Sunday, March 3, 2024

Ankh (1984)

Name:Ankh
Number:208
Year:1984
Publisher:Datamost
Developer:David van Brink
Genre:Top-Down Shooter/puzzle
Difficulty:5/5
Time:1 hour 30 minutes
Won:No (83W/67L)

Ankh is a game that seems to have just appeared one day in Datamost's catalog. Its author, David van Brink's only other credit is an Apple II Tempest-clone. You can tell because Ankh is one of those games that comes from a misunderstood genius or a crazy person. This is no Egyptian-themed game, this is pure surrealism.

At the start of the game, you are given a choice between two options, left or right. Left is...uh...what seems to be a weird snake game or a strange paint option. It looks like a creation tool, but the way its implemented makes this awkward at best. This is the start of the game's weirdness.

Right brings you to the main game. You are a strange...uh...pyramid...? You move by nudging the joystick or arrow keys in any direction, you don't stop until you press or hold space. Touching anything drains your health. As there are many things in the game world to interact with, you naturally shoot them instead. Three shots on-screen at a time. Shooting anything that isn't a wall, in addition to killing hostiles and activating switches, also increases your health. Once, anyway.

Playing this a few times, I find myself wondering where the heck to go after a while. This is clearly leaning in on the top-down shooter design because of the era, this is a puzzle game through and through. Enemies respawn whenever you leave a room and the only threat they seem to pose is in numbers. Eventually, I search for the manual. I find it. Its worth a read even if you don't play the game, this is a trip. It also reveals two aspects to this game that I didn't know about. There are items you can pick up and by pressing Shift lock, or caps lock on a modern computer, you switch to a touch mode. This is, of course, vitally important, because shooting things and touching things are entirely different actions.

After some introductory areas you are given a choice between east and south. South is the tutorial area according to what I've read. Somehow. There are a series of rooms, each containing a button, a door and something inside that door, usually another button. Find the button outside that works, which then opens a door. The button inside activates another button, activate that one and so forth until you get a triangle. What is the triangle? I have no idea, but they seem to be important.

East leads to another fork, north and east. I go north first. Firstly, you get a map room, which isn't obvious at first. Obviously rooms fill in as you go through the game, but what isn't obvious is that this is a map rather than an indication of where you've been. Further north is a button and an object, press the button and a bullet heads north out of the gun, a great way to shoot yourself. Then one east of here is a weird door, which requires you to press the button on this side, find a way to the other side, then find a way in to get another triangle. No triangle reachable from here though.

East is a weird maze of doors. What's tricky about it is that whenever you go east or west you return to the center, so you can't go around either outer corridor. This is where I got stuck before I figured out the whole touch trick. Further east is another fork, south are enemies. A lot of enemies. This leads to an ankh room with a switch which does something, but not here. Doors further south are very locked.
East back from the fork. Another north/east fork. North leads to some kind of gun spamming bullets, can't get past here yet, so east again. (I later discover that this is the path to another triangle) A room full of bombs and another fork, this time I go south. I open a door with a switch and pick up something I later discover is a shot rebounder, shots bounce off it at 90 degree angles.
Now we have this. This is a remote controlled, well, to quote the manual, other, as the PC is an other of the actual player. Use the touch mode to activate everything. The first room is easy, you get up, down and stop. The second removes stop. The third removes up. So you only get one chance at it. I failed. Back east leads to one last fork, now one leading west/north.

West leads to a clever room, a door that moves when a tape is shot, only you can't get out in time if you shoot the tape. At first you think its a case of movement, but back north there are two shot rebounders that you pick up. Place it down and you have enough time to grab the second triangle.  Further north are two locked doors I have no idea about. I would try, but seeing as I have to restart the game for that one area with the remote controlled other, and that isn't going to be fun, I decided against it.

Weapons:
Simple, three shots on-screen. 1/10

Enemies:
Every enemy is the same, it wanders around and it shoots. 1/10

Non-Enemies:
None.

Levels:
Interesting design, but marred by poor execution in some areas. 4/10

Player Agency:
Nearly the best you could expect out of pure keyboard controls. Shoot in one direction, move in the other. What is annoying is how you either constantly move or move one pixel at a time. It is annoying that you don't get to chose where you drop items though. 6/10

Interactivity:
Mostly clever puzzles, but just not enough ideas to fill up 64 rooms. 4/10

Atmosphere:
Very weird. The introduction animations set the scene, while the game world feels suitably bizarre as a followup. I'm still not sure what's going on with the GUI, since it seems to change constantly. 4/10

Graphics:
Unappealing and crude. 1/10

Story:
None.

