Perusing Pixels is a photo diary of my expedition through the Tomb Raider series. Use the links to the right to find a particular game or level, or see below for the latest post.

Follow @PerusingPixels on Twitter and/or Like the Facebook page for updates and other Tomb Raider related stuff.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Temple of Xian

Spike-pits.  Sliding.  Spiders (Giant).  All this and then another hundred thousand buckets full of this can be found in the Temple of Xian, a level concerned with exploring the titular temple and its surrounding area.  The level picks up where its locational predecessor The Great Wall left off, randomly plunging Lara into lengthy gauntlets of spiked walls, rolling spikes, spikey swinging bags and anything else that could feasibly have a spike glued to it.

Any rare moment when Lara is not impaled on some macabre instrument of death can be spent admiring the surroundings, which are, for the most part, absolutely stunning; huge waterfalls, intricate murals and dragon-themed fixtures are just a few of the many delightful things you can glimpse as you run (or slide) screaming from a giant, spike-incrusted spider that would probably shoot spikes at you as well if it could get close enough.

Lara has finally opened the entrance to the Temple of Xian, within which lays the coveted Dagger of Xian.

Not content with the old “starting off in front of a dark corridor” trope, Temple of Xian goes one better and just plunges you straight into the dark corridor.  Which is in front of a light corridor.  We’re really pushing the paradigm here.


This is the door last glimpsed in The Great Wall.  Yes, it’s taken us thirteen levels to get through it.


This room is the polar opposite of that textureless room from Temple of the Cat.  Evidently they replaced that artist with a click-happy enthusiast.


There it is, at last!  The Dagger of Xian!  To think, at the start of the first level we were less than a mile from it, and now, finally, it’s within our reach…


Of course, nothing is that easy, and the previous owners of the artefact guarded it well against anybody silly enough to think they can just walk up and take it.  The floor surrounding the dagger gives way and Lara finds herself sliding down a waterfall (probably being chased by a boulder, I can’t remember).  To compensate, the game gave me an opportunity to execute one of those awesome-camera-angle swan-dives, so it’s not all bad.


After a brief bit of swimming about, Lara stumbles across the Temple of Xian.


Fed up with walls and blocks, Lara has found a tiger (who has the ability to apparate) to hug, but the tiger doesn’t seem so keen.  That’ll teach you for running away from those cute snowman boulders, Lara.


This image bypasses any erotic appeal and goes straight for terrifying.

Alternate caption: Hahaha, BOOBS.


I hope it’s clear to see what’s going on here.  Basically, Lara is kicking an eagle in the face.


Still riding high on the extra-credit awesome of the above picture, Lara pauses to take a dip in some highly-corrosive, highly-flammable red gunge and somehow leaves unscathed.


Then she just casually leaps into a spike pit without sustaining even the smallest scratch.  I suppose this new-found ability to cheat physics kind of makes up for the fact that this level is 90% sharp and pointy.


Inside the temple dwell a collection of life-size warrior statues (it could be a terracotta army, which I have just this minute learnt about(TR just keeps on teaching!)), some of which bare an striking resemblance to Sir Ian McKellen.


Source: Wikipedia

Okay, maybe Ian McKellen’s half-Chinese son.


I wasn’t joking about the amount of spikey traps in this level.  Even your bog-standard “death by crushing walls” had to be pimped up with some of those things.


Never have I wanted to descend down a dark pit more (well, since the last level).


“Sure, she’ll probably be die from blunt force trauma or being drowned in highly toxic acid, but neither of those deaths have to ability to perforate the body like we, the temple designers, apparently desire.”


Lara’s surroundings inspire her to burst into song.  “The tombs are alive…with the sound of multiple-opportunities-for-a-slow-and-painful-death…”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a Tomb Raider musical?  I would happily volunteer my services as lyricist.


Another close call.  Actually, it wasn’t that close, she died.


This is the part of the level I was dreading; the entrance to the infamous “spider cave”.  Last time I played this level (aged 15) I had to have my mother sit next to me while I went through it, and so, this time, I waited for my husband to get home before I ventured inwards.  I called him into the room to stand guard while I took my first, tentative steps into the dark hole, only to dismiss him thirty seconds later when I realised that I wasn’t exactly quaking in terror.  Apparently, 15-year-old me was a bit of a wimp.


To be fair, giant spiders are pretty scary if you’re not expecting them to leap on you from out of nowhere.



*shudder* Why can’t they just explode, like the little ones?


This giant, glowing brain, suspended in the middle of the room, was in fact the nest from which these spiders were all coming from.  This time round, I think that freaked me out more than the spiders did.


This pose is less extreme yoga and more suicidal breakdancing. 


Finally, Lara manages to climb back up to where she started the level, only to find out that Marco has snatched up the dagger for himself and is now apparently staging his own musical performance.

“I believe in a thing called love…[something incredibly high and unintelligible]…”


Makes Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off that bat look pretty tame, huh?


No gig is complete without a spot of crowdsurfing.

Marco Bartoli plunges the Dagger of Xian into his chest, apparently killing himself.  His body falls backwards into the waiting arms of his minions, who carry him off down a(nother) dark corridor.

