Tag Archives: rom

Writers Raid: Tomb Raider Level Editor ~ Lara Raided Fantombs

Tomb_Raider_Level_Editor

Today I want to take you on a journey. Together with various other writers, we decided to celebrate the Tomb Raider series. While a lot of people look at the early Tomb Raider games as games that didn’t age well, I don’t mind that much. True, the games aren’t the best to play nowadays, but I still enjoy them. I knew that there was a level editor as a child but I never taken the time to learn the ins and outs of the tool. In the past, I thought that it was a cheating tool that allowed you to edit levels to give you an advantage. Anyways, the level editor, that’s the theme of this article.

History

Now, what’s the TLRE? What’s the Tomb Raider Level Editor? Well, it’s the actual tool that Core Design used to create the first 5 Tomb Raider games. This tool was released to the public in 2000. Included in the package were beta versions of various levels and a couple of completed levels. A bit later, Eidos Interactive released another few levels. You can dig deeper on the details of those levels on the Tomb Raider Wiki.

If you want to mess around with the tool itself, you can find it here. Out of personal experience, I can say that the tool works on Windows 10. There are various tutorials you can find online. On YouTube and on various forums. Here are a few links you could use:

http://www.tombraiderforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=16

https://tombraiders.net/stella/trle.html

http://www.trle.net

https://www.aspidetr.com/en/tools/tomb-raider-level-editor/

There is also an updated fan version of the tool called Tomb Raider Level Editor Next Generation. It’s quite a mouthful, but it has more features then the original tool. It also has widescreen support and various other features. More information can be found on this website: http://www.trlevelmanager.eu/ng.htm or you can read about it in detail on this forum thread: http://www.tombraiderforums.com/showthread.php?t=216848

Before I continue with this article, I have to admit that I’m not that good in creating levels with the tools. So, if you are looking for a review of the tools, I think you are at the wrong place. In this article I want to take a look at some random levels I played. Most of these levels are created by other people and the download link will be provided. If you want to play any custom created levels yourself, the best website to find them is: http://www.trle.net

Do keep in mind that all of these custom levels run on one the engine of Tomb Raider I, II, III, IV or V. So, don’t expect HD visuals or anything that the engine can’t handle. So, if you aren’t into the original Tomb Raider games, you might not get into these levels. But, if you are a Tomb Raider fan or enjoy retro adventure games, do give them a try. And don’t worry, there are reviews on almost every level on TRLE.net so you know if a level is good or not.

To play the custom levels you don’t need to have the level editor itself installed or any of the Tomb Raider games. The way how you play these levels is quite simple. After downloading a level, you unpack them and click on the exe file. In some cases, you can hold the CTRL key down to adjust some options like the visuals and things like that. Sometimes there is a readme file included by the author to aid you when certain problems occur. Do read them, since sometimes there is useful information in there. Uninstalling a custom level/game is quite simple. Since you didn’t have to install anything, you can just remove the files.

For beginners

Now, if you decided that you want to give these custom levels a try and you haven’t played Tomb Raider in the past or it was too long ago, let me give you some advice to better enjoy these custom levels. This might look like a lot to take in, but you will get used it to when you play more levels. Start with the highest rated ones. Those are really well built and rarely have cheap traps or overly difficult jumps in them.

First of all, if you run a level that’s made in TRI, II or III, you are able to change the controls from the main menu using the option with the arrow keys. If you are playing a custom level created in TRIV or V, you are able to do so using the “P” key during gameplay. Here is the basic lay-out for the keys:

TRLE1

Feel free to use these pictures as a reference in case the game is in a different language. The sequence of this list almost NEVER changes. To my knowledge, you are unable to rebind the keys in levels created in TR I, II and III. In other cases you can select the action using the arrow keys, press enter and press the key you want to bind it too. Pay attention while you are doing this since the game won’t complain if you bind two things to the same key.

Alright, now while playing this game, know that the game never autosaves. You can save by using F5 and load by using F6. You can save at any location you want, apart from when you are in a cutscene. You can’t pause the game using esc during cutscenes either.

Remember that Lara never automatically grabs ledges. You need to hold down the action button. So, if you jump towards a ledge, hold that button or you will fill. The same button is used to flick levers, pick up items, press buttons and so on and so forth.

You can save while hanging from a ledge, but press the action button right after the game loaded or you will fall. But, the action button is useful for so much more. From pushing boxes to opening trapdoors. If you are stuck, look for a place where the action button does something. Also, when you are trying to open a trapdoor, always try the action button while standing in the middle of a side. The final useful thing to know is when you press action in front of a keyhole and you have the actual key, your inventory will automatically open.

Do experiment with Lara’s jump, since she is quite acrobatic. Something I love using is backwards roll, when I press a button and quickly need to run away. This can be done by pressing the up and down key together while you perform a jump. In one custom level I have to jump back and forth between platforms to make it to the other side.

In some cases, Lara will be able to climb up. Whenever she needs to pull herself up in a tight spot, use the duck key while pulling yourself up. That way she will squeeze herself into the tight space.

Here is another hint. If you need to jump from a ladder to something behind you, don’t jump from the top. Lara will bump her head on the ceiling and loose height. You can jump from a ladder by pressing the down arrow and jump (while letting go of the control key), and then hold the up arrow and control. This technique will proof tricky at first, but practice makes perfect.

Now, I could keep explaining the whole move set Lara has. But that’s something you will learn when you play custom levels. Whenever you are stuck, simply google the name of the custom level and add “Tomb Raider Level Editor” behind it. 9.99 out of 10 chances you will find a walkthrough on it. Unless the level just released, in that case, you can either use the TRLE.net forums or wait a day or two.

Or you can experiment by downloading the level editor and playing the first two included levels. These have very easy levels that aid you in learning how the game is played. The download link can be found earlier in the article.

Oh, and it’s maybe handy to know how to exit a game. If you don’t find the quit button easy, just “ALT+F4” always worked for me.

Now, one annoying thing I want to mention is that “ALT+TAB” doesn’t always work. Be careful if you want to look at a walkthrough or something. Since, it’s possible that you are unable to open the game again. It might either crash or black screen. If that happens, use task manager to kill the process of the game and load it up again. That’s why I use the F5 key to quickly save before “Alt+Tab”. If you use “Alt+Tab” the safest way to get back to the game is to “Alt+Tab” into the game again. It’s possible that it has two open windows, the best best is choosing the window that has a title displayed. In most cases, that’s the name of the engine that’s used.

You can quickly load your game using F6, this is very handy. Since you can save everywhere, you can also save while on ladders or while hanging from a ledge. If you press the Action button (usually the CTRL key) during loading, you won’t fall off the ladder or edge. So, be careful with that.

With that said, it’s time for me to look at a few randomly chosen levels over at TLRE.net. I’ll give my opinions on the levels and a small score. If you know of some amazing levels, please do share them in the comment section down below. Footnote, every rating is on a max score of 10. Be aware, I’m not going to give these levels an in-depth review. Just some quick thoughts.

The Wolf Pack – Part 2

Image00001

Created by: JesseG

Created in: TR4

Rating: 9.25

Released: 23/08/2018

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=3065

This is at the moment of writing this article, the most recently released entry. This level isn’t beginner friendly since it requires some precise jumps from ladders. Especially backwards. To more experienced players, this level is a nice challenge.

In this level, the character model of Lara is replaced by a wolf model. This model is very nice to look at and the visual presentation fits the visuals of Tomb Raider 4 nicely. The custom music and sound effects are decent. It was quite unexpected to find more MIDI-sounding music in a Tomb Raider level.

At first, I found that the music didn’t fit the Tomb Raider universe at all, but the more I played the game and the more I heard the music, the more it grew on me. I’m adding the music to my game OST library since I like it that much.

This is quite a lengthy game. In a matter of fact, this game can take up to an hour to complete the three levels. In these three levels you play as two different playable characters. Yes, you have two playable characters. You can swap between them using swap points you find at certain places. Both characters have different unique abilities. This is something I rarely see in TRLE levels and was a pleasant surprise to see.

Since I have played the second part before the first, I think it would be handy if the creator included some sort of link to download the first part of these levels in the download.

The only points of criticism are as follows.  First of all, while almost all sound effects have been changed, I found it strange that the sound effect to falling to your doom hasn’t been changed.

Secondly, I found the first jump from a ladder you had to do pretty annoying. I think it would be better if the platform had a different color or a bit more identification that you are supposed to jump there.

Thirdly, I think that the levels were either too long or too short. The first level was too long and the two other levels were over before I knew it. I think it would have been better if the first level was cut into more levels and the 2nd and 3rd level were merged into one level.

Overall, very creative level pack but needs some minor polish to get perfect. This level pack does a lot of unique things in the TRLE community and is really recommended for veteran players or new players looking for a challenge.

Personal score: 9/10

Wolfpack screenie

Lost in Temple

Created by: Sal

Created in: TR5

Rating: 5.98

Released: 11/10/2015

http://trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2873

This custom level is according to the TRLE.net walkthrough a remake of Fenician Temple 4 from Tomb Raider 3. Something that I didn’t like for this model is the outfit Lara is wearing during this level. I felt that it didn’t fit the theming of this level at all.

Lost in Temple screenie

While this level impressed me at the start with some amazing camera angles and two big rooms filled with jump puzzles, the issues with this level became clear to me quickly. This level has quite a lot of backtracking.

This level honestly got a bit boring in my opinion. For example, to solve one block puzzle I had to run from one room to another so many times.

Also, I was unable to play this game in full screen. I had to fix the broken shortcut to the setup tool, which was easy to do. Just replacing the path where the EXE of the game is located. I had to play windowed. But, from the reviews I have read, this might be an universal issue with Tomb Raider 5 and Windows 10.

This level would have been better if there was a bit more direction as well. I had to consult a walkthrough since I didn’t find were I was supposed to go. It turned out that I was able to grab a wall. The thing is, it used the same texture as the bottom part of the wall where the wall isn’t grabbable nor climbable.

Also, I found the walkthrough of the actual author of this level. And he had to speed up some parts of his video. Looking at that video, this level goes on for quite a while. I have quit playing this level when I had to fight enemies in the dark. I just felt done with the level.

Looking at the reviews on TRLE.net, I’m happy to see that there were people who enjoyed this level. Since, I have seen much worse. This level is balanced and very detailed. But, it’s unpolished and isn’t fun to play in my opinion.

Personal score: 4/10

Poseidons Sanctum

Poseidons Sanctum screenie

Created by: Sarikman

Created in: TR3

Rating: 8.94

Released: 21/11/2011

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2478

This level was quite a good one. This level is created in an unofficial editor called DXTRE3D created by Trubo Pascal. This level is also pretty tricky but it’s doable. You will have to think old-school Tomb Raider to find every secret and the way forward in these levels.

I had a great time playing these levels. If you decide to play these levels, I have a tip for you. At first, you might think that the camera does some weird things but pay attention when the angle changes. What is it showing you? Seriously, it shows some extremely helpful things.

Visually, this level looks amazing for using the Tomb Raider 3 engine as a base. I started Tomb Raider III right after playing this one to compare and I like the visuals a bit more in the custom level then in the original one. Sadly enough, there were some minor texturing issues here and there, but they weren’t too noticeable.

The music selection in this level pack is top notch. I really liked how the music went more silent when you were under water.

While this level pack has a few bugs, the author provided some screenshots and explanations on how to fix them or how to avoid these bugs. The author also provided a text file with some interesting advice for people who got stuck and not only that, it’s written in a way that Lara is talking to you. Very interesting and fun read.

I won’t talk too much more about this level since if you want to play an amazing example of what people can do with the level editor, just play this level. It’s one of the best I have played in a long while. I haven’t finished this level but I’m going to play this over my next break.

The only advice I could give to the author for this level is, if you create bug pictures and such, use more than an arrow to point out ledges. If possible, give them a color or make it a bit more clear which ledge you mean.

Personal score: 8/10

Final words

Thank you so much for reading my entry for the Tomb Raider Writer’s Raid series. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this one. I play from time to time various TRLE levels. I enjoy them quite a lot. Seeing these new levels makes my retro hart happy.

While I completely understand that there is a crowd that dislikes the old Tomb Raider, I’m not part of that crowd. I enjoy playing retro games quite a lot and I’m always curious what adventures I’ll find myself in next.

I have been in various unique situations while playing Tomb Raider Level Editor. I wanted to write about this tool for quite a while now. It has been on my “to write about” list for three years now. So, the ultimate excuse was this project.

If you want to read some nostalgic articles from other writers about the Tomb Raider series, feel free to go to the hub article where various amazing writers talk about their experience of the Tomb Raider series. You can find a link here.

With that said, it’s time for my usual outro. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to meet you in another article but until then take care and have a great rest of your day.

Tomb_Raider_raid

The logo for this project is created by The Well Red Mage

 

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Review: Ace Attorney – Miles Edgeworth – Investigations: Prosecutor’s Path (DS) ~ Not Guilty

AAI2CoverenglishAce Attorney Wikia entry

Some time ago, I wrote a first impression on this game. I know it has been way too long, but I finally finished this game. So, the readers who know me; know what that means! No need to shout an objection! Is it actually good or is it bad? Keep in mind, this game isn’t officially in English. I played a fan translated English rom. If you want to play this game as well, I won’t help you finding it. Piracy is something I don’t want to promote. In any case, let’s get this trail started! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and or the content of this article. 

Objection!

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Would it be wise of me to talk about the story when it’s translated by fans? I think it’s actually quite fair to do so. After all, the English players will most likely play this game using the patched rom. Like I (should have) said earlier, I won’t provide information on how to get it.

In any case, the story is written quite well. I actually enjoyed reading and experiencing it. The care and love put into the translation is mind blowing. I haven’t seen any typos as far as I can remember. (And that’s an impressive feet since the main games actually have typos in the game.)

The characters are quite memorable and they have a nice personality. Some old characters return and a few new ones are introduced. In Ace Attorney 5 – Dual Destinies, the actual character development happens mostly in the 5th and last case. But in this game, the character development happens in every case. More then in the 5th game.

Every case was fun to play through. At certain moments, it was tough to keep track of everything since the final case actually somewhat connects to the previous four. If you would play this game, either play it in one go or take notes so you can remember. Otherwise some parts of the story actually get a bit lost.

What really surprised me is that they actually replaced the Japanese voices with the English voices. The voice acting of Miles was simple to get I assume. Just from the previous Miles Edgeworth game. But for the other actors, well, congrats. You did an amazing job. The quality of the voices is also extremely well done. Almost as if they were made in a professional studio.

Gameplay wise, this game is almost the same as in the original. There is one addition, which is logic chess. This is a sort of logic battle where to try and get information out of somebody. It’s more fast paced and it’s the only thing that is timed in the game. Compare it to Phoenix Wright’s breaking of psyche locks or Apollo’s bracelet. The good thing is that it’s well used, but not overused in the game. Truth to be told, it are the most challenging parts in the game in my opinion.

A scoop of a story.

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Alright, visually this game is what you would expect from an Ace Attorney game. Nicely crafted visuals. Again, thank you to the translation team to actually put in the effort to photoshop the art and make it in English. The game is nice to look at. It makes the game that more memorable.

Animation-wise, this game is one of my favorites. While I know for a fact, some things won’t be possible in the real world, the creative approach that the designers took payed off. It really makes the game pop a bit more. It also felt a bit more alive and polished.

The controls, well, if you have problems or complaints in the previous game… They will be here too. If you got used to them, you will feel right at home here. They are responsive and I have nothing to complain about. Only one minor thing and that is in the translation, some controls get explained a bit too late. But that’s only a very minor nitpick.

The music and sound effects, well, they are in my opinion, the weakest link in this game. Don’t get me wrong, it is enjoyable music. But when I’m listening to music from the series, I rarely to go the soundtrack of this game. It just doesn’t want to stick with me enough like with the previous games. The sound effects add to the atmosphere and none stood out as a sore thumb.

No creativity anymore for subtitles.

R0ac2

Length wise, this game hits that rare butter zone. Apart from the 5th case which was a bit too long, I have no complaints about the length.

Until now, I have been praising this game. And in the end, apart from some minor text issues with the translation like the text that sometimes not appears when you load your game or open your DS or that you can already skip most of the dialogue that you haven’t read… Those issues might all get fixed when the patch isn’t in beta anymore.

The game is a bit on the easy side if you played a lot of Ace Attorney games. Even then, I got stuck on some parts and rethink everything. I could try the “save and try out everything technique” but that’s lame. If you find things out by yourself, its way more rewarding.

Before I go to my conclusion, I think the translation team did an amazing job. I would like to thank them for the amazing translation they did. They also added their names in to the credits. Which is a really nice touch.

If you know how to patch roms and find translations online, I really recommend patching this game to English and playing it. Hopefully, Capcom never does this again with any Ace Attorney game. In any case… I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. So, let’s go right on to the conclusion.

Conclusion

The good:

+ The visuals are amazing just like the last games.

+ Perfect translation of this game. The care and love put into this project really shows.

+ Lovely and thrilling story with a true unexpected end.

+ ….

The bad:

– The music is a bit so-so

– Some minor bugs in the translation.

– The game didn’t come over to the west. Such a shame!

– The 5th case was a bit too long to my taste.

Final thoughts:

So, I think this patch was really well done. They replaced all the voice work, the artwork and the text into English. Not only that, they made it bit more interesting to the Western audience. Besides from some minor glitches and one freeze, I think this game is really well crafted.

While I played the beta version of the patch, I didn’t encounter any major issues that would stop me from enjoying the game. Besides the things I mentioned in the article of course.

If only, they release this to the west one day. So, I can buy this game and that I can recommend this game to my readers. It’s really worth it! As any Ace Attorney game actually.

So, I think it’s time to wrap this one up. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this. And I hope to be able to welcome you in another article. But until then, game on!

Score: 90 / 100

Gamer’s Thoughts: Pokémon Rom Hacks

Game Boys Advance So, this month I’m not writing a special for the game music. So, I decided to write another special article. Since I did some research on the GBA rom hacks already, I decided that it’s maybe a great idea if I wrote an article about GBA Pokémon rom hacks. I promised it various times on Tumblr. But then some setbacks happened and I decided to delay the article. So, today it’s finally getting written. The first part of the possibly multiple parts where I take a look at Pokémon Rom Hacks. 

Pokémon Light Platinum

Pokemon_Light_Platinum_BoxArtSo, when I was first preparing for this article I wanted to first write a full game review of a Pokémon rom hack. But since my save file of Pokémon Light Platinum kinda corrupted on me, my motivation for this article went out of the window.

Now, I do want to start over with this game. I remember that it was quite fun to play. This hack used the already existing Pokémon to it’s advantage by including new Pokémon. Well, not exactly new… I’m quite sure that the creators of the hack overwrote some Pokémon since the version I played had messed up Pokémon cries.

If you read about Pokémon rom hacks, this hack is one of the most popular ones. While I think some idea’s should make it to a real Pokémon game, honestly… I don’t think that would be a great idea. I’ll explain in my next paragraph why.

