Every once in awhile there are a few special games that come around and really push the boundaries of what games can be. For me, Tomb Raider II is one of those games. Being the sequel to the extremely popular original Tomb Raider, there were a lot of high expectations the second installment to be even better. Tomb Raider II passed with flying colors to be an entertaining adventure with one of gaming’s most iconic characters.
Tomb Raider II is an action-adventure, puzzle-based game that was the sequel to the original Tomb Raider, which came out in 1996. It was developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive. It was released October of 1997 for PlayStation and PC (it eventually came out for Mac later) and had critical acclaim and sold very well.
The game follows adventurer and tomb raider, Lara Croft. The story revolved around the Dagger of Xian, a weapon that was used by an ancient emperor of China to transform into a dragon and command armies. Monks were able to get a hold of the dagger and keep it hidden within the Great Wall of China. Lara goes to investigate the dagger and realizes that she’s not the only one after it. Marco Bartoli, a man who is obsessed with the dagger, is also digging up artifacts in order to wield the dagger’s power. Lara’s adventure goes to places like China and Italy, where she is pushed to find out more about Bartoli’s plan.
It’s quite a fun story with an Indiana Jones-like adventure to it. Whether it’s driving a boat through Venice or exploring an underwater shipwreck, the game has a delightful entertainment value to it that you only experience with adventure games. However, it’s actually Lara who really shines. Unlike the new direction Crystal Dynamics is going in with the Tomb Raider reboot games, this Lara Croft is strong, confident, and fearless. She pushes herself to the limits as she works against the forces of evil.
The third-person perspective game play improved with Tomb Raider II from the original by adding new weapons and moves, as well as having vehicles, more human enemies, and larger levels. There’s even a level with a snowmobile that is an absolute blast to play. There was also a training level that allowed the player to roam around Lara’s mansion. The best change, however, was the fact that a player didn’t need a save crystal in order to save the game, making complicated jumping puzzles much easier to manage.
The original Tomb Raider franchise was all about exploration and puzzles with some enemies thrown in to keep things fresh. Unfortunately, that is not the case anymore with the reboot, but Tomb Raider II really shines in both instances. Puzzles typically are usually jumping or timing-related, and there is a lot of exploration involved. The levels might not be the huge open-world maps that gamers are used to now, but it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out how to get to certain places or find key items. Shooting is emphasized in Tomb Raider II more than the original, and it features Lara’s signature dual pistols, as well a grenade launcher, and M16 rifle, dual Uzis, and a harpoon gun for underwater fighting. The fighting sequences utilize a jump and dodge system, instead of the sit under cover and shoot. This type of game play is not considered ideal anymore because it’s not very realistic. However, it is super fun.
The only real problem with going back and playing Tomb Raider II is dealing with the outdated graphics. They were really awesome at the time, but the sharp angles and grainy textures are hard to get used to. People who enjoy retro-gaming won’t mind, but it’s glaring for those who prefer modern games. The cut-scenes aren’t bad, but Lara is definitely very square and so are all of the other people. It’s amazing to see how far graphics have come since then.
So, if you want a fun, action-adventure game with an amazing heroine, you might want to play or replay Tomb Raider II. You do have to like puzzles, but that’s half the fun. It was a different game for a completely different time. Sadly, I just don’t think we’re going to get anything quite like it again.