Though I completed TR1 first, Tomb Raider II was the first game I ever really wanted; it was the reason I saved up my babysitting money and bought a Playstation. After barely touching videogames other than short Mario sessions at friends’ houses when I was little, sometime in early high school, I was flipping through an issue of Newsweek after school one day to see a one-page article on the upcoming sequel. From the first screenshot, Lara in her leather jacket on a pristine snowfield in Tibet, I was intrigued. The idea that videogames would allow me to explore gorgeous, imaginary worlds hit me all at once.
I used to read my parent’s copies of Newsweek in those days to pretend I understood the articles, and if it weren’t for that, I don’t know if I ever would have gotten involved in gaming at all. Maybe one day I’ll write an alternate history for myself where my parents subscribed to Time instead, I never learned about Tomb Raider, and instead I became a nuclear physicist and solved the forthcoming energy crisis (why not?) Continue reading Annotated Playthrough: Tomb Raider II→
The last thing I ever want to do is produce passages that read like “I picked up the Zoo key. I opened the chest and got a shotgun. Then I went through the second door on the left and fought two monkeys and a zebra.” So I hope you can forgive me for being a tad light on gameplay details in most of these posts.
Alas, here we are: the final level of the original Tomb Raider. I thought I might be low on things to say about it since the level designers are far to busy trying to kill Lara dead to put in any beautiful vistas or meaningful symbolism, but naturally, sensible things like that don’t hold me back.
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m not typically interested in feminist criticism. When a text actually lends itself to it at all, the resulting analysis is often obvious to the point of being banal: you mean, stuff written decades ago was more overtly sexist than we generally see today? You don’t say.
However, when the penultimate level of a video game involves traipsing around what is basically a giant womb, pitting one alpha-female absolutely obsessed with self-reliance against another alpha-female absolutely obsessed with the power of creation, while giant eggs are bursting forth with new life all over the place, well…there might be some feminine symbolism going on there; I could be wrong.
This is a roundabout way of saying that some of my thoughts on this level may seem a lot like feminist criticism, and that’s a bit of a pain; I still don’t like it on general principle. It’s just, even a stopped clock is right once a day, you know? Continue reading Tomb Raider Level 14: Atlantis→
Confession time: I seriously screwed up this level for myself. First I played it two or three times, as is my habit for these things, fully intending to write up a level review shortly. Then I moved into my new apartment and got sidetracked. Then I played the level again, thinking I would THEN review it, only to get buried in work for a few weeks. So as I played it again just now, for what must have been the fourth or fifth time, I realized I had managed to make one of the great Tomb Raider levels of all time appear boring via repetition.
It’s obvious that this level is a sister level to City of Khamoon, but what I didn’t realize until this time around was that it’s also a sister-level to St. Francis’ Folly; it’s all about going vertical. The main Obelisk room is all about the height, and most of the side puzzles involve traversing great heights. It also benefits from being a level with a strong central location, without it being too obvious how you’re supposed to progress.
However, unlike SFF, jumping from down from on high isn’t necessarily fatal, and it can actually be useful- it’s just a more inviting atmosphere. It’s interesting in that this is one of the levels where the whole thing is obviously an elaborate puzzle expressly created to keep people out (hence my feeling that this whole Egypt section is one giant tomb), but it never really feels like Lara isn’t welcome.
Parasite Eve is split up into 6 days; This entry covers the remainder of Day 1. The Day format is interesting in and of itself because games usually don’t tell you how much “in-game time” has passed for the characters in the story. For example, in Final Fantasy X you can finish the game with 10 hours on your timer or 200, but you haven’t the faintest idea how long Yuna’s pilgrimage was supposed to have taken from a story perspective. A week? A month? Six months? We’ll never know.
PE takes a very different approach: You can spend 500 hours running around Central Park if you want to (and if for some God- forsaken reason you want to try the “300 pieces of Junk sidequest,” you very well might find yourself doing just that), but you’ll still be stuck in the second day. You always know precisely where you are in the story.
I’m a bit out of my depth with the Egypt levels- on the one hand, from the standpoint of playability, they’re all pretty much great. However, they don’t seem to conjure up the kind of thoughts in me that many other levels do, leaving me constantly aware while I’m playing them that I’m playing TR levels, albeit some very good ones, and NOT really exploring some ancient locale. This may have more to do with me than the game, but it does leave me a little puzzled in terms of how to rate them.