Sound/Music:
A variety of weird, albeit not unpleasant, sound effects occur. Some are very useful, as you always know when something activates something even if it isn't on-screen. Shots in particular continually make noise until they hit something, and it isn't actually that bad. 2/10

And that's 23.

1984 continues to rise above past years. Reviews all describe the same things I did, and the only exception seems to be more modern players finding the game too weird.

These days, Mr. van Brink is working on another game in the same concept...which has been worked on since 2016 if not earlier. Occasionally, I clown on games for taking forever to be developed, and this definitely seems to be another case of it, but I can't help but hope that he succeeds with this one.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Tomb Raider - Anniversary: Egypt

Temple of Khamoon...well, I thought it was nice-looking until I saw the poles. Most of them are just randomly placed, its kind of breaking the game's one advantage over the original. Anyway, use the grappling hook on the obvious grappling hook grab areas, then pull out a block in a way resembling the original, but not quite, and do the usual series of cool jumps and flips across the obvious ledges. I realize that the original, in a sense was obvious to, but you could jump everywhere. When you can only jump on certain objects, its off-putting.

Hmm, this is new. Scenery? No, it slowly goes down while Lara is on it. This one probably doesn't activate anything, but a later one will.

Yes, the panthers are still lame reskins of the lions. I spot a secret above the area this guy's in, only a large medikit. Not even worth the effort. Right, moving onto bloom valley.

I don't remember if all games from this era were as bad with bloom as this, but this is seriously making me wish I was looking at a ZX Spectrum game. Yeugh. Wait, why is it a cutscene...? Lara looks around, oh, its the first fight with an Atlantian. Can't have a player just stumble into a fight with a nasty enemy, give him an epic cutscene in which our fearless heroine is soiling herself in terror over it.

There are two of them. As with the original enemies, a step above the past riff-raff, but that's just because they shoot fireballs. I died once, but I forgot about dodging. They're not even harder to kill than the panthers. I didn't care for how many fights in the original felt like shooting bullet sponges, but there's a happy medium.
This is the area from the original in which had the obelisk, that Lara found four items for to open a path to the final piece. You go to all the trouble of modeling all this stuff, and there's only one path forward. Yeah, the original was like that too at this point, but by that point, it didn't really matter and it made up for it later. One section here is really annoying about the checkpoints, you shoot a target which briefly puts out a pole, if you're on it too long, Lara drops down and dies. There's a checkpoint right before this. What's the point? Another artifact.

A lever behind a sphinx opens a hallway, thankfully just a hallway, to this room. I know this. Looks more impressive, but will I be able to climb on top this time? I get distracted by some panthers, but yes. A lever causes the statues to move, and while I figure out how that works two more panthers pop out. The idea is, you can climb up to the statues on one side, and you need the lever pulled down so the statues are in such a position that Lara can jump across.

Another hallway, the gimmick is that the pole goes in and out on a timer, then this. I think this is supposed to correspond to the nice room with the crocodiles from the original. Crocodiles pop up, so yeah. The cave part of the room is so high up I couldn't detect it. This is just making me wish I splurged on the remastered trilogy right about now. The only way forward is through a timed, underwater gate.

I remember this. Mind you, originally there was a lot more than one medikit in the water. Even secrets feel underwhelming here. Jump climb up this one switch and then onto the bridge. Hey, why is the wall getting closer? The bridge is going into the wall. I was not expecting that. This leads to a room with some items and a lever. It drops a crate from a higher ledge to the one I was just on, also preventing the one I was on from moving. Lame.

It even tries to keep this theme going with a section where you have to jump from a platform receding into the wall to one of the ledges that slide down. Except it doesn't properly connect half the time. This close to actually doing something cool. This close. Here's another activate something so you can reach it in time puzzle, pull down the gate with the grappling hook, then grapple across. There's a lever there, which opens a gate above, which is then climbed in thanks to the doors that opened. I see they've combined more than one room, if my memory hasn't failed me.

