Repeat after me: Archaeologists don’t dig dinosaurs. They. Do NOT. Dig dinosaurs.
There’s such a wide misconception that archaeologists dig up fossils and dinosaur bones for a living that some musically-minded archaeologists have taken to YouTube to remind the public, in no uncertain terms, that they “don’t do dinosaurs” and that “digging up dinos is palaeontology”. So if it’s dinosaurs you’re after, it’s Dr Grant you need, not Dr Jones.
But then you have Lara Croft, who seemingly has one foot in archaeology and the other in palaeontology, except she’s not researching dinosaur fossils; she’s getting dangerously up close and personal with living, breathing specimens.
With the release of the highly-anticipated summer blockbuster Jurassic World just a few weeks away, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to look back at some of Lara’s most memorable dinosaur encounters of the past two decades. Hold on to your butts.
1) T-Rex Encounter in the Lost Valley (Tomb Raider 1)
The year was 1996. As a teenager with memories of the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park still relatively fresh in her mind, a slight sense of panic kicked in when Lara stumbled into the Lost Valley and came face to face with her first velociraptor. Anyone who’s seen the film will no doubt remember that tense scene in the kitchen and this was my kitchen moment. I held my nerve, dispatched the toothy red raptors one by one, and felt triumphant.
So imagine the look of surprise on my face when the ground started to shake and I saw this towering Tyrannosaurus Rex heading in my direction. Granted, the only scary thing about it these days is its low-def, low-poly clunkiness but back in the 90s, this was fear incarnate.
Even almost 20 years later, it’s safe to say that this wasn’t just one of the best dinosaur encounters in a Tomb Raider game; it’s probably one of the greatest moments in any Tomb Raider game to date.
2) The Great Wall’s T-Rex Valley (Tomb Raider 2)
Tomb Raider 1’s Lost Valley proved to be such a hit with gamers that the Core Design team brought back the T-Rex (two of them no less) for Lara’s second adventure. Listed as one of my favourite Tomb Raider Easter eggs, the Great Wall’s hidden T-Rex valley was one of the most rewarding discoveries I’ve made while playing a Tomb Raider game; this was back in the dark days before Stella’s Tomb Raider walkthroughs.
For those of you who only ever took the zipline across the valley and never stopped to look around, check out this video for directions to the Rexes. The detour is well worth the effort.
3) Dino-Crisis at a South Pacific Crash Site (Tomb Raider 3)
Three games into the list and it’s not hard to see why dinosaurs became inextricably linked to the Core Design games. Even a remote island in the South Pacific wasn’t safe from these reptilian foes. Tomb Raider 3’s Crash Site level is packed with raptors, T-Rexes, and even tiny compsognathus who are all after a piece of Croft.
The real highlight of the level, however, is found at the actual crash site, where Lara steps onto a mounted rocket launcher and proceeds to blow some 30 raptors to smithereens. Crisis averted!
4) Pterrifying Pteranodons in the Channel Ptunnel (Lost Artifact)
Ahem. Terrible word jokes aside, this dinosaur encounter in Lost Artifact’s Shakespeare Cliff level is quite easy to miss. In fact, I only discovered this secret cavern years after after I first played the game (thanks Stella!). Like Tomb Raider 2’s dinosaur valley, you’ll need to take a slight detour to access the cavern where several pteranodons somehow escaped the mass extinction that wiped out their brethren. They may have escaped extinction but they didn’t really stand a chance against a trigger-happy Croft.
Just be sure to watch your back. These guys like to swoop in from behind.
5) Chompasaurus Rex (Lara Croft: Relic Run)
The final entry on this list of dinosaur encounters is by far the most recent. Those of you who’ve been playing the adventure-runner Lara Croft: Relic Run will have met “Chompasaurus Rex”, the level boss in the game’s Jungle Temple section. “Chompasaurus” is my nickname for this particular T-Rex as he (or she) has taken numerous bites out of poor Lara over the past couple of weeks thanks to my inability to save her from those deadly jaws. Nom nom nom.
Still, I suppose it was rather nice of Square Enix to give me an achievement for being eaten 5 times. Silver linings and all that.
So those were my five favourite dinosaur encounters from the Tomb Raider games. Lara may not be a palaeontologist but Dr Grant and co could certainly learn a thing or two from this dual pistol-wielding archaeologist.
Lara Croft: Blurring the lines between archaeology and palaeontology since 1996.
Do you have any dinosaur-related anecdotes to share? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!