July 26, 2009

Tomb Raider: Re\Visioned the Animated Series

After reading my profile, several online acquaintances mentioned how much they also love cartoons and anime. Never one to brush aside such synchronicity, I thought I'd take a quick look back at Re\Visioned: Tomb Raider, one of my favorite places where games and anime intersect.

Lara Re-visioned by
Æon Flux artist
Peter Chung
This animated series premiered on GameTap.com in 2007 just after Anniversary came out. I hadn't watched it since then, but I remembered how much fun these little, 6-minute shorts are. Each segment is done in a different style—from serious to comical, from anime to Cartoon Network—by such talented artists and writers as Peter Chung (right) and Women In Refrigerators creator Gail Simone. Minnie Driver, one of my favorite actors, does the voice of Lara and really gives Keeley Hawes a run for her money.

When I tried to re-watch them this week, I found that the GameTap Tomb Raider micro-site is no longer online. Fortunately the cartoons are alive and well on YouTube.

My favorite episode is #8, Pre-Teen Raider, which shows that Lara clearly had the makings of a great adventurer even at age 12. I also enjoyed #6-7, Angel Spit, a more traditional adventure in which Lara discovers another tomb that should probably have remained buried. I'd be interested to know which ones you like.

July 18, 2009

Lara's Wimbledon

Although Lara Croft's early years are the subject of some controversy, most fans agree that our heroine was born and raised in Wimbledon, London, grew up on her family's estate in nearby Surrey and attended Wimbledon High School.[*]

Guest blogger Sim Comfort, also a Wimbledon resident, has been kind enough to share his Wimbledon photo album, which includes snaps of Lara's old school, the hospital where she was born and places she might have spent time, as well as the head office of Tomb Raider's publisher, Eidos Interactive. He also provides an interesting short history of the area.

Wimbledon Library -
click for larger image

Wimbledon, until recently, was a part of the county of Surrey and has strong links with the sea. Wimbledon is on the Portsmouth Road, which leads to the main port for the Royal Navy. This road also provides easy access to central London, Westminster, Parliament and the Admiralty, which are only seven miles away. Wimbledon remains a wonderful country retreat with easy access to the centre of London.

Parkside Hospital, where Lara was born.

Wimbledon comprises three main areas. The town centre with its commercial headquarters and rail links via Wimbledon Station. Up Wimbledon Hill to Wimbledon Village, which was an old coaching stop for the trip to London or Portsmouth. From Wimbledon Village, one may still ride on horseback to Richmond and Hampton Court.

The Dog & Fox, favourite
amongst Wimbledon HS students.

Henry Dundas, who was the Secretary of War and Wilberforce, the great anti-slavery advocate both lived on Wimbledon Common. Also Sir William Congreve who developed rockets which were tested on Wimbledon Common and became part of American history through a verse in the national anthem, 'Through the rockets red glare, our flag was still there'. William Pitt, the younger, was Prime Minister and after many a long debate in Parliament, would ride his horse to Wimbledon to stay with either Wilberforce or Dundas, and take in the country air.

During the late 18th century, another important resident was Earl Spencer, who was First Lord of the Admiralty. Spencer lived in Wimbledon Park, which he had landscaped by Capability Brown in 1765 and who also created Wimbledon Park Lake. Within the original grounds of Wimbledon Park now reside the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the Wimbledon Park Golf Club, The Wimbledon Club and the public park. For more information please visit www.wphg.demon.co.uk.

Sim Comfort and his wife, Mary, publish quality books on British naval history, particularly the age of Fighting Sail (1793 - 1815). They are also world travellers. You can find information on their books and see photos of their Egyptian adventure on the Sim Comfort Associates web site.

* NOTE: Both versions of Lara Croft's biography list her birthplace as Wimbledon. The original bio has her attending the Wimbledon High School for Girls between the ages of 11 and 16, while the revised version says she roamed the globe with her father and received private tutoring. In any case, it's no stretch of the imagination to assume that Lara would be familiar with the Wimbledon area.

July 12, 2009

Tomb Raider 9: Revamped Origin Story?

The rumor mill is in overdrive today as a story broken by Four Player Co-op reveals possible details of the next Tomb Raider game. 