A lever up here opens the trap door next to the cat statue. Swing across the area above the cat statue, get another artifact, shoot the crocodiles from the safety of the roof, then jump into the next area. This area, seems like it was a lot later in the original. We got the cats, and the same old secret, which is now unimpressive. Another hallway.
Hang on, this room is important, they showed a cutscene. I don't know why, but its important. I guess its the room you fill with sand? Left is a ladder up.
I'm starting to dislike climbing up to find enemies, this tends to be the one time I end up dead. Its not difficult, its just time-consuming. There's a weight that's broken off that scarab, clearly the goal is to reach there. There's a ladder up.
Hey, guess who finally captured Lara falling through the floor after successfully doing something! This one I can even do on command. If I look too far in one direction, Lara clips through. I must admit, I don't know how that could possibly cause this or why you wouldn't fix it, but I think pretty solidly that this is not working as well as the original did. This leads to the top of the moving statues, across that is a lever which puts the statues firmly into the place that allows Lara to cross them, and allows the scarab to be used. Assuming I can figure out how to reach it.
Turns out there's just a well-hidden ring on one wall. I get an answer as to why I'm having these issues with collision and Lara clipping through things, they just did not care at all. Because this area is very, very janky. That ring is constantly giving me grief, I managed to backflip off it one out of maybe five times, which, considering that before the game loved making me backflip out of wall runs, is amusing in a sad way. Obelisks here are intended to be gabbed onto, but if you go around them wrong, Lara is all of a sudden switches to her hanging over a non-solid wall pose. It, unlike the dozens of other times the game randomly screws up on me, can be fixed, but man. Finally, I grab the pole that holds the scarab in place and the sand falls.
This is the move block to reach new areas room. Its a lot smaller, instead of new areas, each block hides a small room. Four of which are connected to obelisks. You pull the blocks, which pull up the obelisks, and then rotate the bottom so they match the hieroglyphics in each room. Nothing happens. Good, good. Maybe I need to allow them to fall back into place? That doesn't work either. Answer, I wasn't locking them properly, there's some locking mechanism as you turn it, and they need to be up. Also, there's a relic on a path you can only reach when they're up. And that's the level. Missed one artifact.
The Obelisk of Khamoon, well, let's see if everything else is as good as this. Judging by the layout on this side, four levers, four bridges, four (in the real sense, not in-game) artifacts. One lever straight off, and with no other way forward, its in the pool below. Some stuff, ammo, medikits, the game isn't giving me many shells, mostly magnum mags.

A side path leads here. I'm glad they tried to keep in these death traps even if they're usually crap even in the good Tomb Raider games. Checkpoint just as soon as I approach. I know you could always do that in the original yourself, but it was yourself, not the game deciding you're too much of a loser to get past this without that sort of aid.

This is a curious room. For once there isn't an obvious choice forward. More shotgun shells, guess the game thought it was being too strict. I guess in a sense its right. There's one of the weighted ledges that slide down, this time bringing down a pillar, which leads up. Ledges, then a disappearing platform I didn't expect and...
Huh. This is unexpected. I genuinely have no idea how I'm going to get through here. There's nothing behind Lara or to her right, I made a jump to the left, but out of her range. It turns out that I'm not exploiting the maximum length of Lara's jumps. Its smooth sailing from there, even though its a long way up. A switch pulls out a pole at the top, but there's another one I missed somewhere. Or perhaps I can go back.
Ah, Atlantian. Oh, I accidentally used the pistols...TWENTY THREE BULLETS!? I know it got tedious at times in the original, but not even a full reload, without using the fancy bullet time dodge? After this there's now some poles which slide down as Lara is on them. Nothing tricky, but the ladder back glitched out quite a bit on me.

The top of the obelisk is nicer than in the original, although without the cleverness of finding some secrets there's not much point to it. Not that I need ammo for my weapons considering I can take out anything with the regular pistols. Seemingly multiple paths to me, until I discover the far gate has nothing and I have to go through the left gate. Spinning blades pop up there, cool enough for now.

I recognize this room. If I'm not careful, I'll get killed at the bottom of here. Actually, you went up from the bottom. Its a short slide down, with one Atlantian. A switch opens a gate and turns the slide into a staircase. This is combining multiple rooms...poorly. What it is good at doing is wall running across a blade that pops out of the wall. At least it would be good if wall running wasn't incredibly annoying to control. When I reach the top there's two wall runs where you have to jump backwards from, an artifact placed in the most annoying way, and the realization that I could have come from the area Lara originally came from and done 90% of this without the annoyance. So, that gate on the bottom.

