Monday, 17 November 2014

Tomb Raider (MS-DOS) - Part 2

Dare you revisit part one?


I didn't actually know coming into this that the game even had separate levels, though it does probably make more sense than having a sprawling Metroid-style complex. It's hard enough to figure out where to go next as it is without any kind of map.

I've ran a lap around the hallways circling this area and it seems that there's only two doors out of here; one needs a key that I haven't got, the other needs me to hit a switch. Fortunately the switch is right next to it, so that puzzle's easy enough to solve.

This puzzle was pretty simple too, but only because I remembered that Lara can pull massive 2m3 stone blocks around like she's Raziel from Soul Reaver. She doesn't even use a handle, she just slips her fingers underneath! And people think that Chris Redfield punching a boulder in Resident Evil 5 is ridiculous...

Right, now I've opened up the hallway to the next room and given myself a stepping stone to reach the medkit on the ledge above. It's just a pity that it took so bloody painfully long to drag it here.

Hey, there's a silver key to fit that locked door I saw earlier. I've also found a golden idol on the other side of the room, which I ended up collecting accidentally while double checking to make sure that I really can't pick anything up besides keys and health kits. Hopefully all those miscellaneous bits of pottery I've seen around have been purely decorative, because I've been totally ignoring them.

It looks like there's a ledge up there on the left that I could get up onto. I'll never make it from the floor, Lara's good but she can't jump that high, but maybe I can pull that stone slab through to stand on.


Man this was a bad idea. What were the developers thinking, making the block shoving so damn slow? If there's any actual block pushing puzzles later on then I'm going to have to turn the game off right there, because I can't take any more of this.

There we go: scary silver skull key goes into the door lock. Interestingly that idol I grabbed is also showing up in my inventory, so I suppose I might actually need it for something later.

Hmm, three doors and two of them are sealed shut. I get the feeling I'm going to have to complete two puzzles to get the middle door open here.

Hang on, I just need to sort out this wolf problem first.

There we go, a blind mid-air mid-flip bullseye to finish him off.

It's funny how Lara's face texture goes to angry mode whenever she opens fire, because it also affects the rest of her head; every time I pull the trigger the back of her hair changes as well, and it's hard to ignore as I spend most of the game looking at her back.


Right, now that I'm done with the first room I'm ready to get on with door #3. This place a lot like what I found behind the first door, except with trickier jumps. And honestly right now any jump is tricky for me, because I still haven't got hang of the timing.

Okay by the look of this, those Prince of Persia style collapsing floor tiles are just there as a distraction, as I can't imagine the game will let me screw things up permanently by messing up the first jump. Not when it hasn't even given me a checkpoint yet. I bet I can make it from the stairs to the first ledge with a single running jump, though I can't walk up to the edge and take a step back like I usually do with those tiles there, as I'd just walk right onto them... damn.


Man this is getting old. Though it's kinda funny to go back to playing a game where the real puzzle is mastering the controls, especially as the remake isn't like this at all. I'd be up these ledges in no time at all in Anniversary, that's why that game didn't even bother giving me this challenge.

You know, I gave Lara shit for her outfit earlier when she was hiking across the mountains, but I have to admit it's more practical for swimming in than a thick winter coat would've been, so I guess she knew what she was doing all along. That's why she's the explorer and I do my Adventures from behind a desk in a warm room with a cup of tea.


There we go. Now I'm just three easy jumps away from the exit. All I have to do is not screw up and land in that bloody water again, and I should be able to flick a switch and open up that middle door.


Well I didn't land in the water. At least this gives me an excuse to show off this old-school spinning menu, with various 3D objects arranged in a circle, each representing different menu options. Hang on, where's the continue option? Can I jump back to the last checkpoint? The start of the level at least? Has it saved the game at all?

Holy shit, you really do only get one life and that's it? I've been kicked back to the title screen, I don't believe it! Half an hour of gameplay thrown away because of one mistake, one high-speed collision with the floor tiles. What the fuck, Tomb Raider?


Tomb Raider (PSX)
The PlayStation and Saturn versions are more or less identical to the PC game in visuals and gameplay (aside from the texture filtering), but they have these spinning blue save crystals midway through the levels that are entirely absent in the DOS version. Because the DOS game doesn't need them!

