Level: Valeria Messalina's Lair back home search
Author(s): Sakusha
total rating:6.17 Gameplay &
Objects &
Sound &
Lighting &
eTux 7 6 5 5
Gerty 4 6 7 5
Jay 7 7 5 7
Jose 6 7 7 7
Kristina 5 5 5 5
manarch2 7 5 5 6
MichaelP 6 6 7 6
Orbit Dream 6 7 5 7
Phil 6 7 7 7
Ryan 6 6 6 7
Shandroid 7 6 7 6
Whistle 7 7 7 6
category averages
(12 reviews)
6.17 6.25 6.08 6.17

Reviewer's comments

"There's a certain unforgiving and often quite sadistic quality to this level. This is apparent from the very beginning where Lara has to fight a water current while being impaled by spikes, having to make haste for water while being set aflame (which I always consider to be devious), being attacked by darts when trying to place an item or trying to find the bird statue to dispose of the relevant wraiths. For this latter point, they're not usually far away from each other, but one requires you to go through a couple of crawlspaces beforehand. Take my word for it when I say you'll be glad for every sporadically placed medipack you'll find. Some of the elements are a little more balanced, like the boulder traps, acrobatic sequences, timed runs and pushable puzzles, and the audio was a nice historic touch, even if it was mostly inaudible at some points. A solidly constructed level, although possibly a bit too difficult for more casual players." - Ryan (28-Jan-2018)

"This is the second of two early levels released by our very own Hitsumei during her teenage years. I haven't played the first one, but Valeria displays a sadistic bent that I hope has since been brought under some measure of control. Examples are the opening sequence, when you're drawn by the current into a bed of spikes and have to make your way past them while your ribs are being slashed open, and the spot where you're obliged to place an artifact with darts rhythmically slamming into your back. There's also a gender-biased ending that has to be played to be believed, and it certainly wouldn't pass muster in today's PC world. In between, however, you're provided an entertaining raid of about 35 minutes that displays a firm grasp of gameplay and the nuances of the level editor in a catacombs setting. The many traps are crafty enough that I felt obliged to use Harry Laudie's walkthrough to avoid frequent death experiences, several of which involved unmarked perils (pick up the wrong artifact or push the wrong button and you're toast). The voiced hints along the way were difficult for me to hear and understand (volume too low), and I wonder if that was Heyfa's voice we were hearing. Lighting is good, making the use of flares unnecessary. Enemies are well placed and ample armament is provided to deal with them. In summary, not a classic by any means, but certainly fun to play." - Phil (07-Jan-2018)

"As said before by other reviewers, there's a certain sadism in the gameplay design that's hardly matched by any other level, so you should be carefully saving your medipacks in order to get to the level's end. While I found parts of it rather unfair (like the excessively long crawlspace with steam pipes), the rest of the game is really charming and shows some fine unique glances, with particularly some inspired traps to avoid, good usage of tea, great flipmaps, decision puzzles which aren't that "trial and error" as they first seem like and many more. The enemy placement was a tad unfair at times, like the crocodiles, the wraiths or beetles you can't directly get rid of and/or have to kill/navigate around in narrow space, and the single secret isn't very well hidden (go right at one crossing and you'll find it, go left and you'll miss). There are some nice efforts put into the lighting with good usage of spotlights and aptly colourful light bulms, and the texturing is rather solid too, while not completely free of mistakes. The architecture felt a bit strange at times especially on the room connections which felt a bit disorganized, and the rooms don't look very complicate either, but more care is spent on the historical background, which is a nice addendum, yet I guess even more informations could have been helpful. Overall, this is a very decent effort and if you can bear some slight annoyances (luckily not of the "tedious wandering around" kind) this might be a good little level (lasting 20 minutes) for in between. Recommended." - manarch2 (10-Apr-2014)

"This level was actually pretty fun. The traps were pretty well designed, that is, after getting by the initial water spikes..yikes! With all the traps and wraiths, I wasn't sure I was going to make it, but the author was good at placing a much-needed medi-pak where it was direly needed. I really liked the authentic historical aspect of the Valeria character. I need to read about her. I realize the author did the voiceovers, but honestly, they sounded really childlike. Perhaps the author should have asked a nice member of the forum to provide some voiceovers. An Italian member would have been neat, since Valerina was Italian and her spirit voice is what Lara is supposedly hearing. Also, even more informative voiceovers would have been better, explaining within the game who Agrippina was. I liked the end where you better make the right choice! That could actually bum some folks out if they didn't have another savegame, but there isn't much left after the correct door. An improvement in the ending may have been climbing out into a neat Italian grove as Lara escapes." - Shandroid (05-Nov-2008)

