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Sore Thumbs

2/5/2014

tomb1‘TOMB RAIDER: DEFINITIVE EDITION’    (M)

****1/2

Electronic Arts

PlayStation 4

Lara Croft just got a whole lot better looking — not that she really needed it. Not only was the “Tomb Raider” reboot one of the most visually impressive games on Xbox 360 and PS3 when it released on those consoles last year, it was also one of the most beautifully designed. It blended its traditional puzzle/platform gameplay (like the kind that inspired the “Uncharted” series) with grandiose cinematic set pieces (like the kind inspired by the “Uncharted” series). It also reimagined one of interactive entertainment’s most iconic heroines as a slightly less buxom but significantly more real human being. Her vulnerabilities — particularly when she’s wounded and afraid early in the game — made her relatable, and ultimately made her evolution into gun-toting badass feel earned. So the only question is: What does the “Definitive Edition” do to make this remarkable game even better?

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If you’ve already played this title on last-gen consoles, you’ll probably find the new content fairly underwhelming. All the subsequent DLC is included in the package, but the bulk of that has been the additional maps for the lackluster multiplayer — by far the least impressive aspect of the game. The single-player campaign includes a single new tomb to explore, but if your memory of all the tombs in the original is somewhat fuzzy, you could easily fail to point out which is the new addition. Then there are platform-specific controls, like voice and gesture commands, which are impressive, but entirely unnecessary, since the controller offers sufficient reign over all of these functions, and it’s already in your hands anyway. That leaves only the graphical improvements, which are stunning. Details like the photorealistic glint of Lara’s hair or the condensation on a cavern wall are nothing less than uncanny. The aesthetic upgrade alone makes this the best version to get, but if you already have the previous version, you’d probably be better off waiting to enjoy the amazing graphics of the inevitable “Tomb Raider 2.”

 

flowbox‘FLOW’    (E)

***1/2

Sony Computer Entertainment

PlayStation 4

Before “Flower” and “Journey,” the developer of those games brought us “flOw,” hinting at the great things to come. This artsy indie puts you in control of a primitive, multicellular organism, devouring smaller single-celled creatures and taking bites out of larger ones. You swim deeper as you progress, and your prey becomes more aggressive, but you’re never in any real danger since injury merely prompts you to swim to shallower, safer waters. Since the graphics are simplistic in their beauty, they don’t get much of a boost from the improved hardware, but “flOw” remains a nifty and relaxing way to pass the time.

 

zenbox‘ZEN PINBALL 2’    (E10+)

***1/2

Zen Studios

PlayStation 4

Though pinball purists may finds some of the table layouts a bit outlandish for their tastes, “Zen Pinball 2” offers a nice variety to the well-worn ball and bumpers formula. A hefty chunk of the designs are licensed from “Star Wars” and Marvel Comics properties, with more than enough familiar tunes and catchphrases to please fans of either. And since you can fine tune things like bumper tension, you can tweak the physics of your tables to be as exaggerated or as close to the genuine article as you like. CV

Matthew Scott Hunter studied video games extensively while attending the University of Nevada Reno and Vancouver Film School (despite the fact that video games were not part of either school’s curriculum). He has been writing Sore Thumbs since 2004.

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