“Liebster Award” Nomination

I have recently been nominated for the Liebster Award a number of times. I have decided to produce blogs to respond to the nominations and answer the questions asked.

Thanks to The Well-Red Mage for nominating me, the following questions were asked by this blogger and I have provided my answers.

  1. D.C. or Marvel?

I prefer Marvel. Unfortunately, this is based on my knowledge of the films based on the characters, rather than the comics themselves and I know more Marvel characters than D.C. stories.

2. Favourite console?

I like the Wii, the console allows for unique gameplay and I enjoy the games released on it. It also caters for people who want to  play for fun at parties or to keep fit.

3. Favourite video game?

I enjoy Metal Gear Solid 3. I liked the epic nature of the story, the detailed plot, the well developed characters, the twists were interesting, a range of environments were used and it was clever to use the theme song in the game. It was also an interesting idea to feature the villain of the series as a hero in the game and to allow his personality to develop.

4. Favourite character or franchise that needs a comeback?

Ecco the Dolphin. I played the first two games in the series and was impressed by their difficulty. The exploration nature of the game would be interesting in 3D and the series should maintain their high difficulty level.

5. Favourite film?

I like Dark Knight. I enjoyed the thriller nature of the plot, seeing people making hard decisions and the film used familiar characters  from the series and developed them. For example, Commissioner Gordon isn’t just someone who calls Batman when situations are too difficult, but actually works with Batman and becomes haunted by his inability to save his friend. Making the Joker a mysterious character increased his sinister nature and makes him very threatening. It also involves the viewer more as they wonder what they would do in the film, not as an unrealistic action hero, but as an ordinary citizen of Gotham confronted with the frightening events.

6. Favourite Book?

I like The Shining. I originally read the book because I watched the film and thought the book would explain some of the strange aspects of the film. The way the book was written made it enjoyable to read and some of the eerie and created an idea of fear, rather than a straight-forward description. I like the way the history of the hotel was explained and used to build up the idea of the building keeping people within. I was also fascinated by the Horace Derwent character.

7. Favourite non-gaming pastime?

I play a sport. I enjoy the exercise and using my skill to win games.

8. Favourite thing about blogging and your blogging goals?

I enjoy describing computer games, books and films and explaining my opinions about the things I review. I have always enjoyed reading discussions about stories, how characters develop, how the plot progresses and what ideas feature, and I would like to use this mentality when reviewing things. I hope to develop my reviews and review games which are not normally reviewed by other bloggers.

9. Favourite thing you find most inspiring in life?

I find discovering people’s personal experiences and how events have helped them develop inspiring.

10. What can The Well-Red Mage blog do to improve?

I actually enjoy this blog, especially the detailed discussions about aspects of the game and the quotes that are relevant to the game. I would like more analysis of the plot in the game, such as the use of characters and what interesting plot points are used. I also like the range of games examined (from well-known classics to obscure games) and would like this aspect to expand.

11. What game should I review?

Star Wars: Bounty Hunter on the PlayStation 2. I have played this game much more than I probably should, considering it is quite simple to play and seems to be designed as an easy way of generating more money from the Star Wars series. The game is simple to play and has a strange story, which seems to resemble a complex thriller, rather than a science-fiction game. It also uses some interesting locations and can be quite scary during certain levels, but the graphics do seem a little lazy and it expands the backstory of less famous characters from the prequel trilogy.

For my nominees, I have decided to nominate many of my followers:

  1. veryverygaming,
  2. pine717,
  3. Particlebit,
  4. The Well-red Mage,
  5. benez256,
  6. Mussaku Laden,
  7. Blow In My Cartridge,
  8. Sven Wohl,
  9. laurensaysitall,
  10. mindset,
  11. Joe Seeber.

By the way, knowing that many of the nominees have already been nominated or are actually defunct, I am not expecting a 100% response rate. If I have nominated a group of bloggers, I do not mind which member of the team responds to the questions. Feel free to either answer in a separate blog post, or in the comments below.

These are my questions:

  1. What is a game/film/book you enjoy, but is unpopular?,
  2. What is a non-horror game/film/book that you find scary? (I will accept a horror story if there isn’t one that is suitable),
  3. What is a memorable place for you? (this can be because of a memorable event or place you associate with a part of your life),
  4. What is the most obscure game/film/book you own?
  5. How much do you think you can tell about a blogger from their writing alone? (such as their gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc.),
  6. What is the most surprising thing you have found out about another blogger?
  7. What is the biggest risk you have taken?
  8. What is the most surprising thing you have found in a game/film/book?
  9. Do you ever listen to “Driving Music”?
  10. What is your favourite post you have written?
  11.  Has anyone ever drunk a carton of “Um Bongo”?

Enjoy answering, I look forward to your responses.

 

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A Review of Sonic Chaos (Game Gear)

1993

————————-Spoiler Warning————————————

The Story

Sonic runs along ground covered in grass under a dark blue sky. He passes tall trees, purple flowers and distant mountains as he runs at a high speed along the ground. Dr Robotnik, seated in a small, grey machine, appears flying in the sky ahead of Sonic. Holding a red Chaos Emerald in the machine, Dr Robotnik flies in a strange pattern front of Sonic, taunting his enemy by flying just ahead of him and grinning. Suddenly, Dr Robotnik’s machine accelerates quickly and speeds off. Sonic chases after the villain, followed by Tails, running at a slower pace.

Sonic or Tails finds Dr Robotnik in the Electric Egg Zone. Dr Robotnik attacks the hero using a machine which explodes after they fights back. Dr Robotnik, vulnerable without any technology, is forced to run at high speeds to evade the hero, before leaping onto a platform which flies him upwards to safety. Soon after the villains escape, the red Chaos Emerald falls to the ground. Sonic or Tails picks up the item and escapes.

Such subtle complexity and development of character.

The Review

Unfortunately, I have no experience of playing the Game Gear and this review is based on the version of the game available as an extra feature in the Sonic Adventure DX game.

The story is very similar to the story used in many early Sonic games, explore a number of levels to reach Dr Robotnik’s base and defeat the villain. This game does use a few animated sequences to develop the story. This game also features the red Chaos Emerald as a desired item held by Dr Robotnik, however, the importance of this stone is not expanded and seems to be a device used to create a story.

This game allows the player to play as either Sonic or Tails. Sonic is fast and the player is able to complete the game more as Sonic, while Tails can fly and the game seems easier when playing him. I thought this was quite innovative, as it allows the player to choose their character and have two different experiences of the same levels.

As I have discussed in other reviews, I found many of the Sonic games available on the Game Gear presented with aspects which were bizarre and had an unnecessarily high difficulty.

While the game used some interesting designs for the levels, I found the names of the zones in this game to be quite unusual. The game begins in the “Turquoise Hill Zone”, which greatly resembles the “Emerald Hill Zone” from the Sonic 2 game available on the Mega Drive (with the large palm trees, ground patterned with squares and distant mountains rising out of the sea). The name “Turquoise Hill Zone” does not seem strange, except it seems to use a bluer colour than names for similar levels in other Sonic games. The second level is called “Gigapolis Zone”, which makes it sound like it was intended to resemble the “Metropolis Zone” from the Sonic 2 game available on the Mega Drive.  The level design consists of a city at night, with clouds reflected in glass skyscrapers, glowing stars and what seems to be moonlight reflecting on a ocean, even though the foreground consists of brightly coloured squares, futuristic tunnels and construction equipment. The third level is named “Sleeping Egg Zone”, which suggests it is the location of a dormant Death Egg. Instead, the level consists of purple and green patterned squares with grass on top and a background consisting of a fairly cloudless sky, with an image of Dr Robotnik carved into certain walls. The fourth level is called “Mecha Green Hill Zone”, I am not sure if this level is supposed to represent the first level transformed into a machine environment (with a mistake in the title) or if it just a strange mix of natural and mechanised. The level itself uses steel trees and small robotic plants, with a light orange background and distant pins-like structures disappearing into the horizon.The fifth level is named “Aqua Planet Zone”. Strangely, this level does not seem to have any water, instead the level consists of ruins and tubes, with a dark blue background with purple crystals (which look like oil rigs) and a strange cloud formation at the top of the screen which looks like the surface of a sea. The game ends with the “Electric Egg Zone”, which suggests the developers were not allowed to call the final level “Death Egg” and were forced to create a vaguely mechanical name for the level. The design is similar to similar levels in other Sonic games, with a dark background and light foreground with a science-fiction machine theme. I found the level designs in this game interesting, although the levels use less innovative ideas and changes in gameplay.

The graphics of the game are quite pixelated. I found the pixelated designs added an interesting artistry to the game, although some designs looked like lower quality versions of visuals found on versions of the game available on more powerful devices.

The bosses for this game are also slightly strange as they resemble mini-bosses more than usual bosses. Unlike other Sonic games, which feature Dr Robotnik attacking Sonic with a variety of machines, most of the bosses in this game resemble large machines (some of which look like insects) with Dr Robotnik using a machine the final boss. Weirdly, both the final boss and the boss from the “Aqua Planet Zone” both use an unusual feature. After hitting the bosses a number of times, the bosses will retreat and transform, using a new attack, but, for some reason, they become weaker and only one blow is needed to destroy the machines. I found some of the bosses in this game easier because they had a limited attack ability and were much larger targets then the bosses in other Sonic games.

The power-ups used in this game are also different to other Sonic games. There are no shield power-ups, which makes Sonic more vulnerable. The invincibility power-up is very similar to other games, with Sonic surrounded by stars. The ring and extra life power-ups are also similar to other games. The sneakers power-up has been changed though. Instead of causing Sonic to temporarily run at higher speeds, this power-up turns his shoes into rockets, allowing him to travel in the air. Jumping onto certain springboards causes these springboards to become attached to Sonic’s feet, allowing him to reach higher areas before he jumps off the device.

Other bizarre additions to the game include the Sonic dash. This involves Sonic running on the spot while the player holds certain buttons, releasing the button causes Sonic to surge forward, temporarily invincible. I found this move slightly pointless as it is less effective than the spin dash and seems to be a something the developers added because pressing the same combination of buttons as Tails causes that character to fly through the air. Like in other games in the series, each act of a level ends with a signpost that Sonic runs through to finish the act. In this game, however, the signpost will always land on the picture of Flicky (the blue bird common in Sonic games), the letters “Km/h” and constantly changing numbers will then appear. The changing numbers will stop to show (I presume) the speed Sonic hit the sign. I am not sure how hitting the sign at different speeds benefits the player. This game also removes the capsules usually found after defeating the boss in Sonic games. The end credits also has a small cast and thanks people like “Hitmen”, “The Hase”, “J.S” and “And You”.

I found the game was mostly difficult when collecting the Chaos Emeralds. To reach the Special Stages, the player has to collect 100 rings in the level, causing a bright light to engulf the screen and Sonic being transported to the Special Stage. Although the levels contain large amounts of rings, the fact Sonic getting harmed once severely affects the player’s ability to reach the Special Stage makes the game more difficult (especially considering the game does not provide a shield power-up). The Special Stages themselves are also difficult. Instead of using a similar idea in all stages, the Special Stages in this game are all different and require different skills to progress through and reach the emerald. The stages are also timed (even though power-ups are supplied which increase the time the player can spend). The end of the Special Stage (whether the player succeeded or failed) also ends the level, meaning the player can only attempt a Special Stage once in each act. The player cannot enter the Special Stage if they play the game as Tails (possibly because it is easier to collect rings playing as that character). The designs for the Special Stages use a dark clue background and vivid colours in the foreground, giving the areas a dreamlike feel. I found the Special Stages in this game interesting, as they tested the players problem solving ability, and difficult, because of the timing. The Special Stages were less innovative than other games in the series, as they used the same method of gameplay as the levels.

