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Old 05-03-06, 10:07   #1
Scottlee
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Default "Desert Railroad/Alexandria/Coastal Ruins" analysis

Such is the ragged and disjointed nature of TRLR, three 'link' levels must be bypassed in order to get from Semerkhet to the next destination of any importance, The Catacombs. As these interim levels are fairly short and sweet I shall lump them together in one analysis. First up is "Desert Railroad", a unique episode in TR lore for obvious reasons. Lara must ride a train and….well that’s it. You have to ride the train. And survive of course.

Despite the fact that Lara clearly sneaks onto the train in near undetectable stealth, two helicopters are despatched anyway to take of her. One might presume the conductor faxed in a report about the suspicious looking person wearing an Egyptian garment in Egypt. Except that there isn’t a conductor (at some point in time he probably asked to see someone's ticket and got a sword in the gut for his troubles). Travelling on the Von Croy Express is completely free of charge, just so long as you don’t go poking your nose underneath the green canvas.

The train itself is a rickety old thing that makes old-fashioned choo-choo noises. Despite this, it still manages to rattle along at a faster speed than Eurotunnel or anything the Japanese have come up with. But this is necessary I suppose so the passengers don’t notice they’re going past the same piece of scenery over and over again. There literally isn’t anything but rocks, rocks, and more rocks to look at; I doubt that kids fight for the window seats in this part of the world.

For reasons I've either never figured out or just can’t remember, Lara must find and then use a crowbar to end the level. There is no hint or clue that one might be residing in an old crate at the other end of the train, but Lara somehow knows that there is. (It’s the Tibetan Hut Key intuition all over again). As she jumps from car to car, ninja's pop out from everywhere. Sometimes they do so from heliocopters, sometimes from carridges, and sometimes from weatherbeaten trucks that do a very good job of maintaining a steady 450mph alongside the train.

It's not a good level on the whole. The novelty factor of being on a train soon wears off, and there is a distinct lack of puzzle-solving amidst all the gung-ho action. I got bored long before turning back from the crowbar room. If you want a better example of how to design a train level in computer games, check out Goldeneye on the N64. And if you just want a better example of moving vehicle levels in Tomb Raider, I would point you towards the submarine section of Tomb Raider Chronicles. 5/10 for Desert Railroad I’m afraid.

To call Alexandria a 'level' would be stretching things somewhat. It's nothing more than a quick pit-stop connecting the Railroad to the Coastal Ruins. As such, I feel a bit uncomfortable even bothering to give it a mark out of ten. It's a nasty place, too. Scorpions run amok all over the town square. Clearly unperturbed by this, Jean Ives has taken residence in the only house that doesn’t have a door. There is even a huge hole in the wall to his study, convenient for all amateur kidnappers to slip through unannounced. Honestly, why doesn't Jean just hang a huge grinning picture of himself on the wall outside, complete with the words "I'm in here! Come and get me!”

We already figured out prior to Karnak that Jean's role in the game is purely for exposition purposes, but it is here where he gets the brunt of his dialogue. And wasn't it worth waiting for? I’ll say so! Jean's Alexandria advice fluctuates only between the useful ("Head to the next level, Lara!") and the extremely useful ("Be careful, Lara!"), and it is with something of a heavy heart that we have to plod on without him. Of course, he makes no mention of the immediate dangers to Lara, such as the outbreak of scorpion fever that seems to have wiped out the rest of the town, or the local funfair run by an anonymous psychopath. That would be giving too much of the game away.

Jean Ives is a dullard and even the scorpions know it. It's as if they deliberately avoid scuttling up his stairs for fear of being bored to death by one of his sermons – "Watch out for Lara's guns, scorpions!” Next to Jean's house is a caged area with a dusty old motorbike inside it. Keys, guns, bombs, rocket launchers are all a no-no when it comes to getting through the fence, so later on Lara just magics it out of the cage when nobody is looking. Well it moves the plot along doesn't it?

