Tomb Raider (1996)

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JaySevenZero
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Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by JaySevenZero »

Here's where you can contribute your thoughts and opinions for Tomb Raider (1996) for potential inclusion in the forthcoming podcast.

A friendly reminder that where the feedback for the podcast is concerned, we love it - but keeping it brief is appreciated. We do want to include a breadth of opinions where appropriate, but no-one wants a discussion podcast that’s mostly reading out essays. Better to save yourself time and cut to the chase if you can.

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TheEmailer
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by TheEmailer »

This game is hard, even by 1996 standards. Too hard for me to see most of the game at 10 years old. Too antiquated for me to play now

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Jon Cheetham
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by Jon Cheetham »

If this were released today it might be viewed as some sort of bizarre experimental dungeon crawler. On reflection it is weird how much of Lara's original adventures were spent measuring up highly precise and punishing jumps in these grid-based environments. Now I would have less than no patience with the times where you would pull a lever and be expected to locate and reach the random door it opened on the other side of the map, having to trudge back to the lever if you weren't fast enough.

As ungainly as their design concepts are now though, the first five Tomb Raider games are forever tied to my memories of the original PlayStation, and when that big grey disc drive loomed open there was a good chance one of them would be found inside. These were the original globe-trotting 3D adventures to us when we were young, seeming to contain entire worlds of thrills and mystery in which to leap and spelunk. Have to give credit to the visual design where it's due; The use of colour and scale to make these low-poly tombs and caves memorable was striking then and is something that does still stand up today.

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ashman86
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by ashman86 »

I was 11, maybe 12, when I first played Tomb Raider on my Sega Saturn. Games in 3D were still positively mind blowing to me, and Tomb Raider felt like a window into the future of the medium. Also, to this day, I still like to tell people (half-joking) that it's the scariest game I've ever played.

I was aware of the game after all the press it had started to get in the magazines I was reading, and I couldn't believe my luck when I found it in a rental shop one afternoon. After booting it up and getting through the game's introduction, I was struck by how lonely the game felt. In the caves of the first level, I was surrounded almost entirely by darkness, and it was very quiet, much quieter than I was used to games being. I took some time getting used to shooting my dual pistols while jumping around, and then I set off exploring, killing a few wolves and bats as I went.

And then I dropped into the area where the first bear appears. I was examining the ruins there, just kind of taking everything in, completely clueless that I was being stalked. I swiveled the camera around, and there was the bear, practically on top of me. It let out a roar and swung a paw at me, and I screamed aloud. I turned the game off and was too scared to play it again for at least a day.

I did manage to make it to the t-rex later, before I had to return the copy to the rental shop, but it's that encounter with the bear stands out to me as one of my most vivid gaming memories.

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Billy
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by Billy »

Tomb Raider was the highlight of my Christmas as an 11 year old when I got it for my Saturn.

Over the next year or so I made slow progress but it felt earned. This is still quite a difficult, obtuse game to play but its laborious mechanics made me feel more like an explorer struggling with an ancient terrain and the sound design was incredibly immersive. Each level felt huge, enticing and yet also very lonely. I completely bought into the atmosphere of being at the far edges of the world, deep underground and far from safety.

I still feel like I have been to places like the Tomb of Qualopec. They were so rewarding to discover after some particularly brutal platforming. However a corrupted save in St Francis Folly undid my hard work and I bought the Prima Stategy Guide for the rest.

I confess I didn't finish the game. I never have and probably never will. My Lara is lost forever in the caverns of Atlantis but then, the destination never really mattered. It was the thrill of exploration.

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Iain[Ian]Ianson
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by Iain[Ian]Ianson »

I completed this on PS1 for the first time in 2020, having previously only played various demos on the Saturn, PS1 and PC over the years.

The push for more and more action, story and set pieces as the sequels released seems poorly judged in retrospect.

This original game is so easy to parse and be involved in. Slowly unravelling all the hidden corners of each tomb is compelling even today, and I love how stripped back the combat is. Lock-on, shoot, jump, and let Lara’s instinctual action-hero skills take care of the rest.

