We’ve all heard the news. Lara Croft is back, and she doesn’t look a day past twenty. That’s because developer Crystal Dynamics is changing everything Lara stands for. No more bouncing boobs. No more nude shower scenes. Lara Croft is slinging on her backpack (unless that skeleton in The Last Revelation still has it) and getting ready to raid some tombs like never before.
As a longtime Tomb Raider fan, I couldn’t be happier. I was proud of the direction Crystal Dynamics decided to take my favorite shorts-wearing adventurer in the recent Guardian of Light. It might have been shown in a different style (an isometric platform view to be exact), and Lara might not have been blazing through ancients ruins by her lonesome, but it was surprisingly true to the Tomb Raider legacy. Everything I hold dear about my favorite Tomb Raider games was there, as exhilarating as it was in my childhood, a time when my understanding of “good” and “bad” games was limited to what was on the surface. Lara still had her saucy British quips. She could still roll and tumble this way and that, if only to make me grin myself silly. She could still leap that accidental, kamikaze leap into the abyss, and fire her twin pistols in two (that’s right, two) directions at once.
As a kid I loved all those things about Lara, so much that I would pretend I was jumping circles around raptors and other nonsensical baddies, pulling levers underwater and solving mythological puzzles, all with perfectly braided hair and fashionable shorts. Of course, finding those levers and solving those puzzles wasn’t so easy, and with age I learned how much I despised them. More than jungle raptors. More than that double-crossing b@#&!, Jacqueline Natla. When the puzzles began frustrating me for hours without relief, when that one lever was hiding right under my nose, when GameFAQs could no longer ease my pain, that’s when Tomb Raider was spoiled for me.
The puzzles in Guardian of Light were reasonable. They were sensible. Underworld, on the other hand, made me pull my own hair and the hair of those around me. It wasn’t bad enough that the puzzles were poorly thought out. The final boss was a letdown, too, and so was the grand return of Lara’s doppelganger from the first Tomb Raider (you know, that creepy, inside-out copycat of Lara). In my eyes, the game had so much potential, and it was all squandered on those damn impossible puzzles.
I salute Crystal Dynamics, still riding on the success of their latest venture, for having the guts to push a new, baby-faced Lara onto the world. The series is finally starting to crawl out of its grave smelling like roses. But I have one appeal: Go easy on the puzzles, the death-defying stunts. Make me remember why the levels of Tomb Raider were environments I could get lost in without actually getting lost, why puzzles could be difficult without being unfair. Give Lara a break. And maybe a shower in between. With her clothes on.