Oh, good, crushing walls and a spinning blade over an endless pit. Right, get the rhythm down. go immediately after the first crush wall, wait for the blade to retract, then jump when the final wall is just about to disappear. Which would be just fine, if the third pillar registered properly. You can still go through it, its just annoying.

On the way back, I realize that the switch in the room that confused me is timed, and probably leads to an artifact. Just gotta speedrun through here with these controls. Thoughts occur to me as Lara plummets to her death for the tenth time thanks to the wall run not properly working. Is it actually possible to make a Tomb Raider with controls like this that isn't crap? This isn't even worse than my usual run through, even cautiously tends to be this crappy. Eventually I get the artifact hidden up there.

Finally, as I return to the area with the slide, I try to reach the second artifact. Wall run once, then just let Lara jump down. Lara can't jump down, she jumps off. I don't know why I expected intelligent game design from this game at this point, but I'm still disappointed. And if I stop Lara, then have her slowly slide down the grappling hook, she just falls because the hook is slightly off the space she needs to be on to reach the artifact. It turns out you're supposed to jump from the ledge Lara reaches from the wall run. The path past here is a simple hallway with another lever. Only one left.

New hallway, this one has spinning blades and a singular pedestal with a crushing wall. Then, I guess this is the room with the mummies that appear when you drop down? I can't really tell what they're doing at this point. A choice, down or up. Oh, there's a switch ledge...and blades pop out. I'm smart. Reload, and I'll go down. Seems like there wasn't a choice after all.

Down is something of a one-way trip, as multiple parts down here seem to only lead down. Though there's probably a way out sooner or later. Three Atlantians, which I take out from a perch. No way back up without activating the switch ledge, curiously enough, on the way down. So a hallway out is my only option, though first I snag another artifact in a little niche that requires some long ledge jumping to reach.

More crushing walls over points, along with a rather pointless spinning blade. Simple enough to get past, though I realize there's another spinning blade on the other side, so its tricky getting up. A lever in a sealed off side alcove, and the final bridge falls...I have to go back through the hallway now. That's not good.

Exploring the room with the trap switch ledge further, I find two things, I can in fact, go back the way I came. (And more of the game breaking in ways it shouldn't) There's also another artifact at the very top. Which is very difficult to reach because it requires Lara to jump back from a wall run. Many, many deaths later, I get it, also another Atlantian spawns because...uh...why not?

Now I take the remaining items I need to put on the other obelisk, which opens a gate down below. A short swim later and I find myself under the sliding statue room.

Oh, wow, its a centaur. No blaster. Anyway, I put the items in the obelisk, a door opens and the level ends. Sanctuary of the Scion. Two more Atlantians on a staircase, very familiar, but still not interesting. Another "match rotating pillar with symbols on wall" puzzle, only pillars rotate the ones next to them. Great, busywork. Another hallway with crusher walls.
The sphinx. Nice, I guess. Should have been an Atlantian here. Two paths, how generous. Is one a trick? No, by the looks of things. How odd, I don't remember multiple paths in the original. Each leads to a gate on either side with its own hallway and clockwise room.
Glad to see the winged Atlantians are back even if these guys are annoying to deal with in quarters like these. Guess that's the only option they know of to make combat harder. They spam their fireballs too, so they're actually difficult to deal with. Though they're very much glass cannons like every other enemy, under a mag of .50 cal ammo kills them. I deal with them twice, once for each side. The uzis are on top of the pyramid, rather than in their neat little floating platform. Lame.
Another hallway, this time with a timed pole, and then this. This is new. That switch brings down a downward facing obelisk, it emits light then after I regain control it slowly returns. Okay, guess I have to go down. The now usual poles which shift down, but then there's something weird.
There are four pillars down here, they rise when Lara is on four of these things. There's not an easy name for them, they're basically giant ladders where if Lara is on them, they gradually go down until they lock into place. Then a ledge pops out of one wall, with all four it extends to a door, which is then opened by the switch up top. This is actually a very clever puzzle, one I wish the game wouldn't have waited until nearly the end of the game to start with. Its quite tricky figuring out the right order to do these in, but eventually I get it. Also, an artifact is somewhat cleverly hidden here.

