Gaming History 101

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Tomb Raider Review

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The original Tomb Raider exploded in popularity on its release in 1996. People were blown away by the 3D graphics and the title helped promote the Sony Playstation despite being released in mind for the Sega Saturn. The game was praised to high heaven by gaming critics and it launched Lara Croft into icon status by being the first digital character to feature on the cover of Face magazine in the UK. Lara would then quickly go on to be more of a sell out than Krusty the Clown. Her image was used to sell various products like the Lucozade energy drink and Land Rover vehicles. After all why not, she was huge in the UK. This game was the talk of many playground conversations when I was younger not just because of the mythical “Nude Raider” code but gamers would discuss how to get through difficult sections of the game. Guides were not common place back then and the small ones printed in magazines lacked the impressive detail we see in fan made guides online today. It was considered a badge of honour if you were able to finish this game without using cheat codes. Its almost twenty years now since this game came out so I made this months Game Club my personal mission to finish this game without a guide. After lots of blood sweat and gamer tears here are my thoughts.

Time has not been kind to Tomb Raider along with the rest of the back catalogue of early 3D 32 bit games. Before I get started on the game itself I really wanted to hit home that I am very nostalgic for games of this era. Resident Evil on Playstation one still remains one of my favourite games of all time, my enjoyment of titles from this generation seems to have actually grown as I got older. This is the beauty of nostalgia, unfortunately for the someone who doesn’t share this connection you’ll probably go into a lot of these old 3D games and have issues with the controls and be generally turned off by the graphics. I acknowledge all these negative points yet I still enjoy these games. I feel these points are worth bringing up before you hear what I have to say about Tomb Raider now.

tomb_raider_1In Tomb Raider you play Lara Croft, she has a thirst for adventure and she is off looking for the pieces of the mysterious artifact known as the Scion. There is very little motivation for this original Lara. She just wants to be get this artifact “because she can.” Of course its quick to point out Lara does not look like a regular archaeologist or women for that matter. This game was made in the nineties, brainless action films were all the rage. The plot is very by the numbers for this era you find a artifact you fight a bad guy, oh looks theres a T rex. Ok, so the game as a few surprises in its narrative but these are experiences while actually playing the game as opposed to viewing them in the cutscenes. At least the cutscenes include some pretty fun amateur British voice acting, oh how far we have come in the gaming since the nineties.
The inspiration for Tomb Raider, of course, is the Indiana Jones films. The game does do a very good job of recreating some of the tension you may have felt watching these films, only this time your in control. There are rolling boulders, pits of spikes, rope bridges along with various enemies that want nothing more than to devour Lara such as wolves, bears, dinosaurs? And rabid mummys? Fortunately Lara has a small arsenal of weapons to make the majority of the animal kingdom extinct. The gun play feels pretty tacked but its mixed in with the rest of the gameplay so not to outstay its welcome. The main feature of the game is the platforming. Tomb Raider was 3D Prince of Persia for the time. Its all about calculating those jumps. In fact some mathematicians may argue certain equations are easier than calculating your jumps in this game. The game is very slow. You’ll spend a lot of time walking to edges, looking and making sure you have your jump prepared just right. I make It sound boring but its not that bad, its just quite slow. The problem we have these days is we are spoilt by fast paced games and quick loading times we just don’t have time to wait around, so it’s quite hard returning to a game at this pace. Regardless there’s a lot of tension as even when you take a chance on a new jump you may not make it and you get to experience Lara crumble in a comical dead heap on the floor. To this day Tomb Raider as a series has the most graphic and disturbing character deaths I have seen in a video game franchise. You will die a lot in this game and it would be tolerable if it wasn’t for the terrible save system implemented in the Playstation and Saturn versions of this game. You can only save when you find a specific save crystal in the game. These save areas are usually quite far apart and you need to transverse several deadly one hit cheap traps to get to them. For a modern gamer today this is the pinnacle of rage quit fury. The game quickly becomes frustrating and feels like a chore as you constantly re load sections and travel through the traps again and again. If you play this on PC you can save anywhere making the entire experience far less aggravating.

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The graphics – well we could make jokes about point boobs all day – but the reality is Tomb Raider a product of its time. Yes, characters are blocky, environments look similar, there’s restricted draw distance just a cloud of blackness. Even though the game has you explore various locations round the world like Peru, Greece and Eygpt the tombs you explore are mostly very grey and dull. The game hasn’t aged well that’s obvious but if you look at the game with your nostalgia goggles on you will find a lot of love for the environments. I found myself still impressed by just how large some of the areas were. It looks like the developers did some homework on the environments and tried to recreate the feeling of what a tomb would look like, then they added dinosaurs and screaming mummy like enemies.

tomb_raider_2Tomb Raider has very little music as it focuses more on sound and atmosphere. This was due to the limitations of the hardware. Music does exist but it only starts playing at specific trigger points in the game. The guy in charge of music for this game did a fantastic job of having it fire off at just the right moment, like in tense action scene or when you discover a new location. Despite only some music the lack of it actually works better. The sound effects are incredible in this game, it feels isolating and scary running into these unknown environments with the only sound to comfort you being the sound of your own footsteps.

Tomb Raider has 15 levels total. Each level takes around 45 minutes minimum your first time through. Most take even longer. Each time you conquer a level you will probably pump your fists in triumph, just be careful you don’t harm anyone in the process. I will completely admit I was forced to use a guide occasionally as it is very hard to figure out where the hell to go in this game at times. There are some very impressive guides made by fans of this game which make this game easier today but I’m amazed people were able to figure this game out without help back in the day. This game could take literally months to figure out without help.

tomb_raider_3Overall, Tomb Raider is a hard frustrating game that will test your limits of patience. Tomb Raider though well deserving of its place in gaming history is something that fairs better in a museum rather than being something you need to play again. If you want to revisit this title I highly recommend you go for the PC version as you can save anywhere which would have made my Playthrough that much more bearable. I was very happy I finally managed to finish this game without cheats but unless you have this goal in mind this is a very hard game to recommend to people who have never played this title before. What did surprise me during my research was just how huge the Tomb Raider fan base is and how strong it goes to this day. Even though I don’t score this game particularly high I love seeing communities that still enjoy old games like this.

Final Score: 2 out of 5  (review policy)

Want to know more about the game’s release, our podcasts, or cheats?  Check out our profile page.

Written by jamalais

December 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

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