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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Friday, 23 November 2012


It’s time for Tomb Raider III, and you know you’re in for an fun ride when this is the main game screen.  Lara Croft nonchalantly waving a pistol about, things burning in the background, a meteor plummeting to earth while the planet Mars (?) looks on; it makes the first two Tomb Raiders look like Sunday tea with Winston.

Of course, the screen makes more sense in context, which is why we get to watch this scene-setting FMV before arriving at the main menu:

Somewhere in space, a meteor / potato is seen spinning purposefully along its course towards Earth, burning up in the atmosphere as it draws near.  Finally, it hits; prehistoric wildlife scatters and indifferent crocodiles watch on as the immediate area is engulfed in a storm of fire.

The scenes of devastation slowly fade and we see the location as it looks today.  It was Antarctica all along!  Looks like its cooled down a bit, then (ha! ha!).

The viewer is introduced to Willard, seen here pretending to be an aeroplane (it’s been done, Willard).  Willard is the reluctant leader of a team of apparent imbeciles pitched up somewhere in the middle of this snowy desert.  He spends approximately 95% of his screen time whining and/or looking irritated.  He’s like a Scottish Alister Fletcher.

Willard is dragged off to go and look at some big stone heads, similar in appearance to the Moai of Easter Island (and that’s my obligatory fact learnt from this Tomb Raider game).  One of the bumbling fools nearly blows them up; luckily, he fails.  Where did Willard get his staff from?  Do Larson and Pierre run a recruitment agency now?

While failing to destroy the stone heads, the explosion does unearth this crude grave marker for some poor sod called Paul Caulfield.  The discovery seems to cheer Willard up, anyway.
The FMV ends and we’re dropped into the afore mentioned main screen.  To quote Lara (again), now it’s time for our third adventure…

First stop is the Indian Jungle, introduced here in this pleasant loading screen featuring some of the things you can hope to encounter (quagmires, temples, excessively noble-looking monkeys…).  I’m glad they finally started including these screens in the PC version as well as the console one, it’s much more interesting than looking at a blank screen.

Our customary start of the level screen.  It’s not the best camera angle to start off at…

Ah, much better.  Lara enjoys an elevated view of the sprawling jungle beyond her.  Nowhere to go but forward and down.

She can just slide down the slope to the bottom (taking care to jump over the odd spike pit), or she can do a little exploration on the way.  This monkey sits atop a fallen tree that’s wedged between the walls of the narrow canyon.

Monkeys don’t attack Lara if she leaves them alone, but one bullet in their direction and they’re on her like a…well, this one looks like a small child pestering its mother for sweets, but you get the idea.

At the bottom of the slope, we find this monkey scampering around.  As soon as it sees Lara it grabs a nearby medipack and runs off with it.  I know you’re not supposed to shoot the monkeys, but they sure are pushing their luck…

Okay, Lara: a) you’re the wrong way round, and b) that’s not a horse.

See those stone stairs in the distance?  That’s the end of the level.  So why not just stroll over there…

No, the jungle has other ideas, i.e. almost instant death in this treacherous bog disguised as solid ground.  I can empathise with Lara, having once stepped in a puddle disguised as a rock, although that ended in embarrassment and a wet foot rather than, you know, drowning.  Still, same ballpark.

When I was ten I used to spend a lot of time (possibly hours) jumping through the canopy of leaves that separates most of the level from the sky above.  Here’s a screenshot of that place.  Not quite as exciting as I remember, but hey, I was an easily impressed child.

The only proper enemy on this level is the tiger, which is evidently still gunning for an extinction.

Have I mentioned how pretty this level is?  It’s not something I remember the level for, so it was a pleasant surprise.  I almost made this my desktop picture until I found something superior (see below).


I momentarily forgot what game I was in and decided it would be a good idea to swan dive into a dark hole in the ground.  You can guess what spikey, health-draining thing happened next.

I apologise to those offended by the sight of dead tiger-shaped polygons, but look at that awesome blood-in-the-water effect.  Seriously, this game was made 14 years ago and I’m still impressed.

