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Old 16-06-08, 13:26   #1
Anne Boleyn
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Smile Tomb Raider II Review

Hello all, inspired by recent threads in the Tomb Raider forum, I have decided to present my own review of the recently replayed Tomb Raider II. So, without further ado:

Here we go again! Dropping from a dangling rope high above the Great Wall of China, our heroine, un-fazed by her numerous brushes with death in Atlantis, begins her quest for the mythical dagger of Xian (which even she cannot pronounce; preferring instead to say it quickly or not at all so that no one notices). To be fair, it's a lot simpler than her little known quests for the fabled Amulet of Ishkabibble, or her career-defining hunt for the Lost Belly Button of Akkie-Kum-Booboo.

My one gripe with the opening of the game is that Lara doesn't seem to have any reason to be pottering around China in search of the dagger - she has not been hired, and presumably just heard about it while hanging out with Indiana Jones over a drink from the Holy Grail. Anyway, that aside, here she is. The Great Wall of China is a fantastic level - beginning with a quite sudden attack from a rabid tiger which, much like Timex watches, can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. The same level of sheer obliviousnes to pain also seems to be enjoyed by the spiders and birds of the level - all of which seem hell-bent of taking a chunk out of out fair lady. I really do wonder if Lara has some kind of scent - like catnip to all animals. And is it a Universal problem? I mean, when she's sunbathing in the maze at home, is she in constant danger of being gored by a squirrel, or disembowelled by a chicken? Anyway, with Tigger finally dealt with, we proceed to some good old ledge jumping, high diving and block pushing before the real meat of the game kicks in and we race through a high-stakes corridor of traps, where one stumble or false move results in gruesome and bloody death. Nice! No discussion of the opening level, however, would be complete without mention of the final secret, guarded as it is by two hungry dinosaurs. Quite a feat, I have always thought, that Lara seems to meet colonies of these beasts wherever she goes. I don't know why she doesn't refrain from pumping them full of lead and capture a few, perhaps turning Croft Manor into a Jurassic Park-style amusement park. Hell, she wouldn't even have to do the genetic engineering grunt-work!

Having completed the Great Wall, we finally get to hear Lara's dulcet tones - which have strangely shifted an octave from Tomb Raider I. Just as well, then, that she's matched by an equally dodgy sounding Italian, whose conveniently placed lap-top sends her on the next leg of her journey - to the sunny city of Venice!

Ahhh, Venice - city of romance (or is that Paris?); canals, gondolas, Wall's Cornettos; and if Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is on the money, corrupt Nazi museum professors. It's something of a surprise to find Venice deserted apart from a new enemy - men and dogs who all look the same, and share a common goal - to walk in small circles occasionally firing guns or waving bats at Lara Croft. Of course, the Lady herself responds in kind by generously filling them more full of holes than a colander. The Venice level itself involved a lot of key-finding, switch throwing, and my own favourite - window shooting! We even finish on a high, racing our speed boat through a timed door (more on these later). We then enter Bartoli's Hideout - which I won't dwell on because it really is more of the same - albeit we get to play around in a surprisingly ill-furnished Italian Villa. Presumably, Marco Bartoli has the same taste in interior design that he does in henchman - keep it the same. Thinking to do him a favour, Lara ends the level by blowing up a fair chunk of his house - hoping, no doubt, that in future he will ask the advice of nauseating designer Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen in his reconstruction.

Rounding off the Venice levels is the rather fun Opera House. Naturally, after a hard days walking in circles, shooting, and grunting, your average goon wants to knock back some chianti and watch an amateur production of La Boheme. Unfortunately, he's in the wrong theatre, as the designer of Bartoli's Opera House went for the minimalist look and forgot to put in seats! (D'oh!) Ah, well, they really wouldn't be missing much, as trips to this theatre would also include fleeing from rolling boulders (what the fudge!?) and screaming in horror as the actors onstage are turned into bloody stains on the floor by falling sand-bags (a boon when they are staging 'Sweeney Todd'). Lara is only too happy to leave mafia-owned Venice by hitching a ride in Bartoli's seaplane. And finally we see Marco - and what a disappointment he is. Core really dropped the ball on this one, as CGI Bartoli is just another clone of every well-built thug we've seen so far. Heck, even the guy he's talking to in the cockpit (yes, it's a funny word) is the same person with a slightly different costume. Stunned by the realisation that Marco's cult have all had surgery to look the same, Lara doesn't realise that the beefy Hiros (who seems to have only had the preliminary facial reconstruction) is sneaking up behind her with a wrench. Luckily, before she's knocked unconscious, she gleans the importance of the Seraph...

