The original Tomb Raider was the first game that ever made me yelp with fear. Since then I've played them all. I've spent hours running and jumping, shooting and swimming, pulling levers and pressing switches. I've spent hours marvelling at Lara's grace. I've spent hours wanting to murder her for refusing to do what she's told. I've visited Angkor Wat wearing my hair in a plait and short shorts and big boots (though I drew the line at suspenders and water balloons), and been told off by a security guard for trying to swing on a vine. I love Lara. Yes, a bit like that.
So I loved Tomb Raider: Anniversary, as did Kristan. That is to say, I loved it on PS2 and Xbox 360. As for the Wii version... I never thought it would come to this, but here we are: I'd rather play Angel of Darkness.
The problems begin at the beginning. I've played the first level of Tomb Raider, in various incarnations, dozens of times. Never, until now, have I been killed by the first set of bats Lara encounters. Bats. Well, you might think, the Wii must use a different set of combat controls. Surely a bit of practice is all it takes. Right, wrong.
Point and shoot
Shooting involves pointing the remote at the screen and pressing B. A bright blue dot shows where you're aiming, and when you're on target it becomes a red circle. Pressing the Z button locks the camera onto the target (in theory), but not your aim. So you have to keep pointing the remote in the right place at all times.
Try doing that, and keeping Lara out of harm's reach (using the Nunchuk to move and A to jump), when you're confronted with three wolves. Or even two bats for that matter. It's like playing a fundamentally flawed light gun game. Time Crisis and Duck Hunt work because you're stationary, and all you have to worry about is aiming, firing and reloading. The Wii version of Medal of Honor Heroes 2 works because although your character can move, there's plenty of cover. So you can remain stationary and take out enemies (also stationary, apart from popping out of cover now and again) before moving ahead.
The shooting in TRA Wii just doesn't work. The remote is ridiculously sensitive; the blue dot on the screen jiggles nervously even when your hand is absolutely still. Get anywhere near the edge of the screen and the dot will jump and stick to it. This makes aiming trickier than it should be when you're shooting a lock. When you're shooting a raptor, trying to keep Lara safe at the same time, it's ridiculously hard.
It's also confusing due to TRA Wii's appalling camera. It jumps around madly, often picking bizarre and useless angles to show the action from. Making Lara jump and roll about, the traditional and effective method for dodging attacks in Tomb Raider, sends the camera into a complete tizzy. It just can't cope, whirling and jumping around like it thinks it's Jean-Luc Godard.
The camera can't stay trained on the enemy even if you're holding Z. Often you're shooting blindly at enemies you can't even see on the screen, wondering where you're supposed to point the remote. Next thing a bear leaps back into shot from a direction you weren't expecting, and it's all over. The amount of rage this generates is such you better make sure you're wearing that wrist strap.
Shake and bake
There are other features unique to the Wii version of TRA. None work as badly as the combat system, but all feel tacked-on and pointless. Using the grapple is done by shaking the Nunchuk, which just about works consistently. There are tedious puzzles where you have to use the remote to take rubbings of symbols, then waggle it to turn stones and match the right symbols up. This is often fiddly as the gloved hand you control jiggles about too much. And it's boring.
To look around environments, you press C and move the Wii remote to rotate the camera. Again it's too sensitive and you get stuck at the edges of the screen too easily. The camera won't always go where you want it to. At one point, while Lara was hanging from a ledge, I couldn't get the camera to show where she had to jump next - so I had to drop down, survey the entire room from the ground, memorise the route and do it all again.
It's not all terrible. This is Tomb Raider. The storyline and level design are pretty much the same as in the other versions. The graphics are as good as those in the PS2 game, though there's a disgraceful amount of frame-dropping going on. There are still moments of wonder and beauty. The atmosphere, however, isn't the same. It's hard to feel the same sense of loneliness and immersion when you're constantly accompanied by a quivering blue dot.
Perhaps the T-Rex set piece sums it up. It was that roar and the giant shape lumbering out of the darkness which made me yelp back in 1997. They ruined it in the first versions of Anniversary with the bright lighting and the boring cut-scene and the Quick Time Event nonsense. It was the videogame equivalent of Greedo shooting first.
It's the same in the Wii version, except instead of pressing buttons you wave the remote and Nunchuk as directed. It feels silly. There's no yelping. Just some stupid arm-waving followed by an over-long boss battle that's almost impossible to win due to the dreadful camera and ridiculous targeting system.
I still love Lara. My love was strong enough to survive all those times in Tomb Raider PSone where she walked off ledges and swam into walls and missed ropes, even though she wasn't. It was strong enough to survive Angel of Darkness and those awful films, and it's strong enough to survive Tomb Raider: Anniversary on the Wii. If you haven't played the PC, PS2 or Xbox 360 versions, do. They're brilliant. This isn't.
4 / 10