I also noticed a strange aspect of the game associated with the loss of rings, which also made the game more difficult. The amount of rings possessed by Sonic is an indicator of how vulnerable he is, as the character can only die if he does not have any rings. When Sonic is harmed, his rings, in most Sonic games, spread out and the player has to gather them to ensure they can survive future harm. In this game, if Sonic has between 10 and 20 rings, only two rings will appear. One ring will bounce to the side at a fast pace (making it difficult to retrieve) will the other bounce up and down at the point Sonic was injured. This means the player will only be able to get 1 ring after being harmed. If Sonic has less than 10 rings when he is hurt, a single ring will rise to the top of the screen and disappear. This effect makes the game more difficult, as it is difficult to keep a high ring count after being harmed, and hinders the players ability to reach the Special Stage.

In conclusions, I though the game was good. The gameplay was enjoyable and allowed the player to play as two different characters. The levels were interesting and used good designs. The game was fairly easy, with obtaining the chaos emeralds providing much more difficulty. The Special Stages could be irritatingly hard and some of the methods used to hinder the players ability to reach the Special Stage were annoying.

A Review of Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear)

1991

—————————–Spoiler Alert——————————–

The Story

Dr Robotnik has taken over South Island and Sonic the Hedgehog has to defeat him to save the island and its inhabitants. Following a battle aboard Dr Robotnik’s floating Sky Base, Dr Robotnik flees using a teleporter, followed closely by Sonic. The game ends with Robotnik escaping in the egg-o-matic, before being hit by Sonic and the machine bursting into flames. I hope Shakespeare has learnt a lesson from this game.

The Review

This review is based on the version of the game released as a special feature in the Sonic Adventure DX game available on the PC, rather than the game released on the Game Gear.

I have always wondered about the attitude of the developers who made the Sonic the Hedgehog games released on the Game Gear. I always remembered the Mega Drive was the more popular console and the Sonic the Hedgehog games seem to be more well-known and fondly remembered. I did not have much experience of using the Game Gear, which I always thought was less popular than the Game Boy. I have wondered if the developers were aware of this and were less concerned about the games released on the Game Gear than the more popular games. I believe this mentality possibly affected the production of the games, as I found that the Sonic the Hedgehog games released on the Game Gear were quite difficult, but used some bizarre ideas.

The story for the game is extremely simple, Sonic has to travel through the mountainous South Island to reach a base at the top of the mountain and defeat Robotnik. Collecting all the hidden Chaos Emeralds allows the player to view an extended ending sequence.

There are six levels in the game. Strangely, the levels are either copies of levels from the Sonic the Hedgehog game available on the Mega Drive (Green Hill, Labyrinth and Scrap Brain) or levels made up for the game (Bridge, Jungle and Sky Base). Each level consists of three parts: a first part, a second part and a part which contains the boss of the level. The levels are also not called zones in this game (unlike other games in the series). For some of the levels, the game also changes between the first and second acts, such as forcing the player to climb upwards or using a moving screen. I felt the levels were interesting to play and the different acts prevented the player repeating the same playing method in each level.

The level designs were also interesting. While the graphic capabilities of the Game Gear were less advanced than the Mega Drive, the game did have some interesting visuals. I found the pixelated graphics added an artistic dimension to the designs and didn’t hinder the gameplay. The backgrounds of the levels were also very detailed and looked good. Most of the levels were brightly coloured and created a cheerful atmosphere.

I also enjoyed the music of the levels. The music did not use a tinny sound (like many games at the time) and had a good quality. I particularly enjoyed the jazzy music of the Jungle level.

The game also uses a different method of obtaining Chaos Emeralds. Instead of completing challenges in Special Stages, the Chaos Emeralds are all hidden in the levels (with one in each level) and the player has to pick them up. At the end of each level part, the player is transported to the Special Stage. This Special Stage consists of the player collecting rings, lives and continues and, because Sonic is mostly rolled in a ball and the environment consists of springboards and bouncy obstacles, the player has little control and these parts of the game seem very energetic. The stage is also timed. The Special Stage also uses bright pink blocks and a background consisting of a dark night sky with vibrant moons and stars, which gives it a dreamlike atmosphere. Collecting all the Chaos Emeralds does not allow Sonic to transform into Super Sonic, instead it just allows the player to view the hidden ending. I am not certain if I liked the collection of Chaos Emeralds in this game. While it is enjoyable to explore the different levels, finding the Chaos Emeralds removes the puzzle element of the Special Stage, also the Special Stages are quite creative in other Sonic games and require the player to complete actions other than running through landscapes and attacking enemies. I was happy to find the developers still managed to use Special Stages in this game though.

The game has a high difficulty. The game is also needlessly difficult, with some aspects affecting the gameplay. Collecting 100 rings grants the player an extra life, it also resets the ring count to 0. Because the ring count also functions as a representation of health, it is possible to collect a large amount of rings, obtain an extra life and immediately kill Sonic after colliding with an enemy. Like other Sonic games, Sonic loses all of his rings when he is harmed. In this game, unlike other games in the series, Sonic’s rings does not spread out for the player to collect, instead all the rings are condensed into one ring, which floats upwards and then downwards before disappearing. Collecting the ring also gives Sonic one ring, rather than allowing the player to return to the previous ring count. The player can only obtain an extra life from a monitor once. If the player finds an extra life power-up, they cannot use the same power-up if they have to repeat the level after Sonic dies. When Sonic is harmed while using a shield power-up, he is not also briefly invincible (like other Sonic games and when he has no shield). This means that if a shielded Sonic is harmed while on spikes (for example), if he falls back and comes into contact with more spikes, he will instantly lose his rings with no input from the player. Sonic also spends more distance skidding in this game, which can cause him to touch harmful enemies.

The Bosses used in the game are also unnecessarily difficult. Like in the other early Sonic games, the Bosses consist of Dr Robotnik using machines, each with a different method of attack, to kill Sonic. In the parts of the levels containing the Boss, there are no rings. This forces the player to battle against a difficult enemy without getting hit, otherwise they would have to replay the Boss. However, hidden in each act with a Boss is an extra life power-up, which makes the game slightly easier. After defeating the Boss, their weapon remains harmful (unlike other games where Sonic appears to be able to walk through the leftover weapon), this is especially irritating in the Jungle level where the Boss leaves behind a metal ball which, if Sonic touches, causes the player to repeat the fight with an already defeated Boss.

A part of the game I like is the map. Between ending part of a level and beginning a new one, the game shows a picture of the island where the story takes place. A path is shown to symbolise the journey Sonic takes for the next part of the level, or the location of the Boss. I actually like this feature, I feel it adds context to the story (rather than other games in the series, which use a series of unrelated zones) and makes Sonic seem like a creature defending his home. The paths also appear to be quite accurate and reflect the levels well (for example, a level which involves climbing is shown to have quite a vertical path in the map).

There are a number of bizarre inclusions in this game. In many of the Sonic games released around the same time as this game, the Sega logo is shown at the beginning of the game after Sonic completes an action (such as running past or rolling past). In this game, the Sega logo appears after Sonic frolics back and forth and lands, raising his finger at the player and a hand at his hip. The shield power up in this game is also quite small. When Sonic obtains a shield power-up a small, flashing circle will appear around his chest (instead of surrounding him), which makes the power-up resemble a fashionable coat. Following the final score count, Sonic is shown in front of a light purple screen in front of stationary gold and dark blue stars while a pink block (shown fixed to the background by blue circles) displays the credits. Sonic, holding a microphone, appears to tap his foot and move his left hand while opening and closing his mouth. I cannot work out if this sequence is intended to show Sonic singing the credits and seems like an unusual scene to add to the game (considering other games just show white credits on a black background).

In conclusion, the game is quite enjoyable. It is simple to play and uses a variety of challenges for the player. It is not too long (considering it has to be played in one go). The level designs are interesting and the music is good. It can be annoying because of the difficulty and certain aspects which make the game harder.

What Links the Game Show Safeword to Trolling?

This article is actually related to three blog posts I have considered writing. In one, I would wonder what separated TV comedians from internet trolls. British TV comedy shows, particularly panel shows, seem to consist of smug, well-dressed comedians who, seemingly instead of telling jokes, produce insults to humiliate people, particularly celebrities, considered unpopular. I was going to compare this to the attitude of internet trolls, smug people insulting other people from behind their computers. I was also going to wonder why the TV personalities were considered comedy heroes and champions of free speech, while those that used the internet were considered criminals, even suggesting that those on TV achieve higher status by creating harsher insults, while commenters on the internet were dismissed as vicious trolls for making the slightest criticism. The second would consist of my opinions of the growth of humiliation in entertainment. From ordinary people doing dares and completing embarrassing challenges (which are broadcast on the internet) to TV game shows which feature humiliating tasks and panel shows which are seemingly designed to make the guests as uncomfortable as possible, seemingly embarrassment and humiliation have become almost essential aspects of enjoyment in modern British society. A third post would consist of my opinions on a branch of the media focussed on narrowing the gap between fiction and reality, such as “experiential advertising” (adverts that are experienced) and hidden camera shows (where members of the public interact with invented characters).

While I never managed to write these posts, seemingly the themes I had intended to describe in detail can be applied to the game show Safeword. The game show itself seems to be an excuse to push the celebrity guests to their limit and, in my opinion, is part of a group of game shows that are thinly veiled excuses to humiliate the contestants.

Before analysing the programme, I would like to state that this post is not an analysis of the jokes and humour exhibited in the show. The host of show clarifies his opinion of those who do not like the humour and I am more concerned with the relationship with trolling than discuss whether on not these shows are suitable for TV or should be banned.

The show begins with an introduction for the teams. Each team consists of two comedians and a celebrity guest (with one of the comedians taking the role of regular team captain). The teamwork can be compared to darts, with the two comedians playing the role of players (as they use their skills to try to create insults that will help win) and the guest forming a dartboard (as they are not required to do anything except allow themselves to be insulted). The comedians are introduced, followed by the two guests, who enter through a door and sit on a throne, which actually seems to increase the humiliation by flattering the celebrity before they squirm. The safeword is then generated by using a “Safeword Generator”. This basically consists of a series of topics accompanied by unflattering photographs. The comedians then try and create a safeword using the topics, with the safeword designed to be a word or phrase the celebrity would not feel comfortable shouting out in front of an audience. The first round is called “Hacked”. In this round, the comedians have access to a social media account belonging to the celebrity on the opposing side and, using both text and pictures, post material that is embarrassing to the celebrity and not something they want read. The second round is called “Burned”. The celebrity picks a picture which reveals an embarrassing picture and a topic, the opposite team members then pick a comedian to stand at a podium and insult the celebrity based around the topic. The third round is called “Slam Down”. Both celebrities stand opposite each other and take turns insulting each other, using their safeword to call a comedian to add an insult on their behalf. Interestingly, originally this round involved the comedians insulting each other, but seemed to have changed in later episodes. Points are scored based on whether the celebrity is able to weather the abuse or if the comedians are able to upset them enough for them to use their safeword.

