Welcome to my recap for Tomb Raider II, which will follow pretty much the same formula as my recap for the first game; namely, posing myself questions lifted from Jeremy’s 30-Day Tomb Raider Challenge and Stella’s adaption of the same challenge (as well as some of my own).
Favourite / Least Favourite Level
Obviously Venice is the best level in the game (and, indeed, the world) for completely objective reasons that are in no way tied to my feelings of nostalgia and a series of vague dreams I had when I was ten. Speedboats! Classical music! Door textures! It's perfection in a .TR2 file. Tibetan Foothills is another great level, due in no small part to the inclusion of the snowmobile (with an accompanying theme song that’s almost as good as the speedboat’s one). Of course, Lara’s Home, while not technically a level, is a excellent take on the traditional training area and really fleshes out the concept from its fairly brief predecessor.
Awarding least favourite is a lot more challenging. Discarding levels that are pretty much one-trick ponies (The Dragon’s Lair, Home Sweet Home – both could be considered “bad” due to their shortness and lack of exploration), I suppose one of the water levels will have to suffice, simply because there are too many of the bloody things. I’m going to say Wreck of the Maria Doria; it’s not awful, and it looks really good in some places, but it was a bit of a disappointment compared to how I remember it, and I seemed to enjoy the other sea levels a lot more. Oh! Except The Deck. In fact, pretty much same-goes for The Deck. So, those two.
Favourite / Least Favourite Enemy
Despite originally awarding him the “most irritating enemy” award, I’m going to backtrack a little and rename flamethrower man as my most favourite enemy, because he was a little different from the other human enemies (the rest being your common ‘shoot-it-or-hit-it’ variety) and used sparingly enough to be challenging rather than an incredible hassle. Getting on the wrong side of him is the equivalent of near-instant death, so you have to be a little more strategic when dealing with him.
My least-favourite enemy is the yeti, because I BLOODY HATE YETIS. They make scary yelling noises and spend most of their time stomping around deep, dark pits which Lara is often forced to visit thanks to some game-progressing item. Also, they just stand there crowing
after they kill her after Lara dies until presumably the end of time. Talk about bad winners.
Favourite Weapon / Least Favourite Weapon
Once again, Uzis reign supreme because they’re fast, loud and deadly. Grenade Launcher takes a close second for sheer novelty value (it’s raining body parts!).
There’s enough weapons now to warrant a “least favourite weapon” category; naturally, this honour goes to the harpoon gun, which rarely hits the target and haemorrhages ammo. It would seriously be more useful for Lara to arm herself with a knitting needle. It’s not even worth removing the thing from its holster.
Is it me or are the puzzles a lot more action-dependent in Tomb Raider II, compared to the first game? Many of them seemed somersault-based, and my brain is finding it hard to differentiate between what was an actual puzzle and and what was just general bouncing around. The only one that really stands out is timed door at the end of Venice; I think figuring out how not to get blown up constitutes a brain-teaser.
Venice Violins. Please note that this particular category extends beyond Tomb Raider II to encompass “every piece of music ever recorded”. Why hasn’t Nathan McCree been knighted yet?
It was a tough decision, and the plane-crash scene – where Lara looks mildly inconvenienced when her plane has a crisis of confidence somewhere over Tibet – almost had it, but eventually I decided that the crown should go to the jeep-jacking FMV:
I thought it was going to be the giant spiders’ nest in Temple of Xian, but no, it was this place:
Namely, the dark yeti-pit in Catacombs of the Talion. Thank goodness for flares (and Uzis).
Most Emotional Moment
Nothing particularly upset me in Tomb Raider II, except maybe that brain-damaged shark I murdered. Once again, we’ll have to turn to our old friend nostalgia and just gesture in Venice’s general direction. Ah, Venice. I probably would have been a well-adjusted, non-Tomb Raider obsessed woman if it wasn’t for you.
Ooo, the creators really took the opportunity to play dress-up Lara with this instalment. Five outfit changes feature:
from top left:
Home, Underwater, Nightdress,
All have their merits (and her ‘hanging out at home’ clothes are a 250% improvement from the first game), but ultimately I will opt for the cold-weather outfit worn in Tibet, an outfit that seems to be at odds with itself: a cosy-looking jacket paired with a pair of shorts that were barely worth putting on.
Favourite Way To Kill Lara
Yetis put on a fairly good show of removing Lara from the mortal coil, but, as we’re all aware, I hate yetis. So I’m going to ignore them in favour of Floating Islands’ spearmen and their economical murder-weapon-cum-cooking-utensil approach.
The original Tomb Raider – as ground-breaking as it was – seems almost conservative compared to its ambitious little sister. The first game sent Lara spelunking round various underground location, so TR2 takes her from the top of the Tibetan mountain ranges to the bottom of the ocean. TR1 provides handguns of varying power; TR2 adds rifles, harpoons and grenade launchers into the mix. TR1’s Lara has to walk everywhere (in game, at least), while Lara 2.0 has gained a driving license and gains access to a couple of vehicles to wreak havoc (and wreck gondolas) with.
This is all to be expected, of course. Tomb Raider I was testing the water with the concept, and its success meant that Tomb Raider II could really take the plunge. Unfortunately, in its haste to plus-one everything, some defining qualities from the first game got left on the wayside, the two main examples being lack of puzzles (I mentioned above that I couldn’t really remember any in particular and I’m pretty sure that’s not just my terrible memory) and a diminished sense of isolation. The latter isn’t exactly a bad thing – the player doesn’t need to experience the same feeling of tomb-exploring solitude when they’re in the middle of European city, do they? – but it did somewhat diminish the Lara vs. The World trope into something more like Lara vs. Loads of Bad Guys, By Herself Until The Cavalry Eventually Decide To Turn Up (Not That They Ever Do, But That’s Beside The Point).
How much you miss the seclusion from the first game depends on the player - I actually find it slightly less nerve-wracking to explore a place that should technically be “peopled”, even if they are all thugs – but the puzzle thing is probably more objective, for it really was a big part of the first game. I for one could have happily swapped a few henchmen for something like the gold-bar conundrum in Palace Midas.
But these flaws are forgivable in the face of the rest of the game, which is truly excellent. I don’t think it’s one of those elusive “better” sequels, but it certainly doesn’t disgrace the series and can proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its elder sister. In short; it’s still awesome.