Can Nintendo learn from the hacks?

thumbs_pokemon_flora_sky_05

In a way, they can learn from the Pokémon rom hacks but they shouldn’t borrow ideas from them. It’s a strange thing to say, but hear me out out. A hack hasn’t always balanced gameplay, what mainstream Pokémon games generally have.

Honestly, I can’t really put my finger on it why, but my writer-gut-feeling is shouting NO while my gamer-gut-feeling is shouting YES. Things they could learn is that there are people working creative with the universe and maybe do some fan-service by putting in an easteregg in a main series game.

The sad thing is that most Pokémon rom hacks are never finished. They are always buggy. From strange graphical glitches to bad sounds. So, trying to get the actual ideas out of the games, polishing them up and putting them in a main series game would maybe cost too much time.

What I’m happy about is that Nintendo isn’t trying to stop this from happening. Think about it, it’s a good way to keep people hooked on the series. Honestly, I never played so much Pokémon games in my life since I started playing Pokémon rom hacks. But not all rom hacks are the same, in my opinion there are roughly 4 categories.

1. Crappy hacks

2. Visual hacks

3. Full hacks

4. Full hacks with visual hacks.

Maybe some of you guys figured out what the difference is between the 4 categories. Don’t worry if you haven’t done that already, I’ll explain in the next section of this article. You ready?

 Categories of hacks

Pokemon Underworld 1.0 Beta

The first kind, the crappy hacks are hacks that aren’t challenging or fun to play. Hacks where they change the starter Pokémon to a legendary one so that you blast through the whole game, that takes the experience out of the game. Crappy hacks, those are the ones you need to avoid.

The 2nd kind are visual hacks. While I haven’t seen many for the gameboy advance, I found a lot for the old 1st and 2nd gen games. Hacks where all the human sprites are changed with Pokémon sprites. Those can be okay, but I get bored of them.

The 3rd kind are the best in my opinion. Ones where they made a new world to explore but didn’t change may Pokémon around. If they added existing Pokémon, the game still falls into this category.

The 4th kind is such a balancing act. Hacks with new worlds that add made-up Pokémon. I have played a Pokémon hack that added anime characters instead of Pokémon. It was fun, but then the references started and I was completely lost.

My thoughts on hacking a game

Let me be clear here. I’m not talking about hacking a game in order to cheat your way through. That’s something completely different and a subject for another article. Honestly, I think that hacking a game and making your own game is a great thing.

It helps to expand the lifetime of a game before it becomes boring in the fans their eyes. You get to play the adventures other people crafted in the universe.

But most of all, it boosts your skills when you make a hack yourself. You learn to program and fix bugs. You learn to manage a project, which isn’t always easy.

But there is also a negative side to this trend. It opens the world of emulation to people who weren’t aware that it existed. It can also be used to make fun of Pokémon and many other things.

What makes a good hack?

I have played many hacks before I started writing this article. I have come up with some rules that make a good Pokémon hack in my eyes. First of all, you need to have good basic English. If there are typo’s or grammar mistakes, that isn’t so bad… But I when you play hacks with broken English, the immersion and progress comes to a halt.

Secondly, try to pay attention your game design. What I mean here is that you make a game that’s playable and fun. Not one where you need to search for a walkthrough online each and every town. Balance your game and have some variation in your game. Some people play Pokémon hacks to play something different, yet similar to the Pokémon games. Don’t go overboard with the legendary Pokémon either.

Something that adds value is that when you add your own HM’s or TM’s, that they can be used in more then just one cave. Otherwise I feel that they are a missed oppertunity.

Anyways, I think I have talked enough about this subject for now. While I know that this an abrupt ending, but I want to do even more research before I come back to this subject. I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Feel free to talk about my thoughts in the comments, I will reply to every one. Also, don’t ask me how to get any Pokémon hacks, that is something you will have to Google. Since there is one part in playing Pokémon hacks that’s illegal, which is downloading a rom. Yeah.

Anyways, thanks for reading and hopefully until another article.