Let me start off by saying that none of this has been confirmed by official sources, so please don't take any of it as gospel truth. That said, here's what happened: 

Fish, one of the staffers at Four Player Co-op, got an email around 2 a.m. yesterday with rough images of what looked like concept art from a new Tomb Raider game. Apparently the acquaintance who sent the email had taken part in a consumer survey about a future Tomb Raider game. The survey was supposed to be confidential, but he snapped some pics of his computer monitor with a digital camera anyway and sent them to Fish.

Fish posted the pictures on fourplayercoop.com along with a hastily written blurb. Then he sent out a Twitter alert about the piece and went to bed. He didn't even realize he'd landed a major scoop until the next morning when the Four-Player crew noticed they were being credited for breaking the story on major gaming news sites like joystiq.com and kotaku.com. [Edit: This according to Four Player's Bullshot! podcast.]

Eidos's lawyers weren't far behind, though. Four Player Co-op soon received a cease-and-desist letter and opted to take the leaked info down or risk a lawsuit.

I won't risk invoking the wrath of the suits by including the photos here, but a quick Google search for "leaked Tomb Raider photos" should turn them up. As for the potential new content, I'll take a chance and post the proposed backstory and game features.

Again, none of this is official, but it certainly raises some interesting possibilities. Discuss. :D

When a sudden storm destroys her research vessel, a young and inexperienced Lara Croft finds herself stranded on a mysterious and remote island hidden of the shores of Japan. Despite several signs of various inhabitants the island is oddly deserted, and an uneasy feeling settles in as strange sounds emerge from the shadows. With only her determination, inner strength, and resourcefulness to help her, Lara must overcome the challenges of a harsh and unforgiving journey that will take her across a vast island wilderness and deep into the claustrophobic and menacing underground tombs from the island's past. As she struggles to prevail through brutal combat encounters and treacherous exploration, Lara will be pushed to her limits and forced to adapt to her situation in order to survive and escape from the lethal predators that stalk her every move.

  • Hunt or be hunted - Evade outsmart, track and kill the mysterious enemies that hunt you as prey.
  • Survival Action - Brutally attack and defend as you fight to survive through visceral one-on-one melee combat.
  • Strategic Weapons - Gain an advantage in combat by finding an array of different melee and ranged weapons including a variety of guns and the hunter's ultimate weapon, the bow.
  • Creative Survival - React and adapt to the island by using only that which you can salvage from the environment like climbing axes, rope, and machetes that can be used to unlock new traversal and combat gameplay options.
  • Free Movement - Scramble up a vertical cliff wall, sprint and leap across a huge chasm, steer mid-air to land a misdirected jump. There is no one right way to traverse, survive, and explore the harsh environment of the island.
  • One Cohesive World - The diverse multi-region island is an open playground alive with creatures, weather and natural events.
  • Origin Story - This new Tomb Raider concept reboots the franchise by exploring the origins of Lara Croft's transformation into a hardened adventurer as you unravel the story behind the island's mysterious past.

Available for: $59.99 PlayStation 3, Xbox 360.  $39.99 PC.  Expected age rating: ESRB M for Mature.

July 10, 2009

YouTube Channel Update: Underworld Relic Videos

I know it's about 8 months too late, but I have finally gotten around to finishing and uploading the Underworld relic walkthrough videos. Yay! 

Many of you have requested complete video walkthroughs, but that project is just too time consuming for me to undertake. Besides, there are already plenty of good video walks out there. Still, I hope these will be helpful to anyone who's just started the game or who missed any relics the first time through.

I plan to gradually add videos for the gold rewards in Legend, the relics in Anniversary and who knows what after that. It'll probably take me another 8 months to finish Legend again. If only there were 12 extra hours in the day just to play. ;)

July 6, 2009

Does Lara Need (Yet Another) Makeover?

Recently two of my friends were interviewed for an article on whether or not Lara Croft should be recreated yet again for the next Tomb Raider game. ["Does Lara Need a Makeover?" Greenpixels.com] Both Katie Fleming and Ash Kaprielov are among the players who miss the tough, no-nonsense adventurer from the earlier games. Others either aren't familiar with the original character or prefer the more emotional character in the newer games. Still others like the dangerous, hard-edged Lara from the unfinished Angel of Darkness trilogy.

