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Tom Standage

A Game, a Gadget and an App

Lara Croft’s early life, the lighting of the future, and zombie fitness coaches

Tom Standage | May/June 2013

A GAME Tomb Raider
Like James Bond, Lara Croft, the gun-toting archaeologist from "Tomb Raider", never seems to grow old, but her franchise was showing its age. So the tenth "Tomb Raider" game is a "Casino Royale"-style reboot, filling in her backstory. The gameplay is the familiar blend, dating back to the 1996 original, of exploration, puzzle-solving and occasional combat in exotic surroundings. But the new "Tomb Raider" is a much more grown-up affair. Shipwrecked on a mysterious island, Lara faces trials that transform her from a bookish graduate to an unflappable, unstoppable adventurer. At the start she recoils from skeletons and even apologises to a deer she kills for food, but gradually she finds her inner steel. A pivotal scene depicts the first time she takes a human life, which forges the battle-hardened Lara we know and gives "Tomb Raider" an emotional charge it used to lack. The graphics are top-notch, and new gameplay elements include the ability to upgrade skills and items and "quick time actions" which force you to time your button-presses carefully. The action can feel as if it moves on rails, but there's a good balance between cinematic plotting and open-ended exploration, with dozens of hidden items to find to unlock upgrades. The reboot triumphantly revitalises a beloved franchise, retaining its essence while bringing it up to date. Welcome back, Lara.
Tomb Raider for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC: about £30

A GADGET Philips Hue
When you first slot the Philips Hue "connected bulbs" into your light fittings, they behave like ordinary bulbs, producing an impressive light for low-energy LED technology. But plug the controller into your broadband, download an app and the fun begins: you can adjust the colour and brightness of each bulb with your phone. There are special settings optimised for reading and study, and you can create more—a moody party feel in the living room or a reassuring night-light on the landing. The bulbs can wake you up with a gentle sunrise effect, and the app works anywhere, letting you turn the lights on or off when you are far from home. Some day all lightbulbs will be this smart.
Philips Hue Connected Bulb (three bulbs + controller): £180. Extra bulbs: £50

AN APP Zombies, Run!
This is an implausible mash-up of two previously unrelated art forms: audiobooks and fitness apps. Put on your headphones and head out for a walk or run, and a post-apocalyptic zombie plot gradually unfolds, interspersed with music from your library. During each episode, or mission, you collect new items simply by moving, and at times you have to step up the pace to stay ahead of the shambling hordes. Found items let you upgrade your base and access new missions. You'll find yourself going for a run just to find out what happens next. "Zombies, Run!" has spawned a companion app for 5K training, and a sequel is in the works. Who knew that zombies could be so entertaining and so good for your health?
Zombies, Run! for iOS, Android and Windows Phone: £4.99

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