While the controls initially seem to suffer in direct comparison to Mario 64, they actually suit the precise nature of the platforming very well. The discreet and consistent animation-driven movements on all those digital inputs pair very nicely with the almost grid-based geometry of the levels.

The biggest niggle for me is the tiny activation bounds on collectibles. There’s a lot of sidestepping to get just into the right place to collect things.

I have to admit to save-scumming to save time during my playthrough, but I never felt bad about it, as I’m fairly certain the PC version had this same feature.

I’ll certainly be returning to this great game periodically as I feel it’s up there with Doom, Mario 64, and Shadow of the Colossus as a really important touchstone in the development of 3D gaming.

I would actually love a remake of this game, that was basically identical, (maybe with one or two interaction animations sped up!) but with the graphics of the beautifully realised Lara Croft GO plastered on-top of the original games collision geometry.

I’d like to think it would go down as well as the recent Tony Hawk remake.

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seansthomas
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by seansthomas »

I can't imagine in 2021 the original PlayStation version is particularly enjoyable to play at all, but back in 1996 it was a game changer.

Its release coincided with my parents getting divorced and me getting a part time job whilst studying for my A-Levels, so I was starting to be a bit more independent and have my own disposable income. I'd not owned a 16-bit machine and had totally missed all the buzz around the next gen launch, given all the teenage distractions, and I recall walking home late one night from work, catching sight of Tomb Raider and WipEout 2097 playing in a department store window.

I still have vivid memories of that moment now. Characters and sprites realistically moving into the screen, rather than across it. True 3D gaming had arrived. And it looked incredible.

I bought Official PlayStation Magazine (RIP) the next day and after a few days of anguishing over whether or not to do it, spent most of my savings on a PlayStation, with both of those games.

WipEout 2097 was incredibly important for me as I became obsessed with its aesthetic and music; I went on to become a graphic designer because of its influence and had some of the original development team kindly help me write my dissertation on it.

Tomb Raider was almost as important though. I had grown up longing for exciting adventures, pining to one day travel overseas on holiday and leave my hometown. Playing this felt like a way to do that.

I remember the world going Lara Croft crazy and her face appearing everywhere from Lucozade ads to The Face magazine. For the first time in my life, gaming seemed, if not cool, then at least acceptable.

But what I loved about Tomb Raider wasn't really anything to do with the marketing. In fact all the discourse around Lara seemed to be about shooting and sexualisation. Whereas the game is a very different experience to that.

It's solitary and quiet. Just you and a forgotten, ancient world, that you need to venture through to find a way out of. You aren't casting a male gaze over Lara. You are Lara.

The gorgeous choral opening and succinct interludes added tension and pacing to key events in the game such as when animals, rare enemies or key landmarks would appear, foreshadowing how Zelda Breath of the wild used sound 20 years later.

And what landmarks. The plot makes no sense and I have no idea why all these ancient dynasties are in rooms next to one another like an early underground version of The British Museum, but I didn't care. I longed to see what ruined kingdom was next and hear that little shimmery run of notes that told me I'd found another secret.

I loathed the save point system (and had to restart the game at one point because of using them all up on my descent down a vertical pillar), but I never had any real issue with the controls. I only came to enjoy the wondrous movement of Mario a few years later, so Lara moving more like a chess piece around a grided and angled environment I had to figure out felt part of the charm, almost like an extension of turn based combat.

That would change and by later entries in the series, I had begun to find it very tired. But in truth, that was true of the gameplay in general once Metal Gear Solid emerged and made movement so much more enjoyable.

Tomb Raider 2 upped the action, 3 the difficulty, but neither recaptured the magic. The Last Revelation was buggy but at least a more coherent ancient romp. Whilst Chronicles was an unsatisfying conclusion to a PSOne series ripping itself apart due to gaming and culture leaving it behind and stuck in a negative cycle of soul searching.

