Software Review: Tomb Raider

It's Tomb Time!

By J.A. Hitchcock

Lara Croft is wealthy, in her early 30s, travels the world and writes travel books. Someone definitely to be jealous of. But underneath that cool exterior and tight white t-shirt lies the heart of a woman that's been broken by her family and the man she married. And somewhere else in that heart beats an adventurer. Her newest exploit takes her to Ancient Rome, Incan ruins, Egyptian pyramids and the lost city of Atlantis. She must recover the fabled Scion, a treasure so incredible it is said to give its possessor more power than can be imagined. And you can help her conduct this mission.

Whoa! Did I say you could help her? Yep.

Lara is the main character in Eidos Interactive's game, Tomb Raider.

A female who isn't a blonde and can think as a main character? Yep again. And it's about darned time, don't you think?

Produced by Eidos Interactive, the actual game was designed by a team of programmers and artists at Core Designs, Ltd., located in the United Kingdom. One of the graphic artists at Core, Heather Gibson, found working on Tomb Raider a challenge and a lot of fun.

"I was responsible for creating the textures and building the maps and puzzles in the game. We have a really funky editor wich made map building a joy," Gibson recounts. "Although the idea of working on a game with a female heroine was what initially attracted me to working on the project, I think most people are bored with playing muscle-bound blokes. There's a variety of interesting characters in the world and they're not all white male body builders."

It took just over 18 months for Tomb Raider to be developed from start to finish, but the first six months were spent experimenting with the look and feel of the game. As each level was finished, the Core Design team moved a step closer to finishing one of the first action games with a main female character.

"It's about time the main character of a game was a woman," Gibson declares. "Why not? It seems as though some software houses are too wet to take a chance and ignore so-called market research, which at the time of development was saying that nobody wanted to play a female character in a game."

Eidos proved everyone wrong. Sales have been higher than expected since it was released in November 1996 and reviews have been nothing but raves (check them out at their web site). Maybe other software companies will take note and follow suit. But if they don't, Eidos has learned that sometimes marketing surveys don't provide all the answers.

"I think more and more women are playing computer games and a female heroine has made this game more appealing to these women," Gibson says. "Lara has the sort of abilities, looks and lifestyle that most of us girlies would give our eye teeth for. There's a big female audience out there that I think are being overlooked and I'm sure they're chuffed to see a female character taken seriously in a game."

Serious or not, Gibson didn't start out as a graphic designer for computer games. She originally trained to be a nursery nurse and worked as a nanny in London for a few years. Although the job was wonderful, the child she cared for was an angel, and she traveled with the family to places she'd only dreamed of, Gibson decided she wanted more out of life. She began drawing in her spare time and put together a portfolio of character designs and interior designs.

"I saw an ad for a graphic artists at a place called Rare Design which read 'No Experience Necessary' and went for it," Gibson recalls. "Behold! I got the job and here I am today. Now I live in a wee village in Warwickshire, nice and quiet with plenty of places to walk Bumble (her dog). He's my main hobby apart from playing on my PC."

So computer graphic artists do play with their computers?

"Sure. I like all kinds of games, adventure, puzzle games. I sometimes play them very loud and apologize publicly to my neighbors for any distress it may be causing them," Gibson laughs.

Now the big question are there any other female heroine games being developed by Eidos?

"Ooooh, that would be telling!" Gibson laughs again. "Watch out for any press releases in the near future, though."


The lavish introduction puts you in the mood for the action to come. You learn all about Lara Croft and the journey she is about to take. Then you get a chance to tour her huge home (I'm sooo jealous) and put her through her paces she automatically asks you to make her jump, run, roll, etc. when you enter her personal gym. Play her stereo and listen to the cool music (I actually enjoyed it). Once you feel comfortable with her abilities, let the game begin!

If you have one of the new 3D boards in your computer, you are in for a real treat! All you do is go to the Tomb Raider web page at and download the free upgrade to the 3D version. It's a small file and definitely worth it. The graphics are unbelievable and the movements of Lara are so fluid it's scary. Even if you don't have a 3D board, you still get a great 3D effect.

I don't know if I'd call this just an action game. Sure, you kill people, animals and other things (now, now, get the game and you'll see what I mean!). But you have to travel to distant places and look for puzzle pieces that lead you to the Scion, the ultimate prize. There are 15 levels and 4 worlds to explore and shoot your way through. Lara gets to swim (the underwater scenes are fantastic), climb, jump and run her buns off. I was exhausted just playing the game!

I think the only thing I wasn't crazy about is that Lara looks like she went to Hollywood for implants, if you get my drift. That's my only complaint. But being a game with a female heroine -- it's about damned time -- I was too busy "being" Lara to care what she looked like. I especially liked her voice, although I couldn't quite distinguish if it was an English or Australian accent (no offense to anyone).

Tomb Raider can be played in Windows 95, but playing it in DOS will give you better performance, especially if you have a slower PC.

This game is a must-buy for any woman who's been thirsting for a female heroine in a computer game. Men will like it, too, for the action and well, Lara is a looker.

PRODUCT: Tomb Raider, an action/adventure game from Eidos Interactive (and Core Design, Ltd), San Francisco, California
PRICE: Retail $30, check your computer store or retail outlet for actual pricing, which may be lower.

FOR MORE INFO: Visit the Tomb Raider site or Eidos Interactive at their web site. Contact Eidos Interactive at 1-415-693-0297.

J.A. Hitchcock is a regular contributor to Compute Me. Visit her web site at

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