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A couple of years ago, I swore off gaming and switched to a Mac so I could better concentrate on my studies, and More Important Things(tm). One semester later, I found myself walking around Lucky Plaza during the winter break home, looking for a good deal on a Nintendo Game Boy Advance. I thought it would be okay, plus the need to shoot things was getting too distracting. It was my first console since the days of the NES.

Less than a term later, I traded it in for store credit towards the new Nintendo DS at the GameStation store across from my university. I justified it by saying it was just a better GBA, with a nice backlit screen, and I was future-proofing myself although I had no intention of buying more than one DS game (WarioWare).

Half a year later, I got a Sony Playstation Portable (PSP). Now THAT console, was a waste of money, and I have only one game for it that I don’t regret (Lumines).

Another half a year on, and I have added a Nintendo DS Lite, micro, and about 12 DS games to the score (many others have been sold off). So my commitment to the no-gaming rule has been pretty weak, but along the way my lifestyle, dropping attention span, and the promise of burgeoning maturity have squeezed me into the new casual gamer mass archetype that game companies are beginning to court. Titles that promise short, intense, pick up and play sessions hold the most appeal for me now, and there are very few exceptions to that.

But.

Yesterday.

I spent 8 hours on my newly fixed-and-not-crashing PC, playing Lara Croft – Tomb Raider – Legend. I should note that I played it to its end, which doesn’t signify very good value for 60 bucks, but it’s a lot of fun anyway. The graphics are fantastic on just about any system, and my oldish Radeon 9600 Pro only slowed down on the Tokyo level, where some polished and gleaming nightclub floors threw up a lot of reflections.

It’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing a Tomb Raider game, and the new developer behind it (Crystal Dynamics) has really rescued a franchise that had become a symbol of everything wrong with the genre it helped create. Namely, 3D platforming.

I actually don’t think I like 3D platform games very much. All the frustrating moments in TRL came from my pressing on the wrong direction button and jumping into ravines because the camera moves ALL THE TIME and changes the meanings of the direction keys. Nevermind that it’s something no sane person in that situation would do. I’m not talking about missing a rope in mid-air, I mean REALLY jumping into the opposite direction of the rope. Why do games allow you THAT much freedom? Isn’t the objective to have fun and do cool things you can’t do in real life? Shouldn’t the game just understand that I don’t want to commit suicide, however fun and undoable-in-real-life that may be? I don’t need the freedom to jump into any 1 of 360 degrees when my only logical direction range should be maybe 10 to 30 degrees. Ok ok, I’ve digressed.

I am looking forward to revisiting Tomb Raider Legend on the GBA, as a proper 2D platformer, where I can make Lara do exactly what I want her to do. It was a good 8 hours, but it also reminded me why I wanted to stop gaming in the first place. Eight hours is too much time wasted to have to justify to oneself, when free time is limited.

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