While most of the programme involves some comedians humiliating the celebrity guests, some aspects of the show seem to encourage trolling. During the “Hacked” round, the presenter stops the creativity to read out responses from the internet community. All the respondents seem to believe it is actually the celebrity who was written the comments (and not part of a game show) and some of the responses seem to be supportive of the celebrity. Unfortunately, some of the responses read out by the presenter seem to be abusing the guest, many of which are not creative or clever comments, but just vicious insults. While the idea of this segment seems to be to show how the social media community regards the posts, reading out abusive posts seems to encourage trolling. Instead of trolls being seen as nasty individuals who need to be avoided, they are transformed into creative and comedic people who are welcomed into the mainstream and rewarded for their viciousness.

A number of TV shows seem to have used comments from trolls as comedic material, such as celebrities reading out these comments. I actually do not feel comfortable with this. While there has been a lot of debate regarding whether trolls should be banned from social media or allowed to continue as part of free speech, I personally feel there is a difference between allowing trolls to insult people and promoting their abusive comments.

A number of years ago, a man was convicted for sending abusive messages to a well-known MP. While a lot of coverage was dedicated to his spiteful comments and threats, a columnist (who knew the person twenty years before) also made an interesting observation. Before he began threatening people, many of his social media posts were strange messages about famous people (such as offering to buy an island from a wealthy businessman or claiming to be attending a social meeting with a talent show judge) which seemed to demonstrate a desire to become a friend of celebrities and join their society. The columnist also wondered if the troll would get pleasure knowing his name was in the same newspapers as ones which reported about the lives of the celebrities he was interested in. Using this case as an example, I feel that elevating trolls to the level of minor celebrities in comedy shows would encourage this sort of behaviour, particularly if they are rewarded with more time depending on the viciousness of their comments.

The parallels between the trolling and the show are actually deeper than the design and humour of the show. The official Twitter feed for the show seems to extend the taunting of the guests. The posts on the feed contains pictures of the contestants looking shocked and exasperated and comments gleefully discussing how the celebrities were being “roasted” and describing their humiliation, which adds an extra sadistic element to the show. Strangely, these comments are used on guests who do not seem affected by the abuse and rarely use their safe word to stop the humiliation.

The host made some interesting comments in an interview before the show was aired. Weirdly, he claimed he would not enter the show himself as he was the sort of person who would start screaming and throwing things under similar circumstances. He also suggested that he thought some of the celebrities did not know how the show would proceed when they first entered.

I feel this show promotes trolling of the celebrity guests in the show and seems to incorporate aspects of trolling in the advertising of the show and it’s social media presence. While I am not making a case for the show to be banned, it seems harsh to use vicious online comments in the show and continue to taunt the people who appear on the show afterwards. I also feel this show is part of a culture of humiliation and degradation in the media, which seems dedicated to embarrassing game show contestants and attempting to push them as far as possible before they are overwhelmed.

Extra Observation on the Early Tomb Raider Games

After reviewing the first nine Tomb Raider games, I noticed a theme in the games I had not noticed before. There appears to be a subtle, almost non-existent, anti-male theme to the games. Lara Croft has a reputation of being one of the sexiest characters in computer games. I believe this reputation was gained due to her appearance and clothing. Her character in the games, however, seems to be quite arrogant, sarcastic and cold. She also appears to be humourless, when she is not making witty jokes at other’s expense.

The vast majority of the characters in the early Tomb Raider games are male, therefore, it seems that her manner is a product of her contempt for men. While Lara Croft seems to retain a feminine style and moves in an elegant and graceful fashion, her method of combat, however, seems to use methods more traditionally associated with men than women (basically shooting enough bullets at the enemy and using the most powerful gun). The fact that most of her enemies are men suggests she is in a male-dominated environment and manages to defeat her foes by being more aggressive and masculine than them.

Lara Croft also appears to be asexual on a personal level. The character is introduced by Larsson throwing a magazine in front of her, accompanied by the line “What’s a man got to do to get that kind of attention from you?” This suggests that Lara is well known for not being uninterested in men and prefers to concentrate on her work. her reply of “It’s hard to say exactly, but you seem to be doing fine.” seems to confirm this idea and reinforces a concept that she is unaware of her desires. During her adventures, Lara appears to have few friends and none seem to be intimate with her. Professor von Croy seems to be her first ally, but the relationship appears to be antagonistic, with the two of them making sarcastic comments at each other, and his later obsession with finding her seems more like an act of repentance and remorse for endangering her. Jean Yves, in the fourth game, seems to be more friendly with her, but he seems to act as an advisor who helps her mission and directs her to interesting locations, while she jokes about the ancient myths and her tiredness. While she does seem to be lighter with him and talk in a personable way, he seems more interested in defeating Seth than her. The choice of mourners remembering Lara in the fifth game is also suggestive. The stories seem to be told by the man in green (a mysterious employer with little information to how much he knows her personally), the priest (a father figure who tries to keep her out of danger and persuade her from undergoing more adventures) and Winston (a father figure who boasts about her like a proud father discussing a gifted child). None of these characters appear to have intimate relations with Lara.

More interesting allies are used in the later games. Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness uses a character called Kurtis Trent. One of this character’s early appearances features him disarming Lara in a strange manner, with caresses of her arms and stomach. Following this strange event, Lara seems to move closer to seemingly kiss him (while at gunpoint) before quietly gazing at him while he moves away. Later in the game, he antagonises her by locking her in a room and she disarms him using a forceful manner. They agree to form a team (Kurtis becomes one of the only character to directly share an adventure with Lara and become a playable character). While Kurtis looks like a handsome man with a casual attitude, whether he is actually human is a mystery (he exhibits unusual powers during the story) and the game ends with Lara trying to follow him. Their relationship seems similar to that of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler (the only person to “beat” the highly intelligent detective and leads to him mistrusting the rest of the female gender) with Lara and Sherlock being defeated in their specialities by members of the opposite sex, who they were previously believed to be superior to.

The later Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Underworld games feature more developed male characters. Throughout the levels (particularly in the earlier game), Lara communicates with two characters called Zip and Alister. These sidekicks provide background information to the story and add a sense of light relief to the game. They also seem to be distant from Lara as, other than during animated sequences within Croft Manor, they do not appear in the game and provide support over a long distance. When one of them dies, Lara is upset for a while, but quickly continue her quest (leading to the other ally to question if she cares), but still retains a fierce desire to avenge him.

Throughout the Tomb Raider: Legend game, a number of secondary characters appear to help Lara in her quest. A female friend, called Anya, seems to be close to Lara and is aware of her past, while a male friend, called Toru, seems to function as a way of getting to a piece of the sword, even though Lara seems to enjoy his company.

The villain in the first game, Jacqueline Natla, is also interesting. In general, the villains in the Tomb Raider games have little backstory with unusual motives. Little background information is available for Marco Bartolli, from the second game, other than he continues his father’s search for the dagger and wishes to become a powerful dragon for an unexplained reason. Dr Willard Scott, the villain from the third game, appears to be the discoverer of the first Infada stone and wants to collect all the stones to reach the meteorite to progress human evolution. Professor von Croy has one of the most detailed background story, because he has had a prior relationship with Lara, and seems to be an archaeologist whose desire to possess an artefact leads to him being possessed by Seth and becoming more sinister (even though he appears to be a little villainous before obtaining the treasure). An assortment of villains are present in the fifth game, ranging from gangsters wanting power, archaeologists wanting treasure and spirits attempting revenge. Eckhardt, from the sixth game, appears to be a brutal murderer with everlasting life and a desire to revive an ancient race of creatures (like a father?).

Jacqueline Natla seems different. As described in the game, Natla was part of a trio of rulers of the ancient city of Atlantis. She was imprisoned for many years for creating strange creatures. Like Lara, Natla was a woman in an environment dominated by men and she was still surrounded by men years later. I could never find a motive for Natla creating a race of creatures. This part of the tale seems similar to the story of Frankenstein (the story of a scientist creating a monster from parts of dead bodies). For the original novel and some adaptations, it has been theorised that the scientist’s motive for undergoing the experiment is to create life without women or performing sex. Something similar could be suggested for this game. At the beginning of the Great Pyramid level, Lara fights a large creature. The creature is shown breaking out of a sphere (or egg), but, unlike the other monsters, it seems this creature has blonde hair. Is this supposed to be Natla’s son? Created without the intervention of man? During the Atlantis level, Lara encounters a strange creature that closely resembles herself and mimics her moves. It is never explained where this creature comes from or why it was created. Is this supposed to represent Natla creating a daughter in the image of Lara?

A strange aspect of the game occurs after Lara has retrieved the third part of the scion from Egypt. Outside the Sanctuary of the Scion, Lara encounters Natla and her group of henchmen. At first glance, these bodyguards appear to be a very mixed group with no shared characteristics. It also seems, however, that these figures represent men with enhanced masculinity. One of them is a pubescent adolescent (recognised as having a heightened sexuality and developing exclusively male traits), another is a cowboy (associated with rugged good looks and being accustomed to fighting) and the third is a muscular man (considered to have high testosterone and even displays his naked chest). A suggested reason Natla has collected a strange group of men is so she can dominate them and she seems to command them and insult them quickly. In the end, these masculine men are defeated by Lara dominating them with guns and bullets.

In the version of the story presented in the Tomb Raider Anniversary game, Natla’s attitude changes slightly. She states that her previous fellow rulers (Qualopec and Tihocan) were incompetent, but believes Lara would suitable as a fellow leader. This seems to follow a feminist ideal, the overthrow of the male domination over society by fierce women.

Natla returns to help the villain from the Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Underworld games. The villain, Amanda, also has an interesting relationship with Lara. The story states that both Lara and Amanda were participants in a disastrous archaeological expedition which lead to Lara abandoning her friend. Amanda is driven by a need to avenge herself against Lara. When the two characters meet, Lara is deeply apologetic for her previous actions and asks for Amanda’s forgiveness. She seems more concerned about the ending of this relationship than the death of her ally later on in the story. By the end of the story, Lara has hardened her attitude to her former friend, but is still reluctant to kill her.

There is also an interesting part of the game removed from the Tomb Raider: Underworld game. Originally, the developers included two characters, Professor Peter Eddington and her niece, Jessica. According to Eric Lindstrom (creative director of the game) the removal of these characters “Helped steer away from the misconception that Peter and Lara had a relationship…”. This suggests the makers of the game were reluctant to show Lara in an intimate relationship with another character.

Lara’s relationship with her parents is interesting. In the Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Underworld games, Lara’s mother has been missing since Lara’s childhood and Lara’s efforts to find her form the story for the two games. Lara’s father also desperately tried to find her, but was ultimately unsuccessful and was manipulated by Natla. While Lara’s mother appears in flashback sequences, her father, Lord Croft, does not, which gives her a stronger physical presence in the game. In the story for the fourth game, Lord Croft seems like an unsure aristocrat. According to the instruction manual, “…Lara’s parents decided that now she was 16, she should broaden her education by studying for her A’ Levels at one of England’s most prominent boarding schools.”. He also seems a little uneasy when Lara states a wish to join Professor von Croy’s expedition and, “As Lara argued the case further, he found himself walking over to the desk and penning a letter to von Croy.”,  using his wealth to convince Professor von Croy to take her. In the first game, he seems more dictatorial. After Lara survives a plane crash and journey through the Himalayan mountains, the story describes her family as disowning her (possibly because “Lara’s marriage into wealth had seemed assured”) and she follows an independent life (“she turned to writing to fund her trips”). Her backstory in the original game seems to mimic Natlas, both are punished by men for making their own decisions.

Finally, both the Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Underworld use the same description of Lara Croft, emphasising her mysterious personality and polarising exploits. According to the story, “There are thousands of rumours surrounding Lara’s exploits, invariably involving the unexplained or outright unbelievable”, which suggests Lara is associated with unusual adventures and strange events. Lara’s reluctance to discuss herself is described as adding to “…the fog of mystery which surrounds her life and work”, which suggests her personal life is also mysterious (as well as her exploits) and she keeps aspects of her personal life secret. Claiming “Lara Croft continues to be the focus of wild speculation and intense debate” makes it seem like both the ethics and value of her work are discussed, along with rumours about her private life. The description also contains the line “Idealised and vilified in equal measure…”. Does this quote refer to Lara’s work as an archaeologist being polarising? Or is it a reference to her lifestyle? The description ends with her being described as the “…one of the most fascinating and enigmatic figure of our times.”

Alternatively, these observations are based on the development of computer games, rather than the character of Lara Croft. The Tomb Raider games were created during a time when story and character development were being introduced to computer games. Many earlier games did not feature a strong story (which was mostly described in instruction manuals or text during the game) and seemed to consist of players completing challenges and solving problems. The characters in these games were silent and seemed to function as a figure that could be manipulated by the player. The Tomb Raider games seemed to be an improvement, with a complex story and characters with personalities, but do not use strong secondary characters or characters with complex personalities (except for the later games). The developers also probably specifically designed Lara to be a lone adventurer, which was welcomed by the audience. I, personally, liked the character of Lara as an independent character (even with the commentary and advice of unseen characters in Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Underworld) and would not like a boyfriend character added to the games in a lazy way.

A Review of Tomb Raider: Underworld (Playstation 2)

2008

In this year, a global financial crisis deepened. Stock markets plunged due to fears of a recession in the USA, governments took control of banks in Britain, Iceland and USA and the Lehman Brothers file for bankruptcy protection. Coups and rebel assaults occurred in East Timor, Chad, Mauritania, Guinea and Comoros. Islamic terrorist attacks occurred in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, India, Algeria and China. Riots and protests occurred in Greece, Nigeria, India, Thailand and China. Fighting occurred in Lebanon and between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia. The Olympics take place in Beijing. Following rocket fire and attacks inside Israel, the Israeli military launched a military operation, consisting of airstrikes followed by a ground invasion, to combat the armed groups’ ability to launch rockets. Films released this year included dramatisations of events in recent history (The Bank Job, Milk, Frost/Nixon, etc.), comedies about actual events (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and W.), thrillers with complex storylines (Burn After Reading, RocknRolla, Eagle Eye, etc.), comedies about making films (Tropic Thunder, Hamlet 2, Bolt, etc.), comedies with adult themes (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Pineapple Express, etc.), films which used heroes form the 1980’s (Rambo, Speed Racer, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, etc.), films based on older TV shows (The X-Files: I Want to Believe, Get Smart, Sex and the City, etc.), films based on children’s books (Twilight, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, etc.), renowned dramas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire, etc.), films which use an innovative idea (Cloverfield, Wanted, Bangkok Dangerous, etc.) and superhero films (Ironman, The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight, etc.). James Bond was involved in an action-packed story which heavily involved events from the previous film in Quantum of Solace. Music released this year included songs about devoted love sung by men (Jason Mraz, The Script, etc.), songs about broken relationships (James Morrison featuring Natalie Imbruglia, P!nk, Noah and the Whale, etc.), songs about bad lovers sung by women (Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Girls Aloud, etc.) and Coldplay produced a song about a fallen leader. Computer games released this year included fourth games in popular series (Grand Theft Auto IV, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Devil May Cry 4, etc.). Into this mix entered Tomb Raider: Underworld.

———————————–Spoiler Alert———————————–

The Story

A huge explosion rips through a stately home, turning the front of the mansion into fiery ruin.

Lara, walking through a corridor made of stone, feels the ground shake beneath her. Struggling to keep balance, she sees the ends of the corridor burst into flames. “My God!” she exclaims, staring at the flames with a frightened look.

A young man, dressed in a light coloured sweater and jeans, and an elderly butler are standing in the hall of Croft Manor, attempting to open a heavy wooden door. “Look out!” the younger man, named Zip, shouts as he sees Lara watching them and aims a gun at her.

“Stop! It’s Lara!” the butler yells as Zip shoots an object placed on a table.

“I know!” Zip replies, struggling with the old man as he raises his gun again. Lara rolls across the carpeted floor as Zip fires a volley of shots, following her across the burning room.

“Wait” the older man pleads.

One week earlier…

A small, white yacht rests on the surface of murky water on a clouded day. Lara, dressed in a black and yellow wetsuit, studies the horizon on the top deck of the boat. A sound distracts her. She gives a final look to the sky before climbing down a ladder to the lower deck. She walks over to a small laptop placed on a counter and presses a button.

Zip appears on the screen, “Hey, Lara. Find it yet?”.

“Patience, Zip.” Lara replies with a smile. “I warned you that conveniently undiscovered islands would be scarce in the Mediterranean.”

A young man dressed in a suit usually seen in nightclubs appears. “Are you sure this Eddington chap knows what he’s talking about?” he asks, pleadingly.

Lara looks across at a photograph of two smiling men. “If he says Father was convinced the path to Avalon was here, I have no reason to doubt it.”

“Fair enough, but it’s…well…” the man in the casual suit says “we’ve been talking about it and-”

“You’ve been talking about it, man. Leave me out of it.” Zip interrupts.

“It’s just…all right, maybe Avalon is real…” He continues while Lara loads her small pistol “…but just because some mad woman tells you your…” Lara suddenly turns and scrutinises the screen as she listens to the man “…your mother didn’t die after all… I mean, look…” he becomes less certain as he continues speaking “I, I don’t want to seem heartless, but this idea of your mum living in some…” Lara, squatting down to pick up breathing apparatus, stops to consider his opinions “…some Celtic underworld…” feeling her anger growing she rises to a standing position “…it’s a, it’s a little bit mental, isn’t it?”

“I have no illusions that my mother is holding court in some mythical paradise, Alister.” she replied angrily, striding towards the laptop. “I only want the truth, whatever it may be.” she continues in a calmer voice. “I’ll ring you later.”. She presses a button to end the video call. She turns, leaves the cabin and jumps into the water.

The player explores an underwater building, discovering it is an early Norse building with reference to Niflheim (the Norse equivalent of Avalon), and kills a large, blind kraken. She finds one of the iron gauntlets the Norse god Thor used to wield his hammer, Mjolnir. After touching the glove, it disintegrates to become a small device which, using straps, Lara attaches onto her left hand. A group of armed men appear and knock her unconscious, removing her newly acquired device and ammunition, before the men trap her behind rubble and mention Amanda Evert.

Returning to her yacht, Lara sees a larger ship nearby and infiltrates the vessel. A shootout causes explosive gas to ignite and damaging the ship. While exploring the boat, Lara finds Amanda complaining the artefact will only fit Lara’s hand. Amanda leaves and Lara discovers she was talking with Jacqueline Natla, imprisoned within a clear cylinder. Natla reveals she told Amanda about Avalon and the dais Lara and her mother found was part of a transport network that took her mother to Avalon. She further informs Lara that her father found Niflheim, but needed to find Helheim, and tried to find Thor’s hammer (which is needed to enter Helheim). She tells Lara to go to the West Coats of Thailand at the seventh parrallel, before her prison is lifted into the sky by a large helicopter. Lara escapes the sinking ship, while a helicopter rescues Amanda, who throws the device into the sea. Lara retrieves the device.

In Thailand, Lara reveals the reason the locations have many names is because many myths referred to the same set of ruins of buildings from an ancient civilisation, which Natla was part of. Lara finds ancient buildings and reference to Bhogavati, the capital of Patala (the lowest infernal world in Hindu tradition and home to snake-men). She discovers older ruins similar to Niflheim and is able to use the gauntlet to move heavy objects with a blue light. She also learns the gauntlets, belt (Megingord) and hammer (Mjolnir) are protected by “the dead” to keep Jormungardr at bay. She also finds a message left by her father, suggesting he wishes to prevent Natla fulfilling her plan and has stolen the second gauntlet and destroyed a map.

At Croft Manor, Lara’s butler shows her the hidden entrance to the Croft family’s crypt. Realising that her father signed his message with the initials “RJC” as a clue, Lara discovers a secret passage below her grandfather’s tomb. Exploring a hidden, underground church, Lara finds a room containing items her father recovered from Bhogavati. A tape message from her father tells Lara he found one of Thor’s gauntlets and a map showing where the objects needed to open the path to Avalon were. Informing Lara that the Norse believed a powerful weapon was kept in the location, he destroyed the original map. Lara recovers an artefact from the gauntlet.

After defeating a few strange creatures who guarded the gauntlet, Lara returns to Croft Manor to find the building ablaze. Running through the burning building, Lara finds Zip and her butler struggling with the front door. Zip turns and tries to shoot Lara, before she draws her guns and convinces him to stop. He tells her someone, who resembled her and was able to pass through the retina scanner, blew open the Lara’s vault, stole Amanda’s wraith stone (from the Tomb Raider: Legend game) and shot at Zip. Lara tells them to escape outside while she reviews the security footage.

Inside an enclosed room with powerful computers, Lara sees her double in the burning mansion. Lara watches as Alister appears, coughing in the smoke, and is shot by her mysterious double. The double displays fast speed and good combat skills, before knocking Lara onto her back and making a series of powerful jumps to escape the fire. She tries to help Alister, but he dies, promising to meet her in Avalon, and she shows some anger.

Zip and the Butler watch as Lara’s double runs away and Lara brings Alister’s body to them. Lara suggests the doppelganger is similar to one Natla sent after her before, except this one is more independent. Suggesting Amanda and Natla (who Lara claims is an Atlantean god) have formed a team, Lara decides to travel to southern Mexico to retrieve Thor’s Belt. Zip, upset at Alister’s death, argues with Lara over her cold attitude to her friend’s death, before she angrily tells him she needs Thor’s Belt and Hammer to “kill a god”.

Lara finds a calendar among ruins in southern Mexico and uses it to open the “gates to the Underworld” (an underground structure). The underground building is labelled as “The Place of Fear” (or Xibalba, the Mayan land of the dead), where the Lords of Xibalba used trap rooms to kill visitors for sport. Exploring the ruins, Lara finds reference to the mythological Midgard Serpent, Jormungandr, who lies on the bottom of the ocean and encircles the world. Another engraving depicts Ragnarok, when Jormungandr thrashes beneath the sea, floods the earth and spews poisonous gas into the air, before Thor kills the serpent with his hammer and he dies due to the snake’s poison after retreating nine steps. The structure also contains a strange, glowing liquid which seems to cause living creatures to become undead, causing the ruins to inspire underworld myths in later civilisations. Lara finds Thor’s Belt, which collapses, leaving behind a small artefact which activates the gauntlets. After existing the hidden ruins, Lara contacts Zip. Zip informs Lara that he has managed to locate the coordinates for Jan Mayen Island, using photos of her father’s map.