The next Lara Croft may turn out to be none of the above. Eidos has been hinting that they plan to give Lara a "female-friendly makeover" for Tomb Raider 9. [Times Online, 1/10/09] I'm not sure exactly what that means. Maybe it's just marketing jargon for "smaller boobs" or perhaps it means a bigger wardrobe and less combat. (For some reason developers seem to think female gamers only enjoy The Sims and Barbie Fashion Show. Please.)

I find it ironic that in the article cited above Eidos CFO Robert Brent likened Lara's evolution to Batman's. The Times quotes Brent as saying, "Look at how Batman changed successfully, from the rather sad character of the Michael Keaton era to the noir style of The Dark Knight." Maybe Brent is not familiar with the early Batman comics of the '30s and '40s or Frank Miller's 1986 graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns. Rather than reinventing the character, the Dark Knight movie goes back to his roots. So perhaps unintentionally Brent is saying that the original Lara should be resurrected.

Personally, I'm not all that hung up on Lara's appearance or the details of her biography. While I certainly enjoy the classic games and respect the players who are loyal to the original Lara, I also loved the Legend-Underworld storyline. As long as future plots are interesting and Lara remains strong, resourceful, independent and adventurous, I don't mind if she evolves a bit.

The cosmetic aspects—Lara's bra size, wardrobe, hairdo, etc.—are much less important to me than how the games play. I'll write more later about why it's a bad idea to dumb down the level design and gameplay, but this post is about Lara.

So what do you think? Do you prefer "classic" Lara, "new" Lara, something in between or something totally different? What is your ideal heroine like, and what do you want to see in Tomb Raider 9?

1998 pin-up Lara - Click for full-size image. Promotional art
for Tomb Raider 3  ©Core Design/Eidos Interactive

2009 pin-up Lara by Nicobass - Click for full-size image.
Visit Nicobass on DeviantArt

Related Links:

July 4, 2009


Tomb Raider 1
Tomb Raider 1 in
trapezoidal box.
Wow! The initial response to this blog has been great. Thanks to everyone who has stopped in, posted comments and emailed about it.

Many of you had questions about when the next Tomb Raider game is coming out, what it will be about, and so forth, for which (alas!) I have no answers yet. The next most frequent request was for more info about me. That sounds like the most boring possible topic for a blog post. But, since I'm more than happy to talk about the games, how about we compromise? I'll tell how I got into Tomb Raider if you guys will too.

Me & my hubby
I've been playing TR since early 1997. My husband got a copy of the original Tomb Raider computer game from a friend who'd just finished playing it. I wasn't much into video games at that point, so I didn't really pay attention until he got stuck. It was the timed run across the fire pillars in the Palace Midas level. He just couldn't do it. After trying for what seemed like hours, cursing like a sailor and pounding on the keyboard, he finally got so frustrated that he gave up and literally chucked the game in the garbage. I pulled it out and decided to give it a try.

I wasn't about to start with the hardest part so I went back to the beginning. I floundered around in the training level for a while. Fortunately I'm a good typist, so it didn't take long before I was off and running. And the rest, as they say, is history.

An early iteration of the site
(c. Nov. 2003). Click for
larger screenshot. For more
nostalgia, visit the
Web Archives.
Soon after that I started hanging out on various Tomb Raider message boards and newsgroups, asking and answering questions, but I didn't write my first walkthrough until late 1997 when TR2 came out. After that I went back and wrote the walk for TR1—with a nice strategy for the fire pillar run, if I do say so myself. Over the years I've played and written about every Tomb Raider I could get my hands on, and I hope to keep on playing as long as they keep making the games. I love it, and I love getting to know other players and fans through the web site.

When I started there weren't many other walkthroughs out there. I was lucky to find a niche early on. Since then, a bunch of other good writers have come along and started doing their thing. Some have come and gone. Some stuck around. I say the more the merrier. That way players can find just the kind of help they need—short and to the point, rambling and detailed (like mine), and now even video walkthroughs.

As a gamer, I guess I'm a late bloomer. I had been a fan of role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons since I was in high school (back in the early '80s), but except for Sim City and a couple of simple puzzle games, Tomb Raider was the first computer game I played. I've expanded my repertoire a bit since then, but Tomb Raider is still my favorite.

So how did you discover Lara and her adventures? Please click 'comments' below and let me know. I'd love to hear from you.