Awakening in a rest home for retired crates, Lara finds herself lost without her guns - meaning that we can't shoot our way out. Instead, we have the much more difficult task of pulling a switch and jogging out - something of a design flaw for any prison cell. On the other hand, the door is on a timer, which is bad news for any morbidly obese miscreants that Bartoli bangs up. The rest of the level deals with Lara getting back her guns and doling out some street justice; with another timed run in the bunkroom worthy of note. Not particularly hard, but you really have to wonder why goons felt the need for timed doors in their living area. Does it keep them fit? Do they have timed doors to the toilets? What about wheelchair access for goons hired under the Fairness and Equality Act? The world may never know... On the subject of these kooky goons, it seems that once more they came from some sort of genetic experiment which breeds clones. Not only do they look the same, they all seem to shop at Thugs'r'Us, with the current style being combat pants and a t-shirt. I can just imagine the first time two of them spy each other:

Thug 1: WTF?! I TOLD you on the phone last night I was gonna wear my blue combat pants.

Thug 2: You so didn't! One of us is gonna have to change.

Thug 1: Not me.

Thug 2: ...You *****.

*cue slap fight and hair pulling*

To be fair, the Atlantic levels (or whichever Ocean we're supposed to be on and in) do give us a few new faces to blow the smiles off. Firstly, the scuba divers, who breathe like Amy Winehouse after a particularly heavy night out - and secondly, the flame-thrower chaps who like to hide around corners and toast you from a distance. They're like Jeremy Beadle (too soon?) but instead of covertly filming unsuspecting members of the public, they like to torch them. Sort of 'You've Been Flamed'... no? I've been waiting to use that one.

Like the Offshore Rig, the diving area is more of the same; although it does involve a memorable slide towards a huge vat of bubbling green slime, which I mention for no other reason than that I sent Lara hurtling into it at least 4 times, just for grins. The level ends with a little more story-telling, as Lara stumbles upon a wounded Monk with whom she shares a few bon mots, and manages to weasel some information out of. Chiefly, that the location of the Seraph is somewhere 'deep in these waters' in the wreck of Papa Bartoli's sunken cruise liner. Unfortunately, our new friend is unceremoniously whacked by Marco - who, seeing the dangerous lady with guns from the back, opts to kill the defenceless monk first, allowing our heroine to escape unharmed into the sea...

Mississipi-Goddamn! I have written far too much in this thread, and I do apologise. If anyone is interested in any further inane ramblings, let me know and I'll continue. If not, I hope you enjoy what I've slobbered out so far! It's certainly been fun sharing these nostalgic memories of one of Lara's classier outings!

Last edited by Anne Boleyn; 16-06-08 at 20:22. Reason: misplaced italics
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Old 16-06-08, 14:55   #2
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That was truly amazing to read, to find someone else's opinion about Tomb Raider II. Reviews are always interesting to read.

Can't wait for more...
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Old 16-06-08, 15:13   #3
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Nice and very funny review! I had a great laugh with that Amy Whinehouse part You gave the review a sarcastic point which i like because I'm like that myself . After reading it I think if I do the review for TR2 it won't be that funny.
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Old 16-06-08, 16:57   #4
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Thanks for the replies! I'll continue on from where I left off:

So after, the inept Bartoli's bullets failed to stop the indomitable Miss Croft, she was left with little alternative than to dive headlong into the deep blue sea. Hitching a ride atop a small yellow sub, she sinks through the surface water and into inky depths, until the sub driver loses control of the vessel when faced with a shark. Bear in mind, he is 40 fathoms below the surface of the sea - what was he expecting to see? I could understand his crashing in horror if he spotted the Little Mermaid, or Spongebob Squarepants through the porthole - but a shark on the other side of reinforced glass and steel? If anyone should have been afraid, it should have been Lara.

I well recall first playing this level, and, during the loading screen, wondering how the designers would get Lara out of danger and onto terra firma for the beginning of the gameplay. It was quite a shock to realise they didn't - and my palms still sweat and my heart skips a few beats whenever I come to this chapter. The sense of claustrophobia and desperation in finding air for Lara is compounded by the now famous shark (Jaws?) stalking her with bared teeth that would make Princess Anne jealous . Escaping into the air-locked ship is a relief that is short lived, when we realise our friend has been joined by his girlfriend, Jaws II: The Revenge.

