Tagged: review

A Review of Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Game Gear)

1994

————————————————–Spoiler Alert——————————————————————-

The Story

A sudden shaking disturbs the calm ocean. A strange, dark structure slowly rises from the dark blue sea up towards the sky, which has turned into a foreboding scarlet colour. The weird mountain, completely black except for where it is lightened by the setting sun and from a hot glow at it’s base, grows to a huge height.

A small aeroplane, piloted by Tails with Sonic hanging from the bottom (an economy class ticket in his hand), flies over the sea, passing distant mountains. Somewhat nearing the mountain, Sonic jumps off from his place on the aeroplane and into the dark water.

Sonic climbs the mountains through the Toxic Pools, Lava Powerhouse and The Machine before reaching Dr Robotnik in a Final Showdown at the top of the mountain. Sonic fights Dr Robotnik, who uses a flying vehicle to attack Sonic.

Sonic defeats Dr Robotnik. Following the fight, both Sonic and Dr Robotnik’s empty machine fall spinning, through space, to the ground. From a distance, a glowing red shape is seen to fall into the mountain. Explosions suddenly break out around the mountain, which sinks back into the water.

That is how to create a story based on pinball action.

The Review

This is a review of the game available as part of an extra feature in the Sonic Adventure DX game.

The main idea for this game (and the version released on the Mega Drive) was to create a Sonic game based on pinball. Many Sonic games use pinball elements in some levels, either as a mini-game or using flippers to propel Sonic upwards, particularly in levels based on a Casino theme. This game, however, with the vertical level design, use of flippers and rounded edges to send Sonic in different directions, seemed to resemble a digital pinball game.

The story for the game is simple, the game began with an animated sequence showing Sonic reaching the mountain, the player completed each level in turn to reach the Final Boss and then an animated sequence showed the end of the game. Like most early Sonic games, the hero was silent and there was no description of the events at any point of the game. Each level began with a screen showing the player’s progress through the mountain (basically each level was the next floor higher in the mountain), which I liked as it added context to each level.

The gameplay was similar to playing a digital pinball game. For much of the game, Sonic was curled into a ball and launched across the levels. The player could slightly control Sonic’s trajectory through the air and activate the flippers used to propel Sonic. Each of the levels used curved edges (to help Sonic move around the level), features to force Sonic upwards at an accelerated speed and used suspended obstacles to impede his progress. The bottom of each level consisted of a hazard that will kill the player. There were also some parts of the level where Sonic was able to walk.

There were also a small amount of items in each level which aided the player. Small flags were placed in each level, which, when all were collected, sometimes caused a change in the level to help the player (such as draining liquid from a container). There were also small, glowing orbs which, if the player touched them, caused lightening to appear between pairs of flippers located above a fatal hazard, which prevented the player falling in. There were also a few monitors (which were more commonplace in other Sonic games) placed in secret locations, which gave the player extra lives, continues and part of a code.

Each level required the player finding a specified number of Chaos Emeralds hidden in the level. Within each level was a pathway, which allowed the player to reach the boss if all the Chaos Emeralds had been collected. The pathway would lead the player to a separate room to fight the level’s boss. Falling to the bottom of the room caused the player to return to the level and they would have to reach the path to face the boss again (I am not sure, but I believe the boss is still weakened by the player’s attack from before they returned to the level). The bosses would also need to be fought using pinball methods. I found the bosses to be quite enjoyable and it required skill to force Sonic to a specific area where the boss could be harmed.

After completing the boss, Sonic would enter a bonus stage. The bonus stage consisted of a series of connected rooms which ended in a tunnel. All the rooms were oval-shaped (which allowed Sonic to roll along the floor and climb the walls) and contained a series of platforms. Situated on the top of the platforms were large, robotic eggs. Hitting the eggs enough times caused them to open and the player was rewarded (with extra rings, score or lives). Bizarrely, each room seemed to be themed around an ancient civilisation, one room contained animal-headed statues resembling ancient Egyptian sculptures, one had a background consisting of an ancient Japanese pagoda and one seemed to contain columns from ancient Greece. The extra items obtained by destroying the eggs could only be implemented if the player reached the end of the tunnel.

I found the gameplay quite enjoyable. It required skill to use the flippers to progress through the level and it was fun to explore levels using this mechanic. The bosses were particularly fun. It was, however, frustrating to repeatedly attempt to launch Sonic in a specific trajectory, particularly if it needed effort to reach the launching area. Because the levels were vertical and the ease of propelling Sonic into the wrong area, it was also quite frustrating to accidentally reach an unintended location and spend time to return to the area before the mistake was made.

