Pros: Value for money, non-linear levels, new set of moves, eye popping locales
Cons: Terrible 'choose your own adventure' feature,
So is it the pivotal Lara Croft game? You imagine it would be being the third of an eventual five on the PSX. So how does it measure up? Well first let's get the good things you would expect out of the way first. The music is once again first rate. There are even two exceptional tunes in there that have the potential to stay in your head when you're out doing the shopping. There was only one in TR2.
Graphically things are once again improved. Whether it's in snow, sand, or lush green grass, every detail to Lara's new world in this game is drawn to the point where even Van Gogh would be proud. I am of course greatly exaggerating. This is only a 1998 production after all. But I'm wording things as they would have been seen in 1998. Oh. You want me to say something on the graphics of TR3 if the game was coming out in 2002? Ok. They're still gorgeous. Satisfied?
More praise is deserved for the decision to fit out our heroine with some new moves for this outing. Q branch has come up with some rather interesting refinements. Lara can now crawl, monkey swing, and dash. The crawl and swing are useful, but it's the dash that players really appreciate discovering the most. Remember scuttling round that huge Palace Midas in Tr1 at the speed of old Midas himself? Well not anymore. The dash enables a much more flexible approach to level navigation. Not only that, but all three moves are very simple to perform on a Playstation joypad.
However, for every Owen there's an Akinbiyi as we say in England, and TR3 is no exception. For all the positives you can take out of the wide range of new moves in the Tomb Raider series' second sequel, the innovative "choose your own adventure" feature is a disaster. I can't speak for anyone else, but I was mightily gutted come the Natla's Mines level in TR1 when I was forced to give up all my weapons. The same would happen in TR2 of course, but at least on the 5th level this time instead of the 13th. With TR3 you must once again face a point in the game where forfeiting all weapons is a compulsory occurrence. As a result of the choose your own adventure section though, this could either be the 6th, the 10th, or 14th level in this game. You just won't know unless presented with a half-spoiler.
Needless to say there will be many a person out there who will pick the unlucky route (as I did), and manage to avoid the no weapons level until 13 have already fallen by the wayside. This will leave you almost weaponless with only a handful of levels to go, and thus with a potential expert's challenge looming if you're going to manage completion without starting again.
Seems like a good moment to move onto difficulty. TR3 is HARD. Very hard. You will often get stuck. I should imagine only a very small percentage of even the most die hard fans will complete this without at least getting help for something. And as far as acquiring all 56 of the secrets required to unlock the bonus level at the end of the game is concerned? Forget it! Not without help. But I would be cautious to list the games' immense cruelty towards less skilled players as a further reason to attack it. Surely a game is better when it is too hard as opposed to when it is too easy. As an example you only have to compare TR3 with the famous "Sonic the hedgehog 2" adventure that was released for the Mega Drive back in 1992. I completed that in two days because it was too easy. I completed TR3 in over four months because it constantly made me stumble for lengthy periods along the way. That is good for a game, no?
Level design is once again very professionally done. This time around there are even non-linear paths scattered around. The best instance of this comes in the 'River Ganges' level. Whilst one route takes you on a white knuckle buggy ride over daring drops and falls, the other has you discovering a mass monkey nest in the middle of a deserted courtyard. Other stand out levels include 'Temple ruins', 'Aldwych', and the 'RX Tech mines'.