About

Perusing Pixels is a photo diary of my expedition through the Tomb Raider series. Use the links to the right to find a particular game or level, or see below for the latest post.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Living Quarters

Was this level even in the original game?  I swear, I have never seen any part of it in my entire life.  Even Diving Area was more recognisable.  Maybe they needed to fill up space on my Greatest Raids disk and thought, “hey, whose going to notice another sea level out of the millions of others?”.  They all blur into a big orange-and-blue smush in my brain eventually.

Living Quarters starts off as an uncharismatic ‘industrial’ level but soon leads Lara back to the slightly more endearing Maria Doria (well as endearing as a sunken ship full of armed henchmen can be).  It’s another fairly entertaining level with no particular defining features, but hey, it means we’re one level closer to the end of this bloody ship.

Lara continues exploring the wreck of the Maria Doria, tripping over the odd cultist and sea snake as she does so.

This isn’t the actual start of the level, but it’s very near it.  As you can probably see, Lara is underwater.

 

Is there anything that says “fun level” more than a room full of rust and metal?

Yes.  Everything else.

 

For whatever reason, this ledge (and several others) were completely impossible to climb upon.  Annoying, but hey, at least this is a very rare occurrence in Tomb Raider II, and not some kind of unofficial game feature √† la Legend.

 

Apparently that lumpy piece of ham on legs that calls itself a henchman possesses more physical dexterity than Lara and can easily avoid rolling barrel death.

 

Ever wondered what Lara Croft would look like with a moustache?  Of course you have.

 

Ugh, those nut-can snakes have received an upgrade and now resemble nightmarish crocodile/eel crosses.  Crocodeels?

 

After just a little too many industrial-themed rooms, we make our way back into the ship; namely, the theatre, which includes seating for the many whale-sized guests it must have accommodated.  Lara’s aunt was probably a regular.

 

Fed up of the standard push-and-pull, Lara attempts to flying-kick this box into movement.

 

Here we have the theatre, a very pleasant room that is unfortunately overshadowed somewhat by the earlier Opera House level.

 

Cross-dressing henchman or the only female enemy in this entire game?

Look at him.  Posing like he’s on a swimsuit calendar.

 

The second-worse place to sit at the theatre.  First place goes to that chair with the dead body on it, because it’s facing entirely the opposite way (and has a dead body on it).

 

Finished!  One more level until we get to see the sky again.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Wreck of the Maria Doria

The “deep under the sea” levels continue with Wreck of the Maria Doria, Bartoli’s dad’s sunken ship.  I was forced to play this level in several sessions, thanks to the second computer breaking down and my husband’s insistence on using my one, his laughable justification for stealing valuable tomb-raiding time being that he needs to work and that it was him that built the computer with his own hard-earned money before I waltzed into his life and monopolized it and therefore it’s not unreasonable to ask to go on it for an hour a day.  I mean, honestly.

Anyway, I think maybe being forced to play this level in bite-sized chunks somewhat marred the experience.  I mean, it was fun enough, but considering this is the level that stands out in my mind when I think about the sea-based levels in Tomb Raider II, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I imagined I would.  Also, the soundtrack is the same as that of Caves, which meant I kept expecting a bat to fly out and kill me mildly irritate me.

Deep under the ocean, Lara uncovers the wreck of Gianni Bartoli’s ship, the Maria Doria.  However, she’s not the only one to make this discovery…

We’re back to corridors, I see.

 

The Maria Doria, like all good shipwrecks, was completely flipped over before it settled upon the ocean floor.

 

Lara stares longingly at the silver dragon but, alas, she still doesn’t know how to crawl.  That was probably going to be the first gymnastic class after she got back from the Himalayas, and we all know how that turned out...

 

Finally fed-up of running around on metal and broken glass on her bare feet, Lara eyes up a pair of boots on a dead goon.  “Dammit, fourteen sizes too big!”

 

The upside-down ballroom.  What is it with the Bartoli family’s love of blue and orange?

 

This room was pointless.  Absolutely pointless.  I’m still flabbergasted by the pointlessness of it.  I want the two minutes and forty-eight seconds spent fruitlessly exploring this room back!

 

So, I laughed at the game developers for a few moments because they’d stuck the keyhole on the wrong way round, then I remembered that the whole ship was upside-down and this was, in fact, impressive attention to detail.  I’m pretty sure this happened the last time I played, too.

 

What is it with villainous organizations and not putting sides on their boats?  Although I can imagine this time it was due to stupidity rather than frugality.  Like, whatever goons Gianni Bartoli hired to build the things considered ‘barriers to stop people falling off the side of the boat’ to be an optional extra.

