Saturday, January 10, 2009

Game along with the Geek: Tomb Raider Day 2

It's 9:35 p.m. right now, and I've been very tired all day. Despite the fact that I planned ahead of time to wake up early and get into the office ahead of the snow, I was still up until 6 a.m. playing "Tomb Raider: Underworld." Unfortunately, I wasn't enjoying myself.

Well, that's a bit too harsh. Parts of my five-hour gaming session were downright fantastic, mostly thanks to the storyline fitting the game so well. So that you know for the sake of Spoilers, I have just finished recovering Thor's belt and am now headed into the snowy level, where ever that is. So, if you're not that far yet, quit reading or be spoiled.

As I was saying, the storyline reeled me in, especially with the segment at Croft Manor. I was pleasantly surprised to see the opening flash-forward/flash-back for the game was NOT the end of the game, but rather a middle point. All too often we are at the end of a story in the very beginning before flashing back, so this was a nice change of pace. And while the concept of dopplegangers has certainly been done before (just ask "Frisky Dingo's" Mr. Ford or "SeaLab's" Captain Murphy), I am always a sucker for it. I think it's because of my love for "Legend of Zelda."

Oh, and who could resist that line when Lara says to the effect of "I need Thor's Hammer to Kill a God."

What I wasn't a fan of, was the execution of the many puzzles this section of the game presented. And I've actually given this point a good deal of thought, because I feel like game developers spell out the solutions to puzzles much too easily all too often, and I've often desired a game that really makes you think.

After all that thinking, I realized my problem with this game is not the fact that you have to work hard to figure out these puzzles. My problem is that between the camera ruining players' perspectives and the ledges that may or may not be within jumping reach depending on the level, it's very difficult to connect the dots on obstacles and formulate a plan for solving the puzzle as a whole.

I spent 10 minutes turning those gears at the Mayan ruins, waiting for the uneven gears to matchup, thinking they must at some point, before I realized the stupid skull pedestal could move. I spent even longer in the Mayan crypt, first trying to formulate a plan at that part where you have to swing from skeleton pillar to skeleton pillar, and longer still to actually execute that many jumps in a row.

The big wet room with Thor's statue was the one that really ruined my sleep pattern, though. Being in a room like that, it's obvious that you're close to the end of the level, and I wanted to finish that level before going to sleep. Little did I know that room had enough odd little angles and edges to drive anybody insane. The part that really made me want to throw my controller to the floor was the whole "OK, I have the belt, how the hell do I get back up?" moment, which must have lasted 30 minutes in itself (I wasn't counting).

But then, the whole point of this feature is that you all play along in the game as I do, right? You must realize how infuriating this game can be sometimes! Or, maybe I'm still just playing like a noob. Who knows?

What I do know is, there is enough cool segments of this game, from the doppleganger, to the motorcycle, to the storyline in general that I am definitely in it for the long haul here, no matter how much aggravation it causes.

Speaking of which, I ran over a panther! How great is that?!? Finally, I get rewarded for my talent for hitting wildlife with my vehicle.

That said, if I cannot get home tonight thanks to the snow, I will likely not have another chance to play until Sunday night, so you may have to wait for the next installment of "Gaming along with the Geek." Deal with it.

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