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Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword

Score: 60%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Core Design
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Lara Croft and her big guns (get your mind out of the gutter) have returned in a big way. Now, you're probably thinking that the timing of this game's release, and how little attention it got while in development means that it's probably a rushed, cash-in game to tie in with the movie. Trust me, I thought that at first too and it's not. Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword is a totally original adventure for the GBC and completely independent of the movie.

This is one good-looking game, and again I am surprised that this is coming from the GBC. Lara and her environments look wonderful and are bursting with even the smallest details. The levels are very interesting to look at, and feature fully animated background details such as clothes blowing on clotheslines, litter on the streets being kicked around as Lara passes them and zombies who lose limbs as you shoot them. Lara sports a wide range of animations as well. She can walk, run, jump, leap, name it. Core was even able to squeeze in Ms. Croft's 'bounce'. The only downside is that at times there is a noticeable flicker, mostly when shooting guns, that causes parts of objects to disappear. But with all the detail this game has, it's hard to be fussy about the little things that have no effect on the gameplay.

All of the sound effects you would expect to hear are around as well, although sometimes they can sound a little sickly. Music is used very sparingly and with good effect. Instead of having every level contain it's own constantly playing music, it's only used to heighten dramatic parts of the game. For example, the second level has you jumping rooftops trying to get to a helicopter. This mission is timed and very fast paced and the accompanying music does an excellent job giving you a real feeling of panic. Other levels are silent, except for the sound effects, but if something happens, like a boss fight, the appropriate music will kick in.


Lara's newest adventure follows the history of Madame Paveau, her cult of followers, and a cursed sword. On a visit to a museum exhibit of dark antiquities, the Madame's followers steal the sword so they can perform the ritual to revive her. During her pursuit of the thieves, Lara is cut by the sword and becomes a component of the ritual. Lara is then thrust into a race against time to not only stop the ritual from taking place, but to also save her own life. Lara's pursuit of the cult leads her from the gritty urban jungles of New York, down to the tropical jungles of Bermuda.

The whole game plays in a style similar to Prince of Persia, with you jumping (lots and lots of jumping), fighting, and climbing your way through five huge levels. At the beginning of each level, you are given an overall major goal to accomplish. These can vary from getting to a helicopter within a certain amount of time, to finding an elusive hermit in the New York subway system. Most of the levels follow a 'find switch A to open door A' format, but there are enough little tricks and traps thrown in along the way to keep things from getting too old or boring. The only thing that drags the game down is the slow pace with which the levels progress. While you're exploring, this slowness really isn't a big problem, but in some of the areas (such as the infamous timed rooftop level) this adds a certain degree of frustration.


'Son of a...this is too hard, I quit... okay, after just one more try.' Remember this phrase because you will be saying it many times while playing. This isn't the easiest game in the world, mostly due to the insane amounts of jumping you have to do, but it's never so hard that you can't get past areas without some practice. Just be prepared to put in a good amount of hours to finish some levels. I would have liked a nice ramp up in difficulty, but after you complete the easy first level, you are thrown into the hard, timed rooftop-jumping level. I didn't like this at all, and many times it felt like things went from zero to frustrating way too fast. The strange thing is that no matter how bad you want to throw your GameBoy across the room and swear this game off for good, you find yourself drawn back in for '...just one more try.' Your journey is made a little easier by the use of save crystals, so memorizing where these crystals are is key to your survival.

Game Mechanics:

The controls are both a pain and a joy. At first, they take a lot of initial memorization and time to get used to, but once you do, they feel almost natural. I found jumping to be the hardest to get used to, which is a bad thing considering how much you have to jump in each level. It just became a real chore to jump chasms while holding FORWARD and B (which makes you run) then pressing UP to jump. It seemed like I was always jumping too soon or too late, which resulted in numerous plummets to my death. I would have liked to have just used a button to jump, but considering the amount of different actions squeezed into two buttons, I can see why it was done. I also had a problem with the 'dumbness' Lara's auto-targeting displayed. I can't tell you how frustrating it would get when Lara would aim for an enemy on a platform, or in some areas a floor, above me that she obviously couldn't hit while another enemy on my same level plugged away at me.

Despite it's flaws, Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword is a very fun and addictive game. If you can manage to look past (or get past) some of the more difficult areas of the game, it's one hell of an adventure and worth anyone's time.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

GameBoy Color/Pocket Resident Evil: Gaiden GameBoy Color/Pocket WWF Betrayal

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated