TR5: Adventures with Teen Lara on the Haunted Island

The Teen Lara section of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation was a bit like the Teen Indy section of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — the one where we see the origin of all of the character’s defining quirks and accoutrements in a surprisingly short span of time. But only a little, because Lara doesn’t have as much to pick up as Indy. We see her scavenge her customary leather backpack from another treasure-seeker’s skeletal remains, and that’s pretty much it. It always seemed a bit forced to me. That backpack isn’t nearly as important a part of Lara Croft’s image as Indy’s panama hat and bullwhip are to his. It’s like the writers wanted to pay homage to Indy, but had to settle for the backpack because they couldn’t think of a really iconic accessory for Lara to acquire. Or at least, nothing other than the twin pistols, with their sexy holster-straps on her bare thighs. Those are pretty iconic, but also unusable in this context. Because the chief distinguishing feature of the Teen Lara section is that she doesn’t have any guns.

The Teen Lara section of Chronicles must happen after that, because Lara has her backpack. But she still doesn’t have a gun. I guess this is why I’ve been thinking about puzzles so much: with gunplay gone, puzzles dominate the experience even more than usual. Curiously, this is also the part where they decided to greatly increase the number of monsters. Rock-throwing imps. Ghosts with swords, invisible until you get close. One section has you navigating a labyrinth, guided by a luminous wisp, while some monster stalks you — possibly a minotaur, but I didn’t really get a good look at it, because hesitating at all lets it get you. Mostly you’re aware of it from the sound of its approaching footsteps. It reminded me a bit of Amnesia, another game that doesn’t give you a weapon and makes you run away from things a lot.

The game’s first rope-swinging bit occurred here, causing me to fail repeatedly until I hit the manual and looked up the controls. (If you simply let go of the rope instead of pressing the jump button, you fall straight down, regardless of what it looks like your momentum should be.) Also, I have some complaints about how the camera behaves here, particularly in the part with the sword ghosts, where you sometimes just don’t have the option to get a good look at where you’re going. Possibly it’s always been this bad, but the sword ghosts make it more noticeable by punishing you for running into them in ways that walls don’t.

But this is also the section with the game’s best inventory puzzle. Understand that most inventory puzzles in any Tomb Raider are trivial — the sort of thing where a wall has a triangular hole, say, and then you find a triangular key. When you find an item, you either have seen where it goes and immediately know it, or you keep exploring until you find where it goes. But here, after an extremely difficult jumping sequence, pursued only because there was no place else to go, I found that the reward for my heroic efforts was a lump of chalk. Chalk? What use was that? Then I remembered some dialogue from the level’s intro cutscene, where Lara mentioned that a book she had found in the previous level showed how to draw protective circles. But again, what use was that? There were some imps nearby, but I couldn’t use the chalk against them. Then I remembered how the very beginning of the level had a pathway blocked by a ghostly rider, and a suspiciously off-color tile on the path he rode. I suppose not everyone would experience this like me, but I was quite pleased to be able, for once, to solve a puzzle in this game by thinking. I haven’t generally been fond of the talking bits in the Tomb Raider series — I think the designers are much better at telling stories visually and non-verbally — but it paid off here.

4 Comments so far

  1. matt w on 28 Feb 2019

    I’m so glad the Stack is back!

    Mostly I’ve seen Tomb Raider in Peggy Ahwesh’s She Puppet but I wonder if the equivalent of Indy’s panama hat and bullwhip would be the first time Lara puts her hair back in a ponytail.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 2 Mar 2019

    Hm. The ponytail is part of her trademark, sure, but we we don’t see the moment where she gets it. Teen Lara is in pigtails throughout both of her appearances. In fact, Lara doesn’t even get the long, freely-flowing ponytail we’re accustomed to seeing until the second game. In the original Tomb Raider, to avoid having to implement hair physics, they wrapped up her hair in a bun that extends just below her shoulders, which really seems a lot more practical for someone who does clifftop acrobatics so frequently.

  3. matt w on 3 Mar 2019

    This also means that She Puppet, which I had thought was an artsy mashup of gameplay from Tomb Raider, must be an artsy mashup of gameplay from Tomb Raider II.

  4. Carl Muckenhoupt on 3 Mar 2019

    Tomb Raider III, actually. I can tell by the outfits: TR3 is the first time they let Lara wear long trousers.

    Seriously, TR2 had her climbing snow-covered Tibetan mountains in a lined jacket and shorts. It was kind of ridiculous.

Leave a reply