The Cistern looks like the inside of a giant toilet, either that or the remains of an abandoned sewer works. There are certainly enough rats in the vicinity to support my theories. If my mother saw the place she would probably tut in disbelief and suggest Lara run round with some Ajax and a spot of Toilet duck rather than bother fishing for artefacts. Let's be honest - You are more likely to catch a disease in this place than whatever is Natla has assigned you to find.
Imagine if Core had held this level back for the underwater section from TR2. It would have meant Lara tackling the Cistern in bare feet, and if that had been allowed to happen the poor lass might have turned up to TR3 with the Guinness world record in the multiple verucca discipline. Never the less, The Cistern may be manky and it may be smelly, but it is also far from a TR1 low point. Following on from the Palace Midas experience it actually does considerably well.
The bulk of the events centre around a complicated water puzzle that still manages to confuse when you replay it for a sixth time. There was a much inferior version of the concept in Zelda : The Ocarina of Time (1998). Whilst the popularity of Zelda flags these days though, people are still very much willing to guide Lara around sewers and put her at the day to day risk of contracting hepititusB. I can only think deep down we love her a lot more than she loves us.
Much to my chagrin, Pierre whats-his-face returns for this level, just when you thought he was gradually being phased out. Let us consider the statistics so I can show you what I mean. In St Francis Folly he appears twice, in the Colosseum he appears once, and in Palace Midas he does not appear at all. So, just when you think it is safe to take that holiday in Marseilles you have been putting off, up pops Le Brat a mind-numbing three times in the one level to completely pee on your bonfire. To be fair, some of Pierre's previous appearances in TR1 are actually quite effective.
With the Cistern though, the designers abandon all attempts at thinking up inventive ways for him to encounter Lara. They appear to just chuck him in three random rooms and to hell with what the artistic damage on the rest of the level may be. Mind you; let's give Pierre his dues. He evidently was not slacking off in the Palace Midas gift shop when Lara was turning things to gold. He was practising his vanishing technique! If the trick was still in the development stages back in levels like the Colosseum, then by the Cistern it has become something polished enough to give David Copperfield a run from his money. Pierre pops in and out of his Cistern appearances like the invisible man. And If I am at all worth a dime as a detective, I might offer the theory he spent a more than a few hours of his life bathing in Sophia Lee's flotation tank.
The inclusion of rats in this level provide shivers to the spine for players but a logistical problem for the designers. For whatever reason, you cannot shoot some of the rats until you are almost standing right on top of them. The pesky little critters stay frozen up until that point, all the time completely immune to the danger of Lara's auto-aim. Why this can happen to the rats and no other animal in the game is a mystery, not that it makes too much difference to one's enjoyment of the overall proceedings. In fact, even with the freeze-frame bug I still would not banish the rats to Room 101 along with the bats and the boulders. They may be small and they may be unmemorable, but they are dangerous. Two or three of them can nibble away half your health bar in a matter of seconds. Incidentally, seeing rats this size make me wonder if they exist out in the real world too, maybe in the sewer system under New York or London? If they do exist I would be willing to bet they are just as vicious as they are in TR. That is not to say I think ANY rat would stay directly underneath a human being as they shimmied along the top of a wall thirty yards above. I can believe the size of the creatures as depicted by Core, just not the over-exaggerated intelligence.
With a complicated level like this, you are always going to need certain 'barriers' to stop players getting to areas prematurely. Yes I am talking about locked doors and hidden keys. Such functions have been regular TR staples since day one and are still likely to be when AOD hits the shelves next year. Even though I have never counted the amount of keys in each level, I am willing to put a flutter on the Cistern having the most of any level in the whole series. If it is not the steel key it is the silver key. If it is not the gold key it is the wretched toilet cubicle key. Keys. keys. keys. Poses an interesting question does it not? Do you love or loathe TR keys? What sort of keys do you prefer? Do you prefer the boring but realistic rusty key, or the exotic if slightly far-fetched trident piece #6?
I have another question with which to finish this thread off. The end room with the lions and the chessboard ; Should there have been a decontamination chamber here? How would Tihocan have known any would-be visitors to the next level were not carrying anything contagious? You do not actually have to answer or think about that. It is just one of those *Scottlee speaks the nonsensical* moments I will probably end up getting gagged by the admin for. 9/10