• App Review: The Final Hours of Tomb Raider

    Thereís no two ways about it: The Final Hours of Tomb Raider is a companion app. But as far as companion apps go, itís a pretty great one.

    For the uninitiated, companion apps aren''t exactly a new thing, though they have seen an uptake over the last few years mostly due to the iPadís popularity as a secondary entertainment device, if you will. Theyíre apps designed for a specific purpose: to complement a larger work. In the case of The Final Hours of Tomb Raider, itís the companion app to the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot by Crystal Dynamics, where itís out with the old Lara Croft, and in with the new.

    Maybe ďcompanion appĒ is actually the wrong term to describe apps like The Final Hours of Tomb Raider, since theyíre not at all required for enjoyment of the major piece they reference, instead mostly serving as a complement to the main show. Whatever you want to call them, companion apps are designed mainly to give a little insight into the major work that it references; abehind the scenes look at the development process. All the companion apps Iíve seen have been designed as complements to games, and in the case of The Final Hours of Tomb Raider, we get a little more background behind the development process, with a few extra bits and pieces of interactivity thrown in for good measure.

    For the record, the same companion app/digital book is available on Steam for both PC and Mac. In terms of touch-specific features, though, the iPad-only version of the digital book is less of a digital book and more just a set of slides. Thereís no page-flipping animation here, just a journey into the rediscovery of an all new Lara Croft. Interspersed between the various chapters are interactive sections that allow you to compare the new face of Lara to the model whom she closely parallels in real life, for example, or sections that let you get to know the main characters and their backgrounds if you havenít already played the main game. The interactive features that let you look around panoramas of the Crystal Dynamics offices or the island of Yamatai are particularly cool, as they let you pick up and move your iPad around to navigate the areas ó the PC version of the same thing is about as much of a drag as the click-and-drag affair those sequences become on the desktop. And as you might expect, The Final Hours of Tomb Raider is packed full of video, both gameplay sequences and interviewers with developers alike, although you'll need and Internet connection to view most of it (the app already weighs in at over 400MB, even without all the extra videos).

    As for the other, wordier content, there's actually quite a bit on offer for those interested in games design, and not necessarily specifically related to Tomb Raider. As someone whoís taken a games design and production unit at uni, thereís a plethora of interesting tidbits about how a triple-A games studio goes around putting together a title like Tomb Raider, developed for multiple platforms and an even wider audience. When you think about how much Tomb Raider/Lara Croft the world has enjoyed over the years, and consider how much pressure the team would have had to deal with, totally remaking the heroine icon from the ground up, you kind of get this feeling that they had their work cut out for them. Of course, this isnít a review of the Tomb Raider game itself, but if you havenít played it, itís a great reboot backed up by some solid gameplay and decent character development, even if the plot is a little so-so here and there. I played the game before digging through the companion app, but if I had to do it again, Iíd probably read the app first just so I could get even more excited about playing the game. Your choice though, as either way youíll still get a lot out of the app, not to mention the game itself.

    Somewhat obviously, youíd only buy this app if youíre at all interested in the Tomb Raider game, but Iíd go so far as to recommend it to someone who is a fan of Lara Croft, but doesnít necessarily plan on playing the game. Itís a great look behind the scenes ó something you don't usually get all in the one place ó and gives some nice insight into how games development process works, all at the same time.

    The Final Hours of Tomb Raider is $1.99 on the App Store. And for the record, there's similar apps for Mass Effect 3 and Portal 2, if those games are more your cup of tea.

    Benny Ling may not be Lara Croft, but he can jump over giant chasms, dangle hundreds of meters above vertigo-inducing drops, and, of course, refer to himself in the third person as well as the next guy. He might not have all the same physical features as Lara, but we try not to hold that against him. Follow him on Twitter.
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