The room I reached has a key. The door closes behind me, and an Atlantian pops out. Hidden by the camera, but as per usual they die in three shells. A gate in the previous room opens and I'm back in the sphinx. Oh, a centaur popped up. Two shells. Which I guess means everything can die in two shells, I've been wasting ammo. The horror.

Another hallway, this time the gimmick is you crouch in a gap between the crusher walls. And then...another of these rooms. This one's easier, it was probably intended to be done first, as you don't need to do the pillars in any order. Another Atlantian next to the key, which I spot before the cutscene this time. Two more centaurs and into the sphinx.
Some rats and a random, seemingly useless globe, and then these two guys. This worked in the original because the Lara had a much larger breath meter, here, exploring is slow and tedious. Lara has just enough breath to reach a lever at the bottom, draining the water. Which makes it having water somewhat pointless. Until I realize this is another water level puzzle. Why is it that so many people who suck at designing water puzzles continue to design water puzzles?
The gist is, there are three switches that control the water along with one switch ledge near the top. In front of both statues are niches which have these rotating targets you need to match to nearby floor markings. Inside each niche is one of the switches that control the water. One statue is blocked off by a gate linked to a timed switch ledge. Further, there's a, I guess timed, switch ledge which opens a gate leading to the relic.
This leads into the toughest battle yet. Two Atlantians and two centaurs. Takes me a few tries and I actually used a medikit. Right, so the problem here is that you need to jump across ledges made in the pillars to two "Scion holes" for lack of a better term, you use the scion there. Its a bit annoyingly laid out, I actually found an artifact off in one corner to be easier to reach.
Cutscene, Lara gets the final piece and the ruin starts to shake. She leaves through a convenient door and puts together the final two pieces of the Scion. We get the reveal that Natla is one of the Triumvirat, the one who disfigured her brother. The other banish her to the crystal we saw in the intro. When we return to Lara, Natla and her henchmen, the big black guy, the skateboarder and Larson instead of the cowboy are there.
QTEs to escape, Lara gets out. Natla and co go off to their boat and Lara follows on her bike. Still looks like the bike is floating. Lara gets on the same way, albeit with the grappling hook, and nobody even notices she came on it. She enters some cubby hole and comes out when they arrive at the lost island. Next time, the end of the game.

This Session: 4 hours 30 minutes

Total Time: 15 hours 30 minutes

Monday, February 19, 2024

Tomb Raider - Anniversary: Keeping the Bad Parts

We get some narration of Croft's father, talking about how the Scion could be a library to rival that of Alexandria, and how he'll use it to find Amelia. That's a Legend reference, might not remember her name, but I remember what happened. Lara still makes the litterbug joke. Well, its 2007, so it isn't as much of a dead giveaway that the company is British...because Crystal Dynamics isn't.

I'm of mixed feelings as to whether or not this is better or worse than the original. Reloading weapons with ammo is a bit confusing, the number on your right is your total ammo, the number on the left is the number in your gun. Reloading doesn't take ammo out of the right, it just increases to the max it can hold, and each shot drains both.
Lions out of the blue, fitting this area. Well, they look better, then again, I didn't know if they were lions or cougars. Either I'm using this shotgun really wrong or its a complete piece of crap, takes me 6 shots to take out both of them.
Pierre no longer shows up to fight Lara, instead he sneaks around and taunts her in a cutscene. He talks of her compulsion and how Natla doesn't trust her, something of an acknowledgement of her new negative traits. He gets the drop on her, but decides against it. Probably expects Lara to do all the work like in the original. Not digging his new look, being bald doesn't suit him.
At first this seems like it captures the spirit of Tomb Raider's go anywhere design, but it becomes apparent after falling down that this is just more of the same. Go through a predetermined path of ledges and jumps. Perhaps this is true of the original as well, but because the design made this less obvious, you weren't just going through the only path available to you, it seemed better.

The path out is fairly clear after playing around on the pillars. There's a pressure plate on the ground, which opens a door on a balcony. There's a globe on the opposite balcony, knock that down to open the other door. There's a locked door to the globe, and next to it is this puzzle. The pressure plate resets it, and each of those points is something Lara can shoot. Its not that tricky to advance, just follow what you see on a strange door, which opens after shooting the matching points, which shows another group of points you have to shoot. There's an artifact behind a door showing another grouping of matching points, which I guess you're supposed to figure out correspond to where you have to shoot. I guess because I got it through the door.