At an island in the Arctic, Lara finds an ancient structure. She is informed by Zip that Amanda  is on board an identical ship to the one she used in the Mediterranean Sea. The ship, called the Tisiphone, is anchored off the coast of Thailand, suggesting Amanda is following Lara’s journey.  Exploring the ruins, which lead deep underground, Lara finds a large gate. It is suggested the gate is Valgrind, the Gate of the Dead, which leads to Valhalla, Odin’s hall where slain warriors came to prepare for Ragnarok. Lara opens the gate and continues into the structure, finding an undead yeti creature she believes was the inspiration for the frost giants in Viking stories. Lara discovers Thor’s hammer and an inscription, proclaiming that Odin will return after Thor is reunited with his hammer and father and son will open the seals of Helheim and fulfil their destinies. Lara decides to visit Natla to discover the location of Helheim.

Using her boat, Lara finds Amanda’s ship in the Andaman Sea and climbs aboard. Lara quickly finds Natla still trapped within her prison. Natla reveals that the hammer is needed to enter Avalon and a ritual needs to be performed. Lara agrees to work with Natla and prepares to smash the cylinder with Thor’s hammer when Amanda and Lara’s double appears. After threatening to avenge Alister, Lara and Amanda prepare to battle using the hammer and stone, respectively. Lara’s double suddenly grabs Amanda and throws her into a pit. Lara directs a number of attacks at the double, who dodges them, and smashes Natla’s prison in anger. She allows Natla to escape, who leaves behind the coordinates to Avalon.

Lara follows the coordinates to an ice sheet in the Arctic. Using explosives, she makes a hole in the ice and dives into the water. She finds a grand ruin underwater. Inside, Lara watches as Natla performs a ritual to open an elaborate door. Lara uses the hammer to complete the ritual to open a path inside the structure.

Exploring further into the structure, Lara finds a figure at the edge of a chasm, with the glowing liquid flowing from a gap in the ceiling. Lara calls to the figure, recognising her mother, who turns and reveals to be an undead creature (called a thrall). Lara draws a gun as her mother advances, telling herself that her mother died long ago, she reluctantly fires a volley of shots and forces her mother backwards into the pit.

As Lara mourns, Natla appears. Telling Lara that she used Lady Croft’s disappearance to manipulate Lara’s father into finding something for her. When he betrayed her in Thailand, Natla killed Richard Croft. Later, when Lara appeared with Thor’s gauntlet, Natla knew she was able to use Lara to find Avalon. Lara lifts Thor’s hammer in anger, before her double appears. Lara’s double disarms Lara and holds her arms in a lock. Natla tells Lara she created the double for Amanda, who was unaware Natla intended the double to be used to kill Lara, and leaves to raise a serpent.

Lara breaks free of her double’s hold and briefly fights her, until the double forces her onto her back and aims her fist at Lara. Suddenly, the double’s attack is stopped and she is lifted into the air and thrown into the pit. It is revealed that Amanda was able to lift the double using the power of her wraith stone. She tells Lara she wants to help her as only Thor’s hammer can stop the Midgard Serpent. Realising an army of large thralls had appeared, Amanda agreed to use her wraith stone to fight the creatures while Lara stops Natla.

Lara finds Natla standing on a stone structure surrounding a large machine in the shape of a serpent. Natla tells Lara the Jormungandr is actually a network of tectonic plates which encircles the Earth on the ocean floor. Avalon is located on the site the weakest point of the network, where the ancient continent of Pangea first broke into two pieces. The machine causes a large impact to hit the site below and causes “the very seams of the plant to burst”, leading to Ragnarok (or the “Seventh Age”). Amanda appears, fighting the thralls, until an attack from Natla causes her to lose consciousness.

The player detaches the machine from the stone structure keeping it in position, causing the machine to collapse. Natla attempts to hold the machine in place, but Lara throws Thor’s hammer at her and she falls into the pool of glowing liquid. Lara wakes Amanda and the two of them find a similar circle of stones to the one in Nepal Lady Croft used to transport to Avalon. Realising the device was broken, Lara repairs it while Amanda activates it using the sword in the central stone. The two hold hands, which allows both Amanda and Lara to use the machine.

Amanda and Lara return to the ancient monastery in Nepal where Lara’s mother disappeared many years before. Lara picks up the sword while Amanda takes out her wraith stone. Realising that Amanda wants to fight her, Lara questions the point of her killing Lara. Lara withdraws the sword and the wraith stone loses power, leading to Amanda limping away. Lara picks up the drawing she created as a child and turns to the stone device. “Goodbye, Mother. Rest in peace.” Lara says sadly before leaving the structure.

The Review

At this point, I would like to make it clear I am reviewing the version of the game available on the Playstation 2 and not the ones available on the X-Box 360 or Playstation 3.

I actually have a theory about this game. The two previous games in the series (Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider Anniversary) were released on the Playstation 2 in the years before the Playstation 3 was produced. Tomb Raider: Underworld, however, could be released on the Playstation 3, a machine that was able to allow the game to be designed in higher quality graphics than the Playstation 2. Another market was also identified, players who had played the other games in the trilogy, but could not afford or were unwilling to purchase the more expensive console, and were willing to play the final game on the Playstation 2. This situation resulted in the production of the Playstation 2 version of the Tomb Raider: Underworld game. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide any evidence of this, so it is just a theory, but it would explain why the game can feel a little cheap.

I was actually provided with a guide for the X-Box 360 and Playstation 3 versions of the game, which actually provided clear examples of how this game can seem like a cheaper version. The graphics are greatly improved in these versions of the game (which can be expected). Some of the levels require the player to solve very easy puzzles (such as in Southern Mexico, where a missing object is kept on a shelf nearby) in this version of the game, while the improved games have more difficult obstacles and need more skill to play. A lot of the enemies have been removed from the game (such as the spiders in the Croft Manor level), which can reduce the amount of action in the game. The Kraken seems badly designed, the monster makes no action to stop the player as they prepare to kill it and the top of it sways gently, while the lower half remains still (creating a bad effect). Coming into contact with the creature or the pool of water surrounding it instantly kills Lara in a very lazy manner. There are other examples of this game being a low quality version of the other games.

This game functions as a sequel to Tomb Raider: Legend and uses aspects of Tomb Raider Anniversary (which had seemed like an update to the original game to celebrate the eleven years since the release of the first game). As a result, this game uses many of the features used in Tomb Raider: Legend.

The story is similar to the story from the previous game (and uses aspects of the earlier games). In this game, Lara travels to a variety of international locations to search for a collection of objects which are linked, while competing against a deadly enemy wanting to use the objects to increase their power. The story follows from the previous game, after Lara threatens Amanda and travels to Avalon in search of her mother. Interestingly, this game expands on an idea used in the previous game. In Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara searches for pieces of a powerful sword, which is supposed to feature in a large number of myths, but only the story of the last queen of Tiwanaku and the legend of Excalibur are mentioned during the game. In this game, the ancient ruins used to house Thor’s equipment are suggested as the causes of myths about the underworld found in various cultures (with the different structures being referred to as Avalon, Helheim, Niflheim, Bhogavati, Xibalba and Valhalla).

The background of the story is formed by the story of the Norse god Thor. Lara has to retrieve Thor’s equipment (belt and gauntlets) to be able to use his hammer to defeat the Midgard Serpent and prevent Ragnarok. This is intended to mimic the myth of Thor. As a result, a network of structures (described as similar to Norse buildings in design, but older) were built to house the artefacts. It is not really explained what this civilisation was, whether it was a group of early Norsemen or a more powerful culture, as the artefacts more resemble advanced technology rather than mystical objects. It is interesting that the Midgard Serpent is actually a device to cause the tectonic plates to shift as it makes this the only game in the series to use the geological history of the earth as a weapon. It is strange that the serpent is a piece of machinery rather than an actual monster though, as the early games seemed to include a huge creature as a final boss and this game used a kraken in the opening level (proving the developers were willing to include mythological monsters in the game).

A lot of the game uses Norse mythology. According to the Norse Mythology website, Thor is the strongest of the Norse gods, but is less intelligent and has a quick temper. Thor owns a powerful hammer (called Mjolnir), a pair of iron gauntlets and a belt (called Megingford) which increase his strength. The hammer can sent out lightening bolts, but can also revive dead animals and people. Many of the locations used are also from Norse mythology. Niflheim is described as the “coldest and darkest region in the world” and is the source of all living things and cold rivers. Valhalla is the place where people would go if they died in battle, the residents would fight each day and enjoy a feast each evening in a huge hall made of golden shields and wooden spear shafts. Helheim is the home of people who died outside of battle. Ragnarok is how the Vikings believed the world would end. The Midgard Serpent was a huge creature which encircled the land and poisoned Thor before he killed it. Apparently, he was also the son of Loki, a god. A series of events will lead to Ragnarok and cause a great battle between the gods and warriors from Valhalla against the giants and the dead from Helheim, with a number of events occurring  (such as the Midgard Serpent emerging and poisoning the world, the burning of the home of the gods, the deaths of a number of gods, etc.), before the world is re-born. According to Tribal Roots of Hinduism, Bhogavati was the capital city of a race of snake-demons (called the Nagas) in the subterranean world and features in Hindu mythology. According to the Myth Encyclopedia website, Xibalba was an underground realm of the dead in Mayan mythology and used caves and pools of water as entrances. A myth describes how the lords of Xibalba tricked people into playing ball games and used different houses to torture their opponents, before they were killed. Eventually, two players won the game and tricked the lords into being killed.

This game includes the characterisation of the previous games in the trilogy. Amanda is shown to be a secondary villain in this game and it is suggested she has been manipulated throughout her attempt to find Avalon. Unlike in the Tomb Raider: Legend game, Amanda seems to slightly reconcile with Lara, agreeing to help her stop Natla and allowing Lara to use the transport device with her, however, she also wishes to fight her former friend until she loses the power of the wraith stone. Natla resembles the character in the Tomb Raider Anniversary game. She wishes to unleash the “seventh age” (which is still not explained) and has manipulated Lara, Amanda and Richard Croft to achieve this aim. Her background is slightly expanded, it is suggested that she is part of the ancient civilisation that built the structures and Midgard Serpent, but this aspect is not developed further. Strangely, her character design has changed. In Tomb Raider Anniversary, she looked quite reptilian, in this game, she resembles a slightly glamorous, middle aged, blonde woman (with wings and a white outfit), which is closer to how she looks in the first Tomb Raider game. Lara’s colleagues (Zip and Alister) have a smaller role in the game. They appear in person in few animated sequences and provide plot details at the beginning of each level. In the versions of the game with improved graphics, they are shown as a video link on a computer screen, in this version, a screen shows their pictures with their voices as background noise. Alister’s death provides a dramatic point in the story, but it is quickly overshadowed by greater events. They do not provide commentary during the levels either, making Lara a lone hero (like in earlier games) and their humour is only applied to a few animated sequences. Lara’s butler has a slight role, alone with the double from the first Tomb Raider game.