Yep, I'm an idiot who didn't realise until now that the PC version LETS YOU SAVE AT ANY TIME.

Tomb Raider (PSX)
Oh shit, I tried to get a better screenshot of the save crystal in the PlayStation version and fell into a bear pit! It's mauling her to death and I can't get away in time! The save points are one use only, so I haven't even been able to save yet, I'm an idiot!

Anyway, I replayed the first 30 minutes of the PC game again from scratch, and managed to complete that jumping puzzle room this time with only minimum skull fracturing. I flicked the lever, walked through the middle door...

... and was immediately sliced open by a hidden pendulum trap.

I just have to time it right, it's nothing unfair, the game just didn't bother to give me the slightest bit of warning first. There's not much point me whining about it though as even the console versions put a save point just before it.


Well I've finally found the door that the gold idol unlocks (thank fuck I picked the thing up really). The trouble is that I've got this bear prancing around in front of it, not letting me get close. Annoyingly, Lara can't fire her pistols while she's treading water, so I need to keep climbing out, taking a few shots, and then jumping back in. Over and over again.

I'm still not a huge fan of the combat in this to be honest, though somersaulting through gunfights will never get old.


Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh shit!

Hey, I survived. That's cool. Now I just have to either find my way back up again, because I was kind of in the middle of trying to get somewhere before I slipped and was carried away by the current.

Or maybe I can look around down here instead. It's never entirely clear in this which path leads to where I want to be, and which will take me where I need to be, so it's easy enough to walk past hidden items and into locked doors.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary (PC)
While 1996 Lara searches for a way out down there, I'm sending 2007 Lara up the side of the waterfall to see where this path leads. The two games are different enough at this point that for all I know both Crofts could be going the right way. Anniversary is definitely a true remake: a reinterpretation with reimagined levels and revised gameplay, rather than just a HD rerelease with the textures replaced.

If Tomb Raider '96's thing is awkward jumps, Tomb Raider: Anniversary's is making me shimmy around ledges by my fingertips. This screenshot here is a good example of what a good amount of the game has been like so far.

Oh damn, the game's gone all Trespasser all of a sudden! So that's why this place is called the Lost Valley.

Turns out that raptors have more bullet resistance than wolves and I'm finding them less fun to fight, though it's still a laugh to leap over their head and leave them snapping at nothing. Sorry bro, your species may have survived an extinction level event and 75 million years trapped in an underground jungle, but I haven't met a mythical creature yet that's been immune to infinite ammo.

Oh shit.

They have a t-rex! Uh... should I shoot it? Run away? I think I'll try both.

Aww crap. I was doing great until he ate my arms! Well, maybe. I'm not actually sure. He's a tedious bullet-sponge style of boss, and it's impossible to tell if I was even wearing him down.


Tomb Raider: Anniversary (PC)
They added a QTE sequence to the tyrannosaurus fight! Of course they did, why am I even surprised?

It's hard to say what the greatest innovation from the last decade of video games has been, but the 'Play without QTEs' option in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has to be in the top five.

I may whine about QTEs sometimes, but they're just a minor irritation compared to how much of a total pain in the ass this reimagined t-rex boss fight has become in Tomb Raider: Anniversary. As far as I can tell it's a variation on the old 'hit him as he's charging at you, then dodge and let him run headfirst into a wall' boss featured in every other game ever, but with a twist! The twist is that I can't get him to do it.

Shooting him builds up the rage meter and when he's maximum angry he charges at me, which activates the poorly explained Adrenaline Dodge feature. This allows me get out of the way at the nick of time, and achieves basically nothing else. Assuming it works at all, which it often doesn't. This must be the sixth time I've tried this now and every time I get just that little bit more frustrated, and every time it gets just that little bit less fun. That was actually a cunning lie: it was never fun.

Okay fuck it, I decided to look up what to do here, and it really wasn't hard to find other folks on the internet as frustrated about the fight as I am. Turns out that the problem is either a bad tutorial or a rubbish game mechanic depending on how you look at it, so here's a guide to how to use Adrenaline Dodge to kill the Tomb Raider: Anniversary t-rex (for the benefit of anyone struggling with this themselves in the future):
  1. Keep tapping that pistol trigger until you get his rage bar maxed out. If your finger is aching then you're doing it right.
  2. HOLD THE WEAPON LOCK BUTTON, don't let go even though you're not shooting anymore.
  3. When the arrows appear on screen, hold either left or right and then hit the roll button.
  4. Wait until the targeting cursor has locked on and you hear the sound, and then shoot that mean old dino in the head.
  5. Laugh at him as he runs into a convenient spiked wall around the outside of the arena.
  6. Repeat two more times, or until your trigger finger seizes up.


