Copyright 2006

[ November 3rd 2006 ]

Bright Entertainment - a London-based developer of interactive DVD products - caused quite a stir, albeit inadvertently, back in September 2006 when the firm announced a rosy share price on the London Stock Market, buoyed by positive reaction to a brand new game based on Tomb Raider.

Until then, no-one knew that a small development team in France named Little Worlds were ardently working on converting Core Design's sixth Lara Croft adventure - The Angel Of Darkness - to Interactive DVD, hoping to introduce our fearless aristocrat to a brand new novice-gamer market and exploit the already over-commercialised and often ostracised festive season.

iDVD is a popular emerging format which uses standard DVD players as a basic gaming machine. Until now, most of the products available have been largely quiz oriented. Bright Entertainment hopes to change that by introducing a brand new action adventure genre, and who better to lead the charge than the global brand this is Lara Croft.

The Angel of Darkness was originally billed as an epic adventure starring Lara as both hunter and hunted, relying on her ingenuity, athleticism and a new edge that arose from her dark inner demons. The game was released in 2003, and went on to achieve acceptable sales figures throughout North American and European territories.

Bright Entertainment - using a proprietary new engine - have concisely sown together the story from The Angel Of Darkness and presented in an easily digestible and visually pleasing format. Using a standard DVD player and remote control, players are pitted against the evil Pieter Van Eckhardt - an insane fourteenth century genius known as The Black Alchemist - and a race for five Obscura Paintings and the identity of the killer of Lara's mentor, Werner von Croy.

The game begins in Paris and - as with Tomb Raider iDVD's earlier video-game counterpart - introduces Lara Croft to the player with a series of training exercises to showcase the newly appointed terrain, Lara's subsequent manipulation of newly appointed terrain, and a battery of new moves to be mobilised upon newly appointed terrain. Insert new kit to boot.

Using the UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT and ENTER buttons on the remote control, players are presented with a series of decisions that directly influence the flow of game-play. Those old enough to remember Steve Jackson's Final Fantasy novels will remember the numbered paragraphed format used to navigate readers through the story. Different decisions would surrender a different paragraph, and readers snaked their way through the book based on a series of options tailing the text.

Tomb Raider iDVD is based on a similar principle. Players choose the outcome of a specific action based on a decision displayed on their screen. For example, as Lara traverses the Parisian rooftops with a helicopter gunship in hot pursuit, players are offered a choice whether to hide or continue hammering down the zip line. The wrong choice results in an untimely death for Lara Croft.

Tomb Raider iDVD certainly comes packed with its own share of bells whistles for the Christmas period. Gamers are rewarded for their exploratory skills and general performance - up to a maximum of 100 points - throughout the adventure, which adds a different kind of challenge to proceedings. This is coupled with a Two Player Option which pits your own challenge against that of a friend or family member.

The iDVD has also been extensively tested on a range of DVD products to ensure maximum compatibility. More than one hundred devices had been used during testing, says technician Niall Giggins. While older players will still run the game adequately, seek - which is the time it takes a laser to jump from sector to sector - may delay the normally smooth operation of the game momentarily. Newer DVD players don't have that problem, and comfortably manage Lara Croft as effortlessly as drilling through melting margarine with a Black & Decker VSR Fast Drive Chuck Drill.

Tomb Raider: The Action Adventure does exactly what it says on the box. It aims to target the novice gamer and exploit the Christmas market, bringing with it a barrel-load of fun and light-hearted adventure while boldly going where no developer hath trod before. iDVD is an emerging format, and it will be interesting to see whether public consumption warrants a full scale assault on the interactive DVD market.

Tomb Raider iDVD's collectors value as yet another arm of the Lara Croft brand will cater for the insatiable appitite of Lara Croft fans. A 14.99 price tag is certainly not to be scoffed at either.

Tomb Raider: The Action Adventure is a prime-time romp through the interactive world of Lara Croft and a welcome and overdue departure from the proverbial Christmas quiz. You don't need to phone a friend with this one!

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