Tag Archives: Core

Review: Tomb Raider II (PS1) ~ French Lara

tomb_raider_2_boxWikipedia entry

Before you ask, what the title means… Let me explain that to you. So, I live in Belgium and we have three national languages here. These are Dutch, French and German. So, when I bought this game in a garage sale, I didn’t notice that I bought the French version of the game. Yeah. That’s why I played this game in French. Thankfully, after I had beaten this game I got my hands on the English version and the expansion pack for the PC, so I was able to enjoy the original voice acting. But, enough stalling. It’s time to talk about my experience with this game on the PlayStation 1. What is my opinion on this game? Let’s find out! As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the article.

A dagger with power

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In this game, you play as Lara Croft on an adventure for the Dagger of Xian. The legend goes that with this dagger you can turn into a dragon. On the condition that the dagger is in your heart.

In present day, Lara is looking for the dagger. But she has the mafia on her heels.

Personally, I love this story. But that has to do with a few reasons. I enjoy stories about powerful artificats that can transform people or give them supernatural powers. Also, my favorite mythical creature are dragons. So, I’m a little bit bias to the story.

The writing is well done and the voice acting still sort of holds up. What I mean with “sort of” is that the voices are in rather low quality for today’s standards but this game is 10 years old, so I can forgive it for that.

Something I think that could be learned from this game is the fact that this game doesn’t have a real tutorial. I think it’s a great game design philisophy to first learn the player the mechanics in a safe of semi-safe enviroment and after that, you throw in the traps and puzzles. I don’t mean a full on tutorial, but a room where every mechanic can be learned without the fear of dying. Thankfully, you can save the game at any moment in time so you can quickly recover when you made a mistake. On the condition that you have saved often of course.

That is what I thought at first, but when I started messing around in Lara Croft’s manner, guess what… There is in fact a tutorial. So, when you play this game for the first time, I recommend doing the Croft Manner before you go into the main game. Thank me later.

As a side note, the save system is something you have to get used too. My French wasn’t good enough to understand everything of the UI. But, after some trail and error, I was able to figure it out. My advise when you play this game is to save often or you will regret it. There are a lot of traps in this game and when you haven’t saved, you will have to do those all over again.

Speaking about the UI itself, I think it’s amazing. The only complaint I have is that you can’t show Lara’s health at all time on the screen.

Showing it’s age

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I think it isn’t a surprise that this game is showing it’s age. Comparing to later titles in the series, this game hasn’t aged all that well.

But, the PS1 version has some disavantages compared to the PC version. In the PC version, you can have more than one save in a level and in my opinion, it controls better.

The reason that is controls better is, at least according to me, I usually play Tomb Raider games on my PC and rarely on consoles. So, my brain is somewhat hard wired for these old Tomb Raider games, making it trickier for me to play it on a console.

Something that was also present in the PC version is the texture clipping. In some cases or viewing angles, you can see white lines on the screen where the textures start and end.

Visually, this game looks dated. But I personally don’t mind. I think the visuals has still some charm to them. Just the early 3D adventure games that try to go full 3D have so much charm. I wish that more games are created that way, since it’s so nostalgic in my opinion.

The controls of this game are a mixed bag. At most moments, they work fine. But, if don’t play a lot of PlayStation, you might forget which button does what and in stressful trap situations, this will lead to some frustation. But, I had a hard time adjusting to how Lara walks. But, I think that issue has also to do with the annoying camera.

I had several times that the camera didn’t always follow the action. I died so many times because of that, it got frustrating.

Atmosphere

tr2_1The lack of music sometimes creates a great atmosphere. You visit various locations in your journey and in key moments, you get music.

The music in this game is extremely well done in my opinion. Surprisingly enough, according to various sources, the composer of this game worked on the soundtrack for only 3 to 4 months.

The sound effects of this game are still great. These have aged well. Just like the atmosphere of this game. I loved my journey through this game. The gameplay is really enjoyable. There are puzzles that got me stumped and jumping puzzles that I had to attempt more then once, but I didn’t mind. The fact that I can save and reload my game at any place I wanted made the game more forgiving. This game can be difficult in some places, but after playing a level or a section over and over again, you get more skilled and pass more difficult things easier.

