(The AVGN episode title card appears, With The Nerd's face displaying as Lara Croft)
Kyle Justin: (singing) He's the Angry Video Game Nerd!
Nerd: I have a confession: I totally missed out on the Tomb Raider craze!
Full disclosure: I saved all my money for a Nintendo 64, so I missed out on all the PlayStation games that everybody talks about, like Metal Gear Solid, Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy VII, and yes, Tomb Raider. In the mid-'90s and early 2000s, Tomb Raider was one of the biggest game franchises. Every year, we got a new Tomb Raider game. I can see why people liked it. It revolutionized 3D platforming, the same way Super Mario 64 did. The puzzles were fun, the settings were cool, the music was atmospheric, and the action was top-notch for the time.
Seemed like the only thing bigger than the games, was its star, Lara Croft. Lara Croft was basically Indiana Jones for the '90s. You thought Indy was badass? Lara goes from fighting wolves and dinosaurs, to mummies, and eventually skinless Atlantean demons straight from a Clive Barker movie. Oh, and bats. She also fights bats. Can't forget those.
Lara Croft's popularity took the world by storm. She was the first female game protagonist to get this kind of attention. Her fame transcended the games and she ended up being on the cover of magazines, and even the spokesperson for products. I'm not kidding - she was in car commercials, soda commercials, and an ad for VISA! Seems like the world was obsessed with Lara Croft!
Even in the early episodes, when I always had that Zelda poster, on the other side... Lara was here, all along. I'm not sure why everyone was into Lara Croft, but I can guess a couple of reasons. These days, she still appears in games, and even had a few movies based off her. Her fame might not be as big as it was back then, but it's clear she will still be kickin' ass in video games for a long time.
But they can't all be hits, and that's why I'm gonna go on a journey to find the worst Tomb Raider games ever made! Now, you gotta pack, because when you're dealin' with shitty games, you gotta really be prepared for these. (he packs several firearms into a backpack) Because these games, who knows how bad they're gonna be! I mean, we might find some VILE fuckin' crap here! So you gotta bring... ALL the necessities here!
(he manages to stuff several rifles, and even a bazooka into the backpack, and sets off.)
(An ancient temple. Beside is a building with "CORE" on the front. Nerd goes into a cave, pulls a lever which opens a secret passage. In a cavern, he finds Tomb Raider Chronicles sitting on one of the stones. As he picks it up, a shark bursts out of the water, roaring. The Nerd just punches it out.)
Tomb Raider Chronicles (PlayStation)
Nerd: So here's Tomb Raider Chronicles, the fifth in the series, but the first to fail critically and financially.
The game opens with Lara's funeral, yeah, that's right, The last game ended with her dying. The developers were tired of doing Tomb Raider and hoped the fourth game would be the end. Well, maybe if I killed off my character, I wouldn't have to review any more shitty games! Ah, just kidding. Not yet. The game centers around a group of her friends sharing stories of her adventures. After that, we get a loading screen where I noticed something interesting: there's a credit for Timex. Yeah, Timex, the watch company. What, did they make this game on a ZX Spectrum? Oh, here's why! It's an ad, for a grip-clip watch. Lara uses it in the game to keep track of her time and progress. So right away, this game just sells out with the product placement!
[in the wise words of Garth Algar] "It's like people only do things because they get paid. And that's just really sad."
The first story is about Lara tryin' to find the Philosopher's Stone in Rome. It starts off with a quick reminder of the basic controls and introduces new mechanics like parallel bar swinging and tightrope walking. Other than that, it's the same old thing. Everything looks and feels like the previous games, right down to Lara's outfit. Although her shorts are see-through, now, for some reason. You go around, find keys, flip switches, and... kill some gargoyles and a crazy-squid-thing that shoots lasers. You even get to fight a couple statues that look like Talos from "Jason and the Argonauts". It gets kinda confusing when gladiators show up. Are these gladiators left over from the Roman Empire? Had they just been hangin' out down here for thousands of years? Or are they just employees at the Colosseum, dressed as gladiators? I hope not, because you shoot the hell outta them! Damn! Hate to see Laura at a Renaissance Fair!
Chronicles is just a soulless rehash of the other games and a shameless advertisement for a watch no-one remembers. I dunno what else to say about it, so, I'll just quote one of the developers of the game. "Tomb Raider 5 was effectively a load of old SHIT. That was the most depressing one for us. We were effectively just doing that for a paycheck because no other team wanted to take it on. So we had to do it, basically. By that time it had taken its toll. Three years of hammering it and we were burnt out. That shows in the product."
[- Andy Sandham; 20 Years On, The Tomb Raider Story Told By The People Who Were There, By Wesley Yin-Poole]
Nerd: ... Huh... Oh my God! This might be the first time someone who MADE the game, reviewed it for me! Huh!
(He tosses the game into the pool and moves on. In a room filled with skulls, a skeleton sits holding the next game, Angel of Darkness. The Nerd tries to take it, but it's stuck. He pulls the skeleton's arm off and it snarls and approaches him menacingly. The Nerd just shoots it down with an SMG.)
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness (PlayStation 2)
Nerd: So here it is: the Holy Grail of shitty Tomb Raider games, Angel of Darkness. It was so bad, it killed the studio making it and nearly killed the whole franchise!
This was the first Tomb Raider game on the PS2. It was gonna usher Lara Croft into a new age, with a bigger, better adventure. There would be larger environments, and more stuff to do! It would be a whole new game - or it would've been, if the development wasn't such a disaster!
The problems start right at the beginning: the opening cutscene introduces Lara in a dark office where her associate [Werner Von Croy] gets killed by someone off-screen. This is how you open your fun action-adventure game? By ripping off "Clue"? Compare this to the first game, which opens in an exotic location, and has Lara murdering fuckin' wolves! But then Angel of Darkness starts off with a tutorial, and you BETTER not fuck up, because if you die without saving, you START AT THE BEGINNING.
And I don't mean the beginning of the level. I mean the "beginning of the WHOLE game". No checkpoints, nothing, so get used to saving.
SAVE after every puzzle, SAVE after every enemy, and SAVE after EVERY jump! And the jumping... you would think, since this is PS2, the controls would be better than PS1! But you'd be wrong. They're EXTREMELY clunky, and that's the reason why you die so much. Y'know what would've been nice? A training section where I could practice these new controls without affecting the main game! Y'know, like the Croft Manor section in the old games.
(Tomb Raider II: Lara locks Winston into the freezer)
Nerd: Oh, and this is one of those PS2 games where you have to use an older TV, because if it's on HDTV, it's so dark, you can't see anything, unless you turn the brightness all the way up, black out your windows, and then shoot a rocket into the Sun, covering the whole Solar System in darkness. And then MAYBE, you'll be able to see somethin'.
I'm not kiddin'! This one jump took me 20 to 30 minutes because I couldn't see there was a LEDGE to grab on to. I had to turn the brightness ALL the way up.
Yeah, it's no wonder why they called this, "Angel of DARKness".
You'll also notice some of this footage looks like it's in slow motion. I thought maybe it was some "Bullet Time" or Max Payne shit, but no! The GAME will randomly slow down. One part was entirely slow-mo unless I was jumping. But even when it's running at the right speed, Lara still feels too slow.
In fact, this entire game makes Lara weaker. And the reason for that was because, originally, it was supposed to have a progression system where you level up, so as the game goes on you gain more abilities. But unfortunately, that got cut.
Now, you have to reach a certain point in the game to get a new ability. Climbing this wall will make you be able to climb longer. Moving this box will give you the ability to move two boxes. Kicking a huge metal drawbridge will give you the ability to open a small door. That doesn't even make any sense!! The creators spent so much time figurin' out how to make Lara's boobs jiggle, they forgot to make her fun to play! By the way, the camera in this game sucks! It constantly fucks you up and makes jumping difficult. At one point, the camera goes into Lara's HEAD! And it's one of the most horrifying images I've seen!