Continuing, this area really lacks the finer touches that made the original's Greece so nice. This is basically just a continuation of the puzzle you solved to get in here, open the door, shoot a couple more lions, then drag the globe to open another gate. Down a spinning staircase.
Straight to the great shaft with the four mini-sections. At first I thought they simplified this to just a series of levers, but no, this is the same deal. Mind you, instead of bats being placed under ledges, they pop out whenever you open a door, which I don't like. Thanks to having to use the grappling hook in some places to open paths, this might be more clever than the original. At least if the game could learn to grab things when I have the grab button held down instead of allowing Lara to plummet down to her death. Its getting tiresome seeing Lara ragdoll upon hitting the ground.

Hephaestus, when I manage to get there, reminds me of nothing I have seen before in Tomb Raider. I don't even remember Hephaestus, did they change one? There's a weird gate that doesn't open when you pull the switch, instead you climb up ledges to a small corridor. Inside it seems, you don't use the gate either, you use the lever to open the gate, then taking advantage of a ledge there, you jump to the corridor you got in from. Then I spot the lightning rod. Well, I can't complain too much, because I too, complained that they named it Thor. This set is easier to understand, because you just need to avoid the raised platforms while pressing the pressure plates. That opens the door.

This part is quite different. There's still a hammer, but its there for turning blocks into statues. In turn, you put the statues in three holes in the middle to open a gate. This was tricky, because I kept getting the impression that you were supposed to use the block to reach somewhere, despite the game's insistence that Lara couldn't possibly climb up any of these rooms. Turns out the hammer, which I thought would just instantly kill Lara if she jumped on the pressure plate, is slow enough to allow her to get off and to allow her to climb on top. There's an artifact on one of the roofs, as well as some shotgun shells, which I can now use and a large medikit.

Next up, Poseidon, which is presumably the same as Neptune. Still the bizarre door that you can't actually enter, with the entrance and exit being the same as the exit from the last one. Then some rats, too small to get a screenshot of, and the pool. Of course, because Lara lacks the lung capacity she used to have, some changes have occurred.

Instead its a puzzle where you have to change the water level in a room to reach the key. And the first thing I do, completely by accident, is obtain another artifact after pulling an underwater lever...because it turns out I'm just supposed to climb up. No, the real puzzle is to free a raft underwater, then move said raft so it'll allow you to reach the one spot you can't otherwise go at the top to climb into a hole on top of the locked gate containing the next key.

Its far more annoying in this version to climb back up then it was in the original, so next I go after Damocles, spotting an artifact connected to Atlas on the way. On the way to Damocles there's some block puzzle which nets you a couple of medikits. The gate inside Damocles, meanwhile, is annoying, you have to use a block from the upper hallway to block the gate from going down, it won't stay open with Lara on it. This was annoying, because you can't always climb on top of it, so I assumed you had to cause it to fall in such a way that it fell so it was shorter than its longest side.

The swords are more subtle this time, at least until you spot the key. That's going to be a QTE, isn't it? I search around, spotting several ledges, and going by previous artifacts, means there's going to be one here. But it looks like I'm not getting it until after getting the key. Its not a QTE, you just jump out of the way before Lara gets flattened. Yeah, flattened.
What I assumed were holes the swords went into on the ground are holes swords come out of. So, spikes, because Eidos wanted a T game and you can't impale people, even bloodlessly, Lara just bounces off spiky objects. Which would be fine if this otherwise worked like it did in Tomb Raider. Lara bounces off spiky objects even if you just walk into them, it hurts her. Lara can't even go into one if it doesn't pop in and out and if she can climb up. The swords above are even more of a joke than they were in the original, because if you play this right you'll never even see them fall. Otherwise its normal, except the one time I want to jump back from a wall run the game decides Lara can go sideways at all times. When I finally completed the jump, I fell down, not just once, but twice.
Atlas is very different. Its just a single corridor with a pit and a run-up to a giant globe. The enter, you push a rotating lever so a bridge is formed, jump across before it folds back away. The key is beneath the globe, with two targets on either side. Shoot them, and the path to the key is opened...after the globe starting going towards you. To get away, you ahead of time pull a switch above you, which pops up a pole Lara can go across. You can't reach the lever while the globe is heading after you, not enough time. After this both the key and an artifact are there for the taking. I also handily take an artifact back in the center.

