Tomb Raider (PlayStation) Review

By Athanasios 25.10.2016 3

Review for Tomb Raider on PlayStation

Tomb Raider is now a franchise, and, like one, it has had its ups and downs, its gems and worthless pebbles, its reboots and remasters, and, of course, its movies, comics, and miscellaneous merchandise. How did it all start, though? To find out, join Cubed3, as we trace back to that moment when female - and slightly sexier - Indiana Jones started her journey, 20 years back.

Lara Croft's physique, and especially her then-enormous pyramid tatas (Illuminati confirmed!), have steered quite the debate… which is a great example of the power of bewbs, because, while it's no wonder that many focused on them, the real star here was actually the engrossing feeling of isolation, the excitement of exploring uncharted territory, and, of course, the challenge of doing so. Sure, the game's cover was an invitation to hormone-frenzied teens, but, at heart, Tomb Raider was nothing more than a fascinating archaeology-thriller.

If you think about it, however, the original Lady Croft was quite the main lead. Controversial? Yes, for… some reason, but she was a perfect specimen of good ol' old-old-school greatness; striking and iconic instead of mundane and "realistic," and deprived of any expository backstory - not to mention that most girl gamers loved her back then (all ten of them). As for the plot, which was basically a hunt for a bunch of ancient artefacts, it was as simple as Metroid's "kill Mother Brain," or The Legend of Zelda's "save the princess" - and it worked like a dream.

Screenshot for Tomb Raider on PlayStation

Other than that, this is simply a 1989 Prince of Persia in full 3D. In other words, every single step must be carefully planned and executed, and the intentionally stiff controls need some getting used to. Are they awful? No, it's just that patience is the name of the game here… After all, this was never supposed to be a typical run-and-jump platformer. The player just needs to understand that the world is just a big grid, and then get a feel of how to use that in order to avoid injury or death.

While this is supposed to be extremely difficult, that's only half the truth. First of all, it's all about exploration, about examining the world, and deciding where and when to do what. After "taking notes," Lara just needs to carefully jump over "here," pull a lever that opens a path "there," push a block in order to reach a key "up there," and kill a bunch of wild animals while repeating the whole thing for 15 levels. Is being a daredevil that shoots wolves in her spare time all there is to do here? No, because this is an adventure; and adventure means puzzles.

Screenshot for Tomb Raider on PlayStation

Now, the puzzles at hand aren't anything to brag about. They are good, yes, but even the most cryptic ones just need a little bit of thinking out of the box to solve… and this is where the real problems start. Most puzzles, as well as some very challenging jumps, will require a bit of experimentation… but experimentation in a title that demands being extremely cautious not to make a wrong step and die is not exactly a good idea - which leads to the reason behind Tomb Raider's high difficulty: the save system.

Instead of being able to save anywhere like in the sequel (or the PC version), progress can only be recorded on certain crystals that behave as checkpoints. The problem is that these aren't exactly abundant, and this mechanic creates a constant anxiety of having to choose between saving the moment such a crystal is found and "searching around for a few more minutes" before doing so, and risking losing a lot of progress.

Screenshot for Tomb Raider on PlayStation

In conclusion, this isn't quite the masterpiece that many thought it was… but it's still enjoyable, and, despite its many flaws, hasn't aged that bad, which is because of the things that always mattered the most in the franchise: boobi… err, level design! Stages here have the perfect balance of open regions, claustrophobic, trap-filled corridors, as well as a much better learning curve, unlike, for example, Tomb Raider III, which demands veteran-level skill from the very first chapter. Is everything perfect? No. Level length is somewhat inconsistent, with some overstaying their welcome, but, as a whole, this is a pleasant ride.

Now, whether it's Silent Hill, Resident Evil, or Uncharted, gameplay in action-adventures is only half of the equation, with immersion being the other half. Tomb Raider does a fine job at that, looking beautiful in all its pixelated glory while at it, with a variety of levels ranging from caves, dungeons, and temples, to even more bizarre locales, and while the music rarely makes an appearance, it's great and manages to enhance the atmosphere. Generally, while this title is not a flawless gem, it's one that deserves a couple of looks, nonetheless. Oh, and since Cubed3 is all about serious gaming journalism… BOOBS!

Screenshot for Tomb Raider on PlayStation

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Fans still love Tomb Raider, even though the sequels have made a great deal of improvements. Why? Because, while very flawed, this seems to have a better understanding of what the series was always all about, as opposed to later titles: exploration, atmosphere, tomb raiding, and a better balance between those three. Plus, it has the special charm that's hard to verbally explain. Imagine Pac-Man 2050 Anniversary: VR Edition - it would surely be fantastic, but it just wouldn't be like the original.


Core Design







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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I find those old Tomb Raider unplayable, even back in the day during the PS1 era. They had atrocious controls compared to many N64 games I had played.

Marzy said:
I find those old Tomb Raider unplayable, even back in the day during the PS1 era. They had atrocious controls compared to many N64 games I had played.

When it comes to the controls I've never really had a big problem with the first two TR games as opposed to most people.
The camera though... yeesh! It got worse with every single game.

Can't a fella drink in peace?

I'd love to go back and play through the games properly, but the controls are what might put me off today. The fine-tuned step-based platforming was part and parcel of the gameplay, which sort of made for a puzzle element in itself in requiring players to work out the exact spacing, position and timing needed to make certain jumps and clear obstacles and whatnot.

But again, it may not be something I have the patience for today, unfortunately... which is a shame, because I didn't get the chance to hammer the original series properly, despite owning this one. In fact, the only ones I don't own are TR3 and 5.

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