Okay, let’s get on to that bloody funfair. We're in the Coastal Ruins now, perhaps the most impressive of the three levels in this analysis. There is a funfair called The Egyptian Adventure at the beginning of this area, although for reasons I will explain there isn't much of a queue to get in when Lara turns up. In fact I think the place has gone bust judging by the boarded up passageways. How can the proprietor get shocked about this though, when customers will most likely be too busy recovering from spike wounds to come back the following holiday season? Yes, spike wounds. The Egyptian Adventure has a novel way of punishing of those unworthy to plays its games; it sticks a few spikes up their arse.

The first of two games you’re likely to come across is the shooting gallery. I don't know about you, but I struggle to envision a past where Daddy once risked getting impaled for the chance to win his son the cuddly toy, or worse still, one token towards the cuddly toy….

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Mummy : I’ve got some horrible news *sob*. Your step-father got killed trying to win you that damn toy.*sob*

Baby Pedro : Damn! He only needed three more tokens!

Mummy :

Baby Pedro : I hope the tokens I've already collected don’t have an expiry date.

Mummy : Oh give it up! I’ve already lost eight husbands because of you and than damn shooting gallery. Why don't you do me a favour and try for the tokens yourself?

Baby Pedro: I’m too scared.

Mummy : Too scared? You want to watch out you do, or you'll grow up to be a coward.

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Suffice to say, the second game is just as much an infringement of backside rights. And somewhere between the two, a skeleton pops out from a casket and does a stupid laugh. Still, at least the concept of Lara in a funfair, even a sadistic funfair, works better than the train idea. There is danger, intrigue, mystery, and fun exploration aplenty. Most impressive is the upright rope trick. Talk about…*WARNING, GREAT JOKE COMING UP!*...money for old rope!

The rest of the Coastal Ruins acts as a sort of portal where you can come and go from various access points during the 4 or 5 levels that follow. That isn’t well described but you’ve probably already completed the game several times. I love the scenery in this section. Evening sunshine descends upon headless skeletons like no other level has before. If I could propose to my girlfriend inside a computer game, here would be my choice of destination. We will ignore the fact that whenever Lara revisits the area it is always the same time of day. We will also skip over a mark out of ten. Akin to Alexandria, the level just isn’t big enough. It’s good though.

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(I’m omitting the clunky ‘best part, worst part’ rubbish from now on, especially with multiple levels filling up just one review)
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(Little did Gaz and his mates know they were half an hour away from getting impaled on the coconut shy)

Last edited by Scottlee; 05-03-06 at 10:09.
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Old 05-03-06, 10:32   #2
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Awesome writing as always, Scott!

Quote:
I doubt that kids fight for the window seats in this part of the world.
Quote:
why doesn't Jean just hang a huge grinning picture of himself on the wall outside, complete with the words "I'm in here! Come and get me!”
Quote:
Talk about…*WARNING, GREAT JOKE COMING UP!*...money for old rope!
LOL!
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Old 05-03-06, 12:51   #3
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Oh yes!

Another round of applause for Scottlee!



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Old 05-03-06, 12:53   #4
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Very detailed scott!!! as always.....brilliant!!!!
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Old 05-03-06, 14:10   #5
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Very good and dry-witted analysis Scott!

I go crazy trying to find the logic in some of these areas you have written about. Indeed, what sort of 'fun'fair impales it's visitors? I actually enjoyed the railroad but yes, the scenery does get a little repetitive but then, travelling at that speed, looking out of the window is likely to cause a rather bad fit of epilepsy.

There wasn't even a dining cart. But again, the only thing that they could realistically serve at 450mph would be liquidised by default

Very good observations!
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Old 05-03-06, 14:20   #6
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LOL!
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Old 05-03-06, 14:49   #7
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Lol!!
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Old 05-03-06, 15:08   #8
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I want more!
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Old 05-03-06, 15:48   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scottlee
... and sometimes from weatherbeaten trucks that do a very good job of maintaining a steady 450mph alongside the train.

....

Jean Ives has taken residence in the only house that doesn’t have a door. There is even a huge hole in the wall to his study, convenient for all amateur kidnappers to slip through unannounced.

....

Yes, spike wounds. The Egyptian Adventure has a novel way of punishing of those unworthy to plays its games; it sticks a few spikes up their arse.

OMG, hilarious!
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Old 05-03-06, 19:43   #10
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A deep and personal question here Scottlee: were you a script writer for Blackadder or similar in the past? Your humour really knows no bounds and always brings a smile
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