“Hello, anyone at home? Mind if I take this?"
One step into the giant tombs of ‘Tomb Raider’ and you realise why this game was so popular eleven years ago. The game, which I have loved since its release, has stayed on my mind for all those years. Is ‘Anniversary’ going to be a good tribute to this game? Well, I took a trip back to the original before the release of ‘Anniversary’ to see if it would be still fun, or just another incredibly dated game.
The game released back in 1996 opens with a brief cut-scene of Lara Croft, the protagonist, accepting to collect the artifact, the scion, from the ancient tomb of Qualapec in Peru. We are then carted off to Peru with this strange, mysterious woman under our control, we know nothing of her past (unless you read the booklet). Armed with naught but dual pistols and a cone bra, Croft must traverse an ancient city full of bears, wolves, bats and dinosaurs and then through a trap filled tomb. Doubtfully fun for Ms. Croft, though a pleasure for the gamer.
The graphics to the original ‘Tomb Raider’ obviously have nothing on today’s standards. Those playing the game for the first time now will find the graphics to be in a pretty bad state. Lara looks like some sort of toy soldier because of the graphics and at this stage, none of the animals look very realistic. The surrounding areas aren’t smooth and the colours are limited. It can be seen, for instance, in the Egyptian levels that the sand is a bright unrealistic yellow. These graphics, however, do not take away from the overall feeling of the tombs. For the most part, they contain vast chambers with gigantic cliffs surrounding them. Each tomb has it’s own unique aspect, beautiful and awe-inspiring.
Gameplay in this old ‘Tomb Raider’ of ours is as addictive as ever. It may contain many levers to pull and keys to get, but each lever has to be reached through a series of difficult traps. This may lead to trial and error playing, though you really do feel good after playing a particularly hard part of the game or solving a hard puzzle. Many of the puzzles within the levels can be played in different orders, which make the game feel slightly less linear. The famed grid-based jumping of ‘Tomb Raider’ may be a pain in the neck for some, though I found it refreshing after the jump-the-opposite-direction-and-I’ll-still-catch-the-appropriate-ledge method of the overly simplistic ‘Tomb Raider: Legend’. The jumping requires precision and correct timing, though after lining up correctly, the jumps can be done easily. Many newer fans hate it. I wish it would return. The boss battles Ms. Croft faces are infrequent and only play a small part. The most memorable of these would be the jaw dropping tyrannosaurus and the giant atlantean who digs its claws into Lara and bangs her sickeningly. These enemies are well animated and terrifying, even now!
There are two faults that affect the gameplay, however, that can potentially make certain levels frustrating and unnecessarily harsh. The camera is the most brutal fault. When boulders chase Lara, for instance, the camera will focus on the boulders rolling so that you’re not able to see the woman you are controlling. I think this camera was a major oversight by Core, as I did when I first played the game. The other fault, the save crystals that appear during certain parts of the game allow the player to save their game. In certain levels, there is only about three save crystals for a huge area. This leads to a lengthy backtrack if you die, which is probable since the game contains many instantly killing traps and cliff falls. Players are less likely to go and find secrets or explore, due to probable death and the harshness of the save crystal system. I don’t understand why all games just won’t let you save anywhere you want.
The story to this ancient adventure holds up pretty well. Certain facts aren’t really explored enough but then again, what do you expect? It’s from the mid nineties. The character of Lara Croft feels a hell of a lot deeper than the bubblegum one of ‘Tomb Raider: Legend’ and the simplistic story is also more enjoyable thanks to the evilness of the main baddie. The appearances of Pierre during the Greek section add nicely to the story and atmosphere, as does a certain appearance of Larson elsewhere in the game.
Overall, ‘Tomb Raider’ remains as a classic in my eyes. There is no feeling of isolation like running through the lost valley with its black sky and high peaks or the sandy tops of the Sanctuary of the Sphinx. Today’s games just don’t contain the feeling of an endless adventure or the isolation brought to place in ‘Tomb Raider’. I, myself, believe this game is still worthy of a purchase, after all these years. I seriously doubt the new ‘Anniversary’ version will live up to this one. I, for one, will be playing this game for a very long time.
+ Great vintage game, nice heroine
+ Vast Environments
+ Good Re-play value, numerous secrets
+ Good Story That Doesn\\\\\\\'t Overrun Gameplay
+T-Rex and large atlantean
- Bad Camera Issues
- Badly Places Save Crystals
(not counting graphics into the review. Feel free to take away a mark if it would affect your playing!)