The level designs for the game were quite interesting. The game began in the Toxic Caves, which resembled a cavern with light blue water at the bottom and a background of stones, coloured using muted colours. The second level was Lava Powerhouse. This level consisted of steam-powered machinery and stone background, with bright red and yellow colours featured prominently. The third level was The Machine. This level used a mechanical design and a colour scheme mostly consisting of grey and purple (unlike other levels with a tangible hazard at the bottom, Sonic died after touching nothing). The game ends with the Final Showdown level, which resembled a construction site above lava (with a square pattern background), before Sonic flies upwards through the night sky and fights Dr Robotnik in a mechanical structure. The graphics did seem to be of a lower quality than other Sonic games on the Game Gear, with indistinguishable shapes, fuzzy outlines and box-like designs. I enjoyed the level designs as they felt different to each other and used features unique to each level.

The music for the game was quiet and repetitive. The music was slightly tense, but did not really stand out. I did not think this music was as good as soundtracks used for other Sonic games.

I have observed that the Sonic games released on the Game Gear contain some unnecessarily difficult elements and bizarre features.

A lot of the game’s difficulty seemed to come from the gameplay. The game requires the player to launch Sonic from flippers. I found it very difficult to eject Sonic at the correct angle to reach the desired areas, particularly if the target area was a narrow corridor. It was also difficult to find the Chaos Emeralds in the levels because it was difficult to explore using pinball methods. Another difficulty was preventing Sonic from falling between two flippers into a fatal area, as there was no way to transfer Sonic from one flipper to the other, so the player had to rely on catapulting Sonic to a part of the surroundings which would lead him to the other flipper.

There were also some bizarre aspects of the game. As previously mentioned, the bonus stages had a strange, ancient aesthetic. Weirdly, one of the bonus stages showed consisted of room connected vertically. Upon entering each room, Sonic would sink through water to the bottom and hit a plug, which caused the water to drain and allow Sonic to move. Entering the pipe at the bottom of the room lead to the next room.

There was also a strange, unique feature added to the game. If the player lost all their lives, the game created a mini-game before allowing the player to choose to use a continue to keep playing. Part of the score (accumulated while playing the game) would be highlighted, along with an continually increasing number. The idea of the game was for the player to push a button so the number would stop changing and resemble the highlighted number (eg. if the score was 13400, 400 would be highlighted and the player would need to stop the count near to 400). If the player is successful, they continue the game with the same score, but replenished lives. If they fail the challenge, the player has to use a continue to keep playing. I enjoyed this feature, it gave the player an opportunity to keep playing the game with the accumulated score, even if they lose all of Sonic’s lives.

The ending credits of the game were also slightly eccentric. Following the final animated sequence, a pinball machine appeared on screen and credits were shown across the top of it, which seemed to suggest that the game’s story took place within a pinball machine. The credits ended with the phrase “Thank you for playing Sonic Spinball!!! Now go to sleep”, which seemed to suggest that the developers considered the market for the game was kids playing it clandestinely at night (which gives me the image of a kid hiding in their bed sheets, eagerly completing the game at the dead of night and finally sleeping at the end).

Hidden in each level was a monitor which, when destroyed, causes a banner to appear at the top of the screen and reveal part of a secret code. I destroyed all the secret monitors (which were all located in hidden rooms in one side of each level) and the code was shown to be “08-31-71, SFX Get that???”. I have no idea what this means, I have attempted to play each of the corresponding numbers for the sound effects in the Options menu, but this seems to have no effect on the game.

In conclusion, the game was enjoyable. The story was almost non-existent. The gameplay was unique, enjoyable and required skill, although it presented with some difficulty and frustration. The bosses were enjoyable and used the gameplay well. The level designs were interesting, but the graphics were of a lower quality. The music had little impact on the game and was quite repetitive. The extra features, such as the mini-game and the secret rooms, were enjoyable and added to the game.

Advertisements

A Review of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (Game Gear)

1993

?????????????????????????????????Spoiler Alert, Maybe????????????????????????????????

The Story

Lights flash and steam erupts from brightly coloured, cartoon-like machines. Small, round creatures sit on moving conveyer belts, which feeds them into the machines. Each creature waits while the machines transforms them into miniature robots.

