Review by KFHEWUI

"Tomb Raider II takes everything from the first and expands upon while adding a few new additions"

The Dagger of Xian is an artifact which legend says that when the blade is thrust into the heart of a person, the wielder will acquire immense power. An emperor from eons ago in ancient China, became the possessor of the blade, and he decided to wield the power to conquer the land. Quickly his army spread across the land, and when all hope seemed to be lost, a group of Tibetan monks stood fast and eventually defeated the emperor. The blade was taken and sealed deep in the heart of The Great Wall of China for all time or at least it was supposed to be. Lara Croft, being the adventurer that she is, is intrigued by this artifact, and she has set out to recover it however this will be no easy task. Her quest for the dagger will take her all over the world.

Tomb Raider II has an interesting and unique story, and this time around there is more plot development and storytelling then in the previous game. The writing is good, and the game is completely voice acted like the first game, and the voice acting is great.

Like the first game, players can choose to start a new game or run through Lara's mansion, and Lara's mansion serves as the tutorial for the game. Newer players will want to play through it just to learn the controls, and there are new skills in the game but learning them is not too hard. This time there is an obstacle course that is set up and requires using all Lara's skills which she explains throughout the course. Also in the mansion, Lara's butler will follow her around, and players can lock the butler in the freezer and after a while the player can return to find the butler frozen.

Tomb Raider II uses the same engine from the first game, but it is not that obvious since the graphics are impressive in the game. Not only do the graphics look better, but there is a larger variety in the textures that are crisp and clean. The character models look great, and the enemies do not look blocky like in the first game. The animation is still impressive even with Lara's large amount of abilities and each one is animated nicely. Lara Croft still grinds her teeth when shooting which is a great touch, and her head moves when talking however there is lip animation at all.

The game starts off with Lara in China at the Great Wall, and she must climb up the side of the wall to reach the top. Only a few seconds in and Lara is attacked by two tigers, and the tigers look great and are animated nicely. The second game includes a host of enemies including tigers, spiders, Dobermans, men, birds, sharks, yetis, and a few other surprises, and unlike the first game, Lara will be fighting more humans than animals.

Once again Nathan McCree returns to compose the sound track, and he delivers another masterpiece. The theme for Venice is a beautiful and romantic track that captures the beauty of the city, and most of the tracks are new however there are a few reused ones from the first game like the chime tune for when secrets are found is reused. The whole soundtrack is catchy and unforgettable, and Eidos should have released an OST for it.

This time around Lara has learned some new skills including back flips off ladders, driving vehicles, and using flares, and not only did she learn a few new skills, there were some major changes done to the game. Save jewels from the first game have been removed, and now the player can save their game at any time and unlimited amount of times. This was a good move because Tomb Raider II is tough, and it is even harder than the first game thanks to longer levels, more dangerous traps, and more difficult jumping sequences. The secrets in the game are dragon statues, and there are three in each level. Finding all three will reward the player with ammo, and some of the statues are easy to find or are well hidden.

Control scheme from the first game has return with a few changes, and side step has been moved to a single button to help give the player fast access to flares which is equipped to “R2” with side step on “L2”. The vehicle controls are solid, and the layout is not too bad. Movement is the same as on foot, and climbing onto a vehicle is done by standing next to it and hitting "X". Once on the vehicle (depending on what vehicle it is, "X" will either fire its weapon or cause the vehicle to go faster, and the player must be careful when going faster by holding "X" because Lara will take damage if she crashes into objects. Despite the changes and added ability, players that mastered the controls in the first game will feel right at home, and it does not take too long to grasp the new controls.

At the top of the wall, Lara will have to find a key that is hidden in a small pond, and she uses that to open the door to get into the Great Wall. The first part was climbing, but the second part of the game involves navigating trap filled corridors. This time around there are a lot more types of traps including, swinging blades, rolling spinner blades, spike walls, and the traps from the original return.

The levels are long and complex, but unlike the first game they are more linear than maze like all through there are a few maze like levels. Lara must all her abilities to prevail, and she still has keys to collect, switches to throw, and blocks to move. She can also drive vehicles (boat and snow mobile) and in one level, she can ride a zip line. This time around there is a nice variety of levels, and the levels include opera house, Venice streets, sunken ship, offshore rig, Tibetan Monastery, and even Lara's mansion.

Lara has received new weapons, and the pistol, shotgun, and Uzi return from the first game, and this time she will also gain automatic pistols, grenade launcher, M16, and harpoon gun. The back cover says she will gain a rocket launcher however there is no rocket launcher in the game.

Like the first game, the replay value is determined by which version the player gets. The greatest hit version includes demoes for Tomb Raider III, Gex 3, and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver.

Tomb Raider II really has no problem other than the lack of replay value, and the game uses the same mechanics from the previous game including the grid system for the jump system. All in all Tomb Raider II is everything a sequel should be, and it takes everything from the first game and improves upon. The only gripe could be the lack of tombs in this game.

Complex game mechanics and a learning curve may put some off however those that are willing to learn the system and game mechanics are in for a fantastic and well-designed game.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/09/12

Game Release: Tomb Raider II (US, 12/31/97)

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