3/2 Egotistical Broad.

Tomb Raider

It's been about ten years by now, and between Angel of Darkness and the second movie, nobody cares about Tomb Raider anymore. Huzzah!

Now, I'm going to spare you the extended overanalysis of whether or not "The Lara" is empowering to women or just a slightly more adventurous Barbie doll. That's already been done by people who sound smarter and even refer to the screenshots used in their articles as 'Figure A.' I'm just going to make occasional nods to the notion as I complain at length about the game itself.

The adventure begins with our heroine outliving her trained guide on the trip to the ruins. That wouldn't be so unusual for an adventure story in itself- but Lara arrived at the gates, in the middle of an icy hellstorm wearing SHORT SHORTS, A SLEEVELESS T-SHIRT, AND A BLANKET. That must be one hell of a blanket. The plot-like nudge to action is that the transparently diabolical Natla with her self named business empire (hereafter Nambla and NAMBLA* respectively) wants Lara to recover the magical Scion from the ruins. After an uninteresting cash offer is made, the deal is made by Nambla's drooling redneck lackey drawling at length about the icy hell she's going to get to run around in. C'mon, I can buy that she's a thrill seeker, but any time an Evil Corporation is involved, you know nothing good can come of it. So, we begin by wandering around an ice cave for a while.

It becomes clear early on that Lara isn't exactly the lithe and resilient character she's made out to be as she jumps facefirst into ledges she's supposed to grab. The first set of caves is pretty much just an orientation exercise, to get you used to watching her smack into walls, get attacked by animals, and of course, introduce her nemesis- the camera. TR was seemingly made with the idea in mind that making the walls go transparent so you can always see behind your character to say, line up a jump was just silly and would take away from the Lara experience. What's even worse is that, empowered woman that she is- utterly loathes being told to jump. There's some rhythm you have to tap into somehow to make her jump when you say so. Making a running leap on narrow ledges is a literal leap of faith that basically is you holding 'forward' and 'jump' and hoping she'll leap into the air and not jog into the void and fall to her neck snapping death. And letting go of your tenacious hold on the button before landing so she doesn't instantly leap again. To neck snapping... death.

The next level is chock full of swimming action, which in spite of the sudden amount of exotic plants still doesn't strike me as being too pleasant for a ruin in the middle of the Tibetan Alps or whatever. Maybe that blue air meter is measuring her frostbite resistance instead. The infinite ammo in those trusty semi-automatic sidearms is sadly wasted on such a low occupancy level.

But it's made up for in the third area, and if I were in charge of naming Tomb Raider levels, I'd call it "HOLY CRAP, DINOSAURS." Though I guess the working title of "Lost Valley" gives it away on its own. Yes, diving into more frozen caverns, we find another subterranean temperate zone, populated by Velociraptors and a TYRANNOSAURUS REX. Must say, didn't see that coming. I'm pleased to say that if you can make it unharmed to the safe niches in the walls, the T-Rex can be safely whittled down by even your basic guns with enough patience. And trust me, endlessly RAT-A-TAT-ing with a pair of guns is my kind of patience! Aside from that, this level features an infuriating puzzle involving going spelunking for cogs to power a gate that will divert the river so it won't simply slingshot you back into the wolf-ridden sublayers. This entails getting up to the machine to place the cogs, a feat involving a series of jumps across the river itself. In tight spaces the camera dare not venture. Yeah, really easy, timing your leaps with the camera at ground level looking at Lara from the front.

An almost Asian looking palace lies further underground, and I begin to get inklings that something's screwy with the architecture. After a suprise Velociraptor or two, and the first use of the classic Indiana Jones boulder, you can proudly claim the Scion for your very own! And shoot the shit out of the statue on the side of the room before it comes to life or something. Your final obstacle in this mountain death trap is a shootout with Larson, the redneck NAMBLA guy from the opening. Man, they don't take it easy on you with the human enemies. Lara goes from being a trigger happy endangered-species slaughtering hunter to a Matrix-leaping hunted. He's putting rounds into you before you even leave the water.

A couple FMV's take place. The first is blood-soaked Larson telling Lara of Nambla's schemes, the second a cool but seemingly gratuitous scene where Lara infiltrates the NAMBLA complex to rifle through the panty drawer of evil plans, thus arriving at a conclusion as to where the next set of levels should take place.