Opening the gate is far more simple here, each key has its own easily distinguishable color and there are no enemies. Not even Pierre. Onto The "Coliseum". Not an easy word to spell, but couldn't this game by professionals afford a spellchecker or a dictionary?

More rats. I'd like to be using the shotgun now, since the game is giving me more ammo than I'll ever be able to use, but shotgunning rats? Overkill. Big underwater tunnel, then some room where slaves once were. More navigating ledges. Then I spy something that looks like the "coliseum".
They're a boss? A cutscene starts, but no QTEs. This is basically the same as everything else, except...
One got stuck in the wall. Not very threatening. So, the "coliseum". Its a lot smaller horizontally than before, but a bit taller. Pierre mocks Lara for a moment, because if he shoots her he isn't going to get the Scion. More climbing, leading to a lever which opens another door in the central area. Two gorillas and two lions. No, not that impressive. At least now I know to wait for a bullseye to appear after dodging though.

This leads to another small prison area, only one that leads nowhere. I spot a medikit on top of a crate and a crate that can be pulled on top of another one...only to discover it was a key. To an area in the balcony that was on the end of the original level. We're really blazing through this one. That leads up, to the top of the roof.

Getting to the other side is easy, but I spotted an artifact below one of these roofs and I want to get it. Turns out its incredibly simple, just swing from the second designated hanging section. I return, and proceed on top, as I'm about to continue I notice something off to Lara's left, looks like magazines, I think. Well, it can't hurt. It can't, because its .50 caliber pistols. Fifteen rounds each for a total of thirty, so while it was showing two magazines it was really giving one. I guess I just missed the first shotgun, not that it would have mattered any. I spot the shadows of something other than Lara for once, and continue on, not shooting some bats with the .50 cals, but itching to try them.
And its King Midas's Palace. Its just right there. We're REALLY blazing through Greece, they basically cut out the entirety of one level and most of this one. Three gorillas, the most dangerous fight yet. They make it so obvious you'd have to be blind to miss what you have to do here, four slots and one is already filled with a gold bar. Three exits, two doors on each side and a pool. The right switch opens the left door and so I go.
This seems to be wholly original, because there's a switch that causes a bunch of pillars to rise. Step on one, and it slowly falls, with some activating ones further ahead. There are three areas to reach, one containing an artifact, one a lead bar and one a relic. To get the relic, you need to push a crate in a crack in one pillar. I just thought I wasn't being fast enough, that puzzle is much too clever for this game. Back to the center.

Curiously, two gorillas pop up, but I decide to use one of the lead bars ahead of time. It opens up something in the pool. Okay, I was wrong, guess I have to go somewhere else. It is in fact, above the statue, though the lever back there actually opens the door to the right as I entered.

Why, its a pillar with a bar of lead in it. Perchance, do I have to tear it down? I don't mind that too much, but I do mind how goofy this is as an obstacle. Really, a fence? Even I could get through that, you're telling me that Miss "Spinning Around a Pole" can't? Blah.
After killing another gorilla and lion, I spot the most obvious grappling hook locations I've seen. You know, in the original that was a surprise. I go back upstairs, checking that I didn't miss anything, and return. After removing them, the pillar falls down...and out pops a lead bar. I check that the way back isn't collapsed, looks like there's something important here.
Firstly, I go right, grabbing a piece of stone and climbing up to a large medikit. I jump around a bit higher until I wall run across a dedicated point. I further climb up, get a checkpoint, and wonder what's next. Its to jump onto the center pillar, slide down and jump off. From here its simple reaching...a small medikit. I have to admit, I wasn't expecting that one. More gorillas back in the hub, and onto the last area.

I don't remember this, but I suspect its going to try to be like that one fire pillar area. And then, of course, it proves me right. There's a crocodile in the water, thought they forgot about those guys. This area's tricky. First of all, there's a lever the game hides from you from your vision straight off, you can't go anywhere without it. It raises the pillar on that right series of fire pillars. Jump on it, jump across to the right, pull a lever, which raises a pillar which has a fire pillar in it, so you can reach the other lever, though first you have to dodge a pillar with some flame jets on it. Pull that and then you can reach the final lead bar.

