Thursday, 10 September 2009

Icon #25 Tomb Raider

Prologue:

So many games to choose from. Wow response was big on twitter tonight. Special mention must go to domcoke and theotherarf who both suggested Elite. It was the first game that really showed the world, and all the geeks, where the medium could go. I never got to play it properly myself, I just leaned over the bigger kids at schools shoulders and watched, but it would be wrong of me not to mention it.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider was for me the game that showed what my Playstation could do. I'd got the PS1 for my birthday and Tomb Raider was one of the first games I bought for it way back in 1997. Don't worry about going and looking at what the graphics looked like, you'll be unimpressed. But at the time they blew our tiny minds.

Lara Croft is one of a few genuinely iconic gaming characters and although subsequent games have, to some extent, watered down the title (not to mention a couple of shaky movies) the first Tomb Raider game remains a watershed moment.

What made it such a special game was the way the 3D world had been so brilliantly realised and most importantly the way Lara interacted with that environment. She was also a fully realised character with a plummy English accent you could have happily had whispering in your ear all day. Toby Gard, the man that created her, gave us two things in one very neat package. (I know you think you know where I'm going with that.) She's both a feminists delight and a male fantasy, all rolled into one. Perfectly.

Tomb Raider was played from a third person perspective so you were pretty much staring at Lara's butt for most of the game as she ran, jumped, clung, swam, and shot down the enemies. Check out some footage on YouTube but the boobs are not a factor in game one, although they certainly grew for the sequel. However the real genius of the game were the puzzles. These were in the days before magazines devoted to walk-throughs and the puzzles here could keep you awake at night. And often did. They were at times completely fiendish, but the sense of achievement once you'd got past a section was a delight. This was gaming at a new level.

The sense of control over our protagonist was second to none, she did what she was supposed to, although some jumps would take forever to perfect, a split second out with a button press and Lara would go tumbling to her doom. It was at times frustrating but all the best games are. All the best games make you work hard but not so hard you throw the controller around the living room. However when you did get something wrong the save points were so rare that you often ended up playing the same sections over and over...

The thing I distinctly remember about Tomb Raider was how much my former Mrs really liked it. We played it together, which is the only time I can remember doing that with anyone. That was Lara's appeal for sure. My ex totally loved the game, I don't recall her picking up the controller for any other title and we played it through from beginning to end.

The bit of the game that I'll never forget is the T-Rex. You spend ages figuring out a water puzzle in order to get through a cave and suddenly your in a wide open space and there's a huge dinosaur after you. And it's really really hungry. You don't question it... why would you? It's after Lara, that's all that matters. God knows how many times our Lara got chomped, it was a lot, but eventually you get past it and onto the next level. It was just such an adrenaline rush of a moment, again something that all great games achieve.

If you don't game, and I know many of you don't, it's hard to express why things like that stick in your mind. I think the best way is to compare it to a great movie. Think about your favourite movie, it'll have a bit in it that you truly love, that you carry with you. Well for gamers, we have that too. Moments that just stand out in our minds as special. The T-Rex was that moment for me in the first Tomb Raider.

As I'm typing I'm realising that we played it on the PS1 before Sony even released a dual shock so this was all controlled by the rudimentary directional button on the original pad. Funny what you forget.

Tomb Raider could still do with a truly exceptional update on today's consoles. It nearly got one this year but the combat was poor, many reviewers recommending that you just played the game on easy to wade through the enemies and focus on the puzzles. The game deserves a better legacy than that. Lara deserves a better legacy than that.

Tomb Raider made people look at their games consoles in a different way. It really shone a light on a brighter future and showed, as always, that when somebody, or a group of people, make something a labour of love the end results are often wonderful.

A fantastic game. Hard to master but so rewarding to play, and a real pity when it ends. How many titles do you get to say that about. Not many.

'Right... so, pretty much touch anything and you get your head chopped off.'*

Tonight's post is dedicated to @KyeLani, @butterflygrrrl and @FatmanSlimming.

*I know its a quote from the movie. Thanks though.
And no there's no Epilogue... soz.