View Full Version : "Natla's Mines" analysis

27-01-03, 15:58
I was pleasently surprised when this level dawned in front of my eyes. I was convinced the Sanctuary would be the game's last when I was halfway through it for the first time. Ok, it wasn't really epic enough for a final level. However, it did have a huge sphinx they could well have been saving for the end, and we'd known since the beginning that the Scion had three parts to it and not four. I began to have my suspicions though when Larsson was thrown up as the final boss, and the FMV to follow would confirm them.

So along would come Natla's Mines, a kind of TR old-skool version of the RX-Tech level. If it weren't for the functional minecarts available in the latter, I'd even call Natla's version better than Willard's. It sure has a lot of strong points in the beginning, even if the second half descends into yawndom with its movable blocks and its shoddy yellow textures. Did they really have to regurgitate the wallpaper from Qualopec? I'm sure they could have found it in the budget to go down to B and Q and get something different. Oh well.

Two unique anonomolies exist with this level. The most obvious is that Lara doesn't have any weapons. It's a late stage in the game to do something like this, but it's not as if it really affects you. In fact, if you do everything in the order you're supposed to, it doesn't affect you at all. The boneymen and the horseymen have 'coincidentally' gone for a cup of tea whilst Lara negotiates this interlude.

The second anomonly are the Mines themselves. For me it's the only level in TR1 with any connections to real life, as it were. You could argue that the Caves and the Colosseum have semi-realistic overtones, but I still don't think they qualify. If you wanted to be really argumentative, you could cite any number of other 'one-offs' that appear whilst you're at it. There are the road block stanchions, the tyres, the TNT, and dare I mention it the **** wooden boat that looks like a giant version of the rubbish I used to build in my Design and Technology lessons.

With no mythological creatures to blow up inside Natla's Mines, it's left to her excellancy's dork squad to provide the live action threat. There are three seperate confrontations, one for each of the men we saw in the FMV prior to the level. First up comes the man I like to call 'Grown up Woody from Toy Story'. His is the best of the three shoot-outs, providing both difficulty and a non-linear path as to how to get round him. The man is also the best crackshot in the game. (Unless you clamber up onto the pillar adjacent to the small lava pit, at which point Woody begins to run round like a headless chicken).

Second up comes Tony Hawks, skateboarding around an ugly metallic monstrosity that quite obviously looks like it was designed with him in mind. "There ain't nobody else in here", he cries out. "You must be firing at me". Only a month ago did I discover the origin of that quote. The gist of it was said by Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, even if in that instance the word 'firing' was actually 'talking'. Hawks in the TR world is a competent skater but a pretty poor shot with an Uzi. Skates or no skates, you can still circle round him like you can for most of the TR2 goons. Just a shame Lara doesn't repeat De-Niro's phrase back to the kid in irony after she's killed him ; "You HAD to be firing at me".(think about it)

Last and probably least comes the token black geezer, who had he taken a picture of Lara right after saying "Say cheese", probably would have produced a negative with the TR3 front cover on it. Bad for him. Good for any TR-loving photograph developer who likes to collect rarities. Up and left from the shotgun dude are a number of imprints in the diagonal yellow structure. (I suppose I could have described that better), giving us an early prototype version of the block-jumping pyramid section that was such an integral part of The Last Revelation's later stages. This coming just two levels after we used a 'scarab' key of course.

There are a number of other small segments I wanted to mention. The conveyor belt used to give you fuse#3 is a nice touch. Shame we don't get a miniature cut-scene of the key item rolling off, but never mind. The pressence of the building on the ceiling is better anyway. I'm sure I'm not the only one who initially figured it had been put there to squash you, just as I'm probably not the only one who greatly feared all that TNT. It's a minor pity that it's impossible to set it off and kill yourself.

Natla may be conspicuous in her absense, but her 'Mines' are still a classic piece of level designing worth savouring. It just makes you notice though how little all the TR villains down the years have actually appeared on screen. Natla doesn't feature between levels 1-12 of TR1, and Bartoli often looked too similar to his henchmen to have said to have been recognisable. Willard was no better. Was he on just the two times between the beginning and the end? Core should have given him a kilt to go with his Scottish background. That would have looked funny, especially in the RX-Tech mines. "Ohh nooo, I got soot up ma kilt" 8/10

Best part - Making the TNT explode

Worst part - Lara refusing to stand on the edge of that boat. She wouldn't be much use as a Gondola conductor.

Secrets - A rare 3/3 thumb's up. I could waste another 1000 words explaining why, but let me just comment that discovering that secret on Tony Hawk's playground was one of my more satisfying TR1 moments.

This level is most like...
RX Tech mines ("Duh! Do you really think so Scott?")

The 100th link I came across when I typed in "Natla's Mines" on the Google search engine


Typical! I hope for a bright new fanzine and instead come across a link that uses the words 'cheatsgame'. I feel like quoting Doc Brown in Back to the Future - "Marty! I did not invent the time machine for personal gain!". To be fair though it's just a walkthrough. I couldn't see any cheats when I used the link. The walkthrough though isn't as good as Stella's, and doesn't really offer you any reason for using it.

Tom Jones' old classic - "Lady put the light out" - Depressing

Lara's Girl
27-01-03, 23:43
(<Cheering>) Yay scottlee! These are amazing! Good Job :cool:

28-01-03, 16:05
Interesting. I love the level up until you find the Lava, myself. At that point, the whole game just goes downhill...meh.
Excellent read, as ever. http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/smile.gif

30-01-03, 11:36
I loved your piece on Natla's mines! I think it's one of my least favourite levels - all that to-ing and fro-ing gets a bit boring after a while. I like the boulder trap, where you have to race against the clock to beat the boulder to the passageway - it feels and looks fab when you get it right!! http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/smile.gif

Raider Ranger
30-01-03, 20:59
Yep! another great review. http://www.tombraiderforums.com/images/smilies/smile.gif