TR5: Out of Rome

Well, I’m out of the first chapter. Lara has retrieved the Philosopher’s Stone from its hidey-hole near the Colosseum. Which turned out to be the regular above-ground Colosseum (minus the tourists), not a second underground one as I had speculated. It just had to be approached from underground for some reason, and seemed to be on the same level as a large cave I had seen earlier, or even somewhat below. I’m going to assume that the mystical power of the Stone warps space or something, Silent Hill-style. I think of that vein of surrealist horror as specializing in phantasmagorical dreamworlds that don’t make rational sense, but that’s the sort of world Lara Croft lives in too.

It turns out there wasn’t a whole lot of fighting even in the Colosseum level. There’s a few anachronistic lions and gladiators and some kind of animated statue, but on the whole I think the monsters in the previous level were tougher. Probably this is mainly because of Lara’s improved firepower: on this level, you can find an uzi just lying discarded on the ground at one point, and, since it turns out that your inventory is in fact wiped at the end of the chapter, you have no reason to refrain from using it up. Regardless, the toughest thing on this level, the one thing that caused me to take a break in frustration, was a jumping puzzle with a time limit. In one cave, you pull a rope that makes a key item rise out of the ground on a plinth on a platform, and it after while, it sinks down again, usually just before you can reach it. The winning approach is fairly clear, but you don’t have time to line up your jumps the normal walk-up-to-the-edge-then-hop-back way, and getting a feel for how to execute it without that crutch takes a lot of attempts.

My one big complaint about this level is that the stone texures are just way too homogenously brown. It’s that beigey Doom brown that so dominated game palettes in the 90s, but this game was released in 2000. And this uniformity makes the irregular shape of the cavern walls hard to make out at times; at one point, I experienced something similar to the Dragon illusion, convex and concave inverting in my mind. Of course, I’m playing at a much higher resolution than the designers intended, so that may have something to do with it. It’s also probably making the seams between textures easier to notice, too — floor tiles in this game frequently just don’t match up at their edges at all. But really, 3D rending hardware was pretty common in gaming PCs by this point, so it’s not like people were playing at 640×480. Unless they were playing the Playstation version, which may have been the primary target platform.

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