(intense horror scream)
Nerd: In the words of one of the people who made the game: "The camera was just a complete pig." Yeah, that's one way to put it.
One of the new things this game intended to introduce was stealth. I'm not sure why, though. There's no penalty for NOT being stealthy. I could probably sneak up on some people. Or... I can just easily kill them. Why introduce stealth if it was gonna be optional? I guess one of the new things introduced that kinda works is the dialogue trees. At least with this first one, your decision affects the game.
Now we finally get to the Paris level, which was meant to be this BIG open world with many things to interact with. But unfortunately, it just turned into... a big empty wasteland.
Whatever was meant to be in the Paris level must've been big, because you can't go five feet without the game loading the next area. You turn into an alley - load. You walk up a staircase - load. You walk from one end of the street to another - load! Load! Load! Load!!
TOO MANY FUCKIN' LOADS!!!
There's a store you can go in, when asking people how to get into a nightclub. You have one conversation, and never go back to this place again. This was supposed to be a place that you'd come back to, later in the game, but everything was removed, except this one scene. Then there's the... boxing match... It doesn't matter who you picked, because the winner is totally random. Sometimes the game glitches and they don't fight at all! Just keep reloading until the person you picked wins. And what do ya get outta this?
Lara Croft: "I bet all the cash in my pocket against your fancy gold watch that I can pick the best fighter."
Nerd: A watch?! That you can sell?! THIS?! I don't need this lousy stinkin' Timex watch!!
So here's a weird thing I found: there's this guy in the park, you walk up to 'im, and he just says the same thing, over and over...
Strange Man: "Leave me alone. I'm busy." "Leave me alone. I'm busy."
4th Wall Breaker Nerd: Busy? Busy doin' what? Starin' at a wall?
Nerd: A guy standing in the park, all by himself, saying he's "busy". He looks like the least busy person in the world! That's all he says! Turns out, he's one of two people who help you get into the club. I talked to someone else first, so that triggers this guy to just say the same thing, over and over.
Strange Man: "Leave me alone. I'm busy."
Nerd: Eventually, I got into the nightclub where I noticed two more glitches: while climbing the light fixtures, I randomly just started climbing on to thin air. Yeah... This kind of floating happens a couple times. I once even got stuck in the air, split in two, and started phasing in and out of reality! The next glitch is more common: If you think you're about to die, it's faster to just pause and restart from your last save. But if you pause in the middle of Lara's death scream, you'll get this:
(Lara's death scream looped over and over.)
Nerd: Ah! Ahh-! I-i-it just drills on your ears! It-like...you're gonna be hearin' that in your nightmares!
Hey, have you noticed anything in these levels? I'm raiding, apartments, churches, nightclubs? Shouldn't I be raiding... TOMBS? I haven't seen a single tomb yet! I made it to a graveyard, but all they had were crypts. Instead, I have to go to the Louvre and kill some security guards. I'm not even sure if they're bad guys, but the game doesn't penalize me for killing them. Maybe Lara is just a violent murderer.
Eventually, you go underground and actually find a tomb - wow! It's broken up into four parts: "Earth", "Wind", "Water", and "Fire". This is the only part in the game, so far, that actually feels like Tomb Raider. And... they still fuck it up.
(Lara is incinerated by a fire-blowing knight)
Nerd: The Water Level has these spikes that come outta nowhere. After making a careful jump in the Fire Level, a rock will shoot you into the air. Or, you'll just die for no reason. In the Wind Level, I went to jump on a log, and instead, fell through it!
(more of Lara's death scream)
Tomb Raider games are known for secret areas, and I found one here, but it's not because I found a clue, or scaled some wall or somethin'. No, it's because the game glitched!
Next, you go back to the Louvre, which is full of toxic gas. Lara needs to run to a cabinet and grab a gas mask, but the people she's killin' along the way, HAVE gas masks. Why can't I just take theirs? Why are they over-complicating this?
(Menacing music. Lara is held at gunpoint by a mysterious man, Kurtis Trent.)
Nerd: ...who the fuck is this guy, and why are they giving him so much attention?! And why does he have the Glaive from Krull?