But that first title felt like one of the biggest generational leaps in gaming I've ever seen, moving gaming into a world of 3D immersive mainstream entertainment. It's ambition, scale and unorthodox design decisions took several years to be bettered and pulled me back into a past time I thought I'd left behind.

3 word review: 3D gamings arrival

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Pixel Hunted
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by Pixel Hunted »

I played this quite a bit on the PC around launch as a kid but never got very far, ending up using the cheat codes to skip around the game and see the shiny FMVs.

But I went back to it in the mid-2010s as it felt like unfinished business and surprised myself by really getting into it. I was particularly shocked at how quickly I appreciated the controls. Sure they're archaic, but the grid-based system means it's easy to navigate once you know the rules and all the levels are carefully designed around her capabilities. I also loved the quiet, isolated atmosphere and lack of intrusive HUD. It felt like the game was simply letting me exist in its world without leading me by the neck through it.

Was so impressed I played all the original Tomb Raiders and the various expansion packs and found something to enjoy in them all.

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seansthomas
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by seansthomas »

I can't find it anywhere but I recall an amazing article or blog from probably a decade ago now about the genius of Tomb Raiders grid system. How figuring out the angles, diagonal jumps, grabs and back flips was a way more interesting platforming mechanic than much of what has followed.

This is the closest I could find to it:

https://lifeandtimes.games/episodes/files/7.html

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Pconpi
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by Pconpi »

My only experience with Tomb Raider was playing a demo that came with my Eidos published PC version of Final Fantasy VII in 1999. It may have been Tomb Raider 2 or 3 judging by the year, but I remember some caves, shooting the dual pistols, and being titillated by polygons as a 14-year-old. Since then I’ve mostly ignored the series thinking it was more style over substance. But, it being on the upcoming schedule I was inspired to look at the original so I picked up a PS1 greatest hits copy, fired up the CRT, and swan dived into an early 3D adventure.

I was curious how long I would stick with the game. I was prepared for it to be too frustrating or archaic to want to complete. And, it was both of those things, but I also enjoyed the unique style of platforming so much that it kept pulling me back each night. That and each level being about an hour of gaming made nice bite sized chunks to tackle each play session. I followed a walkthrough word for word through the whole game and still, STILL, died many many times. When this came out and 3D environments were novel, it might have been captivating enough to spend hours looking for the right platforming route or dying over and over trying to figure out the environmental hazards. But, I couldn’t imagine having the patience or fun to figure that out today and my hats off to anyone in the community that took that on. As it is I was proud of myself for seeing the ending with a guide holding my hand.

What did engage me was learning the controls, they were so foreign to me it was like trying to learn a new language. Standing jumps, running jumps, sliding down a ramp to a safety hang, and walking for heaven’s sake WALKING! By the end I was more fluent and “quickly” walking to the end of a ledge, hopping back, and making an angled running jump to a pull up. And, also by the end I was still running into lava pits, running into spiked pits, and run jumping over platforms and falling to my death with that disturbing bone crunching sound effect. There should be some of those “Walk, Do Not Run” pool safety signs posted in these tombs. It is a platformer for the patient.

I’m happy with the time I spent with the first Tomb Raider but it hasn’t inspired me to move on in the series. “I still got a pain in my brain from ya, and it’s telling me funny ideas now like to shoot you to hell!!”

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Mechner
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by Mechner »

Nathan McCree’s theme and music is utter brilliance

Tomb Raider is one of those many mid-90’s games that newcomers and returning players spoiled by the many niceties and conventions of video games today often stick their noses up at. That is to say they all recognise it’s place in the pantheon of gaming and how it helped evolve the medium, but they often just label it as obtuse, hard, clunky and graphically poor. To be admired from afar but not worth returning to it or any of its 4 original sequels.

I implore those who think that, to reconsider… Tomb Raider is a perfectly paced game designed to challenge and appeal to explorers..