Nearby, Dr Robotnik addresses two robotic minions. One minion resembles a chicken standing on two legs, while another is a smaller robot with drills in place of a nose and hands and caterpillar tracks in place of feet. “Witness my dream to rid Mobius of music and fun forever.” he gloats, waving a pointed finger for effect, “My latest invention, the mean bean-steaming machine will not only dispose of those fun-loving jolly beans of Beanville but turn them into robot slaves to serve my evil purposes. ”

“Robots. Bring me those beans.” Dr Robotnik commands.

Each of Dr Robotnik’s minions are defeated until the villain is beaten.

The game ends with a mass of joyful beans celebrating while the machine explodes.

I think that is the story for the game, I am not actually sure.

The Review

This is a review of the game available as an extra feature on the Sonic Adventure DX game as, unfortunately, I have not played this version of the game on the Game Gear itself.

I, personally, have been slightly fascinated by this game. The title seems to suggest that Dr Robotnik was the main character and I was interested by what “Mean Bean Machine” could refer to.

At the time this game was released, there were quite a few games created that were based on an idea similar to the Tetris game (having to prevent falling blocks from filling a screen by making them disappear). I have been informed these games are called puyo puyo. Some of the games were independent titles (such as Baku Baku Animal), while some seemed to be part of a franchise (eg. Dr Mario). This game seems to be a version of the puzzle using the Sonic series.

The story for the game seems to be irrelevant, the game consists of the player fighting against a range of enemies, which become more difficult as the game progresses, until they defeat Dr Robotnik. There are no animated sequences in the game, which consists of a series of combative Tetris-like puzzles, and only a slight resemblance of a story (somehow, making the beans disappear frees them from Dr Robotnik’s clutches). I thought the lack of a plot is probably due to the fact that the game is intended to be an entertaining game, rather than an in-depth story (a more cynical explanation is that the game was released to exploit a fashion for similar games and was made with little thought).

The gameplay is very similar to the Tetris game. Interestingly, while there has been a large number of games based on the gameplay of Tetris, each game seems to present with an unique aspect. In this game, beans fall from the sky in pairs (like the miscellaneous objects in Tetris) into a space, except the beans can be one of four colours (green, red, yellow or pink). If four or more beans of the same colour are in alignment, the beans disappear. The alignment can consist of rows, columns or a mixture (eg. three beans in a row with one on top). Like in Tetris, if the mountain of beans builds up to the top of the space, the player loses. In this game, however, the player is competing against a computer-controlled player and the aim is too keep the pile of beans as low as possible before the opponents space is overwhealmed by beans. Two buttons are used to rotate the pairs of beans either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Another addition to the format was the use of “blocker” beans. These beans, which were black with a white outline, function by building up the pile and blocking groups of beans forming. These beans were removed if the beans adjacent to them disappear as part of a group of four. I am not sure the precise mechanisms that make them appear, but it seems that if one player makes beans disappear, these “blocker” beans will fall into the other player’s space. Seemingly, the amount of “blocker” beans added to the space changes, sometimes a few will appear, sometimes a lot will.

I felt this game to be quite difficult, like many Sonic games released on the Game Gear. As the player progresses through the stages, the game becomes more difficult by increasing the speed at which the beans fall. I found an interesting effect occurred. With the high speed, I was not able to plan a strategy and needed to develop quick reflexes (and to be very lucky) to position the beans as effectively as possible. This meant I was highly focussed on the dropping beans, with little consideration on the arrangement of the beans within the structure or the progress of the computer opponent. I felt myself become more involved in the game and more surprised as the game developed. I remembered feeling anxious as the pile of beans reached the top of the space, the sneering portrait of the enemy adding to the tension, then sudden relief as huge blocks unexpectantly vanished from the pile after shifting forces caused groups of beans to form. As the pile rose again, I felt fear as I realised that my efforts were not decreasing the height of the structure and each bean was helping the pile reach the top of the space, followed by confusion as all the beans vanished from view yet there still being some space left before defeat, followed by happiness as I realised that the opponent had actually been less successful and I had won by an extremely narrow margin. It was interesting to feel so many emotions from such a simple game.

