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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tomb Raider: Underworld, a DVD-ROM in English, by Crystal Dynamics for Eidos Interactive, distributed with a 20-page English-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and up and a 3 Ghz PC or better, NIS 219, for ages 16 through adult.
Recognized two years ago by the Guinness Book of World Records as "the most successful human video game heroine," the fictional Lara Croft has inspired movies, novels, short animations, comic books and computer games. The persistent and energetic adventurer/archeologist straps pistols on her shapely legs and shoots both weapons simultaneously while collecting objects from antiquity, solving mysteries and fighting enemies as she mourns her archeologist father Lord Richard and searches for her mysteriously missing mother.
But after seven full computer games and three expansion packs, the series had become rather tiresome and repetitive.
Eidos, which launched Lara (designed by Toby Gard) into videogameland, this time asked the Crystal Dynamics studio to buff up Lara's tarnished image with a new game. Underworld casts the heroine into the Mediterranean Sea, then to the coast of Thailand, the steaming Mexican jungles and the frigid islands of the Arctic Ocean.
The game is launched with the pony-tailed Lara trapped in a burning building from which she has to escape by leaping acrobatically across yawning holes in the floor and shimmying across ledges while hanging from her fingertips. Under the Mediterranean, she has access to a shotgun, assault rifle, tranquilizer and spear guns and kills sharks while she seeks admission to Avalon, where her mother is thought to be held. But she is not there, and Lara moves on. The game's graphics engine, especially the depiction of the fire and the water, is excellent.
You may find yourself getting stuck either underwater or above ground. Instead of going to the Internet to search for "cheats" to get you over the hump, use the in-disk "active sonar map" which creates a three-dimensional images and helps you find objects and places that would otherwise be disguised by her surroundings. This, available on her personal digital assistant, also contains an improved inventory manager to keep track of what she has collected.
The program is very hefty at seven gigabytes and will take quite a while to install unless you have a spanking new PC; the story is also relatively short, with all the action, including her discovery of her mother, taking five to seven hours. More adventures would have been appreciated, but all in all, it is an exciting, welcome game.