For over twenty years, Lara Croft has been the female mascot for PlayStation. Her badass disposition and English accent made players swoon as she sought out ancient artifacts and trap-infested tombs. Thus the Tomb Raider franchise, developed by Core Design, has become a one-of-a-kind experience, and has led to such challenging adventures as Tomb Raider 2.
Released in 1997 for Windows and the original PlayStation, Tomb Raider 2 follows the escapade of Lara Croft, an archaeologist investigating the fabled “Dagger of Xian.” The tale surrounding this compelling weapon was that once upon a time it was used to command an army led by the Emperor of China. Present day, Lara Croft is determined to hunt down this powerful relic, of course while confronting various thugs, fiends, and traps along the way. What fun would it be if she didn’t?
Though the visuals aren’t anything to write home about and the humans are blocky and strange looking, the environments Lara parades through deserve a respectable head nod. On the other hand, the camera angles are a tad on the aggravating side. Sometimes you’re completely unaware as Lara falls to her imminent death. That long-distance leap you were hoping to make doesn’t always pan out. A lot of that humiliating failure can be blamed on how awkward the camera angles are, but with a little trial and error, making that jump is achievable.
Aside from the amount of ludicrous leaps Lara must make, fiends of all shapes and sizes throw Lara a curveball. A vicious tiger charges at Lara almost immediately in the opening stage, forcing players to think on their feet. Continuous backflips to dodge and simultaneously blast it away with her double handguns usually does the trick. Not to mention, her handguns never run out of ammunition, so frantically shooting isn’t an issue whatsoever. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
The puzzles and murderous traps Lara encounters fling her into quite the pickle. Giant boulders roll at a vicious speed and deadly spikes appear to impale her out of nowhere. Constant challenges surround Tomb Raider 2 and are presented in a creative manner – boredom isn’t typically experienced. That insane frustration of the inability to conquer a riddle is, though. In retrospect, discovering secret areas is insanely rewarding and exciting. In the very first stage, Lara can actually go face to face against two T-Rex. Exploring every aspect of a level awards Lara with some pretty awesome gear; you just have to look in the right places.
There is nothing more maddening than a video game that forces you to shimmy through a level in its entirety because of a simple mistake. Luckily, Tomb Raider 2 isn’t a bully. The ability to save Lara’s progress at any given time is an excellent feature. Time and time again a man wielding a shotgun has whipped around a corner and shot Lara into oblivion. Consistent saving makes Lara’s journey a little less stressful. In retrospect, accidentally loading a saved game instead of saving is a headache and too easy to do. Patience is an absolute virtue in Tomb Raider 2.
Aside from the original story, Tomb Raider 2 offers a mode where Lara can parade around her giant mansion. It’s almost like a mini tutorial where Lara narrates and guides the player as they venture through a giant obstacle course. Though tedious, the course is excellent practice to perfect longer jumps and grabbing onto edges before falling to her death. It’s also timed and if Lara makes an error within the course itself, the timer resets to zero.
The most memorable part of her mansion, though, is hands down the gas-ridden butler that slowly stalks Lara everywhere she goes. When I was a child, I was absolutely terrified of this hunch-backed old man. Luckily, locking him in the kitchen freezer for all of eternity is an option. See you later, weirdo.
Twenty years later, Tomb Raider 2 still holds a special place in my heart. Even though the controls and camera angles are a little janky, the experience as a whole is an exciting one. The challenge of getting from Point A to Point B puts Lara’s jumping capabilities to the test. Whether our star player is kicking ass while concurrently collecting rare artifacts or mustering through her personal hedge maze, she’s always has a task to tackle. But let’s be honest, she does one hell of a job.