The designs used in the game were interesting. I found this game to be one of the most vibrantly coloured Sonic games I have experienced, the background of the space is a black block, while the beans are brightly coloured greens, yellows, reds and pinks. Each player’s score is displayed in white lettering, with pink outline, above each space and the next beans in the sequence are shown underneath white lettering with a bright blue outline. For the first 8 stages, the background resembles a wall of emerald green stones. In later levels, the background seems to be decorated with parts from a machine.

The character designs differ to other Sonic games. Instead of using a Dr Robotnik similar to other games, the Dr Robotnik used in this game resembles the character from the Sonic animated series. The enemies do not appear in other Sonic games and I remember two of them being henchmen in the animated series. Each enemy is portrayed in a small portrait between the two spaces and their expressions change depending on the progress of the game: fixed expression when either player could win, keen joy when the human player is failing, celebration after winning, fearful desperation when their pile is nearing the top and defeated looks after losing.

The music for the game is quite strange. It is slow and ranges from tinny thumping to high-pitch whistling, which does not seem to fit with the tense gameplay. The music is also quite repetitive.

I have observed that many of the Sonic games available on the Game Gear use some bizarre aspects. One of the most strangest parts of this game seems to be the credit sequence. Following the end of the game, the background turns dark blue and the credits scroll upwards in bright green and bright red lettering. Weirdly, the names of the staff appear to resemble nicknames, rather than actual names, such as “KAZU&KOZU” credited as Planner, “E.D.A” listed as a Programmer and “7LY BIG KING” and “AAA”return among the Designers. I am not sure what the reason for this is, whether they are actual names, mistranslations, a joke to use nicknames or the staff genuinely did not want to be associated with the game.

The game also uses a number of alternative modes of play. The main game, which uses an interesting password system which uses the beans and an extra, moving bean, is one player. There is also a 2 player mode (called “Gear to Gear Mode”), which I assume uses 2 connected Game Gears. There is an “Exercise Mode”. There is also a “Puzzle Mode”, which requires the player to complete specific challenges (using the same gameplay) and is designed to resemble a piece of lined paper.

In conclusion, the game was fairly enjoyable. I enjoyed the gameplay, it was interesting to use different colours, as it caused some unexpected moments when groups of same coloured beans suddenly formed groups. The game also increased the difficulty at an even pace and to the right level. The game also used some interesting alternative modes. The story for the game was non-existent. The design for the game was interesting and vibrant. The music was repetitive and unsuitable. I also found the music a little annoying.

I also felt that this game would work well on a portable console. I would not be motivated to play a simple game like this on a large screen and spend long amounts of time on it. Instead, it seems like a nice game to play on a small machine for a short period of time while waiting for an appointment or somewhere with little entertainment options, recording the password afterwards to allow the player to continue where they had finished previously. I owned Tetris on the Game Boy and, while I would not have selected it if I had the time to play more in-depth games, I did like playing it for a few minutes while waiting for something. I felt this game could have a similar use.

A Review of Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble (Game Gear)

1994

———————–Spoiler Alert—————————

The Story

Blackness. Six gems fall from the sky, glittering in the darkness as they fall to the ground, six different colours brightly flashing among the blackness. A pink ball bounces from the side, picking up each diamond-shaped gem. After taking the last Chaos Emerald, the ball uncurls and Knuckles stands, laughing following his triumph. He quickly leaps into the air and assumes a gliding position as Sonic appears, running after the flying Knuckles. The darkness fades as a background of a tree-lined shore slowly appears. Sonic pursues Knuckles, followed by Tails flying in the air. Dr Robotnik appears, using a rocket powered vehicle to hover above the ground, smiling as he extends his arm to reveal his possession of a golden Chaos Emerald. He quickly accelerates upwards.

Sonic travels through some levels, before reaching Knuckles, who uses a machine to attack Sonic. Sonic defeats Knuckles and reaches the Atomic Destroyer. Inside the Atomic Destroyer, Sonic fights Mechanix and finds Nack. After Nack wakes up and taunts Sonic, the ground shakes, causing Nack to run away (suddenly losing his desire to annoy Sonic)and Dr Robotnik to appear. Dr Robotnik then uses two machines to attack Sonic. After his machines are destroyed, Dr Robotnik flees,  closely pursued by Sonic, until he attempts to escape using a floating platform. While Dr Robotnik stands laughing, Sonic hits him, causing him to lose the golden chaos emerald and the platform to explode, leading to the device and Dr Robotnik to fall down a pit. Sonic runs along a platform and finds Knuckles, locked in a flashing cage (how and why are not explained). Sonic destroys the prison and the two shake hands, before escaping the Atomic Destroyer.

