40 Fathoms is every level-skipper’s worst nightmare. As a child, I despised it for making me go through some actual gameplay before I could find a piece of dry land and flare-step-jump my way to the next level. For whatever reason, my ten-year-old self’s idea of playing Tomb Raider was to watch and memorise the cut-scenes; it took a good few years before I actually felt the need to play any of the games, and even then, I would have my best friend sat beside me for back-up and make her take over when things got a bit too scary (i.e. when an enemy appeared or a wall texture looked a bit too sinister).
Anyway, it’s been a while, so let’s reacquaint ourselves with the plot.
While exploring the offshore rig, Lara came across a monk, Brother Chen Barkhang, who has suffered a brutal interrogation at the hands of Marco Bartoli’s minions. He tells Lara that Marco is looking for the Seraph, an artefact that will unlock a “malignant treasure” in Chen’s monastery. The Seraph’s last known location was with Marco’s father, Gianni, whose ship was bombed by Chen’s father whilst it sailed across the ocean, taking Gianni (and possibly the Seraph) to a watery grave.
Marco arrives on the scene and kills Chen, then turns his gun on Lara, who runs away. She comes across a small submarine about to descend into the ocean, and, guessing it may be heading for Gianni’s wrecked ship, decides to follow it.
The start of the level, and it’s definitely not a corridor! Well done, Core. Lara’s ride comes to a sudden end when the submarine captain gets spooked by a shark (because who expects to see one of them floating around the sea?) and consequently crashes into a wall, causing instant death. Ah, idiotic henchmen, where would video game storylines be without you?
Despite having been holding her breath for at least the past half hour, Lara still has enough puff in her to proceed casually along the ocean floor to the nearest air pocket.
There’s a fair few sharks circling around, but they’re fairly easy to avoid, seeing as they move with all the grace of an articulated lorry being driven by a starfish and take a good few hours to react when Lara swims by.
Shoot them with a harpoon enough times and sharks eventually flop to one side, fin on stomach as though they’re adopting the universal body language associated with being really full-up. I can’t tell if they’re dead or just pretending they don’t want to eat Lara after all.
One of the scariest things about the sharks in Tomb Raider II is how they look when they (finally align themselves into a position where they can actually attempt to) bite Lara. It looks like the whole inside of their mouth is about to be spat out.
Thankfully, some of them are as stupid as Bartoli’s henchmen. This one was content enough to nuzzle the edge of this hole until Lara’s last harpoon bore it away to sweet oblivion.
Oh, I made myself sad. Poor shark. :(
The secrets are ridiculously easy on this level. It would have been harder not to get them. One is next to a lever you need to use to progress! I mean, come on, after the T-Rex hole in The Great Wall, we expect something a little better than this.
The best moment in the level, when the camera cuts to an outside view of the ship (oh, yeah, she’s in the ship now, by the way), where all these sharks and barracudas are swimming around.
Come on, that’s not a lever! That’s a plank of wood glued to the wall!
Lara attempts to huge another inanimate object, this time a ladder. I guess tomb raiding gets lonely.
For some reason, this pile of dirt triggered this particularly beautiful piece of music. The track is entitled “Majesty”. Uh…yeah.
Lara tries to flip the v-sign to a couple of cultists but is thwarted by the graphical limitations. Either that or she’s enraged by a slight itch on her forehead.
Yes, this level was fairly short. And, as mentioned above, the secrets were easy. Don’t expect such a good performance every level.