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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Action
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: 603e @ 180 MHz    RAM: 32 MB    Hard Disk: 315 MB    4x CD-ROM


Tomb Raider: The Trilogy
January 17, 2002 | Richard Hallas
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Lara Croft... love her or loathe her, there's no denying that she's made a huge impact over the last few years, from the computer screen to the cinema screen via TV Lucozade adverts. Comprising a total of five major adventures, the Tomb Raider series has proven that a popular game format need not always rely on fast action and big guns to appeal to the masses. Indeed, it has shown that an exploration-based game with an emphasis on dexterity and puzzle-solving can attract a significant following beyond the traditional games-playing audience of spotty teenage males... including (shock, horror!) even females!

That's not to say that there isn't plenty to appeal to spotty teenage males, too; Lara's own physical design has been well conceived to keep that audience interested. And of course there's plenty of fast-paced action and shooting in the games, not to mention brief but intense periods of driving a variety of vehicles very quickly around hazardous obstacle courses.

But the point is that Tomb Raider has a very good balance indeed; it appeals to a wide audience, it has been highly influential, and in short it has proved a real money-spinner. So, when your cash-cow is starting to run out of milk, what's the ideal way of extracting the last drop of revenue you possibly can from it while you're working on the next big concept? Reissue it in a box set at an attractive price, of course!

The only trouble with reissuing games in this way is that there's a good chance that a lot of people will have at least one of them already, and may not buy the compilation pack if there's nothing new in it. So, in the case of the Tomb Raider Trilogy, there is indeed some new stuff that you can't get via any other means; and, what's more, it's worth having.

A trilogy in six parts
What you get in the Trilogy pack is, surprisingly enough, a total of six separate games. Tomb Raiders I, II and III each have a 'Gold' edition which is included in the pack, and in all cases the bonus Gold levels are treated as separate games which follow on from the main scenarios.

Now, this is particularly good news for Mac players because those Gold games have not been universally available previously. In fact, Tomb Raider has had a slightly odd release history on the Mac: Tomb Raider II came first, to be followed soon after by Tomb Raider I Gold, and then the remaining games came out in the correct order. However, Tomb Raider I was the only game to include the Gold levels in the box: the Tomb Raider II Gold levels were made available after that game's release, as a very large Web download, and the Tomb Raider III Gold levels were not available at all for the Mac.

The Trilogy pack not only gives you the Gold editions of all three games, but also improves some of the games slightly in terms of their implementation.

In the Trilogy box you get three CDs: the regular CDs for Tomb Raiders II and III, and a new Trilogy CD containing the full Tomb Raider I Gold game. It's important that you install all of the games via the installer on this special Trilogy CD, as it has the latest versions of all three games on it (newer than the versions on the other two game discs). Here's a summary of the improvements:

Tomb Raider I: The game itself is exactly the same as before. However, higher quality versions of the movies have now been included to replace the originals, which were pretty atrocious. The movies are still not as good as the ones in the later games, but they're markedly better than they were previously.

Tomb Raider II: The Gold levels are now available on the CD rather than via the Web, which is great for the people for whom a 25MB download wasn't feasible. (OK, these levels did make it onto a few magazine CDs, not least an issue of IMG; but even so, a lot of people won't have them.) Incidentally, the box says that there are four new levels in the Tomb Raider II Gold game. In fact there are five: the fifth is accessible only by finding the secrets in all the previous four levels (and is well worth visiting).

I also made a further pleasing discovery about the new version of Tomb Raider II on the Trilogy; one that hasn't been publicised by Aspyr: it can now play in 32-bit colour. The previous 16-bit colour limitation was, for me, one of the most annoying things about the game: the 16-bit dithering of many graphics cards could be really distracting, producing a 'noisy picture' effect. All the other Tomb Raider games can be played in 32-bit mode, and now, finally, so can this one. The only way to get the 32-bit option, though, is to buy the Trilogy, as it contains version 1.0.4 of the game; the latest update version on the Web is 1.0.3, which is still limited to 16-bit colour. As Tomb Raider II is my personal favourite of the series, I'll enjoy playing it through again with the improved graphics.

Tomb Raider III: The Trilogy version of the game itself is identical to the previously published one; the huge bonus of the Trilogy is the inclusion of the six Gold levels, which weren't available to Mac users previously. And these six new levels are so big, varied and interesting that they make the pack a tempting purchase even if you have all three games already. As this is the only set of levels that hasn't been seen previously on the Mac, we'll take a look at it in some detail on the next page. The images accompanying this article are all taken from the Tomb Raider III Gold levels.



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