Perusing Pixels is a photo diary of my expedition through the Tomb Raider series. Use the links to the right to find a particular game or level, or see below for the latest post.

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Saturday, 26 March 2011


Do you know, I think I’ve found the reason (besides alcohol) to why I abandoned this blog for over a year, and it’s this level.  Although pretty, it’s just not that exciting to play and even less exciting to write about.  So let’s just get it over with and move on.

The start of the level, another corridor.  One day, when I really need something to procrastinate with,  I may do a statistical analysis of how many Tomb Raider levels start in corridors.

This is more like it.  The front of the Colosseum is truly a wonder of 1996 pixel architecture.  From here, you can’t even tell that most of the pillars are painted on.  And hey, we know where this particular set of levels is based now (hint: Rome).

Typically, it’s locked.  And seeing as the last person in here has probably been dead for about three thousand years, we’re probably not going to be able to go and nick the key off them.

Whilst find another entrance to the place, I stumbled by this crocodile pit that you can shimmy over without risk of being chomped.  I spent several minutes watching these adorable little creatures snuffle around and make funny grunting noises until I noticed there was a medi-pack down there with them, so I shot them both in the head and snatched it up.

Oh, good news; Pierre (the magical Frenchman) is back and is skirting the perimeter of the Colosseum pit, taking pot-shots and disappearing into thin air.  One time, he had a lion with him.  Bastard.

And here we have the absolute worst place to sit in the Colosseum.

You can keep your fancy modern animation with its la-di-da body part recognition and realistic physics, Tomb Raider has lions with the ability to get their heads stuck in railings.  This one spent a large amount of time running on the spot and gnashing at me if I got too close.  I put him out of his misery.

Did I mention that part of the Colosseum floor (where they have to fights and things) gives way to a spike pit?  I mean, come on.  Like trying to fight lions and apes isn’t enough.  That’s just dangerous.

Remember the worst seat in the Colosseum?  We have a challenger.

Well, that was a thoroughly entertaining level.  Lara joyfully heads towards the exit.

Except, it’s not.  The large double doors, which have become a by-word for “end of the level” in this game conceal nothing but a dead-end and a medi-pack.  You win this round, Core Design.

Lara attempts to use her hand as a key.  It works.

Doesn’t this look a hell of a lot like the last level?  Maybe it’s supposed to.

Lara getting pulled into a small dark tunnel by the current finally marks the end of the level.  Thank God.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

St Francis’ Folly

Being tipsy is not the optimum state for playing a video game, especially if you are also trying to appreciate the art and design of said video game while you are playing it.  Being tipsy also means that, when you come to write an online review analysing your experiences in the video game, you will find yourself staring at a load of pixelated pictures and wondering how exactly they correspond to what you played the night before.  And then you will become disillusioned, and abandon your blog for the best part of several months.

You will also cry over deceased pixelated crocodiles, but that’s neither here nor there.

St. Francis’ Folly frequently appears on Tomb Raider Forums members’ lists of favourite levels, or at least, it used to when I hung around there (which was in 2006 when I was going through my “Legend sucks but Alister Fletcher is hot” phase (actually, that wasn’t a phase, I still think that)).  It’s not hard to see why St Francis’ Folly is popular; there’s something there to appeal to everyone.  Puzzles, climbing on things, timed doors, bats…(haha, just kidding, nobody likes bats).

So, Lara has fled Peru and gone to Greece (or is it Rome?) to search for the next piece of the Scion.  Arriving at another tomb-like structure, she is greeted by some lions and a collection of mismatched pillars.

Apparently, gorillas are also native to this area of Europe (I wouldn’t know, I didn’t do Geography), and several of them get very angry when Lara tries to throw some switches.  Gorillas are the bears of Roman-Grecian levels, in that they make a strange noise and move about in a creepy fashion.

Meet Pierre, the magical Frenchman.  He likes to jump out from behind tall objects, shoot at you a bit, and then evaporate into thin air the minute you turn your back.  This makes him a little tricky to kill.

At some point during the first area of the level, I stumbled into this secret room and was very excited because I had never been there before in my entire life.

Another resident of Rome (or Greece) is the hovering crocodile, which has the ability to propel itself three feet above the ground when it dies.

Past the gauntlet of vanishing Europeans and improbable death physics lie the levels main event; the big tall room with lots of ledges.  Up until two minutes ago I had been referring to this room as the “folly”, but have just looked on Wikipedia and discovered that a folly is a decorative building with little reason for existence.  Even fourteen years after it’s creation, this game just keeps on teaching.

Naturally, you can’t have precarious balancing on ledges without a steady supply of bats to come and drill into your head and try to make you fall.

The rest of the level basically revolves around throwing switches, opening doors and collecting keys so you can eventually open this large door, which is locked with four massive swords that are about twice the height of Lara.  I would use a padlock, but whatever.

Four swords = four keys = four rooms.  Here’s Lara standing on the perimeter of Thor’s room.  Before her is a ball that shoots out lightening bolts.  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to this puzzle; I just closed my eyes and took running jump, and didn’t stop pressing ‘forward’ until I heard her crash into a wall.

After the lightening ball comes a giant hammer that you have to avoid getting squished by.  I thought it was pretty unfair to have two obstacles in one room but I guess they were making up for the Poseidon room, where you just have to swim around for a bit.  Wow, that Poseidon, what a ball-breaker.

The Damocles Room provides a fairly unique challenge of trying to avoid falling swords whilst having “The Sword Of Damocles” stuck in your head.

As far as I recall, the Atlas room consists of a boulder chasing you down a long corridor.  I think the level designers were running out of ideas at this point.

The Poseidon room.  Yep, definitely running out of ideas.

And rather abruptly, that’s the end of the level; as you can see, not only does drinking making you forgetful, it gives you an awful level time as well.