Lara Croft resembles her character from Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider Anniversary. Like in the previous games, she is trying to rescue her mother and her father’s actions feature during the story. She finds her mother and, in a sad twist, is forced to kill her after she has turned into a thrall. She mourns over the death of her mother and Alister, but manages to recuperate to continue her fight against Natla. Her anger over Alister death leads to her threatening Natla. She is also reluctant to fight her former friend Amanda, deciding that she needs Amanda’s help and seems to hope they can end their feud. The game ends with Lara finally accepting her mother’s death (after defeating her as a thrall). This shows Lara as the more emotional and warmer character from the previous two games, rather than the early games.

The game also seems to have a theme of parents coming to the help of their offspring. The story revolves around Lara finding Avalon to rescue her lost mother, a continuation of her father’s quest. Richard Croft’s most significant feature in the story was working out how he was being manipulated by Natla and hiding one of Thor’s gauntlets. He also left a clue which would only help his daughter. During the Jan Mayern Island, Lara learns that a prophecy states, following Thor’s recovery of his hammer, Thor will be reunited with his father, Odin, and will travel to Helheim to fulfil their destinies. A removed aspect of the story seems to slightly develop this theme. According to a game guide, there was a plan to include two characters, Dr Peter Eddington (who is only named in the game) and his niece, Jessica. Another artefact, called Odin’s Eye, would take possession of the little girl and one of Lara’s motivation to complete her quest would be to rescue her. This storyline was removed from the final game, apparently because the developers felt it would complicate the story and the little girl could seem more annoying than likeable.

The designs used in the game are interesting. The settings for this game are mostly ruins, which can be overgrown areas (Mexico and Thailand levels), underwater (Mediterranean Sea level) or underground (Croft Manor, Jan Mayern Island or Arctic Sea levels). Part of the Mediterranean Sea level and the Andaman Sea level take place on ships (providing industrial environments).

Some of the level on board the ship in the Mediterranean Sea takes place as the ship is sinking, which adds an interesting feature to the level, as the player has to climb up corridors (instead of running along them) and creates interesting visual elements. The Coastal Thailand level uses ornate ruins and luscious jungle (including a huge statue and a tree within the ruins). It is also possible to compare the bright sea in this level to the murky waters of the Mediterranean Sea in the previous level. The Croft Manor level includes dark caves and a large church (with stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings). The Southern Mexico level takes place during rain, is the largest environment (with roads that lead to various parts of the ruins) and features a grand entrance to a ruin. Some of the level takes place underground and the game manages to convey a cold feel to the environment The Jan Mayern Island has a road through a snowy landscape, a stone corridor which spirals downwards and (using falling snow and dark rooms) manages to create a freezing atmosphere. The Arctic Sea level also creates a sense of cold (using the mysterious liquid to create a light blue light) and features an interesting climb on a large machine.

The levels also feature the ruins used to house Thor’s equipment. These ruins can form parts of the level (the Costal Thailand and Southern Mexico levels) or their design can be used for the entire level (such as the Mediterranean Sea, Jan Mayern Island and Arctic Sea levels). While these environments use a grand design and feature wide corridors and halls, the fact they are built from grey stone can seem cold and monotonous. Personally, while I liked the openness of the ruins, I did feel the representations of the underworld could be more creatively designed (there are some descriptions of the underworld myths of the cultures used in the game which are barely featured in the actual designs) and could be more differentiated, rather than just using different statues.

While I enjoyed the level designs, I felt they were undermined by the quality of graphics. The general quality of graphics was quite good and were similar to the graphics of the Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider Anniversary games. Unfortunately, the graphics also had a fuzzy quality which blurred the edges of shapes and muted colours, creating a slightly fog-like feel to the game and inhibiting the aesthetic quality of the environments.

Each level also features Lara wearing a different outfit. Lara explores the Mediterranean Sea in a wetsuit. Lara wears brown shorts and vest in the Coastal Thailand level. Lara dresses in a brown top and trousers in the Croft Manor, Andaman Sea and Southern Mexico levels. Lara wears a thick coat and trousers on Jan Mayern Island. Lara wears a wetsuit to explore the Arctic Sea. Completing the game unlocks a light blue swimsuit that the player can select for Lara to wear.

The controls for this game are similar to Tomb Raider: Legend, with Lara singing from horizontal poles, holding vertical poles, balancing and using the grapple. There are a number of additions to the controls. Lara can grab onto horizontal poles, climb on top, perch and jump off. Much of the game involves climbing across ledges, with Lara now being able to reach across small gaps to reach nearby ledges and climb certain walls. Lara can perform a chimney jump. Jumping and hanging onto a wall, she can then jump and hang onto the opposite wall and repeat this to climb up. The game also uses adrenaline. At certain points in the game, the game will become fuzzy and slow down, allowing the player extra time to find ways of dodging sudden obstacles or reaching safety. This is an interesting concept, but rarely occurs during the game and is underused (it is much more widely used in the improved versions of the game). The game also uses “portable objects”. These are large items that are too big to fit in Lara’s backpack, instead the player can pick them up, carry them around and use them at specific points in the level (such as to open doors). The game also removes the interactive animated sequences.

Vehicles are used less widely in this game. A motorbike is used to travel between the archaeological sites in the Southern Mexico level and the Jan Mayern Island level begins with a motorcycle ride through icy mountains. These parts of the levels are moderately enjoyable, with a few jumps and avoiding cracks, but could be made a little more challenging. According to a guide for the game, originally the Jan Mayern Island and Arctic Sea levels were connected by a sheet of ice. The original idea was that the player would use a motorcycle to travel to these locations (adding extra gameplay and linking these two levels). This idea was removed after it was decided the area would be completely white and featureless, making it an annoying part of the game as the player could get lost easily.

The combat for this game is strange. The combat controls resemble the early Tomb Raider games, with the player firing multiple rounds at enemies, and removes the attacks she could perform in Tomb Raider: Legend. The health system has changed. Instead of using health packs, Lara’s health regenerates after a certain period of time and is shown by a small figure and bar which change from green to yellow to red to signify her loss of health. The weapons are strange. There are a range of weapons (pistols, sub-machine guns, shotgun and an assault rifle) which have unlimited ammunition. The player is also able to use limited numbers of grenades. During the game, the player is able to use Thor’s hammer (the Andaman Sea level seems to function as a an area for the player to test this new weapon), a powerful weapon that can be used as a close combat weapon or can fire lightening bolts to hit targets at a distance. This item seems to have a similar function as the sword in the previous game, an object which features heavily in the plot and forms a powerful weapon later.

This game continues the tradition of extra features. A number of secret items are hidden in each level and resemble small, green packages (these objects are the only items in the game, as there are no clips or health packs). The extra features in this game seems to consist of concept art, with an extra costume for completing the game. Completing the game unlocks the Treasure Hunter mode. This feature is designed to be used to collect treasures and allows the player to replay the levels, except they are completed so the player does not need to find keys or complete puzzles.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I felt this game (or this version of the game) is the weakest game of the Tomb Raider series and a disappointment for such a well-made trilogy of games. The story is quite good, with interesting developments and a good ending to the story of the trilogy, but it can seem slightly underdeveloped, with some levels not advancing the story much. The level designs are good, but the game is affected by low quality graphics. The game also presents with a much colder atmosphere than other games in the series. The controls allow extra actions, but the combat controls are much more limited. The game is too easy and feels like a cheaper version of a superior game.

A Review of Tomb Raider: Anniversary (Playstation 2)

2007

In this year, the world economy was affected. China and Europe release less-than-expected growth reports, causing a decrease in world stock markets. The United Kingdom branch of the French bank BNP Paribas prevented withdrawals from three hedge funds involved in sub-prime mortgages in USA, leading to financial crisis. The effects of climate change were also scrutinised, with a research project launched to study the North and South Poles, an assessment report which identified human activity as a highly likely cause of global climate change, concerts were held in a number of cities to raise awareness of the issue and an international conference was held. Israel released frozen assets to the President of the Palestinian National Authority, followed by a historic visit to the President from the Israeli Prime Minister. Israel also bombed a suspected nuclear site in Syria. Riots occurred in India and the United Kingdom (following the racial abuse of a Bollywood actress by contestants on a British game show), Estonia (after a World War II memorial was moved) and Kenya (following a disputed election). A group of British sailors were held by Iranian authorities in disputed Iran-Iraq waters. High casualty terrorist attacks occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan (which also killed the former Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto). The President of Ukraine dissolves the Ukrainian Parliament, following defections from his party, leading to the Second Orange Revolution. Films released this year includes films based on recent history (A Mighty Heart, American Gangster, Zodiac, etc.), films based on older events (Amazing Grace, Becoming Jane, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, etc.), films based on old cartoons (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Transformers, TMNT, etc.), re-makes of older films (St. Trinian’s, 3:10 to Yuma, Hairspray, etc.), third films in popular series (Rush Hour 3, Shrek the Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, etc.), fourth films in popular series (Live Free or Die Hard, Saw IV, Hannibal Rising, etc.), animated films (Surf’s Up, Bee Movie, The Simpsons Movie, etc.), superhero films (Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Spiderman 3, etc.), comedies set within domestic settings (Knocked up, Superbad, Juno, etc.), films based on ancient stories that used computer graphics (300 and Beowulf), thrillers set in gritty environments with exaggerated violence (No Country for Old Men, Eastern Promises, Vacancy, etc.), some notoriously hated films (Epic Movie, Norbit and Alien Vs Predator: Requiem) and a very deliberate attempt to recreate B-movies from an earlier era (Grindhouse). Music released this year included songs about devoted love (Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, Duffy, Plain White Ts, etc.). Computer games released this year includes games intended to exploit the unique gameplay of the Wii (Wii Play, WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Mario Party 8, etc.) and games based on old films (The Warriors, Scarface: The World is Yours, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, etc.). Tomb Raider Anniversary entered this mix.

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The Story

Los Alamos, New Mexico, 1945

A brown road, lined by large wooden houses, leads from a gate in a wire fence towards distant mountains under a blue sky. In front of the brown yards and telegraph poles is a sign, marked with a symbol warning about the risk of exposure to radioactivity. A bright flash occurs, followed by a white shockwave and a white light appearing behind the distant buildings. The white light quickly grows in size and a fierce fire ignites at it’s centre. The houses are ripped apart by an unseen force before becoming engulfed in flame. A huge, fiery mushroom rises towards the sky, which becomes a mess of black clouds and gold and crimson flames.

Among the glowing red rocks and fierce wind of the blasted ground lies a strange crystal formation on a stone platform. A black, winged creature bursts out the crystal, causing it to shatter, and bounces across the ground. The creature, humanlike shape with a glowing head, spreads it wings and flies upwards. The creature clears the mushroom cloud formation and continues flying toward the sky.

Calcutta, India, 1996

A man walks across the foyer of a luxurious hotel to a small seating area. the man, dressed in a dark blue shirt and dark jeans, places a magazine on a table in front of a woman sitting on an armchair reading a book. The magazine, titled “Tomb Raider”, shows the woman standing over the body of a hairy creature in a wood with a caption reading “Croft bags…Bigfoot?”.

“Now what’s a man gotta do to get that sort of attention from you?” The man asks.

Lara Croft, dressed in her usual costume of green vest and brown shorts, looks up from her small book, “If that’s the sort of attention you want, Larson, you are well on your way.”

“Sounds like fun.” he responds while taking out a small device. “But I’m only here to make an introduction.” He activates the machine and stands it on the table facing Lara Croft. “Lara Croft, meet Jacqueline Natla, of Natla Technologies.” The device shows an older woman wearing a dark suit appearing on a screen.

