Released in 1996 on Playstation by Eidos Interactive and developed by Core Design, a great game in almost every aspect. A popular game and successful enough to create a massive money making franchise that eventually led to Angelina Jolie playing the protagonist in a film adaptation. Some of my earliest gaming memories were of this game and the frustrating puzzles that drove me mad a kid. Still one of my favorite games of my youth and I will explain in this review why.
Its story-line is an interesting one, you follow Lara Croft an English archaeologist with a serious set of skills that puts Liam Neeson in Taken to shame. She has an unhealthy appetite for rare artifacts in which puts her life in danger in extraordinary ways. But we wont judge her for that as her adventures take us on an exciting journey through amazing places of geological and archaeological wonder. However, she is not the only one looking, she has a fair bit of competition. Enter Jacqueline Natla and Pierre Dupont, during the game they are also trying to obtain the “Scion”, which you learn about in the opening, as Lara you continuously come into contact with Pierre whom was hired by Natla to find the “Scion”, he is rather frustrating as he appears when you least expect it and he wields a pair of magnums and they hurt, big time. Not only are you trying to solve puzzles in ancient tombs owned by civilizations that clearly have a lot more to hide than meets the eye, you are trying to kill exotic wildlife, ancient monsters and competing archaeologists, so it does get rather complicated. It does include a fair bit of historical, mythological architecture and locations for all those history buffs out there. For me it made the game awesome as some of the puzzles included King Midas’s Hand and you can only imagine what happens if you come into contact with it and a massive room full of puzzles based on the Roman Gods. The whole game really brings to life the past and extinct civilizations even including dinosaurs. Yes dinosaurs. Not that long into the game you come across a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Raptors, awesome right? The puzzles themselves really take some thought and keep you on your toes, however they are not forgiving, as it is a save point based game, if you die due to the excessive amount of traps during long and tedious puzzles you do have to start all over again. The game does however make up for this by adding secrets which can give you new weapons and helpful health kits challenging you at the end of each level to go back and find them all.
The controls are not to be desired in regards to moving around and performing actions can be quite difficult, if you don’t aim Lara correctly or take the right amount of steps in a run up you can find yourself falling onto spikes, into an abyss or to the ground with bone crunching audio for added effect. It does require a fair bit of trial and error which can be frustrating but very rewarding once a puzzle is completed. The combat system is pretty decent but the only thing letting it down is the camera angles, as you don’t have control over the camera it can be quite the hindrance, it even holds you back during jumps but you normally have time to execute those. You do however, during combat end up dodge rolling until you can see your enemy clearly and then opening fire. The auto-aim on weapons is extremely helpful as Lara automatically aims at what is closest to her and this can help you locate hidden enemies or enemies not in plain view which is exceptionally helpful for when Pierre decides to make an appearance as he always appears at the most inopportune moments and his movement is less predicable than other enemies. You definitely need a controller for this game, do not try to play this on Android or IOS as the touch screen is impossible to execute any maneuvers you need to do without having 4 hands.
The graphics and audio are what you would expect from a game of this caliber. 3D polygon models and pre-rendered scenery which in some places becomes 2D, normally bushes, small foliage and scattered non-interactive artifacts you do tend to look past this though, as it was expected for the limitations of its era. The music is one of my favorite aspects of the game, just like any adventure game it continuously changes from area to area and even during important moments, for example when you have a time restraint due to a trap being set off such as a boulder rolling towards you (Indiana Jones style) or imminent danger. I would recommend checking out some of the soundtracks on YouTube. It has a classical feel to it in places and it really does set the scene for the areas you visit in your journey.
Overall, a 7/10, its story-line and puzzle solving is really impressive and it really does get immersive, however, the only drawback is the trial and error, if you are impatient and one to lose interest after a dozen attempts this really isn’t your game. Graphics and audio are impressive for its day and add to the immersion for the player. However, what holds the game back is the controls and camera angles, if the game had better handling it would be much more enjoyable because you really can give yourself carpal tunnel trying to execute jumps and grapples to progress forward and complete puzzles and with its length it can be quite tedious. However it does give you a great sense of achievement once completed and you can really understand why the game is critically acclaimed by companies such as Metacritic.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read.