Tomb Raider does have a control scheme that relatively speaking, is hard to grasp, as it doesn’t match up to modern standards and conventions, but once understood and grasped by a player, Lara suddenly is let off the leash she is an incredibly agile and weighty character whose acrobatics rival and sometimes surpass any of her modern contemporaries (even herself in modern titles which feel rather linear in comparison despite their “open world”)

If you spend time mastering the controls and jump timing, suddenly you unlock a freedom of movement that is sorely lacking in modern gaming outside of games like (The Dishonoured Series)

Having come from earlier days of playing Prince of Persia I grasped the weight of Lara and the games grid system maybe quicker than others, it is easy to see the similarities and influence the Prince had on Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider is a game about just that “Tomb Raiding”, what would a Tomb Raider mostly spend their time doing?
“Exploring”

Exploration is at the heart of TR, it is one of its defining features. No way points, no guides to help you on your way, no prompts telling you which way to go next. These levels have all been hand crafted by the core design team to be explored. They all are memorable and engage the vigilant player, nothing is window dressing, it’s the enjoyment of finding new paths, switches and/or items that is central to the Tomb Raider experience. This might seem weird to modern players used to map systems and way points. But I really wish more games encouraged the player to get to intimately know their surroundings.. it’s rewarding to find a key and instantly know which door it belongs to because you explored thoroughly.

I really love the “no hud” design too, many games of the time we’re going for that clean look, there is just something so appealing about just presenting the player the games graphics! My OLED thanks the foresight of those developers too in battling burn in!

Lara is such an iconic character, it seems quaint now, but she was everywhere in the 90’s and early 00’s! I love that she became so famous people actually wanted to know things about who she was? where she was from? what age? As if she was a real person!

My strange resounding memory that I always associate with Tomb Raider 1 is a weekend my parents went away, I was left alone in the house and I decided it was high time I beat Tomb Raider 1… I powered up my Dell Windows 98 machine and turned on my TV next to the computer as well to act as some background noise, and something to watch in between all my deaths, to break up my gaming session. So it’s Saturday I start Tomb Raider and on the TV is the film “Darby O’ Gill and the Little People” a strange old Disney movie set in Ireland about leprechauns and an old man named Darby.. (also starring a young “singing” Sean Connery) I battle my way through many of the levels and memorable puzzles while every so often catching up on the movie. The hand of Midus comically turns Lara into gold as Darby attempts to steal gold from the leprechaun king, Finally I get to one of the Egypt levels which is pretty far for my first sitting. The movie is nearing its end where Darby fights a banshee with a rake.. I decide to watch the end of the movie and return to Lara the following day. The following day I power up the game again and load my save in Egypt. Specifically it’s the level where you have to raise and lower the sand level to progress. I decide to turn on my TV again to accompany me on my fight to the finish. Upon switching over to the only channel that isn’t sport or news I’m immediately struck with deja vu….. Darby O Gill and the Little People is on again… literally just starting, how strange. I decide to leave it on as a curious omen and continue my play through to the finish of the game, more exceptional levels and memorable puzzles and bosses… that doppelgänger I’ll never forget… with Natla finally defeated and the pyramid escaped, just as I finish I look over at the TV and there to my absolute surprise Darby is again fighting the banshee with a rake…

Is this a dream?

I don’t know but all I know is Darby and Tomb Raider 1 will always be inseparable in my mind.. that’s my completely pointless story about playing Tomb Raider through for the first time…what a wonderful perfectly paced game!

Still holds up!

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psychohype
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Re: 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by psychohype »

I played this game relatively late, back in 2005. I had recently graduated from college and was using my expensive private school English degree to ... work as a shoe salesman at the local Foot Locker. But that was just a part-time job, leaving me with plenty of spare hours to dig into my roommate’s PS1 collection and this game in particular, which I played to its conclusion, all without a guide—save for one small hang-up in the first Atlantis level.

I certainly don’t remember all the specifics of every map, but there are plenty of scattered moments and set pieces that remain firm in my memory.

