MacNow Review
Tomb Raider II
by Eric Black


Adventure Game
Aspyr Media

  • Mac OS 7.5.3 or later
  • 80 Mhz PowerPC
  • 16 megabytes RAM
  • 4x CDROM
  • QuickTime 3.0/Game Sprockets (included on CD)
  • 54.95
  • Lara Croft  

I'm not much of a game player these days. Once I would have considered myself a computer gamer, but once I became a computer professional it became harder and harder to use the computer for things that are fun. However, I managed to get myself hooked on Tomb Raider II. I first tried the demo version that came on the Mac Addict CD-ROM. At MacWorld I broke down and bought the entire game. This is really my second big game purchase. My first was Terminal Velocity, but I think that is another article.

So, I decided to assume the role of Lara Croft and see how I would do. What does it say that so many male gamers seem to identify with a female character? After all, for all intensive purposes you are Lara Croft, aren't you? Or, since it is third person, maybe it is the ultimate control fantasy. I'll leave those speculations up to the psychologists.

One of the first things I noticed about the game was how Lara moved. Many of the movements have a feeling of reality about them. For instance, when she is pulling herself onto a ledge she uses her leg to boost herself over the last little bit. Little details like that helps a lot I think. Of, course then there are the times when she seems to have one legged phased into the nearest wall. Or when a bad guy dies on a step and part of his body is sticking straight out into air. Talk about rigor mortis!

One of the things I learned early on was to save the game once you've completed a tricky maneuver. Otherwise, when you screw up on the next one you will have to go back and try to do the last one again. Some of these movements are quite difficult and require a lot of practice to accomplish. The game bogged down for me a number of times because I couldn't figure out the magic combination that would allow me to get from one ledge to another. So I would find myself reloading the game and jumping over and over again. Also, I found a number of places where I became completely stuck. I didn't know where to go to get to certain places. I spent forever trying to figure out how to get to one particular ledge in Venice. It turned out there was a window that I needed to go through that I hadn't noticed (even though I had passed through that room multiple times). Fortunately there are places on the web were more experienced gamers than myself have posted their experiences. For instance, this site has a walk-through that takes you through each level. However, I did find his methods to be a bit conservative. I went contrary to his advice on at least two occasions. One, I jumped on the chandeliers, and yes broke Lara's neck quite a few times. And the other one was I used the Speed Boat jump stunt to get out of Venice. (I haven't told too much have I?)

One thing that continues to drive me nuts is the auto-targeting feature. I do not always agree with its choices of targets. For instance, if you are on a ledge and there is a guy with a gun and a dog down below, which do you, shoot at? Well, the guy with the gun of course. But no, Lara shoots at whoever is closest. The dog can't reach. Shoot the guy who is shooting back! Also, how come you can't always shoot people who can shoot you. If you're in range for them, shouldn't they be in range for you?

Fortunately the guys you have to shoot seem to be quite stupid. Which can make shooting them a lot easier. Though some guys are tougher than others are. They are not all created equals. Really for me the fun part has absolutely nothing to do with the shooting. I like the jumping, and the climbing and all of that. A great feature that they have is Lara's practice area. Here is where you can warm up and learn all of those nifty maneuvers, or if you haven't played in a while, brush up. And her house is quite nice. However, I was disappointed that she couldn't grab the tea from that poor old butler who tires to follow her about. I mean, with all the trouble he has gone through, she should be able to drink the tea.

Boy, it does seem as though I'm complaining an awful lot. I am because this game has me hooked. I have lost entire afternoons on this game. And I still haven't made it past the Opera House! I have a long way to go. And I keep coming back because the designers put a lot of time into their puzzles, their surroundings, and most importantly their character. Lara Croft is a great character. Her fame may be a little out of hand these days, but she has certainly earned it. And the details the details are what counts. When I was playing the game at MacWorld there was a point where I was going through a cave. There were eerie wild life sounds in the background. Suddenly a wolf jumped out. I was startled, and showed it, much to the amusement of those behind me. If you know Lara from the first game and liked it, odds are you're going to like it. And if you haven't played the original Tomb Raider there is absolutely nothing keeping you from checking out the latest incarnation. If you like a combination of puzzles, actions, and tricky movements, this game has them all.