Tomb Raider: Underworld Review for Nintendo DS

Tomb Raider: Underworld Review for Nintendo DS

Raiders of the Lost Cause

Tomb Raider Underworld is the game that Tomb Raider: Legend should have been. In some instances Underworld is a little too late, although others may claim that it’s better late than never. I am somewhere in between with my assessment.

Tomb Raider: Underworld screenshot

This game is certainly the best DS version of the series; but let’s face it, that’s not saying very much. In order for this game to have any future on the portables, it simply has to be simplified, which makes one wonder if Tomb Raider belongs on a handheld. Certainly expectations have to be lowered, as it would be foolish to compare it to the console version. But does this dumbed-down version have a chance? Is it fun? Does it do the franchise justice? Well, without meaning to sound wishy-washy, the answer is yes and no.

Now, I know you’ve come to expect more from me than to give you some vague answers to your important questions. So, I won’t sit on the fence. If I had to choose between a yes or a no with this game, I would have to pick a no. It’s close, but ultimately Underworld is just too formulaic for my taste. Weekend warriors and those with low frustration thresholds will get the most out of this game. Faithful fans of the series are going to be disappointed. But having said that, the developers are on the right track with Underworld, but they need to get that train a’ rolling in order to bring the series up to speed in the next title.

Tomb Raider Underworld acknowledges just what didn’t work in Legend. For instance, the interactive 3D environments are gone. The graphics are presented in full 3D and look spectacular, when you can view them, but the game is ultimately a 2D side-scroller. Not that it’s a bad thing, some of my favorite games are side-scrollers, but it just seems as though the new development team dropped the ball. They took the easy way out by not refining the fully interactive 3D environment. What they have done is, as I said, put the game back on track, but they are definitely going to have to give the next game in this series a serious evolutionary makeover if there’s any hope for a future for the franchise.

Tomb Raider: Underworld screenshot

Mechanically the game is sound. There are some maddening load times, and the environments can be incredibly dark; so dark that no adjustment to the DS will shed light on it. There is also some trial-and-error and equally annoying leaps of faith in places where you can’t see what lies in front of you. These may seem like nitpicking issues, but there’s no good reason for them in a series that virtually defined action/adventure. As far as the darkness goes, there’s just no excuse for that.

Lara Croft is once again the heroine of the game. She’s back in full force and is certain not to let you down with her appearance. She’s obviously been working out. Lara’s skills involve jumping, climbing, swinging, crawling, swimming, fighting, and weapon wielding such as shooting and whip cracking. All the while, she’s concerned with solving puzzles and finding clues and artifacts. She is a tomb raider after all. Underworld takes us to such far away locations as Thailand, the Arctic, and Mexico. The story is told in fantastic-looking cutscenes that were taken from the console version. Without giving too much away, you are searching for the lost world of Atlantis. The story doesn’t have anything to do with the gameplay other than to set up the premise for the levels you’re entering, but it’s an interesting story for a change.

Tomb Raider: Underworld screenshot

The levels are short, most will only last a few minutes. They are not very challenging, and the most trouble you will have is with the trial-and-error and leaps of faith. Fortunately, replaying a level is not a daunting task. Collecting items is a staple in the series, and there is no shortage of collectibles here. Golden artifacts are littered throughout the levels. Collecting them will help you unlock things such as artwork and puzzle-solving items.

Tomb Raider: Underworld screenshot

You will also come across chests that contain all kinds of goodies, but they have to be opened by playing various mini-games. These mini-games are played using the stylus. Tile sliding and Tetris-style puzzles comprise the majority of the mini-games. They aren’t too involved, but at the same time they do get redundant. Chests don’t have to be cracked immediately, as you can store them in inventory and play the mini-game later. The only downside to these collectibles is that they are too easy to find, since the path is linear in this side-scroller.

Lara’s moves are smooth and responsive. Her ability to swing around poles is reminiscent of the Prince of Persia. In addition to her satisfying move set, she will also be able to shoot, use a grappling hook, swing from vines, throw grenades and employ a set of magical gloves that will levitate heavy objects. When performing archaeological digs, you will use the stylus as a pickaxe and blow into the microphone to blow the dust away. All of these moves are fairly easy to perform thanks to the comprehensive instructions and intuitive control scheme.

In-game voiceovers are few and far between. The orchestral soundtrack is incredible, but it’s very limited and repetitive. The sound effects are good but, ultimately, the silence makes you feel isolated, though considering the premise of the game, it is somewhat fitting. Expect a few day’s play out of Underworld and little more. As in the real world, there’s no reason to raid a tomb that’s already been raided.

Great 3D backgrounds, fluid animations, but some levels are too dark to see properly. 4.4 Control
Smooth and responsive control scheme. Easy to learn. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Cutscenes are great but in-game sounds are limited. 2.8

Play Value
Old-school side-scrolling action with predictable puzzles and traps.

2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Master your surroundings: Conquer the world utilizing fluid acrobatic abilities along with the grapple and an arsenal of weapons.
  • Treacherous and unpredictable challenges: Each level is an elaborate multi-stage puzzle filled with environmental traps to overcome.
  • Explore unknown worlds: Discover ancient mysteries of the underworld hidden within the coast of Thailand, frozen islands of the Arctic Sea, the jungles of Mexico, and more.
  • Unlock hidden secrets: Collect relics and solve challenges to unlock chests to unlock bonus content.
  • Touch Screen Challenges: Use the touch screen to solve environmental puzzles, unlock chests, access the inventory, and change weapons.

  • To top