"St. Francis's Folly" is a shootout in some sort of ancient castle where the builders just seemed to say, "Toss that over there! And be sure it looks mythic!" It's also probably about the longest level, setting a standard for annoyance that will plague you the rest of the game. Pierre, the NAMBLA hitman makes his first... few appearances here, exchanging gunfire until he lives up to his heritage and runs away holding his wound. Ha ha, Frenchy.

The 'central puzzle' in this one is also the one that finally tears it as far as any sort of accuracy to ancient cultures may be concerned. You must gather a series of keys from trap rooms themed after a pantheon of gods. And near gods. Hell, I'll just list them so you see what I'm talking about- Neptune, Atlas, Thor, and Damocles. Three of those at least sort of belong in the same pantheon, even if Atlas isn't a god, and Damocles was as far as I know just a guy. But THOR? Who invited the Nordic? I also have to say his trap room sucks the worst, since it involves a massively destructive electric disco-ball that fries Lara but good whenever she touches the floor in its chamber. In the room of Atlas, you have to outrun another boulder by diving into the floor and jumping back so it flies overhead. Of course sometimes Lara doesn't do the second part so well, and you're left flattened by the thing nicking her head. Your reward for fetching all the keys is to be shot at by Pierre some more and fight a lion in a pit. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention all the rooms are connected via the mother of all jumping puzzles. Escher would probably cream himself if he saw the triangular-chested female hopping around this towering vertical drop.

It still took me less time to finish this stage than the river/dinosaur one.

Next is a battle through a Coliseum. If you were waiting to indulge your kill happiness, this is the place. This is also about the time that the budding hatred of gorillas that began last level cements itself. Lions, wolves and even Pierre seem trapped by their surroundings. Not so for the mighty gorilla. Those things leap and scale walls like Spider-Man, and even have the power to clip into solid objects to spring, ninja like on you. They're just plain vicious. They corner you and utterly beat the crap out of you, and the real clincher is that the way they flail and walk upright almost constantly, I almost suspect they're NAMBLA goons in gorilla costumes. The coup de gras of the whole level came when I spent twenty minutes on jumping to the balcony of the coliseum, only to find that 1) an ape was already waiting there to kick my ass cross-eyed and 2) This wasn't the end of the level, just a place for the next switch. A gorilla just solved the puzzle faster than Lara, dammit. That's a kick in the prides.

The Palace Midas comes next, and that's about where I gave up. Being turned to gold by simply hopping on a statue's hand was really the last straw as far as inventive deaths went. Oh yeah, there's also an all out RIOT of gorillas around the temple a switch lies in. This level's gimmick is playing 'switchboard' so you can get at all of the lead bars you need to turn to gold to put in the little slots to open the door that probably leads to a big room with Pierre and a half dozen gorillas wearing berets.

I guess one might say the best thing about Tomb Raider, and the aspect that needed to be developed more than adding new outfits and moves, is that it is kind of fun for all it's stupid problems. It's sort of a morbid Prince of Persia how-many-ways-can-I-get-killed experience, and it's satisfying in a "Ha ha, eat this you stupid bitch!" kind of way to clear a level or find the hidden ancient Aztec ammo cache.

Too bad the whole franchise turned into an egotistical campaign pushing the look, the 'attitude', and uh, 'appeal' of the Lara. Personally all I can think of is that if you took away the grrl power angle and put her in a 1950's jungle film, she'd be the snotty self-aware Brit master safari man. And those guys NEVER survive the film.

This review is dedicated to Stanley and his little cool propeller pack. Rest in peace, little guy.



*(In case the joke escapes you, NAMBLA is the North American Man-Boy Love Association. A club for old guys who like little boys.)


Tomb Raider: The Ride- Based on the hit movie! I actually rode this at Paramount's Kings Island. You know you're in for it as soon as you reach the waiting room after about twenty minutes in line. The waiting room loops preview footage from the movies, along with of course- the ever present narration of Lara herself. The ride itself is a little like a sideways Viking boat or something. The seats jerk up and down and spin upside down while the lights indicate what part of the background you're supposed to look at. (OH NO! EVIL TIKI STATUE! NOW WE'RE DANGLING OVER WATER WITH RED LIGHTS IN IT, I MEAN HOT LAVA!!) Of course, beginning, middle and end, LARA reminds us how close we are to being killed, ending by reaffirming "I'm Lara Croft. Welcome to my world." I get the feeling that the ulterior motive of the ride is to collect all the cash and valuables that fall off people during the 30 second upside-down part. It's like Eidos literally flipping you upside down and shaking you by the ankles to see what falls out.

The best part sadly is the cool replica jeep at the entrance. That jeep could kick some ass.