(Kurtis kicks a prisoner zombie person repeatedly)
Nerd: Why am I playing as him? Here, they couldn't even get Lara Croft right! Why should I be excited about playing as this asshole?!
Believe it or not, his controls are clunkier than Lara's, and he's even less fun to play. Everything about him is lame, his hair, his soul patch, and his dumbass mind powers that let him see stuff around corners or in other rooms!
(Suddenly the floor opens up. The Nerd hangs on to the PS2 which is now hanging over a lava pit.)
Nerd: I need to finish it! I need to finish the game!
(A bearded guy, whoever he is, appears from the side)
Man: Junior - let it go.
Nerd: But I'm so close! I'm so close! I can finish it!
Man: Nerd... (whispering) ...Let it go.
(The Nerd concedes.)
Nerd: You're right. Fuck this shitty game.
(He drops the PS2 into the lava pit.)
Nerd: So, the whole story is: the game was rushed out, unfinished. It failed, and then Core Design - the company who originally made Tomb Raider - shut down.
It was SO bad, that Paramount blamed it for Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life's low box-office. Oh, and have you ever notice the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movies aren't called Tomb Raider? They're officially called Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. What a mouthful! Did they just read the movie poster out loud? Might be why it took 15 years to get another feature film, which was simply called, Tomb Raider, unless the real title was supposed to be: Alicia Vikander is Lara Croft Tomb Raider March 16th Experience It In IMAX. But that's probably too much for a theater marquee, right?
Anyway, it was the end of an era... but my journey leads to one last game. One almost forgotten, like the shit you took last month.
(A decaying set of buildings is the next backdrop. The Nerd goes over and picks up:)
Tomb Raider (N-Gage)
Nerd: The Nokia N-GAGE. Nokia's attempt... to mix a phone with a gaming system.
These days, it's common to play a game on your phone, but back then options were... kinda limited - but Nokia was here to change that. They had a pretty impressive catalog, too - stuff like Call of Duty, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and of course, Tomb Raider.
Before we play the game, we have to put it in! Right? No problem, let's just pop the back off the phone... then ya pull out the battery.... Hmm. I hope no one tries to call me while I'm doin' this.
(Cut to Shit Pickle trying to call the Nerd back at home.)
Pickle: Shit pickle Shit pickle Shit pickle.
(The Nerd's room is occupied by the Pickle, Super Mecha Death Christ, the Game Gremlin, the Charlie voicebox, and a monkey.)
SMDC: FUCKERRRRS! FUCKERRRRS!
(Cut back to Nerd.)
Nerd: So then we insert the SD card, pop the battery back in, put the case back on, and we're ready!
Well... it's Tomb Raider. That's what it is. It's a remake of the first game, only adjusted to fit on to the N-GAGE. The animated cutscenes are removed and replaced with text over static images. They also got rid of the music! All you hear now is footsteps, gunshots, and enemies growling.
Gotta admit, it's pretty impressive how they were able to fit the whole PS1 game on to a tiny SD card back then.
It has all the same moves from the first game. One annoying difference is that when you press forward, Lara will keep running until you stop her or she hit something. It makes timing jumps real difficult. And the camera is... mildly shitty. Early PlayStation games didn't have the best graphics, and they got even worse when you shrink 'em down. I'm not sure why they didn't just port one of the 2D Game Boy games instead.
Well, it was an interesting experiment, but ultimately a failure. The N-GAGE couldn't compete with the Game Boy Advance, and eventually faded into obscurity.
(Suddenly, the temple starts to shake. Explosion.)
Nerd: Oooooh, shhiiiiiiit!
(Then a golden dragon swoops down, roaring. More explosions)
Strange Golden Dragon: "Leave me alone. I'm busy."
(Nerd starts firin' pistols, and the golden dragon dies and explodes, burying the Nerd in rubble.)
Nerd: Ah-! FUUUUCCCK!
(Cut to AoD pause screen. Nerd shouts "FUUUUCCCK!" repeatedly, like Lara's death scream glitch)