Whenever I hear someone talking about the great old days of games, back when the designers would just chuck you right into the middle of it all ("Getting stuck on a puzzle?" I once heard Tim Schafer say, "We used to call that content"), I think of one game that did just this, and very literally. About a third of the way into Tomb Raider 2, Lara Croft goes for a short ride on a submarine. The ride is short because the submarine crashes or explodes or something wretched and annoying like that. Anyway, the cutscene ends ambiguously and then the next level begins and...well, total darkness. Or just about. You're floating at the bottom of the ocean surrounded by shadows and water and not much else. There is, initially at least, very little suggestion of where to go. My sense, upon first encountering this level, was that the game had broken itself in a very unusual way: it had broken itself in that the setting had survived but the game had somehow run out of narrative to fill it with. It was like the designers had downed tools and backed away.
Oh man. Wes has gone and written an amazing article about the history of Tomb Raider. And it turns out that the history of Tomb Raider reads a bit like a classic Tomb Raider narrative. Thematically, anyway: turns out that riches don't always make you happy, and treasure often comes with a human cost.
In July 2010, Lara Croft Way opened in Derby. The name for part of a new ring road was chosen from a shortlist by public vote, with a whopping 89 per cent opting for the character devised by local studio Core Design. As the likes of the BBC reported at the grand opening, a councillor said Derby was "proud of its place in a vibrant creative industry" and that Lara Croft Way was "a fantastic way to celebrate that".
Tomb Raider is back on track. Following 2003's berated and broken Angel of Darkness, which saw Eidos relieve Core Design of its duties and ship Ms. Croft over to Crystal Dynamics, the series has made a solid return to form. Tomb Raider Legend was a promising if cautious reinvention, while Anniversary was a glorious update of the original game. This week sees the release of Underworld, the ninth game in the series.