E3 06: Tomb Raider: Legend Handheld Versions Hands-On

Not once, not twice, but <i>thrice</i> do we play Tomb Raider on a handheld system at E3 2006. Check it out!


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LOS ANGELES--Tomb Raider: Legend is already out on most consoles, but the handheld landscape is still barren. That will all changing soon enough, as Legend is coming to the PSP, the DS, and the GBA later this year. All three versions are on display at Eidos' E3 2006 booth, and we took a look at all of them.

The PSP version of Legend is a straight-up PS2 port, with typically downscaled textures and other graphical bells and whistles, but it looks quite good on the system. The animation is still smooth and fluid, and the frame rate seems to hold up pretty well. The controls are obviously a bit different, given the lack of a right analog stick and other key buttons. Camera control is mapped to the square button in this version--holding it down and pressing the analog stick in either direction moves in. It's a little awkward, but seems serviceable. The analog sensitivity also struck us as a little overmuch. Trying to keep Lara perched on narrow ledges or other such treacherous situations was more chancy than we'd have preferred. Otherwise, though, this is the same full game as the PS2 version, and with multiplayer to boot. We didn't get to try any of the modes, but the game will evidently include a timing-based mission mode, as well as raid and seek, which is competitive hide and seek, where you and a friend compete against one another to hide objects in an environment, and then see who can find the opposing player's objects first. There are also some new unlockable outfits available in the PSP version.

The DS and GBA versions are considerably different from the console games, which is to be expected. Both follow the basic plot of the game, though the GBA version tells it via a slide show, as opposed to full cutscenes (which the DS version does include). Gameplay-wise, both games are side-scrolling platformers, but while the GBA is strictly 2D graphics all the way, the DS does a hybrid of 2D and 3D, where the background environments take on sort of a 3D slant, despite the side-scrolling nature of the game. The DS also includes touch-screen menus that let you switch Lara's items and weapons around, and there will be artifacts in the game that need to be dusted off by blowing into the DS's microphone.

From our brief time with the games, the DS and GBA versions of Legend certainly seemed like interesting side-scrolling versions of the console games, and the PSP version seemed like it was just about as good as you could feasibly hope for with a PS2 port. Tomb Raider: Legend will hit PSPs later this month, and the DS and GBA versions will follow this fall.

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