You have 18 levels in this game. This game can be finished in give or take 20 hours, if you know what you are doing. Otherwise, it’s a lot of trail and error. Also, if you like exploring, there are three secrets hidden in each stage so you can explore to your hearts content. I wasn’t able to find each secret, so they are pretty well hidden. Each level has it’s own fair share of enemies to kill, puzzles to solve, gaps to jump over and traps to avoid. This adventure is a fun one, but some timed puzzles can be a bit strict. Also, it isn’t always 100% clear where you need to go. But, after some exploring and trying, I was always able to find the path to continue.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. This means it’s time for the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-The controls on the PC version are better.

-The save feature is better in the PC version.

-This game is showing it’s age.

The good:

+ Enjoyable story with great voice acting.

+ Addicitive gameplay.

+ Great music.

+ …

Final thoughts:

While I enjoyed this game a whole lot, I enjoyed it more on the PC. But, would I recommend this game to someone? Well, it all depends. If they are a hardcore Tomb Raider fan, I would say… You haven’t played this game? Shame on you! If they enjoy older games, I would say to give this game a shot. It’s a classic game after all.

This game hasn’t aged well, so you will have to get used to the controls and visual style of the game. But, when you get used to it, you are in for a great adventure that takes you around the globe full of surprises.

Personally, I think that the first 5 Tomb Raider games should have a remake. These games would be a lot of fun for modern gamers if the visuals get polished up.

But even when this game is better on the PC, the PS1 version is still great and fun to play, yet a bit flawed here and there. Too bad that you don’t have the expansion packs in this version.

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game, so I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 70/100

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First Impression: Tomb Raider 5 – Chronicles (PC) ~ Is Lara dead?

Tomb_Raider_-_Chronicles.png

Wikipedia entry

If my nickname doesn’t give it away, I’m quite a big fan of Indiana Jones. When I played Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, I wanted to play more games where I raid tombs and have large adventures. It didn’t take long for me to find a cheap copy of Tomb Raider 5 and install it. And, I wasn’t good at playing this game as a kid. I barely survived the first level. Yes, shame on me. But several years later, I decided to put the game in my Windows98 machine again. And I have to say, my feelings towards the game changed. But I’ll go more in-depth about that in my article. Nowadays, I’m a big Tomb Raider fan and I keep up-to-date with the latest releases. So, is this game any fun and good to play. Let’s take a look at it! And as usual, feel free to write a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the article in the comment section down below.

Let’s tell stories

tomb raider 5 screen 1.jpg

Usually, each Tomb Raider game has an overarching story. You go searching for a treasure and visit a ton of interesting locations. But in this game opens right after, what appears to be, the funeral of Lara Croft. Winston, her butler, and two of his friends recollect and tell stories of her adventures. Now, you might have guessed this, but the stories are the levels you play.

This is a very interesting way of telling the plot of this game. Since you go on little side adventures that might never get a full game. It almost feels like the developers had so many ideas for this game, they threw it all together in one nice flowing narrative.

The voice acting in this game is really excellent. As a kid, I was convinced that the characters were real. The voice acting is that good in my opinion.

While I know that the technology and animation were very limited back then, but the mouth animations weren’t that good in this game. Games like Half-Life and Deus Ex had better mouth animations. This might look like a detail that I’m talking about, yet there were moments that it distracted me from the game.

Less ropes!

tomb-raider-5-screen-2 Something I truly didn’t like in Tomb Raider 4 was the parts with the ropes. Thank god, this is way less present in this game. But, let’s focus on the gameplay of this game. In this game, you explore 13 levels filled to the brim with puzzles of the solving and jumping variety.

All levels are quite lengthy, apart from one…. and that one was quite difficult to finish in my eyes. Something I truly liked in this game is all the differences between the levels. You play through 4 different adventures and each adventure has its own gimmick. Like the levels I’m currently at, you play as a young Lara. So, she doesn’t have any guns.