“Good afternoon, Miss Croft. My research department has recently turned it’s focus to the study of ancient artefacts and I am lead to believe, with the right incentive, you are just the right woman to find them for me.”

“I’m afraid you’ve been misled. I only play for sport.” Lara responds nonchalantly

“Which is precisely why I’ve come to you, Miss Croft.” Natla tells her, rising from her chair to walk around her desk. She picks up a small remote control from the desk, “This is a game you played before; with your father.”

She presses a button on the remote control and the screen shows a columns of strange symbols on the left hand side and an unusual blue object in the centre. “You both spent years searching for the Scion of Atlantis. All you needed was the location of Qualopec’s Tomb.”

Lara leans towards the device, “You found Vilcabamba?”

“How quickly can you get to Peru?” Natla asks.

Stone peaks rise majestically towards a blanket of grey clouds, creating an isolated and forbidding landscape. A large, stone door hides among the cliffs of the mountainside.

“Vilcabamba continues to elude us, and my insistence that we press on in spite of these failures has morale low…” Lara reads from her small book. “I suspect Jenkins to be the author of this sedition;  he refuses to accept the possibility that Atlantis is the foundation upon which all known civilisations were built. Increasingly, I find it is Lara alone who remains untainted by academic dogma and open-minded enough to see this truth.” Lara, standing at the edge of a deep chasm at one end of a huge, wooden bridge (broken since it was built), turns around.

Through tinted glasses, Lara watches as her companion, a man dressed in a warm cloak and hat, climbs a ladder that leads to the platform with the door. The wooden ladder suddenly breaks and the guide quickly grabs the edge of a cliff. Briefly panicking, she calms after seeing the man skilfully climb onto the platform. Looking back at her, he tells her “I’m sorry; I didn’t bring enough rope.”

“Not to worry. I’ll find another way up.” Lara replies.

The player discovers a way to climb up to the side of the cliff and open the doors. A pack of wolves escape into the open and attack Lara’s companion. Lara kills the wolves and enters the mountain caves. Exploring the caves, walking through wooden structures and stone walls and floors, Lara finds the city of Vilcabamba. After passing through the city, which seems to consist of small houses for people to live in and a large, ornate building which basically functions as a gate, the player reaches the lost valley. The player searches ruins in a valley filled with dinosaurs to find a number of cogs used to lower an ornate dam to block a waterfall and reveal the tomb of Qualopec.

Lara finds the scion floating above an altar in front of the remains of Qualopec and two tall creatures. Lara learns the “God-king” Qualopec was one of the keepers of the Scion and one of the three rulers of Atlantis. One of the creatures comes alive and lunges towards Lara, who backs away towards the Scion. She takes the artefact, which causes the structure to collapse. Qualopec rises from his throne before being blocked by a piece of stone as Lara escapes.

Outside the tomb, Lara meets Larson, who demands she hands over the Scion. Lara defeats Larson after a fight and, after threatening him, Larson tells her Pierre Dupont was searching for a second piece. Lara renders Larson unconscious with a kick to the head and leaves, stealing his shotgun.

Lara infiltrates the Natla Technologies skyscraper by shooting lift cables and performing acrobatic stunts. Inside Natla’s office, she finds video conversations of Natla ordering Larson to steal the Scion piece from Lara and Pierre Dupont revealing a second scion piece is buried at St. Francis Folly. It is also revealed Richard Croft believed the Scion contained a wealth of information, which would help him discover what happened to his wife.

Entering St. Francis Folly, Lara finds Pierre who states he is unwilling to let her retrieve the Scion piece. The player finds the keys which open the door that leads to the Coliseum, which the player passes through to reach the Palace Midas. The player turns four lead bars into gold and uses these to open an underwater gate to reach the Tomb of Tihocan.

The tomb, with a pair of statues resembling centaurs outside, contains the second Scion piece. Inside, Lara learns the “God-king” Tihocan, so respected a cistern was built around his tomb, was also a ruler of Atlantis. Tihocan became the leader of the “chosen” after a “great betrayal” caused Atlantis to sink. She finds Tihocan’s remains are missing and Pierre has taken the piece of the Scion. He attempts to rob her at gunpoint, but, following a fight, is forced to leave the structure. Outside, the centaur statues come to life and kill him. After defeating the creatures, Lara puts the two pieces of the Scion together.

After attaching the two Scion pieces, Lara experiences a vision of past events. After seeing the three pieces of the Scion separating, Lara watches a two giant figures reprimand a large kneeling figure. One figure, revealed as Tihocan, claims the shamed person had broken the triumvirate of Atlantis by betraying their fellow kings, maiming their brother, Qualopec, in the process. Qaulopec taunts the prisoner, stating Tihocan defeated their treachery. The vision ends with the final Scion piece hidden in a doorway carved into a rock wall.

Lara finds the doorway in Egypt. The player passes through the temple of Khamoon and the obelisk of Khamoon to reach the sanctuary of the Scion. The player defeats a number of strange creatures to reach a locked room that contains the final piece of the Scion.

After taking the artefact, the ceiling begins to collapse and Lara escapes through a passageway that leads to a cliff edge. Attaching all three pieces of the Scion together, Lara returns to the previous vision. Able to witness the events in more detail, Lara realises they are positioned on the top of a pyramid structure surrounded by huge statues. Tihocan continues his speech where he finished previously. The prisoner claims they acted because Atlantis had become ruins and needed to burn to start the “Seventh Age”. Tihocan, describing how the traitor attempted to use the power of the Scion to unleash the armies against the other rulers, sentences the prisoner to expulsion from the triumvirate and to be frozen in limbo for eternity. The prisoner raises her head and Lara realises the third ruler is Natla. Natla threatens the other two while they chant words that cause her to be sealed within a crystal structure. After the vision ends, Lara returns to the present.

Natla takes the completed Scion from Lara, while three henchmen (including Larson) grab Lara and remove her weapons. Confirming she was Queen of Atlantis, Natla also states the Scion contains all the knowledge of the Ancients, but does not tell Lara what the Seventh Age is. Natla orders her subordinates to kill Lara, who breaks free and escapes by leaping into a river at the bottom of the cliff. Seeing her enemies leave by car, Lara finds her motorcycle and pursues them. Finding they have reached a boat and have already cast off, she leaps into the water and manages to infiltrate the boat. She finds a place to hide. After the boat stops, Lara discovers they have reached a rocky island and dives into the sea to swim to the island.

Lara explores a mine Natla had dug into the island, retrieves her guns and shoots Larson. After regretting killing him, Lara takes Larson’s shotgun and continues into the mines. She finds the remaining henchmen (a muscular man and a kid) at the entrance to the great pyramid. After forcing a reluctant Lara to fight, the man and kid kill each other while attacking Lara. Lara finds a way to enter the great pyramid.

Inside the pyramid, Lara finds Natla powering it to release strange creatures. Lara climbs the pyramid, defeating a creature that mimics her, to find the Scion spinning above a small platform. She sees a huge pulsating pod positioned above a large platform in the middle of the pyramid. Natla appears, wearing a strange dress and with wings, and tells Lara she is using the pyramid to breed the army of Atlantis and other creatures. She offers Lara the opportunity to become a ruler with her to unleash the “Seventh Age”. Apologising to her father, Lara draws her guns and shoots the Scion. Natla pushes her forward and both women fall into a chasm. Lara uses her rappel to hook onto the large platform while Natla falls into lava.

A large monster bursts out of the pod and attacks Lara. She defeats it and escapes from the pyramid, which starts to collapse and become engulfed in lava. Lara is attacked by Natla, who has turned into a fiery creature. Lara defeats Natla and escapes the structure, using the boat to flee while the pyramid explodes.

The Review

This game is a remake of the first Tomb Raider game, released eleven years previously. I found this game to be less of a direct remake, but a mix of the original game and the seventh game (Tomb Raider: Legend). A number of examples can be made where the game remains similar to the original game, but with elements from Tomb Raider Legend added.

The story itself largely follows the storyline from the first game, Lara is sent, by Natla, to retrieve a mysterious artefact, but discovers Natla wishes to betray her so Natla, an ancient ruler of Atlantis, can obtain the three pieces of the Scion and form the army of Atlantis. The story also uses the same range of locations from the first game, with Lara visiting an ancient Peruvian culture, exploring European ruins (which are categorised as European levels), examining ancient Egyptian structures and discovering Atlantis. While the main story is the same, a number of smaller plot points have been altered.

The story of this game simultaneously removes the cowboy from the original (who gave Lara a sweet smile as he took her guns) and solves the Larson conundrum (the fact that killing Larson in the Sanctuary of the Scion level is completely optional) by making Larson Natla’s henchman in the Natla’s Mines level. The monk’s diary, used in the first game to suggest St. Francis Folly is the location of the second piece of the Scion, is replaced by a video presentation by Pierre Dupont. The mystery of Qualopec and Tihocan deepens in this version of the game. In the original, the two rulers appear once in tombs and in a replay of past events. In the past, they seem to be strange creatures, however, it is not clear what they actually are, with Tihocan seeming similar to a normal man and Qualopec machine-like. In this game, Qualopec comes back to life briefly and Tihocan’s tomb is empty, what actually happened to the two characters is a mystery. The two, in the replay of Natla’s sentencing, appear to be giant men, with Qualopec described as maimed, explaining why he uses a machine.

One of the aspects of the original game I actually preferred was the way the game showed Natla’s sentencing. In the first game, after retrieving the second piece of the Scion, the player sees dark shadows against bright backgrounds silently accusing an upset figure, removing the piece of the Scion and throwing it away, followed by a comet and still pictures of people drowning. After completing the Atlantis level (which I felt was the hardest level in the game), the player is shown an animation (in higher quality, more detailed graphics) that explains why the Scion was removed from Natla and the player finally sees Tihocan and Qualopec in the past. I felt this was an effective way of telling the backstory, the first animation shows the events in an interesting way, but it is more difficult to understand fully what is happening and how this affects the story. The second animation fully explains the backstory and Natla’s past. The animation, with extremely smooth surfaces and set under an purple sky, has an other-worldly feel, which makes the sequence more interesting. In this version, the player retrieves the second piece of the Scion and is shown a slightly strange animation where Lara witnesses two huge shadowy figures berate a third character against a clouded background, revealing some of the backstory in the process. After finding the final Scion piece, Lara observes the rest of the sentencing, discovering Natla was the disgraced ruler and her motivations. I find this telling of the story to be less effective. I like the graphics and the shadowy figures, but find there is less mystery in the first animation and it is easier to identify Natla. The second animation, I feel, is less fascinating, the two male rulers are seen clearly and Atlantis seems to be a collection of stone statues with a platform, with the sentencing taking place on a ordinary day. Natla describes Atlantis as being in ruins, but there is little evidence of this or reason how it happened. It is slightly annoying for the story to be split, with the player learning half of the events before having to complete a number of levels to complete the backstory, rather than having a complete description of the events. Strangely, instead of the strange machinery used to imprison Natla in the original game, Qualopec and Tihocan chant a magical spell to seal Natla in a small prison.

