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Old 12-09-13, 03:48   #31
sheepman23
Relic Hunter
 
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Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Iowa
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Thanks for the comments guys, and glad to see so many interested in it.

PERU
Level 1 - Caves



This is where it all began...

The nostalgia.

No, really. Although I was a toddler when TR1 was released, I had not received very much exposure to video games by the time I got around to actually playing it. And when I replayed the first part of Caves, there's just an immense... "blast from the past" in walking down those first few droning caves, and feeling that vast sense of immersion that greeted you on your first playthrough. The sense of isolation. The sense of dangers that lie ahead.

A little ways down the cave, we're introduced to the very first - and probably one of the most recognizable - traps of the series, a chain of darts that shoot out of the walls. Simple, but effective. Passing through these unscathed is very easy to do.


Yes, let's head up to the ominous cavern with wolf footprints leading out of it.


Someone dropped a Tootsie Roll.

At the very back of the next cave, our first secret is claimed. And unlike the secrets of most modern-day games, the small medipack you gain is something that an actually help you in your travels, rather than an inconsequential relic or "treasure" that doesn't serve any purpose, other than to maybe unlock concept arts and other stuff.

Another secret is subtly hidden away at the top of the next cave, where we also encounter the very first enemies of the series. Three little bats that make the cutest sound effects ever. No, seriously, I love their little "tweet-tweets!"

The next series of caves, which includes a class switch-and-door combo, is all pretty bare and seemingly uninteresting. To me, that just adds to the sense of isolation that Caves gives us. It's the beginning of the beginning, and the designers don't toss everything at us at once. We slowly soak our way into the world, and I think that this concept is perfectly executed here.


I foresee a future OSC shot...

The bridge room is perhaps the first room of the level where we get a sense of danger when exploring the area. While one could potentially be a sissy and dispatch the wolves from above, the far more reckless (and thus exciting) option is to drop down to the floor level and battle it out. Granted, the wolves are not that hard to kill, but oh well. I like to pretend.

Aesthetically, I find the bridge room pleasing. The bridge colors mesh very well with the snow and the rocks, and you can sense that the light is coming in through the ceiling.

I find it interesting that the designers gave us the option of ignoring both the wolves and the bear that appears after it. It's almost as if they planned to tease us with foes that we could kill from above, only to throw a pair of wolves at us in the room shortly after... however, should the individual venture down into the bear's fortress, they're treated with a little medipack for their troubles, as well as the first use of a pressure plate in the series.


HOLD THE DOOR!!!!


It took me over three playthroughs before I discovered this medipack. I kid you not.

The upcoming room, which features the appearance of two wolves that come from the ground level, brings me to one of the things that I vastly prefer the PS version for. On the PS, there is an up-tempo music track that plays here which defines the intense combat here. While one might argue that music should not play a defining purpose in one's experience, for me it does. It's "engraved" into my memory of the level, so to speak. While I do appreciate the PC version for its varied ambient tracks, I have to admit that I do miss the bits of music that are spread all throughout the game.


Nice try wolf, but I don't think camouflaging will work.

After grasping the third and final secret of the level - which also features a glimpse of a Mayan calendar - we're presented with what could be considered the first actual puzzle of the series. Granted, pulling a switch, jumping a few spots, and running through a door isn't exactly a grandiose puzzle, but it classifies as one all the same.

A few darts, a staircase, a wolf, and two broken tiles later, we wind up in a room that looks pretty familiar if you took the time to glance behind the wooden bars at the midway point of the level.


Jumbo Tootsie Roll.

I like how the game's first Large Medipack is sort of there as a bait for the wolf that appears out of nowhere. On the PS, this is accompanied by one of those music tracks that signifies immediate danger. The room that the wolf was guarding contains the level's final switch, and the one that brings us to the conclusion of the series opener.

Conclusion

Caves is an interesting experience to analyze, because it has a somewhat different approach to its gameplay style than most other levels of the game - and the series - do. We're slowly being soaked into the world of Tomb Raider. If they had just thrown a bunch of wolves at us immediately, how fun would that have been? Instead, the designers choose to put several ominous signs in before we encounter them (the footprints in the snow, the eerie bats, etc.).

The atmosphere is brilliance. The droning cave ambiance is pretty convincing, and more than one time I stopped to just admire the sheer sense of isolation that I felt.

It's hard for me to really come up with any drawbacks about this level. Sure, the gameplay is extremely simplistic and there's hardly any puzzles to speak of, but it's not like they're going to lay it all on us in the very first adventure. I'll go with a middle-of-the-road rating, since I feel that while Caves does a good job of bringing us into the Tomb Raider world, it doesn't particularly stand out in comparison to the majority of the other levels of this game.

Rating - 6/10

Bonus

After every review, I'm going to post a few extra screenshots that detail some of the game's various glitches that are scattered throughout. I've picked these up by simply experimenting in playthroughs, and other times I've tried them out after reading about them on the internet. The first and only one that I experienced in Caves concerns a phantom ceiling. This can be found in the secret room near the bear, right next to the pressure plate:

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