I recently completed Tomb Raider during a live stream. Fifteen brutal yet beautiful levels packed full of puzzles, wild animals, water, sand, oh and Pierre. Never before have I live streamed a game that stirred such strong feelings of nostalgia. This was something that I reflected on with my chat throughout every stream. What exactly was it that made the original Tomb Raider so special? Let’s take a Swan Dive in to the Core Design of Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider.
Solitary. That is how you / I start out on the very first level of Tomb Raider. After my Sherpa met an early death, I set out in the cold caves of somewhere in search of something. Even at this early stage of this beautiful work of art, Tomb Raider felt special. As I learnt the basic moves I felt confident in wanting to take my adventure further. The complex jumps across treacherous gaps still wreaked havoc with my vertigo but jump by jump I learnt to trust the process that Core Design had so perfectly built.
Tomb Raider introduced Lara Croft as their Ain protagonist. A female protagonist?! This was game changing back in the 90’s. More so, that Lara had a very pronounced triangle top half. Triangle tits became a slang phrase with my friends. Triangle tits? Did Core Design really do this? Was it on purpose? No matter what the intention, Lara’s breasts were a serious talking point that arguably helped to carry the Tomb Raider brand a long way.
Back in the 90’s we never left the UK. I did not travel abroad until I was an adult. Tomb Raider opened my mind up to the world, cultures and adventure. Jungles, tombs, sculptures, pyramids, waterfalls! Tomb Raider had it all. Some of my favourite memories are thinking back to playing Tomb Raider and feeling like I could escape and be in a foreign land.
I often hear a lot of Tomb Raider fans discuss how difficult the mechanics of swimming are. I found it to be a simple mechanic to pick up. I would go as far to say that Lara’s walking and jumping mechanics are much more difficult to master. I fell many times whilst trying to walk to the edge of a ledge (even whilst holding dow the walk button) and then there’s the moments when I jumped backwards and accidentally fell to my death. Swimming was the least of my problems. Back in 1996, we did not realise at just how blocky the controls were because there was nothing to compare it to. I am so tuned in to the fluidity of playing Shadow if the Tomb Raider that when I went back to Tomb Raider, I had to devolve my play style. Luckily, my muscle memory reverted back to my mid-90’s love affair with Tomb Raider. I was kicking ass!
Everybody has as least one memory from playing Tomb Raider on the PS1 or Sega Saturn. Or perhaps you played Tomb Raider on the PC? Back in the 90’s level five was my nemesis. I remembered the dreaded verticality and four doors. You had to unlock each of the four doors to progress to an area. At the end of the area you would obtain a key. During steam I was dreading this level but it turned out to be a breeze. I felt like I played through it seamlessly. My nightmare levels turned out to be, seven (Palace Midas), thirteen (Natla’s Mines), fourteen (Atlantis) and fifteen (The Great Pyramid). How did we manage to beat this game as kids? Natla’s mine had far too much fiery danger for my taste and an incredibly annoying mini boss that took me at least ten times to kill. Level fourteen felt like a level from Doom what with flying demons. I kept getting in to a new area and thinking “this has to be it. This has to be the end right?”. Nope. Level fourteen seemed to go on and on forever. Fortunately I had my live stream viewers to keep me company along the way.
Despite the difficult levels, there’s no denying the majestic nature of Tomb Raider and its long pasting legacy on my life. During my recent play through I could not help but think at how clever the level design was. Even more mind blowing was that Tomb Raider was created by six people from the original Core Design Team in Derby. Derby has a special place in my heart as it is my home city so I have often bragged that “me and Lara Croft were born in the same city”. As much as the game still resonates with gamers today, little can be said about the Core Design studios. Sadly is was closed and turned in to flats. Nothing is left of the original studio aesthetic.
The question is not about how much of an impact Tomb Raider had on me; it’s what would have been different if Tomb Raider had of never existed? Obviously I cannot give an exact answer. Perhaps Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series may never have existed? We certainly would not have had any Tomb Raider films. It was through the Tomb Raider films that I discovered Cambodia and the beautiful Temples of Angkor. Later in life I ventured to Cambodia to teach English. If the games had never been developed I wonder if I would have ever gone to Cambodia. Perhaps not. One thing can be said in all certainty, Tomb Raider is tremendous and I love it!
Blog post by: Gemma @ Juicy Game Reviews / TheGebs24
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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