Retro Corner: Tomb Raider

The first videogame to star everyone’s favourite hot pants wearing archaeologist, Lara Croft, was released in 1996 and ever since Square Enix has been cashing in on the franchise as well as trying to recreate its magic.

The game follows English heiress Lara Croft around the world as she uncovers various important mystical artefacts relating to the lost city of Atlantis, having to traverse a multitude of traps, climb, leap and swim to hard to reach locations and shoot anything that gets in her way, including dinosaurs.

Ok, so it’s even less of an accurate depiction of archaeological expeditions than Indiana Jones but hey, who wants a game where you sit and dig methodically for several hours before getting unreasonably excited over a small chip of pottery you uncover?

Despite many sequels, reimaginings and even a planned reboot for later this year, Tomb Raider remains the most critically acclaimed game in the series.  It was widely praised for its revolutionary, state-of-the-art graphics, inventive gameplay, and involving storyline, and these features combined with an amazingly atmospheric soundtrack and cinematic approach to gameplay created a level of sophistication that was at the time unprecedented.

As a result, the game sold 8 million copies worldwide, topped the British charts a record three times, and contributed much to the success of the PlayStation.

More revolutionary still was the character of Lara herself.

Yes, her clothing may have been just a little too skimpy to be considered practical for jungle exploration and her chest a little too unfeasibly large, but this was still one of the very first times a videogame had not been told from a purely male perspective, having instead a hard-edged, dual pistol wielding female heroine taking on the bad guys. Put simply, there’s a reason she almost instantly became, and still remains, one of the major video game icons of all time.

Besides, how many other fictional characters can you think of who have been the face of Lucozade?

The puzzles and enemies are challenging, and the smoothness of the controls holds up impressively.

Despite the graphics obviously looking far less than perfect compared to the standard we’re accustomed to today, the level design remains inventive, ranging from tight caverns to expansive temples, with a wonderful level of detail.

It handles the platformer elements very well, with gamers having to judge the gap just right when leaping for a ledge, the puzzles (often involving switches and moving ledges) are well thought out, stimulating and only occasionally frustrating, and the variety of weapons helps make it a more than serviceable action/adventure too.

Though it may not have been perfect, there’s no denying just how influential Tomb Raider was, not only through creating a new model of badass female heroine but also by providing a very solid template that many action/adventure games have tried to emulate since.

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