The game ends with Sonic sitting on the top wing Tails’ biplane as Tails flies the plane towards a distant island while the sun sets over a restless sea.

Are there plots that are more difficult to follow?

The Review

This game is a review of the version of the game available in the Sonic Adventure DX game, rather than the one released on the Game Gear.

The story for the game, while quite simple, is actually more developed than other Sonic games released at the time. There are a few animated sequences to show the story and demonstrate the personalities of the characters, outside of exploring a number of different levels with no link to each other. The number of characters has also increased.

This game takes place during an interesting time in the Sonic series due to the introduction of Knuckles the Echidna. In previous Sonic games, the characters had very simple personalities. Dr Robotnik was a villain interested in mechanising the world, Sonic was the laid-back hero and Tails was Sonic’s sidekick, a slower hero who seemed to worship the main character. These characteristics did not really affect the story of the game.

Knuckles, however, made the games more complex. During the early games to feature Knuckles, he was initially portrayed as a villain, interested in collecting the Chaos Emeralds, obstructing Sonic and working with Dr Robotnik. At some point during the games, he would be betrayed by the villain and would be shown to be a misguided hero who had been tricked by Dr Robotnik into believing Sonic wished to misuse the power of the Chaos Emeralds. Games featuring Knuckles would start to incorporate more storytelling devices to explain this characteristic and would develop the story of the game. In this game, he appears at the end of each level, laughs and activates a switch which causes a cascade of either snow or fire to fall down, followed by the beginning of the next level. In later games, Knuckles seem to become a more straightforward hero, who focussed on using strength rather than speed.

Interestingly, this game features the Nack character. I have not encountered this character in a game before and the only time I have seen this character was in the Sonic Comics. In the comics, Sonic is transported to a strange dimension where he encounters Team Chaotix. The team (consisting of Vector the Crocodile, Charmy the Bee, Espio the Chameleon, Mighty the Armadillo and Nack the Wolf) become regular characters and have their own game (some people might consider the two events to be a cynical marketing ploy). In the stories, Nack becomes a traitor and aligns with Dr Robotnik. In this game, Nack is basically a villain, although his exact role in the story is a little mysterious. He mostly appears in the special stages and prevents Sonic retrieving the Chaos Emeralds. This makes him seem like a guardian of the Chaos Emeralds, but he appears later in the Atomic Destroyer level, suggesting he is a henchman of Dr Robotnik. His function is never explained in the story, giving him a strange place in the story.

I have noticed that many of the Sonic games released on the Game Gear seem to use a mixture of strange ideas and unnecessarily difficult gameplay. This game is not as difficult as previous games in the series though.

The level designs are interesting, but the names of each level are very strange. Firstly, the levels in this game are not called zones, which is different to most other Sonic games. Unlike other Sonic games released at the same time, the first level is not named as a hill (such as Emerald Hill Zone and Green Hill Zone). The game begins in the Great Turquoise, which resembles an idyllic countryside, with clear skies, a lake in the background and waterfalls, except with the bizarre addition of trees topped with springboards. The second level is called Sunset Park, however, the level does not resemble a leafy park. The level looks like an industrial area with carts, tracks and trains, with a background coloured a bright orange to mimic a sunset (which I like, but suspect others describe as sickly). This level is followed by Meta Junglira (I have no idea what this name means). The level itself has a jungle theme (with dark greens and use of sinking mud), with the surface covered in springboards and baskets (which propel Sonic upwards at a fast speed) and circular objects, which behave like obstacles in a pinball machine, suspended in the air. The next level is called Robotnik Winter, which is a wintry level with no Robotnik. The level itself consists of structures, made of dark blue tiles, covered in snow and large pillars, with blue fire at the top. The background consists of a dark pink sky and a frozen sea, with icebergs visible. The foreground also uses falling snow and Sonic can fall through piles of snow to reach lower levels. I found the use of colours actually has a soothing effect. The following level is called Tidal Plant and is the game’s water-filled level. Strangely, unlike how I imagined tidal plants to look, this level is filled unusual shapes and items that are coloured using bright, garish colours, which become subdued greens and blues when Sonic is underwater. Like many water-filled levels in Sonic games, this level features the player travelling up and down as the game allows the player to reach the surface, before exploring underwater areas which rely on the use of bubbles to provide Sonic with oxygen. The final level is called Atomic Destroyer, which sounds like the developers were not allowed to use the name Death Egg and had to invent their own base for Dr Robotnik. The level uses a mechanical design and has a black ground (with flashing lights) and dark blue foreground, which seems quite calming. The level itself uses switches to release enemies and fire lasers, along with tubes to transport Sonic through the level.

