Journey to the Center of the Earth on Your NDS

Now this is how a Tomb Raider game should be, except it isn’t a Tomb Raider game. Journey to the Center of the Earth (JCE) can be easily dismissed as another cheap-shot movie tie-in but what I’ve learnt this year is that one shouldn’t underestimate that genre and having said that JCE doesn’t disappoint.

The movie of the same title stars Brendan Frasier (of The Mummy/George of the Jungle fame) and while he does lend his likeness to the game, I’m doubtful about the voice-acting part (more on that later). JCE for the Nintendo DS is a 3D platform/adventure game and you get to play as one of 3 members of a group of explorers; Trevor who is looking for his brother lost in a science expedition, Sean, Trevor’s nephew and Hannah, a guide enlisted by Trevor.

Players have the choice of changing the characters during game play as each character has different skills for particular situations.

The graphics engine is pretty much up to scratch in rendering beautiful environments ranging from water and snow, lava, and diverse fauna with nary a slowdown. I can also feel the cinematic touches (kudos to the developers) when the camera pans for a wide shot.

While the static camera can lead to some pretty hairy platforming sequences, it pretty much stays out of the way and lets the player concentrate on what he does best, play the game.

The game is not all about jumping from one platform to another or scrambling up the next ledge, or shimmying along a narrow path. The free fall and mining cart sequence are something to be experienced and I don’t think any other DS game has those.

Any Nintendo DS game worth its salt would include the touchscreen into the equation and JCE isn’t about to miss the boat on this.

During the course of gameplay, players can engage in some character specific touch-screen mini games. For example, Sean can climb rock surfaces, Hannah can throw rope to help in crossing chasms, and Trevor can blow stuff up. There’s also a mining minigame whereby players can use chisel and brush to gather minerals (to produce explosives among other things) and also to uncover fossils!

While platforming can be tough, JCE is a pretty forgiving game. To begin with, there are unlimited lives and checkpoints (save points) peppered throughout the massive levels and did I mention I’ve not encountered a boss battle yet after 2 hours of play?

But hey, if you need a Tomb Raider fix on the DS, try Journey to the Center of the Earth for size. Speaking of size, it does sound and feel epic :). Journey to the Center of the Earth is available for sale this July at Play-Asia. Click here for details.

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