Tomb Raider is Engrossing
by Kevin Ryan
It's true. Last week in the Yomiuri there was an article about it. He said it was an accident. Then police found lots of beer cans, some drugs, a shotgun or ten, and the clincher. A copy of Tomb Raider. The resulting mixture ended with the untimely death of one monitor. Evidently, he had gotten mad after being frustrated by the computer game, and used his shotgun to end his misery.
Eidos Software's Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider 2 are simply the best computer games I have ever played. It stars Lara Croft, the English heiress with a taste for adventure. An alluring female Indiana Jones, Lara is tough but smart. Challenged with physical puzzles that match your wits as you jump around ancient burial sites, you occasionally have to take out a bad guy or two.
Indeed, it is the proportion between thinking (70%) and blasting (30%) that makes this game so appealing. Another is the point of view. Instead of a first person window where you only see your hands and weapons, such as in DOOM or Quake, the camera follows Lara around. Much nicer to look at than a burly guy, you can make Lara run, jump, grab and shimmy along cliff edges and building roofs. She grunts as she pulls large stone block around and screams when falling into abysses and diving into water.
TR1 has 18 levels, each taking between an hour and two to complete. The time flies, though. I write this with red eyes from the lack of sleep as I recover from the last of 16 levels in TR2. It was a wonderful trip all over the world. With animated cinematic interludes every 3 or 4 levels, I can sit back and watch as Lara escapes bad guys and runs to another exotic location. I liked the Mayan Temple in TR1, but one of my favorites were the watery wrecked ship at the bottom of the ocean in TR2. Lara can swim, but has a time limit before she dies. The other two favorites were Venice (she used a speedboat) and the Tibetan Mountains where she battled thugs using a snowmobile with machine guns.
But what makes TR1&2 a superlative game is that the sequence of actions, the path, the game design, is so logical yet elusive. You are constantly challenged with figuring out where to go, which way to jump, which ledge to pull yourself onto. You get a feel for the direction after 3 or 4 levels. Thus the frustration level drops.
I would recommend, especially for TR2, that you have a book of hints or a walk-through explanation ready in case there are sticky spots and you have to get to bed at a reasonable hour. The Web also has some sites to get you through the tricky parts.
TR2 is processor demanding. I run it on a 200 MHz Pentium with a 4 meg video card and some of the scenery flashes to black occasionally. Perhaps my drivers are not configured properly, but I wouldn't run it with anything less. TR1 you could get by with less video memory. It doesn't have a couple new moves from Lara, such as climbing walls, that make TR2 so interesting.
So go out and buy it, install it. Make sure the booze and drugs are in the other room, and be sure to put away all those shotguns. Because you are going to have the time of your virtual life.
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