Visually, this game looks dated. But, it looked dated in some places back then. But, if I compare games from that time period to this game, the reason why this game looks so dated are the character models. If there is anything that could have been improved back then were the character models.

But hey, the setting of the game and animation look all quite nice, apart from the mouth animation that is. Also, if you think that this game looks ugly, well… if it would be released today, it would. But, it doesn’t look ugly in my opinion. Even nowadays.

This game can be quite challenging. I have to admit, I have used a guide in some places to finish the level. If you play this game, I highly recommend that you save often. You will thank me for that.

If you look at a let’s play of this game, you might think that this game is quite difficult with all the jumping. But take it from me, an amateur when it comes to jumping puzzles, it’s possible and it’s so rewarding when you get a jump from the first try!

Pew pew pew

tomb-raider-v-chronicles-mac-screenshot-3

As a kid, I always dreaded the rope sections in this game. Walking on the tightrope is a new ability of Lara Croft in this game. But, somehow my kid brain wasn’t able to beat the rope. I was so happy when I crossed it successfully. But when I played through this game as an adult, I have no problem with it.

The controls are almost always very responsive. I had a few times that Lara didn’t grab a ledge or didn’t jump in time. Perhaps, I didn’t press the right buttons in time.

Something that made me replay the levels I had finished are the secrets in this game. In this title, various golden roses are hidden throughout the levels. The sound that plays when you find a secret is as addictive as the sound of Link finding a new item.

Speaking of sounds, the sound design and the soundtrack of this game is excellent. I felt rewarded when I got a music cue or some music. Actually, that’s something this game lacked as well. There wasn’t enough music in this title. I can understand that this is done to build the atmosphere of the game, but I personally would be happy with a bit more music. The whole soundtrack is about 25 minutes long. And that’s quite short for an adventure game like this.

So, the sound design of this game is pretty well done. Like I said earlier, the voice acting is very well done. Also, there isn’t one sound effect I would have changed or that would improve the game. I played this game using a headset and thanks to the sound design, I was really pulled into the game.

If I was allowed to change one thing, that is the loading of save points right after death. It’s so annoying that the main menu first has to load and right after that, the default option is “new game”. I can’t count on one hand how many times I have started a new game when I wanted to load a game. Yet, I wish I was able to change two things. The second thing would be the autorun feature. It’s broken. It autoruns the game yet you are unable to save your game. That’s an annoying bug!

Also, I have to praise the game for something. The optional tutorial section is such a great idea. At the start of the first level, you can go straight ahead or to the left in a building. If you go to the left, the basic controls are explained in a quite safe area. If you go straight ahead, you continue on with the level. If my mind severs me correctly, there are no secrets hidden in the tutorial area. Yet, there are various useful items hidden there. So, I advice you all to go and explore there.

That is everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I have some other things I want to talk about with this game but I’m leaving those for the review. So, it’s time to wrap this article up. Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Tomb Raider IV – The Last Revelation

600px-Tomb_Raider_4_coverTomb Raiders.net entry

The year is 1999 – 2000. Young NekoJonez was 8 years old. I only had a gameboy and quite an old pc. It could run old dos games and such just fine but as soon as I started to play games that were released after 2001, my computer freaked out. So, I grew up with handhelds. Although, there is one game I played as a child while not being 100% allowed. I played Tomb Raider 5. A game I picked up at a local toy store for a few bucks. I heard quite a lot of rumors of an Indiana Jones style game on the PlayStation, and that they were able to take a peek when the big brother or parent played the game. So, curious Jonez is curious and when I played TR 5, I was kinda disappointed. The controls really threw me off. Years later, I get myself the Tomb Raider bundle after having so fond memories of Legend, Anniversary, Underworld and it’s latest reboot. So, the last few weeks I gave TR 4 a try… Did it change my opinion when I was a child? Let’s take a look at the game. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game.

Editoral note: The reason I linked to Tomb Raiders.net their informative entry of this game instead of my usual habit to link to WikiPedia or the official site is because I used their images for this article. They deserve the credit. 

