Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lara Croft's origin story delivers engaging action-adventure

...and this time she's wearing pants

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I have never been a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise. My friends and I used to call the game "Boob Raider." I was not tempted to buy games that featured a female avatar who did not own pants.

But, flash forward to March 2013, and Lara Croft now owns pants.

Tomb Raider is a new game by Square Enix that is aimed at re-booting the popular Tomb Raider series. This action-adventure game offers a new origin story for archeologist and relic hunter Lara Croft -- a story that is meant to offer more depth and maturity than seen in previous versions.

The game begins with a dramatic shipwreck that immediately draws you into an action-packed story. Young Lara Croft, not yet an experienced adventurer, is stranded on a mysterious island populated by Lord of the Flies type baddies. Playing Lara, you must rescue your friends, uncover the island's mysteries and find a way to escape while dodging the sadistic island residents. Imagine Indiana Jones stuck on the island from Lost.

Tomb Raider is a game of exploration, combat, and puzzle solving. I really enjoyed all the running, jumping, rock climbing and setting of things on fire. What I did not enjoy was the bow-hunting quest where you must kill cute deer. Or the bonus points won for killing any animal that appears on screen. I prefer my survival fantasy stories with less killing of adorable animals.

But Tomb Raider is a dark and dramatic story. As you try to solve the environmental and combat puzzles, you will die. Often. And horribly. You'll be eaten by wolves, impaled through the skull, caught in a leg-hold trap, chopped up by propeller blades and shot in the face.

All those deaths can be disturbing. While trying to solve one combat puzzle, I was strangled to death by a sexually menacing Russian thug 15 times before I figured out how to kill him. So, needless to say, I would not recommend this game for children. Or for anyone who is squeamish about violence of the horror movie variety.

But, violence aside, Tomb Raider is well-written and highly enjoyable to play. Even addictive.

The graphics in this game -- and the way that they contribute to your feeling of suspense -- are superb. Tomb Raider's radio tower quest is one of the most thrilling I have ever played in a video game.

There is also some great voice acting by Camilla Luddington as Lara and by Robin Atkin Downes as the father figure, Conrad Roth.

So it appears that I've been won over by the new Lara Croft. She is a resourceful heroine with a great deal of, ahem, humanity. And, if you dress her in the optional 1940s aviatrix bomber jacket, that humanity is much less bouncy and distracting.

Tomb Raider is a strong reboot that should appeal to both women and men who enjoy games with dark and engaging storytelling.

Danishka Esterhazy is a screenwriter, film director and self-confessed video game addict. She prefers games with a story but will settle for a good sword fight.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2013 C16

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About Danishka Esterhazy

Danishka Esterhazy is a screenwriter, film director and self-confessed video game addict. She prefers games with a story but will settle for a good sword fight.

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