The underwater levels of Tomb Raider II have always been great favourites of mine, due to the healthy dose of atmosphere felt throughout. The rusting grime, the gloomy darkness and (any fans of Blackadder here?) the Dreadful Spindly Killer Fish are all elements which combine to make a very original area for gameplay. One of the recurring challenges of the game makes another appearance in 40 Fathoms - the timed doors. However, one really must question just how the electrics of the Maria Doria can still work at all in a ship that has been submerged for 30+ years... And is Marco Bartoli still receiving an electric bill in his father's name? The mystery deepens...

The real meat of the underwater levels is undoubtedly the Wreck of the Maria Doria - a huge, sprawling jaunt through the capsized liner. We blast our way through armies of remarkably dry goons, taking in the sights of the ship's inverted ballroom, swimming pool, bridge, and even the ladies loos (I'm assuming they're the ladies, or Lara had no business going in there... come to think of it, did I see urinals?!). Incidentally, with such a devotion to recreating authentic scenery, I do think that the designers would have done well to have included the bodies of Gene Hackman, Stella Stevens, and the big lady who was married to Grandpa Joe from the original Poseidon Adventure. Perhaps we could even have had Lara crack wise to one of the thugs using Ernest Borgnine's classic line, "You better break out your hymn book and start singin' Nearer My God to Thee"! Ahhh, what might've been...

Extremely similar to The Wreck, the Living Quarters is a strangely named excursion through yet more of the Maria Doria - although it now seems to have righted itself; perhaps whilst Lara was underwater at the start. There is a plethora of yet more moveable crate puzzles, which wore out their welcome long ago, as well as yet more areas with moving pistons and still-functioning burners. At times I really do wonder, is there anything this ship can't do? Besides float, of course.

Capping off the underwater levels is the rather marvellous, "The Deck". Essentially another romp around the upper levels of the sunken ship (bear in mind, it is now inexplicably right-side-up and waterproof!) the Deck offers a much less claustrophic, open and fun blast-fest; as well as a stunning swim through a huge cavernous lake. Again, goons remain the enemy of choice; although I must give a special mention to the scuba diver who spends his time in the cupboard of a swimming pool (which has quite charmingly remained filled) on the off-chance that someone might dive in. Oh well, he had a little gold dragon statuette to play with in there, which I'm sure whiled away the lonely hours while he waited to either come out and play or asphyxiate. The goal of the Deck is to locate the Seraph - which turns out to be hidden not in some carefully concealed safe or cubby hole; but on the floor of a storage room. A nice touch, as I, for one, never expected it to end so suddenly and prosaically. The question of how Lara managed to break the black wall over the ocean and return to the offshore rig, however, remains unanswered...

Nevertheless, surface she does, and, finding that some offshore rig cleaner has kindly packed her old outfit neatly into one of the overhead storage compartments of Bartoli's plane, Lara heads for the Monk's Tibetan Monastery. Unfortunately, it seems that Lara, having missed out on How to Fly a Plane 101, neglected to check the fuel levels of the craft - and, shamefully leaving her fraudulent Pilot's License in the glovebox, she makes a hasty parachute-landing in the Tibetan Foothills.

Tibet is a bright and welcome change from the oppressive gloom of the underwater levels; and it's beginning always reminds me of the opening of Nevada from Tomb Raider 3. The novelty of the Tibetan Foothills is the chance to use a new toy - the Snowmobile. A bit like I imagine driving a tractor whilst high on amphetamines, the Snowmobile is slightly awkward; never as much fun as you'd imagine; and likely to result in a explosive death. More fun is the frantic fights with thugs on snowmobiles (incidentally, who exactly are these thugs?) and the chance to drive their discarded vehicles. I don't know if anyone here is familiar with MTV's 'Pimp My Ride', but I can only assume that Thugs 456, 457 and 458 took part in a special episode which involved getting their rides kitted out with weaponry and painted a badass black - and then when Lara blows them off their newly glammed up wheels, Ashton Kutcher turns up to tell them they've been Punk'd! ... and that is quite enough MTV references.


Finally, Lara reaches the Barkhang Monastery - a fantastic level for many reasons. For one, we have the option of leaving the monks alone and letting them become our allies in the ongoing battle against the mysterious and omnipresent goons. However, I defy anyone to complete the level without inadvertently tagging even one of the bald folk (I swear, I didn't see him run out in front of me!) and consequently have the whole tribe take their collective rage out on Lara. And to think Buddhists are supposed to be a peaceful order... Of course, there can be little peace for a gang who live in a sprawling palace filled with instant-death traps - one of the most challenging being the dash through burners, swinging maces and rolling blades. Special mention also must go to the climb up the gargantuan Buddha statue that lives in the main hall of the Monastery; guarding the recepticles for the five oversized 'prayer wheels' which give us entry to the Catacombs of the Talion (the what now?!).