Tutorial

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I choose this game since it’s one that I wasn’t able to play as a kid. When I bought two TR games, they actually messed up and put TR III on the disc where IV should be. And they put TR IV on the one which needed TR III. I still own that copy, so I might show it in a video.

TR III and TR V worked just fine. Until I tried to run TR IV. The game crashed as soon as it wanted to boot. And because I didn’t knew a lot about computers back then, I wasn’t able to fix it. Then Steam came around and offered me this bundle of all the Tomb Raider games. So, I bought it. I was surprised when I saw that my 64-bit beast of a gaming machine was able to run the game just fine.

The game opens like how I remember the other old school Tomb Raider games open. With an introduction screen with ‘new’, ‘load’,’options’ and ‘exit’. In the background you have an animation of a few levels you will encounter in the game. I adore these title screens since they give the game that much more charm.

Yet, I wasn’t pleased with the first level. Not at all. With little to no backstory, you are dropped into the tomb and you have a guide with you that explained all mechanics of the game to you. The voice acting is a bit off. There are sometimes small moments of silence between lines and the young Lara has barely any emotion put into it. (At least, that’s my opinion).

I wanted to explore the level, yet, out of the dialogue of the tutorial I felt that it wasn’t really allowed. What really made me annoyed is the fact that you don’t have a weapon in this level while there are enemies.

Tank Larabaddies1

Truth to be told, it actually let me get used to the controls. The controls that threw me off and stopped me from playing the Tomb Raider games in the past. So, this brings me to one annoying thing in this game. The menu to configure your controls. While it works fine, it doesn’t recognize azerty keyboard lay-outs. It isn’t the biggest issue though, it’s that you can barely “read” the menu. It’s quite hard to actually make out what key does what unless you take out a ruler and put it on the screen. It’s a nitpick I know, but it’s rather annoying. … Oh, I actually lied. There is an even bigger issue. You can bind one key to more then one action.

The controls are responsive yet they are outdated. Playing old games like this really proves to me how hard wired my mind is in using the controls in a game now-a-days. Yet, after you get used to it, you will be able to pull off some nice moves. Yet, there are two major issues I have with the controls… and that is how picky the game can be of your location to be able to pick up an item or pull a lever. The second issue I have is how awkward the controls are for swinging on a rope. At least to me. Maybe I’m too used to the control scheme Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine used.

 Gameplay

scenery1I think it would be unfair to judge the game on graphics and animation, in a way. They are quite outdated and on modern systems they then to glitch out a bit. Yet, I don’t think it’s an issue. The presentation brings an amazing atmosphere. It really feels you are exploring a tomb.

After the tutorial level, there is little to no explanation on what to do. Thankfully, after you solved a puzzle, a small cutscene plays showing you the general direction you need to go in.

It actually blows my mind how well designed this game is. You can explore around and find hidden areas and I rarely got the feeling of being lost. While I was thinking about what I wanted to talk about in this article, I wanted to mention the lack of an ingame map… Actually, it isn’t an issue. Since it helps to build the feeling that you are exploring a location nobody has visited for quite some time.

So, let’s talk about the music. This is actually difficult for me since I feel that the soundtrack of later games are better then the old soundtracks. Before you write angry comments trying to explain to me what is wrong with my opinion here, let me explain. What I mean is that the more action packed soundtrack fits the atmosphere more then the more calm, bit creepy soundtrack of the old school games.

Actually, I like the soundtrack of this game. From what I have heard, it adds to the creepy atmosphere you would get when you are really exploring tombs. It fits more to the style of the old school Tomb Raider games.

In any case, I think I’m going to wrap up this article for now. I know that I talked a bit too much about the controls in this game. If you didn’t get the clue, I’m quite enjoying this game. If I finish it, I’ll surely write a review article about it. I wanted to focus in this article more on the issues I have now-a-days with the controls and why they actually made me stop playing Tomb Raider as a kid. I think I should return on that topic.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article. I wish you an amazing day and I hope to meet you another time. Take care, NekoJonez.