Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tomb Raider: Legend - Dresses up switch-pulling with Tesla device

I just finished a level in Tomb Raider: Legend set in a lost Russian research lab. The environment was interesting, since it appeared to offer some exploration that was secondary to the primary path from beginning to end. I hope to give it another go later to look for some secrets I missed.

That aside, the gimmick for the level is some sort of Tesla device (like a giant turret) which can move metal objects at a distance, not unlike what I've seen done with some device in Half-life 2. The interface is awkward and using the device is not terribly intuitive. The motive for powering it up in the first place, a not insignificant quest of its own, is not clear until afterward. The seeming aimlessness is frustrating, and the eventual use of the device is to ... move a metal object from one side of the room to another to set up a run-jump-catch to cross from one platform to another. It isn't particularly hard, but it is mindless object shuffling.

The boss level boils down to this formula: activate four switches, then activate four more switches, then use the grapple to grab a prize. The first four switches have to be activated by hand, and they turn on the Tesla device in the room. Then you use the Tesla device to activate the other four. It's the worst kind of dressing up of switch-door gameplay: add some completely contrived artifice between you and the switch to make it seem more sophisticated while at the same time making the mindless switch flipping more difficult.

It isn't interesting and it isn't rewarding. While Tomb Raider: Legend might have learned some tricks from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time on how to make an adventurer navigate a 3D world, it has none of the feeling of a job well done that I felt when the Prince solved a puzzle. If you're going to rip-off ideas, at least rip-off all the good ones, not just some of them.

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