Lara Croft is back for her third portable adventure in Tomb Raider: The Prophecy for the Game Boy Advance. Unlike the two previous Tomb Raider games, both for Game Boy Color, this game features a 3D perspective with a strong emphasis on vertical exploration. As a result, there are more puzzles to solve, the puzzles themselves are more interesting, and the environments are much more believable.
The greatest thing about Tomb Raider: The Prophecy is that it captures the same scope and spirit of exploration that made the early Tomb Raider games so enjoyable. As Lara, you'll travel to 28 different levels spread throughout three humongous tombs. Your goal is to collect the three magical stones that will help you fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel. To get to those stones, however, you will have to scale mountainous platforms, leap across bottomless chasms, and fight scores of magical enemies. Along the way, there are dozens of riddles and puzzles to solve, and solving them will provide you with items that can be used to solve even more puzzles and riddles.
There are certainly plenty of tasks to accomplish within each tomb, such as gathering rare artifacts and triggering all the switches that will take you to the next area, but the real fun is putting all of Lara's skills to use. To get around, she can walk, run, jump, climb, dangle, and use her hands to walk across narrow ledges. If you jump while holding the L button, Lara will take a flying leap that can carry her over large gaps. In some areas, there are poles that you can slide down, which will help you return to a lower spot or escape a group of enemies. When it comes time to fight, you can draw Lara's guns and dispatch the enemy with bullets. Enemy creatures range from wolves and skeletons that are too dumb to follow you to wizards and ghosts who know well enough to cast spells or teleport behind Lara. There are three different weapons to collect: a pistol, an Uzi, and an enchanted golden gun. Lara's aim is automatic, just like it is in the other versions, which allows you to back away from an enemy while firing. Even her trademark side and back flips are present.
Most of Lara's movements in Tomb Raider: The Prophecy are identical to those found in the previous Tomb Raider games. She tiptoes up to switches, tucks down after a hard landing, and kneels to pick up health packs and bullet clips. About the only actions that are missing are the ability to roll after a landing and the “bounce” that Lara is known to exhibit after quick turns and landings.
Those aren't the only reasons why the game looks terrific. Thanks to the use of 3D character models, all of Lara's actions are full of animation. The way she runs, jumps, and lands never feels choppy, which gives you a very realistic sense of movement. At the same time, her shadow reacts to whatever it is she's doing at the time, as well as to features in the environment such as bright lights or obscuring walls. The game uses a tilted 3D perspective that is most commonly seen in handheld role-playing games, but the overall effect works wonderfully here. The environments themselves are pretty large and hold secrets in every direction--which includes the vertical plane, in addition to the four standard directions. There are numerous occasions when you'll have to scale multiple platforms upward just to progress to the left or right. If there's any complaint to make about the graphics, it's that the environments don't exhibit as much detail or animation as the characters, and that the enemies tend to repeat more often than you'd like.
In keeping with tradition, the soundtrack in Tomb Raider: The Prophecy isn't provided by music, but by the sheer amount of ambient background noise. Lara's footsteps, the sounds of ancient machinery, and the howl of blowing wind are more than enough to provide a rich aural experience. Just as important are the additions of gunfire, Lara's screams, dribbling fountains, grinding switches, and various enemy growls.
All things considered, Tomb Raider: The Prophecy delivers the full Tomb Raider experience with no compromises. The quest itself is a tad short, even at 28 levels, but it is the kind of game that you can replay over and over again and still enjoy.