"Did I leave the oven on?!"

All the messed-up stuff Lara’s experienced and this she finds shocking?


Of course, Lara can’t be watching other people parade up and down dark corridors without having to get a piece of that action for herself.



Friday, 2 March 2012

Ice Palace

Ice Palace is the last level in Tomb Raider II’s Tibetan quartet - yes, it’s only been four levels, Barkhang Monastery doesn’t count for nine - and as concluding levels go, it’s a fairly decent farewell.  It’s pretty, challenging and even has a boss “fight” (although I use the term loosely).

Lara continues her search for the Talion, that all-important artefact that nobody bothered to tell us we were looking for until the last level.

Start.  Corridor-ish.  Need I say more?


When you’re building a complex in which to house an artefact which is crucial in obtaining an item of world-destroying power, doors that can be opened by ringing a bell is probably not the most efficient security method you could plump for.  On the other hand, it’s a lot more fun than the tired old key-in-lock standard.


I don’t know what kind of bullets those Uzis take, but apparently they’re too big to squeeze through the foot-wide gaps between these bars, and Lara has no choice to watch on as these caged yetis prance about, alternately yelling and looking pissed off.


Meanwhile, this is an optimum spot for killing the yetis; two storeys above and partially obscured by a walkway.


Anyway, griping aside, this section of the level is home to the awesome springboards which launch Lara several feet into the air whenever she steps on them.  The lack of an audio track where Lara cries ‘Wheeeeeee!’ as she is propelled towards the ceiling was just an oversight, I’m sure.


It’s usually a good idea to try and land on something when you get propelled in the air, else Lara tends to break her neck when she falls back down to the floor.  Bizarrely, the springboard doesn’t immediately fling her corpse back into space like some kind of macabre trampoline, even though she must still weigh the same amount as when she was alive.  Leave it up to the monks to build a intelligent springboard that respects the dead.


The snow leopard apparently wiped out, it is now the snow tiger that is fixin’ for an extinctin’.


Another dark room, complete with yetis and spike pits.


Don’t believe how dark it was?  This is a screencap from when my flare ran out.  I spent the next four seconds jabbing at the flare-draw button and quietly sobbing in terror.


Hey, look, it’s the previous level! I love it when games do this.


A cool and unusual solution though it may be, but this seems like an awful lot of effort to go to to melt some ice.  I mean, we have a grenade launcher, for goodness sake.


Ridiculous and time-consuming method aside, it was totally worth it to lay our hands on this…wooden spoon?


Oh, no, of course, it’s a gong hammer.  Duh.


This yeti just wants a cuddle, but Lara really doesn’t take well to having her personal space invaded.


She’s not at all interested in making friends with a whole group of friendly rolling snowmen, either.




Thankfully, this was one dark pit I could avoid venturing down; I know, I checked.


Here’s the gong for which the gong hammer is needed.  It features a seagull-headed tutu-clad Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Whatever religion this symbol is from, I ain’t converting to it.


I thought this was a particularly fancy Thermos flask, but no, it is in fact the much-sought-after Talion.  Thank God it took a lot less time to find than the Seraph.


Unfortunately, the Talion comes complete with its own guardian, which thankfully isn’t the same thing as featured on the gong.  Or is it?  There’s something about the sway of those hips that suggests ballet isn’t a completely unknown art-form for this beast.  Still, I’d say s/he’s more gorilla-meets-parrot-meets-knight than anything else.  Either way, it was obviously spawned in the deepest recesses of hell and needs to return there as soon as possible.


This isn’t too much of a problem, as the Guardian can’t fly or climb and can be easily sniped from any particularly tall heap of snow.


Once you’ve murdered the Guardian (or righted nature’s terrible, terrible wrong as I prefer to think of it), the level abruptly ends.  Don’t leave yet, though, because it’s super-awesome-FMV-time!

Lara climbs out of the catacombs and makes her way back to the outside world, where she immediately stumbles upon a camping site full of cultists.

Don’t smile, Lara.  Don’t ever, ever smile.


Someone who leaves their car keys in the car’s sun-visor deserves everything they get.

Lara commandeers a vehicle and drives off, unfortunately awakening the sleeping goons and spurring them into pursuit.

Go ahead, keep shooting.  I’m sure you’ll hit her, she’s only about a mile away.


Lara manages to operate a shotgun and manoeuvre a jeep at the same time, and yet can’t shoot through wooden cage bars.  You need to stop missing the basic orientation classes for things, Lara.


One of Lara’s would-be assailants is…Agent 47?

Finally shaking off / killing her pursuers, Lara returns to China, where she began her adventure.

I don’t know much about geography, so I’m going to give Core Design the benefit of the doubt and believe that one can drive from Tibet to China in the space of a night.

…actually, a search tells me that Tibet is in China.  Sort of.  I think it may be a matter of some debate.  Rest assured that me not labelling these posts “China” as well as “Tibet” is entirely due to ignorance, not political persuasion.


Oh, it’s that door from The Great Wall again, sans dead guy.

Lara inserts the Talion into the door she found during her brief visit to China, and it creaks open in response, revealing a dark passage.  Leaving daylight behind, Lara steps inside.

Ugh, do I have to?