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In 1996 the gaming world was introduced to archaeologist Lara Croft, a heroine who is to this day an icon of raiding tombs with death defying acrobatics. The series has continued on for over two decades, splintering off into spin-off side games, reboots and even movies (and an upcoming movie reboot). But it’s important to see where things came from, so this month we’ll be delving into Lara’s original 1996 adventure.
Developer Core Design created Lara Croft as we know her today. Though early stages of the game used a totally different character, as development went on Core Design finally decided on a “female Indiana Jones” concept. The game that they envisioned would be a completely 3D action adventure which would focus heavily on puzzle solving and platforming rather than solely on combat. This obviously sat well with fans as the game was a huge success – both critically and commercially.
Along with Super Mario 64, Tomb Raider went a great way to legitimizing the potential of 3D platforming. Both games were huge hits, though Tomb Raider released nearly six months after Mario 64 helped Sony in particular in showing off its hardware as a truly worthy rival to gamers who had grown up with Nintendo hardware.
Tomb Raider is presented in a third person 3D environment. The goal of each stage is to guide Lara through each tomb in an effort to finding various treasures and artefacts, discovering the exit or occasionally confronting a boss. Though she will confront enemies in the shape of bats and other creatures that she will utilize gunplay on, the game itself is much more interesting in puzzle solving. Things like moving blocks, avoiding traps and maybe most importantly – perfecting some rather precise platforming.
Historically speaking, Tomb Raider’s reliance on platforming is equally interesting and frustrating given that it was released before analog sticks were the norm on PlayStation. As such, it may seem odd to control a 3D character using a digital d-pad.
If you’ve been living in a tomb for the past twenty years then you’d be forgiven in not realizing the huge legacy that Tomb Raider has had.
There have been five proper sequels developed by Core Design:
- Tomb Raider II (1997 – PlayStation, Windows, Mac)
- Tomb Raider III (1998 – PlayStation, Windows, Mac)
- Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999 – PlayStation, Dreamcast, Windows, Mac)
- Tomb Raider: Chronicles (2000 – PlayStation, Dreamcast, Windows, Mac)
- Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Death (2003 – PlayStation 2, Windows, Mac)
Then a new developer, Crystal Dynamics took over and developed two more sequels:
- Tomb Raider: Legend (2006 – PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube, Windows, Mac)
- Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008 – PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Windows, Mac)
Crystal Dynamics then went on to reboot the series totally with 2013’s prequel Tomb Raider (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One) and 2015’s Rise Of The Tomb Raider (PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One).
There have also been countless other spin-off games such as the 2D games by Core Design: Tomb Raider (2000 – GBC), Tomb Raider: Curse Of The Sword (2001 – GBC) and Tomb Raider: The Prophecy (2002 – GBA) and Crystal Dynamics’ co-op twin-stick shooter puzzle-thingies: Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light (2010 – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, Mac) and Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris (2014 – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac).
- Sega Saturn (1996) – Though Tomb Raider is mostly synonymous with PlayStation it’s interesting to remember that the game first launched on the Saturn (a week earlier in North America).
- PlayStation (1996) – This is most likely the version that you’re familiar with, and is still easy to obtain digitally via PlayStation Network.
- DOS (1996) – Yes, there was a DOS version and it was also re-released digitally on Windows in 2012. This version is easy to find through GOG and Steam.
- N-Gage (2003) – For some reason Tomb Raider was ported to this thing seven years after its original release. I don’t know.
- iOS/Android (2013/2015) – Mobile gamers may wish to look into this port for some on the go gaming.
As you dig into your adventures, take some time to drop into our forums and let us know what you feel about the game.