Don't fall, don't you dare fall! I don't much want another free trip back down the waterfall again, thanks. It was a cruel level designer who decided to give this stream a strong current.

I ducked into a cave to avoid the t-rex earlier and managed to stumble across a cog lying in there, then two more hidden out of the way, so it seems I'm meant to be exploring every inch of this cave network, searching the floor for cog-like things. People who hate objective markers, rejoice.

Oh hang on, there's three empty pegs on the wall in here, so I think I've already got enough cogs! Well that wasn't as awkward as it could've been.

Activating the gears opened up a path behind the waterfall so now I'm free to continue to level four. Oh, and if you're wondering how Tomb Raider: Anniversary handles this puzzle...

Tomb Raider: Anniversary (PC)
... it's a little bit more involved than the original.

Well I would continue on to level four, but I've spent a few hours on this now and I've killed a t-rex, so I doubt it's going to be topping that any time soon.


Well I was right... Tomb Raider's 'tank' style controls are pretty dated, and it's amazing that Core Design apparently made five sequels without fixing them, before the series was finally ripped out of their hands and passed onto Crystal Dynamics instead.

But what about Tomb Raider 1, did I end up liking it? Well I didn't much enjoy the combat, the camera's awkward at times, I hated the tedious block pushing, jumping across gaps took far too much messing around, and the t-rex boss was a rubbish bullet-sponge that took forever to go down. But I did actually kinda like the game despite all of that, and I'm not exactly sure why. I think I just enjoyed exploring ancient ruins in the quiet, getting doors opened and finding secret first aid kits. The game's got a nice atmosphere to it and I found I wanted to see where it was going. Maybe it even develops some kind of storyline at some point!

On the other hand, I found myself enjoying Tomb Raider: Anniversary a lot more, with its modern controls and more interesting obstacle courses. I wouldn't say it's a replacement for the first game, it's too different for that; but when it wasn't locking me in a room with a t-rex it felt like a proper evolution of the concept. The concept of breaking into a undisturbed piece of history and covering it with bullet holes and the blood of endangered creatures that is.

At least I can honestly say that this is easily the best Core Design Tomb Raider game I've featured on the site so far, though its position may be threatened if I ever play a second one.

Drop a comment below if you want to share your thoughts and feelings about Tomb Raider, my writing, the website housing said writing, or anything else halfway relevant. All comments will be read and evaluated by humans.


  1. It's hard to say what the greatest innovation from the last decade of video games has been, but the 'Play without QTEs' option in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has to be in the top five.

    Yeah, I don't get that. Everyone hates them, every reviewer complains about them, everyone agrees that Dragon's Lair was a bit rubbish aside from the visuals, and yet, AND YET, we can't have a game without the blooming things.

    1. I *think* that from a developer's standpoint is a mechanic to show a sequence without it being just an FMV, and to take the player to a specific conclusion, at a specific point, while retaining some interactivity. That being said, i do think that in a lot of cases they end up too long and in others not even needed.

  2. QTE's are fine when used properly, like in Heavy Rain. When integrated into the base game play they are fine, Heavy Rain makes great use of them to give the player an idea of how stressful the situation at hand is. But in general, especially when they come out of no where, QTE's need to go away.

  3. I love this blog, doing an archive binge right now, but why are some of the post split into 2 parts? Just wondering.

    1. I wish I could say it was to double the clicks and double my ad revenue, but I never did get around to putting those adverts up.

      The feedback I've been getting indicates that people's interest starts to fail after a certain number of screenshots, so I try to cut the articles off before that happens. Sometimes it's a real struggle for me to get the shots down to a reasonable number though, so when that happens I split the article down the middle and hope that helps. I think it gives people an idea of the length of it up front so it doesn't seem to drag on forever.

      Also in some cases I feel like I've used too many GIFs to load in one go, so I split them across two pages instead. And that is the boring answer to why there's so many 2 parters lately.


Semi-Random Game Box