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First started in late 2007, Kasey's Mobile Game Review (then just a regular feature of Kasey's Korner) started as a simul-post between here and IGN. Later I realized there's no reason to post it twice, when I can use the traffic on my own site. so, here we are, in 2010, and the mobile game industry has grown a bit. What do you think?

KMGR of "Tomb Raider: Underworld (mobile)"

Tomb Raider Underworld - HQImage by Calora via FlickrTomb Raider Underworld sends Lara Croft on a quest to locate the artifacts of Thor, both as hints on what her parents were looking for, as well as keys to defeat a demon and prevent annihilation of the world. The game is fully 3D even on a mobile phone. However, some game play elements is way too unforgiving and annoying to prevent this from becoming a classic.

Basically, the game is sort of a "maze", sort of a "puzzle", and occasionally, a shooter. You run around all the levels, performing acrobatic feats such as climbs, jumps, and even trapeze/pole jumps. You have to choose between several paths, and sometimes, locate even more paths by moving some blocks around, and remember when to backtrack. You will locate lots of stuff this way. Finally, you will sometimes enter combat against minions of darkness... spiders, bats, zombies, huge "boss" monsters... and so on. You have your trusty twin 45's, sometimes augmented by various special ammo you find, and later, you get to tap Thor's Hammer which shoots a nasty "firewall".

The game is fully 3D, and even has a "free camera mode" for you to look at things that may not be obvious from one view angle. The camera is very well done... Most of the time, it's in 3rd person, following behind Lara, so you can admire her acrobatic moves. It pans from side to side as the terrain turns, and follows her as she jump and climbs up and down cliffs, and so on.

Lara gets to do a lot of activities. Most of the time, she runs around, and when you come to a branch, just press left or right will let you select the branch to continue. Then you come to a climbable cliff, click OK will jump so Lara will hang from the ledge, then press UP to climb onto the upper level. You can leave a "prompt" for you at the bottom of the screen to remind you of the possible moves. It's quite intuitive after a while.

One of the most frustrating sections is the "free climb". Basically, you need to climb up this very tall cliff by pressing, in a series, the number keys. However, there's usually an interruption in the middle where you need to "dodge rocks". If you get hit, you have a second or two to "rescue" and get another handhold, else you fall and die. It's basically playing "Simon"... 7! 9! 3! 6! 3! 6! 4! 9! Except you have less than 2 seconds to press the key, or you fall back down and got a bit hurt. Got hurt enough, and it's game over. At least starting over is easy and autosaves are the rule, not the exception. When it comes to dodging rocks, you have less than half a second to see the rock and press the appropriate LEFT or RIGHT key to dodge.

Combat can be painful, esp. when you don't seem to be doing any damage. At least Lara can do acrobatic rolls and spins and whatnot while unleashing her twin 45's. however, against zombies throwing green fireballs it doesn't seem to be much. Esp. when those zombies may respawn. Later bosses aren't that bad as you basically have to keep moving and never stay in one spot, while aim for the vulnerable parts, as your "autoaim" suggests.

You do get bonuses for gathering up statues per level, and you're told you got X out of Y, so this encourages a bit of exploration... If you're not too bored. Some paths require you to move certain blocks back and forth to access alternate paths.

Another frustrating section is the snowmobile, though in Lara's world, it's a HYBRID snowmobile, eco-friendly! You need to run around various obstacles, climb ramps and make jumps properly in order NOT to fall into chasms, hit "fuel" or "repair" items so you have enough fuel and craft well enough to finish the trip. It's far more frustrating than it sounds, esp. when you're going "quite fast" and miss a jump.

All in all, Tomb Raider Underworld, while looking quite spectacular, falls a little short of being a true classic.

Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10
Pros: True 3D levels, requires 3D thinking and back tracking, beautiful graphics
Cons: Some minigames are extremely frustrating, too much dialog, not enough cutscenes

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