Reporting Jason Iannone
One of the downsides to growing up is that life gets so damn BUSY. Gotta work, gotta raise the kids, gotta spend 12 hours with a phone strapped to your ear because your “very important” call keeps getting put back on hold. When life gets this hectic, certain things get sacrificed, such as the ability to play a videogame like it was your second job.
Remember that? Once upon a time, you could sit your tush down with a brand-new game and just go to town on it. A game like Tomb Raider could easily be conquered in two days — one if the player figured out how to play and crap at the same time. Such was the life of a gamer with no responsibilities, and a very patient Mom who was OK with cleaning up the mess afterwards.
But now we’re older, many of us have jobs and kids and a dozen or so shady collectors who all want our money; we’re lucky to squeeze even a half-hour of controller-fiddling into our schedule. The brand-new Tomb Raider game sounds awesome, but it would likely take us forever to complete. We’re gonna need something quicker and easier, a little somethin’ somethin’ to fill the time between changing diapers, paying bills, and deciding which bills to let slide this month so we can buy more diapers.
Luckily, back in 2006, the good people at Bright Entertainment found a solution, or what they feel is one anyway: Tomb Raider: The Action Adventure. All you need to play is a DVD player and a remote control. The actual game is played for you and, every now and then, you press a button on your remote to tell Lara Croft what to do. Point-and-click, sit back, and let the cute British girl do the rest; it’s just that easy! And just that boring too!
The game, based on Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, goes to great lengths to suck all subtlety and secrecy out of the original. Lara tells you everything you need to know, from basic plotlines to what she is currently doing, right in front of you. In the opening scene, she is being chased by police, and she actually bothers to let us know that she, in fact, needs to escape from the police. Just in case you were confused about why she wasn’t approaching them to ask for directions to the nearest tomb.
Later on, the same police throw tear gas into the building, and she responds by coughing and then exclaiming, out loud, how she needs to get away from “all this tear gas.” So if you had already forgotten exactly why she was hacking up a lung, this game’s got you covered.
The action, if you can call it that, is taken directly from the original game, meaning you are literally watching footage of somebody else playing Tomb Raider. Of course, you’re not watching the whole thing; that would get boring fast, especially if the player ever stopped to eat himself some lunch. So, through the magic of editing and 24-style split-screens, you get to see Lara climb a ladder, run past a building, turn a corner, and jump over a hole, all at the same time! It’s amazing how much faster you can get through a day when there’s two or three of you at any given time.
Now, fret not; when it comes time to make a decision, you are not timed. The enemy is not coming toward you with guns drawn, ready to shoot your block off if you blank on whether Lara should run away or fight. No, time just kinda stops until you’re ready to make up your mind. Yes, no longer do you have to press that cumbersome ol’ “pause” button next time you have to film your cat doing something wacky for YouTube. Once you’ve done what you need to do, and are ready to proceed, press the button on your remote that corresponds to the action you want to take. You then get to sit back and watch Lara do all the work; hope you brought snacks!
Of course, sometimes these choices can lead to her horrible death, like when you choose to do a regular jump over a pit, instead of a long jump. This is where the “game” truly insults its “player,” assuming that we’re not only busy and/or lazy, but we’re also squeamish. We don’t want to see a pretty girl die, do we? Of course not! If Lara falls to her death, or starts to get shot full of holes, the screen just flashes a quick GAME OVER, and immediately fades to black. You see nothing! So you sadistic types who were hoping to waste an hour by making Lara fall off a ledge to her bloody death over and over and over again? You’re out of luck. Don’t worry though; you likely have a very overactive imagination, and can easily picture Lara’s brains slowly seeping out of her skull with the best of ‘em. So you’ll be fine.
Of course, they had no problem with showing an old man get shot to death in the intro, complete with close-ups of Lara’s blood-soaked hands. That’s understandable though; he was old and had unattractive legs, so his death is OK to watch. It’s his own fault, really; he should’ve been prettier.
The back of the “game” box boasts 4+ hours of action, which you can save and come back to anytime: “days, or even weeks later!” This thing actually advertises the ability to save your progress and load it later, like we haven’t been able to do that since the original Legend Of Zelda. Give us a little credit, fake game; if we’re buying this thing, then we’re probably aware of the whole “gaming” concept. Those who know so little about video games that the concept of saving is novel to them, are not interested in a fake Angelina Jolie’s bad impression of Madonna’s fake British accent. No, those people prefer to rent the movie, and stare at the real Angelina Jolie doing her own bad fake British accent.
And what of the plot, you may ask? Well, it’s not bad. Angel of Darkness got high marks for its story, and this DVD is nothing more than Angel with all gameplay stripped away, so there’s that. Actually, that might be the real reason this game exists: Angel of Darkness, as an actual game that you actually controlled, was God-awful. It was clearly an unfinished product, there were glitches galore, and you could barely control Lara half the time. So, why not make a version of this game featuring ONLY the story?
Of course, you can ignore the story entirely if you like; any and all cut-scenes are entirely skippable. So theoretically, you could pay money for this thing and get no story, and no action. Other than Lara saying in-game stuff like, “A gun! I’ll save this for later,” you would literally just sit there and watch footage of somebody else playing the game and having fun, while occasionally deciding whether to make her jump off a cliff or climb down.
Though to be fair, even if you do that, there IS replay factor. The game awards points based on the decisions you make, as some decisions won’t kill you, but still aren’t as “correct” as what the DVD would prefer you do. You can collect up to 100 points, and play through levels again until you get a perfect score. It seems somebody at Bright Entertainment heard their little cousin brag about “achievements,” and decided this was close enough. 100 points for pressing the right buttons on a remote control? Even something unimaginative and pointless like “take 10 minutes to decide on using the key,” “stare at Lara’s butt for 30 minutes straight,” or “beat the snot out of yourself for ever thinking the Nude Code was an actual thing” would be an improvement. So yes, it’s the loosest possible interpretation of the term “replay factor,” but it’s still something.
And if you don’t have a DVD player? You can still play this thing, either on your computer or…video game system. If you do the latter, you might actually overdose on pointlessness and have to go to the hospital. You would be watching a DVD of somebody playing a video game, on your video game system. When it comes time to tell Lara what to do, you select an option…with your video game controller. Those who do this should be damned to the same Circle Of Hell reserved for those who have awesome seats at a sporting event, and then stream it on their laptop anyway.
So who exactly is this game recommended for? That’s…honestly hard to say. Busy young adults, who are too busy for more than a quick stab at video gaming, would still look at this and decide it’s not a game. Non-gamers would not understand why they have to keep pressing buttons, just to keep watching the movie. People who remember Choose Your Own Adventure would find the concept far more enjoyable in book form. At least there, they showcase your character’s tragic, oftentimes-gruesome death should you make the wrong choice.
All in all, if you like having stupid crap in your house to serve as a hilarious conversation starter, then by all means go for it. Just don’t be surprised if your date gets bored fast, and requests to watch the Tomb Raider movie instead. Oblige her, unless she wants to watch Cradle of Life. No decent human being would ever request such a giant pile of awful. Dump her. NOW.
Jason Iannone is a humorist and editor for hire. His Facebook is a rockin’ party, and his Twitter is the awesome afterparty. Tumblr is where he rides out the hangover, and archives anything he writes from anywhere.
This game makes no sense, just like the lyrics to Train songs. In An Open Letter To The Lead Singer Of Train, Jason attempted to get to the bottom of why Mr. Singer has seemingly lost his mind. But that’s still not as bad as the last time Jason examined 5 Awful Tie-In Videogames.