And look at this ladder!  It’s a real one, not just painted onto a wall!

Atop the ladder lurks a monkey with a key in its mouth.  It’s getting harder and harder not to kill these cheeky little bastards.

Let’s take our frustrations out on one last tiger.

.  Even more so than that snow leopard in Alaska

The fight to the death between woman and beast somehow turns into an agility contest, with both contestants demonstrating their jump and grab technique.

Lara remembers what she came here for and kills the would-be tiger Tomb Raider.  Then she wanders off into a swamp, because apparently that’s not a bad idea anymore.

Fade to black and…a cut-scene?  First an FMV, now this.  No wonder it’s taken me so long to write this post.

As Lara heads deeper into the jungle, she comes across a campsite.  It’s silent except for the sound of Willard, angrily calling for someone called Tony, a call which is barely audible through a crackling radio.

With a final burst of static, the radio dies, prompting a delighted “whoo-hoo!” from within one of the tents.  Lara addresses the sound with a slightly apprehensive “Hello?” and is rewarded with the emergence of Tony, a man who looks like he should be walking around with a surfboard under his arm.

There’s a brief exchange, in which we learn that Tony has jungle madness, Lara is looking for something called the Infada artefact (which resides in a nearby temple) and that a hapless duo called Randy and Rory were also camping here before they wandered off and got killed by a mudslide.  (The whole team is probably another courtesy of Larson and Pierre Recruitment and Training Incorporated; hire a pair of catchily-named goons and get an mentally-unstable surfer for free!)  We also learn that Lara gets really annoyed if you call something Voodoo and it isn’t.

The latter picture is my desktop background, by the way, because what better motivation is there than Lara Croft crossing her arms and looking disapprovingly at you?  Update your blog more regularly, she seems to be saying.  Start ordering Christmas presents.  Do something with your degree.  Isn’t that your third whiskey, and don’t you have work tomorrow?  Hey, Lara, at least I’m not personally responsible for the decline of the Bengal tiger.  Judgemental cow.

Uh, moving on…

Tony announces he’s leaving and tells Lara she’ll die if she doesn’t do the same.  Lara stands in this uncomfortable-looking position as Tony runs off and jumps down a nearby ledge.

I would have got cramp by now.

Lara snaps out of her awkward pose and goes back to disapproving, watching the space where Tony disappeared a few more seconds before turning and heading in a different direction.

Six secrets?  Six?!  Looks like we’re going to be downloading another save game for the bonus level…

And so ends a good-looking, enjoyable and fairly tame first level.  But Lara shouldn’t get too complacent; tigers and monkeys aren’t the only creatures lurking in the jungle…

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Lara’s Home (Part III)

(Part IPart II)

We’re at the start of a new game, and that can only mean one thing; it’s time for another visit to Lara’s stately abode in Surrey to learn some new manoeuvres and bother the butler. 

It would appear that Lara’s cashed in all that spare gold she had lying about – evidently she watches a lot of daytime television between exploits – and has been busy spending the extra money on new treats such as an indoor gym, a modern kitchen and realistic fire.  The mansion also houses a few secret areas, for those with a keen eye and fast reactions.

Unfortunately, this is the last time we get to explore Lara’s Surrey home.  Still, as last visits go, it’s a damn good one.


The snapshot for Lara’s Home in the main menu, and this time it’s Lara that’s wandering into shot as Winston tries to take some regal-looking photographs of himself in front of the manor (possibly for some kind of spin-off game, something like Tea Maker III: The “Adventures” of Winston Smith).


We join Lara in the bedroom, where, disappointingly for Nude Raider fans, she’s already dressed.


Lara’s made a few changes to the furnishings since the last game.  She’s downsized her bed to one that was made to hold a human (as opposed to some of the larger species of sea life)…


…she’s tarted up the artwork and added a bust (of…?  Does anybody have any idea?  Searching ‘bust in tomb raider 3’ yields unsatisfactory results)…


…and she’s finally got rid of the….oh.  The leopard print fainting couch is still there.  Oh, well, I’m sure she’ll get round to chucking it out eventually.


