What is this fascination with Tomb Raider - apart from the obvious? Quite why the femme fatale of video gaming became such a big draw, I'll never understand. Replace typical male protagonist with a buxom lass, strap some pistols to her thighs and squeeze her into a tight top and some skimpy shorts - hold up, I've answered my own question there!
But while it certainly seems to tick all the right boxes, the actual gameplay in the Tomb Raider series always disappointed me somewhat and I found it deathly dull. Run from point A to point B, climb a pillar, swing on a vine, find a lever and use it to activate a switch. Repeat.
It was with trepidation then that I rented Tomb Raider: Underworld on the Xbox 360, following a friend's recommendation. But after a few weeks of playing, I'm really rather pleased I gave Lara Croft a chance to redeem herself.
I'd lost count of how many times Ms Croft had starred in her very own game but - so says Wikipedia - this 2008 release is apparently her eighth outing. And mighty fine it is too.
It's still your typical run-of-the-mill puzzle game, there's still plenty of wandering about and it's still incredibly frustrating having to scour each and every room for some discreet ledge or tiny clue so that you can progress. But it is actually far more fun and addictive than her previous adventures.
The environments look lovely and boast enough variety to keep you interested. Perhaps I'm more engrossed this time round because of the array of well-thought-out and challenging achievements that are available?
It's taken me some time to get only about half way through the game too, so I'd say it's definitely value for money (particularly now it's been re-released as a budget title). The maps are huge and take some time to fully explore - especially if, like me, you try to track down all those lost treasures and relics. There's some DLC available too if you want even more Lara Croft goodness.
The fight sequences still leave much to be desired and most foes can be easily dispatched by combining a few shots of your chosen weapon while somersaulting about the place so that you take minimal return fire. But then, it was never claiming to be a fighting sim, was it?
What you get is a decent - and enoyable - puzzler, with the added advantage of decent graphics, nice sound effects and an exceedingly supple and acrobatic character to control.
The current generation of gaming system really does Ms Croft some justice and finally, after all these years, I'm starting to understand why so many people have enjoyed watching her bounce about the place.
I'd certainly advise a rental - although I've if you can spare the £5-10 I've seen second-hand copies available for, it's definitely worth a punt.
(Photo credit: Bludgeoner86)