Some of the story has been changed to allow the developers to insert themes and plot developments from the Tomb Raider Legend game. The developers have added references to Lord Richard Croft, Lara’s father, into the game. Lord Croft’s mission to discover the location of his wife was a large part of the story of the previous game. In this game, Lara uses her father’s theories to find parts of the Scion, claiming he believed it would help him in his quest. Natla’s reasons for retrieving the Scion have been slightly altered as well. In the original game, Natla wanted the Scion to rebuild the Atlantean army to cause conflicts that would prevent the world becoming complacent. In this game, Natla wishes to rebuild the army of Atlantis to lead to an event she refers to as the “Seventh Age”. It is not explained what this is, but this motivation will remain in the final part of the trilogy.

There is a strange suggestion to the story. The story is set in 1996, the year the first game was released, which indicates this game is part of the original storyline and not just associated with the Tomb Raider: Legend game. In the library in the Home level, the player is able to find information relevant to the artefacts and settings used in the later Tomb Raider games  (such as the second and third games). The fourth game clearly states Lara was 14 when she joined Professor von Croy’s expedition in 1984, which would make Lara approaching 40 during the events of Tomb Raider: Legend. She seems too young to be in her late thirties in the game.

This game uses the mythical city of Atlantis as part of the story. Atlantis was described by Plato (in his works Tinnaeus and Critias)as a huge island in the Atlantic Ocean opposite the Straits of Gibraltar. The island was mostly mountainous with a fertile plain in the south and contained a unique metal (orichalc). A magnificent city was built on three circular rings of land separated by rings of water and the island was ruled by ten powerful kings, who were descendants of Poseidon. The country fought a war with Athens and was then struck by violent earthquakes and fierce floods, before being swallowed by the sea. It is debatable whether Atlantis was an actual story Plato knew or something he described as a theory for a idyllic society. Many of the settings are based on actual or mythological structures (such as the palace of King Midas who turned everything he touched to gold, the coliseum where spectators watched fights and the village of Vilcabamba, where the inhabitants are famous for living long lives).

The character of Lara has also changed to resemble the character of Lara in Tomb Raider Legend. In the original game, Lara was quite a slightly cold character, prepared to kill animals, creatures and humans, with a witty sense of humour. In this game, Lara is shown to be more emotional, but retaining many characteristics from the original, so that she is upset and remorseful that she was forced to kill Larson and does not want to have to kill the other henchmen. This is more like the character of Lara in Tomb Raider Legend, who wishes to find her mother and feels sad for her father’s vain attempts to rescue her. It is also suggests this is Lara’s first adventure, rather than the experienced fighter from the original. This effect may occur because it is an animated Lara who fights the men and interacts with them, rather than the player defeating an enemy to progress through the game.

The other characters in the game have been developed or have characteristics altered. This game uses extended animations and character biographies to develop the characters, instead of the animations and catchphrases said at the beginning of fights to suggest personalities. Larson is mostly the same, except he is more softly spoken and the player is forced to fight him. The game explains Pierre Dupont’s motivation for retrieving the Scion (he wants money and does not care about it’s use) and he appears less in the game, only appearing at the beginning and end of the part of the story set in Europe. The large man seems to be a more sinister character, suggesting he enjoys committing murder and is prepared to attack his allies. The kid is very similar to the character in the original version, with an arrogant attitude, but the game states he has a prior relationship with the large man, who functions as his mentor. Natla, with her blonde hair, thin features and relaxed professional clothes, seems to resemble a wealthy salon owner, rather than the leader of a sinister organisation. She also states that she believes Lara would be suitable as her fellow ruler.

The designs of the levels, while remaining similar to the structures used in the first game, have been changed. As expected, the graphics have greatly improved in this game compared to the original, so that the walls are not covered in repeated patterns and it is easier to see how the developers intended the locations to look. The levels appear more compact, so, instead of the player running through long corridors in huge ruins, the levels consist of a small amount of rooms. An example of this effect is the Coliseum level. In the original, the Coliseum was massive, requiring the player to wait a few minutes for Lara to run from one end of the seating area to another. In this game, the same location is much smaller, with the combat arena almost too small to allow room for the player to fight the animals that attack Lara. In some levels, the layout has been altered to provide different challenges and increase the difficulty of the game.

The layout of the levels is strange. In the original game, each level was very individual, so that, while they formed part of the story in a distinct location, the levels would end with a display of statistical information for the level, the screen showing a picture while the level loaded and the player in a new environment which does not allow the player to return to the previous level. In Tomb Raider: Legend, each location had one level. This game seems to incorporate both variations into the gameplay. During each level, a box will appear, showing statistical information for the level and signalling the end of the level, however, the player will remain in the same position and will continue to explore the environment as if the are in the same level. This means the levels are more fluid and there has a greater sense of connection between the different levels.

The improved graphics have also caused a number of differences between the two games. The settings for this game appear more open and less claustrophobic than the original. In the first game, the levels consisted of a series of dark caverns, with rocky ceilings covering the locations and little light (except for plants, animals and characters). In this game, it is possible to see the sky and background and the lighting effects have improved so that fires light the structures and this game uses more realistic natural light, with different shades and shafts of light. The levels set in Peru appear to take place on a bright day at mid-morning, with mountains visible in the background, the European section of the story seems to be set at late afternoon and Lara explores Egypt and Atlantis during an afternoon on a clear day. The graphics also add a decaying atmosphere to the levels. In the original, the graphics were unable to provide detailed environments, so that the levels looked as if they had been built strangely and the textures of the walls painted on. In this game, the levels look like ruins, with crumbling pillars, fallen floors and eroded decorations. While this effect does add a sense of realism to the game, it removes the cosy feel of the original, rather than finding a way through warm environments, the player has to walk through collapsing structures and further destroy decrepit locations. The designs for the levels set in the pyramid have been changed. The bits of seemingly pulsating flesh from the first game have been removed and the levels resemble stone structures with warmly glowing lava. The pods emitting weird creatures remain, but the player climbs the central space directly, instead of following passages that lead upwards.

There have also been efforts to remove mistakes and rename the levels. There are three levels in each setting. The Cistern level from the original has been removed and elements of that level have been incorporated into the Tomb of Tihocan level. The Atlantis level has been renamed Great Pyramid (which is more fitting as the player explores the pyramid and not the city) and the final level is called the Final Conflict. The names of the rooms in the St Francis Folly level use the names of characters from Greek mythology (Thor has been replaced by Hephaestus and Poseidon has replaced Neptune).

The gameplay has been changed to resemble the way Tomb Raider: Legend was played. The controls for this game are the same as Tomb Raider: Legend, with Lara being able to swing on horizontal poles, climb vertical poles, grab onto cracks and edges, climb ropes and ladders, use a grapple and perform a series of rolls. Lara is also able to perform a wall run by attaching the grapple to a hanging object and running along the side of a wall the length of the rope, she is able to pick up speed by running back and forth and can shorten or length the rope depending on need. The game itself has a larger focus onto grabbing onto ledges, shimmying across and jumping onto nearby ledges, similar to Tomb Raider Legend, than the original. I, personally, enjoy the change in controls, I feel they add more fluidity than the slightly stilted gameplay in the first game (with Lara slowly pushing blocks, repetitively shimmying across long cracks and performing the running jump) and looked quite impressive. Lara pushes objects in a more natural way, with the objects moving in a number of directions.

The way the player fights enemies has changed. The player can no longer attack without using weapons, but they can prevent Lara from falling if she is loses her balance after an attack and break free if they are grabbed by an animal. The game also uses an “adrenaline dodge”. When a strong enemy is under attack, they can roar and launch a powerful attack on the player. The action slows down and the player can perform a roll to dodge the attack, a pair of red crosshairs appear and line up with the creatures weak spot, allowing the player, if they are able to wait for the opportune moment, to shot the enemy at a point which will instantly kill them. In the original game, the other tomb raiders and Natla formed the bosses at the end of the final levels in each location, with larger creatures appearing during the levels. In this version, the bosses are the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the Lost Valley level, the strange creatures in the Tomb of Tihocan level, the massive creature at the beginning of the Final Conflict level and Natla at the end of the game. These bosses are fought using the adrenaline dodge, with an extra consideration needed for each individual enemy (such as forcing the dinosaur to hit a wooden log or using a shield to reflect the centaur-like creatures attack). I feel the combat techniques are enjoyable, but the adrenaline dodge does make the game easier, as the most threatening enemies are easier to defeat. I found the bosses were enjoyable to fight, but their appearance throughout the game seemed slightly random.

Lara’s inventory for this game mimics the first game. The player finds both small and large medipacks (unlike Tomb Raider: Legend) and the guns are the same as the original, except some have been renamed (so the player can use pistols, shotgun, .50 calibre handguns or submachine guns). Lara also uses the grapple from Tomb Raider: Legend.

One obvious addition from Tomb Raider: Legend that has been inserted into the game is the interactive animations. During the animated sequences, the player will have to press buttons to help Lara survive any dangers she faces and reach safety. In the original game, meeting a man usually meant the player would have to draw a weapon and fire enough bullets that the enemy would die or become wounded. In this game, the player would watch the fight as an animation and push buttons when needed. I found the animated combat to be enjoyable to watch, with a fast pace and interesting attacks, however, I can understand an argument that these sequences remove an enjoyable part of the game and replace an active aspect with a passive experience of watching a fight. By having the large man killing the teenager, the game removes the morally dubious idea of the hero shooting a kid.

A number of extra features are used to encourage repeating the levels in this game, similar to Tomb Raider: Legend. Completing a level will allow the player to select the time trial option. Hidden throughout the game are artefacts and relics. Artefacts resemble small, lighted objects and all artefacts in a location have the same shape. There are a number of artefacts hidden in each level. Relics are small objects which, when picked up, cause an animation to occur showing Lara lifting the treasure while it rotates. Each level may have one relic or less and each relic has a small description (I am not sure if the relics are actual objects or if the designs and descriptions were invented for the game). Collecting these objects also unlocks extra features that can be accessed in the Extras menu. These features include concept artwork created during the production of the game, cinematics and music from the game, the relics and their descriptions, different costumes that Lara can wear during the game, commentaries and biographies of the characters from the story. An interesting addition is a feature which compares the designs from the original game with the enhanced graphical interpretations of this game. When I played the game, I felt parts of the game were completely different from the first game, however, this option made me realise the settings were more similar, but the higher quality graphics had made them less recognisable or the locations had been altered slightly to use the different gameplay.

The Home level for this game has changed. The environment closely resembles Lara’s home from the Tomb Raider: Legend game, except the room with the swimming pool is in the process of being built and the hall is filled with packing crates (an idea taken from the first game). A number of artefacts are hidden throughout the level (like in Tomb Raider: Legend). A unique aspect of this level is how it is completed. Rather than just a place to practice controlling Lara, the player has to explore the house and grounds to retrieve Lara’s equipment and open a locked door. Entering the final room ends the level, with a list of statistics to demonstrate how well the level was completed.

In conclusion, this game was very enjoyable. I enjoyed the gameplay and found the controls more fluid than the original. The puzzles are more varied and interesting in this game. The inclusion of the adrenaline dodge, however, does make ferocious enemies too easy. The fights with the large creatures are interesting, with some enjoyable fight sequences with the human enemies. I can understand how this could be controversial with players who enjoyed the battles with the other treasure hunters in the original and felt the button pressing was less effective. The graphics are an improvement with more detailed environments. I can also understand how the settings from the original game have a warmer feel, which is lost from the destroyed structures and neutral backgrounds in this game. The story is interesting, but, I felt, there were some changes that negatively affected the story. I also liked the extra features and found collecting the artefacts and relics enjoyable.