They include: the moment early on where the game’s unusual combat (a.k.a. acrobatic jumping and dodging as you blast away with your unlimited-ammo pistols) started to actually click. The unexpected appearance of the T-Rex that I managed to kill on the first try. The first place where I had to swim through a bunch of underwater maze corridors with a limited supply of air, as well as that smooth animation of Lara struggling to pull a lever while underwater. The animation where Lara handstands on a ledge like a gymnast. The constant jump scares when Lara would round a corner to be suddenly attacked by a bear or a velociraptor or a pair of angry gorillas. The cool puzzle rooms in Greece, and that clever throwaway death animation when you tried to climb King Midas’s hand. Some of the most frustrating jumps and platforming sections in any game I’ve ever played, but such a feeling of satisfaction when I finally cleared a difficult level. A death-defying leap into a pool of water late in the game. The super cheesy final boss fight against a flying Natla.

I could go on, but my point is this game is chock-full of unforgettable moments. All things considered, this might be among the most challenging games I’ve ever beaten, and I’ve beaten a lot of games. Not only are the levels these huge difficult puzzle boxes in their own right. But you can only unlock them by mastering an insane number of precise platforming sections that require you to carefully position each individual footstep, similar to the original Prince of Persia, but on a much larger 3D scale. As with so many of the best old school games out there, the constant trial and error—whether in puzzle solving, combat, or basic navigation—is simply a part of the experience on the road to victory.

As large as this game looms, I’m still left with no easy answers as to where it sits among the pantheon of the greatest of all time. Tomb Raider was a true pioneer, a groundbreaking achievement in technology and design, as well as an epic and satisfying journey for those who had the patience to endure. But this is also the kind of game that I freely admit is much harder for most people to enjoy and appreciate today. In that way, it reminds me of a game like the original God of War, which suddenly feels eclipsed in the public’s memory by a more recent reboot/sequel.

It feels like the first Tomb Raider pretty much accomplished everything it set out to do, there was almost nowhere to go but downward, which I think is how many people tend to view the series’ overall trajectory up to its own 2013 reboot. This is in spite of what I assume were many iterative improvements to the core mechanics that would have been implemented over the years. The only other Tomb Raider game I’ve played (not counting two of the Lara Croft spinoffs) was the 2013 reboot, and while I did enjoy it, it hardly feels like a comparable experience to the game that started it all. There was truly something special about Lara’s original globetrotting adventure that modern games may never be able to recapture.

Three word review:
platforming patience rewarded

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HappyGreyBox5
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Re: Our next podcast recording (15.10.21): 491 - Tomb Raider (1996)

Post by HappyGreyBox5 »

In 1996 I was 10 years old. I was pulled away from Sonic 3 and made to go to another kid’s house, someone I hardly knew, so our sets of parents could socialize.
He had a new PlayStation, we played Tomb Raider. It was magnificent! A moment I will always remember. I thought the few MegaDrive games I had were the best videogaming could ever be! But here was a 3d world and a realistic looking (at the time) character to explore it! Absolutely mind-blowing.
25 years later - I have played every TR at least twice, there have been ups and downs, but it is probably my favourite series, and Tomb Raider 1 is one of my favourite games ever.

Game:
Graphicly amazing for the time.
The level design is truly great, TR1 contains many of most memorable and impressive TR levels.
I think the solitary atmosphere still works today.

Controls:
Often complained about these days. As a fan who grew up playing TR, I have no issues and even quite like going back to play the older games.
The controls are perfectly suited for the block-based world of the game, everything is measured in these blocks, press back – Lara will hop back one square, do a running jump – Lara can go over three squares. Once mastered, you can play classic TR with ease, knowing exactly what Lara can and can’t do.
I would also argue that the controls are surprisingly fluid (for 1996), as actions can be chained together. Example - You can jump, draw guns in mid-air, fire, land, roll, jump again.
Once I completed this game on the iPhone 4 using the touchscreen – play that version and you will never grumble about the ps1/pc controls again.

Music:
Superb. Nathan McCree did an excellent job. I wish later games and movies would call back to his work more often. I still listen to the soundtrack today.

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