But this isn't all that I can do here, because I spotted a path that doesn't involve this part. Instead it involves a path under one of the pillars. In it is a switch which raises the pillar its on to reveal an artifact. So I climb back up through the expected route only to find that its closed down. Its not timed, instead a pressure plate that you have to step on to reach the first pillar causes it to deactivate...but that's on a timer with just enough time to allow Lara to reach there. Hey, its not like there are any consequences for Lara dying. And that's King Midas's Palace.

Now for the Tomb of Tihocan, it seems to be combined with the sewer level. Which I wouldn't complain about if they didn't remove all the fun stuff from the last level. Don't exactly need to cut this one down when you've already removed half this section anyway. There's more rats and that one part where you move a crate to reach a lever.

Wait, you kept in one of the more annoying parts of the last game? I thought the idea was to make tighten up the level design, even if it came off more like hacking it to shreds, but this makes that idea questionable at best. The worst part, and now its worse, because you can play around with the water level at any time. I'm just not going to enjoy this one from here on out, am I? Oh, Pierre taunts Lara in the distance again.

As near as I can tell, and I'm usually not wrong, Lara has to dump a bunch of crates into the water for reasons that will become clear soon enough. Probably to reach some ledge or another. Crocodiles in the water, completely slipped my mind. Its a funny thing. If you walk on land to try to take them out and shoot, your bullets will not hurt them while they're in the water. Crocodiles not moving, me not hurting them.

I find my answer in the pool, after draining it of course. Crocs take a lot of bullets to kill, not that they're in a position for that to matter. I wonder if they will be. But I figure out the crates, you need them on pressure plates down here for some reason. One plate frees a raft and the other opens a gate whose purpose is not readily apparent. This seemed like it might just be cleverer than the original, until it became clear it wasn't, and was far more tedious.
It basically went something like this, raise water, meet crocs, lower water, lower water at second switch, kill crocs and discover objective, discover you can't climb to either crate just yet, find out there's a path to one crate at full water, fully raise water, lower crate, lower water, move crate into center pool, lower water, put it over plate, raise water fully, ponder raft, raise and lower water trying to get path to pole, realize I can just put raft next to place I can reach second crate, pull raft out of the place it awkwardly landed on and near second crate, raise water, get second crate into water, lower water, push crate into center pool and lower water, push onto second pressure plate, raise water, move raft near far exit, raise water, realize where I need to move raft, raft can't be moved at this water level, lower water level, move raft, raise water level, leave. Whenever I go up a level, even the pool, its a minute long process getting out. Cool the first time, tedious thereafter. I missed an artifact because I didn't spot how to open the other grate in the central pool and I'm not doing it now. I also picked up a set of mini SMG magazines. Twenty-five bullets, so another single magazine despite two magazines in the model.
After another swim through the water, there's another cave. It looks like the entrance to the temple, I think, before I spot it. How will they screw this one up? Underwater is quite simplified, you only have the secret passage to the switch to find. I approach the centaurs and...nothing happens. I get a checkpoint inside the next room and I spot the Scion. Right. Okay, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how they changed this.
Cutscene, Lara approaches the Scion, then spots the Tomb of Tihocan, one of the other Trivumvirat of Atlantis, opens and sees the corpse is gone. Pierre holds up Lara and asks for the other piece. QTEs, Lara beats the crap out of him, but he escapes with Tihocan's piece. He goes out, the centaurs awaken and kill him, but not before he tosses Lara the second piece. Boss fight.

This is tedious as hell. For a start, no damage outside of shooting the centaurs after a dodge. Which wouldn't be a problem, except you need to enrage them twice to get them to charge after you. The first time they activate a ray, which, if Lara has her guns out, even to reload, she turns into a statue and they crush her. Then after stunning them from the charge you only seem to do a tiny amount of damage, at most 10%. Then I notice that Lara can grab their shield with her grappling hook. At which point, you're supposed to grab the shield as they use the stone ray and then blast them. They die quickly when you do this. Admittedly, this is clever, but considering how not clever this game has been, is that really a good thing?

The end cutscene shows the Triumvirat banishing one of their members for maiming one of the others. While we don't know its Natla yet, we do know its the figure in the intro. Next time, Egypt.

This Session: 4 hours

Total Time: 11 hours 00 minutes