It's overwhelmingly sad how clones of Eidos Interactive's unmistakably successful 3D adventure title Tomb Raider are getting churned out for the Sony PlayStation. It seems like it's the new cookie-cutter genre of choice for gaming companies, just like 2D platform games were for the 16-bit console systems (Spawn, for example, is a repeat offender). However, in the midst of this rampant lack of originality, it's quite surprising for a 3D adventure game to arrive that makes you wish it were more like Tomb Raider.
Such is the case with Eidos' Deathtrap Dungeon, a title whose main differences from TR are the number of enemies you have to fight and its 3D camera - the first of which is very refreshing and the second, absolutely maddening. Backing it all up is a storyline that's about as involved as a video game needs to be: Once a year, a powerful wizard offers adventurers a chance to gain riches by surviving his deathtrap-filled dungeon. As either a big-boobed male or female warrior, you rise to the challenge.
It's a dungeon hack where you carve your way through scads of enemies (such as goblins, killer clowns, half-naked women with swords, four-armed monsters, and, oh say, maybe a Tyrannosaurus Rex), push levers to open up new areas, and try not to tumble into the occasional spike-filled pit. While the diversions are plenty, it's the game's perspective that keeps the game from being fun. Instead of a continuous behind-the-back view as in Tomb Raider, the camera frenetically moves about high, low, and side to side as you run around. There are even moments when you end up looking at your character's face when you'd rather see what he or she's seeing. It's possible that the designers were trying to do something original and dynamic, but it would've been much more preferable if they would have just stuck to a third-person perspective. If this was an attempt to showcase the graphics better, then it's even more of a failure. They have their nice moments, but there's no denying that the appearance of seams and pop-up is pretty frequent.
Graphical problems are one thing if they're purely aesthetic, but once they trickle into gameplay, that's a whole new issue. Whether linked to frustrating cameras or clunky level design, since enemies teleport into the levels, there are times when an enemy appears right around a corner and kills you before you even have a chance to see it, let alone attack. And beyond appearances, you'll die a lot, because "live and learn," or rather "die and learn," seems to be the name of the game. There are many traps that have to first be experienced to be avoided later, health potions are scarce on the early levels, enemies will often swarm upon you in groups, and your character is very slow to turn around if set upon from behind. Luckily, the load function is pretty quick, so you're not left gnashing your teeth for too long while restarting your saved game.
If all of these issues were fixed, Deathtrap Dungeon's heavy action element (slicing the goblins into little pieces is great - it's the perspective that really gets in the way) would qualify it as more fun than the Tomb Raider series. However, then the puzzles might fall toward the simple side, since the camera's trickery is quite possibly what makes the puzzles challenging in the first place. In the end, Deathtrap Dungeon turns out to be at the low end of games for the Sony PlayStation. It's not quite as good as Sony's Blasto, which it mirrors in that you can see how it could've turned out to be a good game, but it's not nearly as bad as Sony's Spawn, where you just can't imagine what the developers were thinking.