Another outdated fixture is the afore-mentioned butler Winston, tea-tray still welded to hand, who follows Lara wherever she goes because apparently there’s nothing better for him to do, like dust or clean or retire.


Lara’s finally popular enough to splash out on a dining table, although I struggle to think of any friends she’s made since 1996.  Maybe Brother Chen Barkhang, but he’s dead (spoiler alert).


The dining room has a corner set aside for music and relaxation and…is that another leopard print couch?!


Never mind, I’m sure it was just an oversight.  Here, enjoy this shot of the beautifully-decorated main hall.  Even the carpet looks good!


The gym is re-introduced from the first game, updated to include the standard playground equipment; climbing frame, monkey bars, crash mat, etc..


The swimming pool room looks particular awesome in this incarnation, the glass domed roof offering a spectacular view of the early evening sky.



Lara’s filled a few of the alcoves with cat statues taken from Khamoon, hopefully after checking they weren’t the ones that change into real big cats (or worse)…


Let’s go play outside.  Here we have the front gardens.


Within the front gardens is this statue of a proud and graceful horse, a welcome change from last year’s giant fish, an unfortunate creature that looked as though it had flopped down to earth head-first and was waiting for somebody to come and clean it up.


Lara’s outdoor assault course is mostly the same as last time, with a couple of parts changed to show off her new abilities.  Here’s the new monkey swing skill, which is pretty cool, but nowhere near as awesome as…


…the duck and crawl!  FINALLY! It’s taken thirty years but, at last, Lara has learned how to stay crouched down for more than two seconds.


To round out the new skillset is the sprint, dive and roll, which is a great idea, but something I personally never seem to use.  Mind you, I’ve also never completed Tomb Raider III, so the two could be linked


At some point during the assault course, Winston manages to quickly change (if you can believe such a adverb could be applied to that slow-motion wrinkle) into khakis and a tin hat and wanders around the course, allowing Lara to use him for target practice.  Lara doesn’t need any convincing.


Armed with only a tea-tray, Winston is soon overcome with the volley of bullets and falls to the ground (miraculously not evaporating into a cloud of dust upon contact).  However, he quickly picks himself up and wipes himself clean, all ready for another go.  What with this and that suspicious bathroom imprisonment in Nightmare in Vegas, I’m beginning to suspect he’s a masochist.  Fifty Shades of Grey indeed… 


Leaving the butler alone to his BDSM fantasies, we head back indoors and find our way into the secret trophy room, a room where Lara displays various artefacts from her adventures.  Above the fireplace is the mounted head of a T-Rex, because if you’ve had to kill one of the rarest animals on the planet then you may as well put its corpse to good use.


There’s also some more conventional treasures, such as the Dagger of Xian (Tomb Raider II)…


…the Scion (Tomb Raider)…


…Generic Golden Artefact (Take Your Pick)…


….and the twirly tortoise shell thing, also known as the Iris.  But where did Lara pick up this Iris from? I hear you cry; well, you’ll just have to wait and see!

Bonus when-I-was-a-girl anecdote: I used to think this was Winston’s spare helmet, that Lara had stolen and displayed for reasons best know to herself.

Another secret room is the underground aquarium, a delightful and relaxing space where one can read a book, watch the shoals of pretty fish or simply lie dozing on your…oh, Lara.


Of course, if watching fish becomes too boring, you could always just jump in the tank and join them as they swim around.


Enough of the dull relaxation activities already, it’s time to do something really fun.  Lara’s cut down the boring old hedge and built herself a quad bike track.


Wheeeeeeeeee!  Even if Lara doesn’t say it, you could tell she’s thinking it (and I was squealing it loud enough for both of us).


After a few hours of trying and failing to get the quad bike out of the race track so we can run over the butler (don’t worry, he would probably loved it), it’s time to leave the mansion and begin our third adventure. India, ahoy!