 

This may not look like a particularly impressive yoga position until you realise that Lara has managed to propel herself several feet into the air.  Those who have yet to conquer the laws of gravity should not try this at home.

 

I just really love pictures of scary corridors, and man, does Tomb Raider cater for that.

 

Bartoli’s henchmen, foiled once again by that well-known unbreakable material, glass.

 

Can you see that?  No, me neither.  Probably the most well-hidden secret location since the first level.  It sure as well makes up for 40 “it would have been more impressive to complete it without getting any secrets” Fathoms.

 

After running around the nicely decorated part of the ship (well, as nicely as something can be decorated when the Bartolis are involved), we find ourselves and the ship-steering part of the…uh…ship.  I haven’t got many screenshots of this area, mainly because it creeps me the hell out.

 

The ocean bed is littered with predators, and also those pretend snakes that pop out of fake cans of nuts.

 

The end of another level.  All three secrets.  You know the drill.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

40 Fathoms

40 Fathoms is every level-skipper’s worst nightmare.  As a child, I despised it for making me go through some actual gameplay before I could find a piece of dry land and flare-step-jump my way to the next level.  For whatever reason, my ten-year-old self’s idea of playing Tomb Raider was to watch and memorise the cut-scenes; it took a good few years before I actually felt the need to play any of the games, and even then, I would have my best friend sat beside me for back-up and make her take over when things got a bit too scary (i.e. when an enemy appeared or a wall texture looked a bit too sinister).

Anyway, it’s been a while, so let’s reacquaint ourselves with the plot.

While exploring the offshore rig, Lara came across a monk, Brother Chen Barkhang, who has suffered a brutal interrogation at the hands of Marco Bartoli’s minions.  He tells Lara that Marco is looking for the Seraph, an artefact that will unlock a “malignant treasure” in Chen’s monastery.  The Seraph’s last known location was with Marco’s father, Gianni, whose ship was bombed by Chen’s father whilst it sailed across the ocean, taking Gianni (and possibly the Seraph) to a watery grave.

Marco arrives on the scene and kills Chen, then turns his gun on Lara, who runs away.  She comes across a small submarine about to descend into the ocean, and, guessing it may be heading for Gianni’s wrecked ship, decides to follow it.

 

The start of the level, and it’s definitely not a corridor!  Well done, Core.  Lara’s ride comes to a sudden end when the submarine captain gets spooked by a shark (because who expects to see one of them floating around the sea?) and consequently crashes into a wall, causing instant death.  Ah, idiotic henchmen, where would video game storylines be without you?

 

Despite having been holding her breath for at least the past half hour, Lara still has enough puff in her to proceed casually along the ocean floor to the nearest air pocket.

 

There’s a fair few sharks circling around, but they’re fairly easy to avoid, seeing as they move with all the grace of an articulated lorry being driven by a starfish and take a good few hours to react when Lara swims by.

 

Shoot them with a harpoon enough times and sharks eventually flop to one side, fin on stomach as though they’re adopting the universal body language associated with being really full-up.  I can’t tell if they’re dead or just pretending they don’t want to eat Lara after all.

 

One of the scariest things about the sharks in Tomb Raider II is how they look when they (finally align themselves into a position where they can actually attempt to) bite Lara.  It looks like the whole inside of their mouth is about to be spat out.

 

Thankfully, some of them are as stupid as Bartoli’s henchmen.  This one was content enough to nuzzle the edge of this hole until Lara’s last harpoon bore it away to sweet oblivion.

Oh, I made myself sad.  Poor shark. :(

 

The secrets are ridiculously easy on this level.  It would have been harder not to get them.  One is next to a lever you need to use to progress!  I mean, come on, after the T-Rex hole in The Great Wall, we expect something a little better than this.

 

The best moment in the level, when the camera cuts to an outside view of the ship (oh, yeah, she’s in the ship now, by the way), where all these sharks and barracudas are swimming around.

 

Come on, that’s not a lever!  That’s a plank of wood glued to the wall!

 

Lara attempts to huge another inanimate object, this time a ladder.  I guess tomb raiding gets lonely.

 

For some reason, this pile of dirt triggered this particularly beautiful piece of music.  The track is entitled “Majesty”.  Uh…yeah.

 

Lara tries to flip the v-sign to a couple of cultists but is thwarted by the graphical limitations.  Either that or she’s enraged by a slight itch on her forehead.

