit of controls to contend with.

On a Dual Shock, this would be fine. On a touchscreen, it's clumsy to the point of useless.

The polygonal princess

As previously mentioned, this is an exact reproduction, at least in terms of visuals, audio, and game design. In that respect, Tomb Raider II is as much a success as it ever was.

Yet the simplistic 3D graphics and blocky textures now look severely dated. Okay, so we wouldn't penalise a game that's gone for an 8-bit aesthetic, but the retro revival movement doesn't feel to have embraced early 3D yet.

It feels as though Square Enix should have remastered the game, and filed the sharp edges off the polygons and textures to bring things, visually at least, up to speed.

In the wake of the recent (and quite excellent) console reimagining of Tomb Raider, this emulation of the PlayStation classic is raw to the touch and aggravating to play.

It might be unfair to say that Tomb Raider II hasn't aged well, but it certainly hasn't grown old with grace either.

And what if you're coming to the classic Tomb Raider franchise for the first time? If that's you, you'll get no idea from this mobile version how Lara Croft ever became famous in the first place.

Her adventures, out of context as they are on an iPhone, are wooden and frustrating, meandering and devoid of grace.

If you loved Tomb Raider II the first time around, it's vitally important that you don't sully your fine memories sat in front of a PlayStation, and leave this relic buried.

Please note there are no screenshots from the game in the gallery because the game kept crashing every time we took one. Make of that what you will.

Tomb Raider II

What was a great console game almost 20 years ago simply doesn't work on a touchscreen. It's been revived too early and too lazily, dishonoured at the hands of pure emulation over the proper re-engineering it needs to live again
Spanner Spencer
Spanner Spencer
Yes. Spanner's his real name, and he's already heard that joke you just thought of. Although Spanner's not very good, he's quite fast, and that seems to be enough to keep him in a regular supply of free games and away from the depressing world of real work.