Weirdly, each level begins with the name of the level in capital letters with an animation of Sonic running to the right. The first letter of each part of the level title has a colour unique to that level.

The game also has an interesting use of Special Stages. To enter the Special Stage, the player has to collect fifty rings and smash a monitor showing an image of a Chaos Emerald. This causes a ring of stars to hover over the remains of the machine, which, if entered, transport Sonic to the Special Stage. The Special Stages alternate between two forms. One form of the Special Stage takes place in a strange location with a futuristic-classical design (with metal columns and a background consisting of purple walls and a strange melting metal effect) and requires the player to reach a point in the location within a set amount of time. The second form of the Special Stage consists of Sonic flying through the sky in a biplane, with the player collecting a set number of rings. Both types of Special Stage end with Sonic fighting a machine piloted by Nack. Defeating Nack leads to the machine exploding and Nack running away, with a fall to prove his cowardice. The player would then find the Chaos Emerald placed on a weird altar.

The bosses in the game consist of large robots, with the final two levels using Knuckles and Dr Robotnik inside large machines. Each boss uses an unique gameplay to defeat it. The first boss requires the use of springboards to attack it, the second takes place on a high speed train with the player needing to build up speed, the third can only be hit on a dynamic part of the machine with the player needing to avoid falling debris afterwards and the player needs to negotiate steep slopes, while avoiding enemies, just before reaching the forth boss. The fifth boss consists of chasing Knuckles, piloting an underwater craft, while replenishing Sonic’s oxygen. The final level uses a series of bosses: a robotic Sonic, Dr Robotnik  inside a bouncing machine and Dr Robotnik quickly passing through tubes at either side of a platform, with electric bolts falling onto the platform to harm Sonic (which seems to be a staple of Sonic games during this time). Weirdly, the mini-bosses at end of the Special Stages resemble more traditional bosses from Sonic games (the player dodging a specific attack while hitting the enemy).

Much of the game uses similar gameplay to other Sonic games released at the time. Most of the game consists of Sonic running along landscapes and attacking robotic enemies. The player can also play as Tails, with that Tails can fly, while Sonic has the weird Dash manoeuvre. There are, however, parts of the game which rely on the player using different actions to progress. Some of the Special Stages feature Sonic flying through the air in a plane and the player needs to control Sonic in a range of directions. Each level also seems to use an individual characteristic which uses an unique gameplay, for example, the third act of the Sunset Park stage consists of Sonic running along the top of a speeding train (with the player having to battle wind resistance). Some of the power-ups in the game also introduces changes to the gameplay. The springboards attached to Sonic’s feet and rocket sneakers are used in the game, along with a new power-up that produces a snowboard to allow the player to slide across the Robotnik Winter level at a high speed. The game also uses a strange skimming action. If Sonic rolls towards the surface of a body of water at high speed, he will skim across it.

This game seems to be less difficult than other games released on the Game Gear. Most of the times Sonic is harmed, the player will only lose a maximum of 30 rings (for example, if the player has collected 100 rings before colliding with an enemy, they will still have 70 rings). If Sonic comes into contact with spikes,  he will lose 50 rings (I am not sure why there is this weird differing scale of damage). The spread of the lost rings following damage is less irritating than other games. While the game keeps the strange scale of the lost rings (so if Sonic has 10 rings, 1 ring will appear, etc.), the rings are easier to collect as they do not spread out widely or at a fast pace. The player can also collect rings before a boss to allow themselves to survive more than one hit.

The graphics are fairly good. The graphics in the game use vivid colours and are attractive looking. Some of the larger pictures are quite pixelated, which seems to have an artistic quality.

In conclusion, I, personally, found this to be one of the most enjoyable Sonic games available on the Game Gear. I enjoyed the level designs and the way the game changed the  gameplay to challenge the player and make the game less monotonous. The Special Stages were easier to access and were more interesting to play (due to the different gameplays). The bosses were also unique and interesting. I also enjoyed the little animated sequences to create a small story.

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.

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.

—————————————-Spoiler Alert——————————————-

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.