 

Yes, this level was fairly short.  And, as mentioned above, the secrets were easy.  Don’t expect such a good performance every level.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Diving Area

Happily, I could only recall about 0.17% of this level, and therefore nearly everything was a delightful surprise.  Well, everything besides the flamethrowers, that is.  My overall memory of the sea-based levels in Tomb Raider II was seventeen punishing hours of…wait, hold on, wasn’t that my memory of The Cistern?  Did I just have an aversion to water-based levels when I was fourteen that reaching adulthood has allowed me to overcome?  I think there’s a scientific experiment here, somewhere.

While I’m here, I’ll mention that this level (and the last) have a particularly disconcerting ambience soundtrack that includes a noise which sounds like Lara breaking her neck.  Every time I heard it, I had to check Lara was still alive (and that her neck was intact).

Reunited with her pistols, Lara continues to explore the offshore rig.

The start of the level.  This is the afore-mentioned 0.17% that I could recall.  Beyond these steps could have been a carnival of rainbow-coloured unicorns singing their way through The Cure’s greatest hits for all I knew.

 

No unicorns, but ample opportunity for Lara to unleash her special brand of deadly yoga.

 

Even the best raiders can slip and fall sometimes, right?  Also, what on earth is all that green stuff and why does Lara die the minute she touches it?  A warning sign would have been nice.

 

A vast majority of this level involves climbing this ladder.

 

Fifteen days later…

 

Finally.  That guy doesn’t look too pleased to see us, but, to be fair, he’s probably a little bitter that’s he’s had to spend most of his adult life in this room waiting for Lara to show up.

 

Well, really, what a stupid place to put a key-card.

 

For your enjoyment, here’s a really creepy picture of a dog that I managed to take.  You’re welcome.

 

Diving Area heralds the reign of the series’ latest “most irritating enemy” award-winner, flamethrower man.  He often shows up in places where there’s no water, and watches with a sociopathic passiveness as Lara burns to death.  Also, you can’t steal his weapon after you kill him.  What’s the deal with that?

 

Thankfully, not all enemies in this level are as dangerous.  Marco’s tendency to hire the dumbest guys that manage to turn up for the interview means that these two men are rendered powerless by a few sheets of glass and a closed door, and can only watch in enraged impotence as Lara rushes around, killing divers and moving blocks.

 

No!  Get out the way!  I want to get on that anthropomorphic helicopter!

 

TR2_Lvl6_DivingArea_Helicopter

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be the only one tonight who has nightmares about red-eyed dogs and helicopters that seem to be staring directly into the darkest corners of your soul.

 

It’s too late, Lara, the helicopter’s gone.  This is one problem that can’t be solved with yoga.

 

One of the best moments in the level is when this thing appears, Das Boot-like, while Lara is descending into a deep pool of water.  It turns out to be a tiny submarine thing, but at this point you could be forgiven for thinking it was an atomic bomb poorly disguised as a shark.

 

“What a stupid place to put a key-card”: Redux.

 

Lara’s on fire, and she’s not too happy about it.

 

At first glance, this looks like another yoga pose, but actually, I suspect Lara may have just fallen down that ladder in an attempt to sneak up on that guy.  But hey, she can’t be graceful all of the time, can she?

 

Prepare to fall off your seat in shock as you witness Lara showing compassion towards another human being.  Lara comes across Brother Chen Barkhang, who was being tortured by Marco’s cultists, and takes a moment to check over his wounds.  Although maybe she’s just thinking about lining up a replacement for her butler, Winston, for when he finally shuffles (‘shuffles’ being the operative word) off of this mortal coil.

 

“Hmm, strong hands, but are they up to holding a tea tray for eighteen hours a day?”

 

I’m going to give Core Design the benefit of the doubt and assume this was just an unfortunate camera positioning.

 

Yes, Lara have definitely gotten over that little “caring about other people” wobble; she’s now back to not giving a damn and throwing shoes at seriously injured monks.

 

While Brother Barkhang is telling Lara about how he and some other monks are trying to stop Marco’s pursuit of the Dagger of Xian, the devil himself turns up and kills the poor old man.

 

Lara (who changed into a wetsuit while we weren’t looking) makes a run for it, taking pot-shots at Marco before diving for cover.  “That was my replacement butler, you bastard!”  Now it’s personal.

 

Okay, Lara, that’s the third time in one level you’ve fallen over.  Maybe ditching your shoes in a place with lots of water and non-grip flooring was a bad idea.

 

And we’re done.  I’ve decided that getting all the secrets is uncool.  I mean, I do have a life, you know.