The Catacombs, and its sister level, the Ice Palace, provide one of the highlights of the Tomb Raider II experience: YETIS! It remains a mystery to me how these creatures can remain elusive and mythical, when they charge roaring at anyone who stumbles into their territory. Blowing them to pieces with a grenade is great fun - but running around in a pitch black room full of the things is terrifying. The crazy roaring of the Yetis is almost as scary as the dreadful groaning and hissing of the cat mummies in Tomb Raider's Egyptian levels... fantastic stuff! Not content with gunning down mythical creatures, however, Lara continues on her one-woman crusade to eliminate the need for the WWF by rubbing out as many endangered species as possible - here turning her attentions to snow leopards. In her defence - they started it! The climax of the Catacombs comes with another timed run (apparently, the Tibetans were just as enamoured of these as Bartoli's lot), which makes for a pretty fun puzzle - although mis-steps can result in yet more delightful skewerings.

The Ice Palace itself introduces yet another nifty new challenge - springboards. Heaven only know how they work, but learning how to jump on to them and the direction in which to lean makes for some good head-scratching. One disappointment, however, is that our Yeti friends cannot be lured onto them, so we have no abominable flying snowstorms. Playing around in some of the same areas as the previous level is rather interesting; although not as interesting as the little trick I encountered on my last play though. When falling from the great height to land in front of the gong, I somehow managed to press action at just the right moment in midair to open the menu to the gong-hammer - and although Lara said "No!" firmly and wouldn't give it a bash while falling, when I exited back to the world, she landed unharmed. Neat! After nabbing the final secret of the level (double neat!) I steal the Talion and release the Guardian of the Talion. Now this loveable rogue deserves special mention! Looking like the unGodly offspring of Big Bird and the Iron Giant, he stomps around taking grenades to the torso like a prize-fighter would take punches from an 8-year-old girl. Finally stopping him gives a great sense of accomplishment, and marks the end of our adventures in Tibet.

Phew! I'll continue this whistle-stop review of Tomb Raider II later! I must tell you, I'm starting to think I would have done better to split it up into each individual level - but hey ho! Hope you enjoy it as it is.

Last edited by Anne Boleyn; 16-06-08 at 20:23.
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Old 16-06-08, 17:27   #5
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What's with the sudden influx of review/diary threads recently? Have I started something here?

Great write-up by the way.
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Old 16-06-08, 18:22   #6
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You have indeed, Smog! You and Danath were my inspirations! I thank you both - for your own interesting reviews and kind comments here!
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Old 16-06-08, 18:35   #7
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Hey thanks Anne! Indeed the original idea is from Smog, he gets the credit.
I just didn't thought about reviewing the TR titles before reading his great review of TR3, but I like much the idea, it's cool to say what you think about those games you like so much.
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Old 16-06-08, 19:37   #8
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Great reviews Anne Boleyn. This is one of my favourite TR games and I really enjoyed reading your opinions on it. In fact, I'm relaying it at the moment, currently half way through the Tibetan Foothills. I love Tibet, and I really enjoyed the shipwreck levels as well. And to think, I really didn't like them on my first play through.
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Old 16-06-08, 20:12   #9
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Thanks for the positive feedback, Danath and Verdilet. It's great to be able to share opinions of these games, and I think it is testament to their greatness that, 10 years after their releases, we are still enjoying them.

I'm glad you're replaying Tomb Raider II, Verdilet, and do hope you'll chime in with your own opinions and reflections on it. As I played last week, I was amazed how quickly I passed through the levels in comparison to my last play through years ago; and amazed also at how much I remembered. Like yourself, I didn't enjoy the underwater levels when I first encountered them; but they're now among my favourites, not only due to their atmosphere but due to their originality. I loved the homages to them in Chronicles - although I concede that they weren't a patch on the originals.

One other small note: isn't it amazing how individual each of the Tomb Raider games are? Even among the first three classics (actually, I'd probably consider The Last Revelation a classic also), each maintains its own separate atmosphere, style and substance.
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Old 20-06-08, 19:17   #10
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Are you going to continue???
I've enjoyed reading thus far...
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