"OUCH! If this is the lesson to learn for being careless, I'll surely watch where I step from now on! The water that apparently softened Lara's fall immediately reveals itself to have a pretty powerful current that pulls Lara in dangerous (read: 'spiky') waters and that about sets the scene for this level! You'll be set on fire, chased by boulders, skeletons, wraiths, ambushed by crocodiles in narrow spaces, tortured with long swims that might drown Lara, long crawls with the occasional source of hot steam coming along the way, the reward for finding the only secret in this level is summoning beetles to chase you through a crawlspace until you land in the now welcome embraces of one of the long water passages. As you can guess, this level most of the times risks passing that fine line between challenging and sadistic, and when I reached the golden star and realized I had missed the crowbar somewhere along the way and there was no way to backtrack to it, I think one lonely tear swelled up in the corner of my eye at the thought of having to replay the level again to find it this time! But I did this time managed to do better than that - and as already mentioned by other reviewers - I don't think I've ever played a level where I was so happy to find a medipack along the way! At least the author provides plenty of those at critical points. All that said - bar the possibility to miss out on important puzzle items along the way and the countless moments you want to do bad things to the author, I found this level to be set up in a fairly clever kind of way and when I looked back at it, kind of enjoyed some of the tasks - especially the part for getting the crossbow or the one right after confronting the croc in the narrow space. The historical aspect of this might be enjoyable to some players out there as well - but unfortunately I lost the plot somewhere around the second monologue. On the downside - though the catacombs setting is rather solid, I found it to be bleak and lacking atmosphere for most part, which could've been improved with better room architecture, light-shadow play and adding more colourful visual elements to the looks (the green water and invisible bridge closer to the end were a nice touch but not enough!). In a nutshell - I'm not sure if this level will be winning any popularity contests, as its current location on the review wishlist also indicates, but it's distinctive enough to make it worth a look if you like your levels to be more on the challenging side, or if you enjoy if there're some historical/mythological aspects to it as well! All I can say is - try it and see for yourself!" - eTux (19-Jul-2007)

"It's as short but hard level with wraiths following for a long time and traps all over the place. The historical refers is quite interesting but apart from the pictures of the walls the player can't really relate the level with the story. Be careful of your health because you won't be given many medipacks, just the amount you need to get through and there are beetles and skeletons as well in the level. The first torture is right at the beginning with the spikes underwater. I found one secret in the thirty minutes it took me to finish it. Although the last puzzle has an obvious solution, do try the other ending as well just for the fun of it." - Kristina (19-Mar-2007)

"Rather a straight forward level with a rather easily followed route. One rather disappointing aspect was the either long swims, runs or crawls, which were just a pain. Enemies are skeletons (I never got anything to kill them,-never got the shotgun) which had to be just avoided, crocs and wraiths. Puzzles were of the moving block type, but beware the one at the end, and do it correctly. One nice twist at the end was the drop, soak and avoid ball etc. The graphics were adequate to the job, but nothing out of the ordinary. A good variety in lighting setting a reasonable mood, however the sound level varied so the speeches were very softly played, practically inaudible. A level worth playing, but it is a little on the short side." - Whistle (01-Feb-2007)

"This fairly standard catacomb style adventure does not let you in easy. Right from the word go Lara needs to fear for her health and the devious use of wraiths, crocs, skeletons and steam and other traps makes this a 30 minute raid during which you need to really look out to not waste medipacks. Progression is rather straightforward though, also thanks to solid camera work and the audios are nicely done and add some nice historical reference for those players who are interested. A definite improvement to the author's first level, so hoping to see more from her some time." - MichaelP (08-Nov-2006)

"It seems that Messalina hated Agripina very very much, 'cause Lara will be hurted necessarily very much along the game with spikes, fires, hot steam, hungry crocs and all you can imagine could be bad for her, so don't waste medipacks, you'll need it! This catacomb level is very nasty for Lara, full of traps but not difficult to finish. The only secret is easy to find. Many cameras to show you the way and some nice musics. Textures and objects are the same old well know by the players from the catacomb wad and tga files. If you suffer with Lara's hurt, you will suffer with this malicious level." - Jose (05-Oct-2006)

"I had sore fingers from repeatedly trying to avoid the underwater spikes at the start of this level, but I made it eventually. It rather set the scene though - this level takes no prisoners. Cherish every medipack you find, you'll need every one you can get your hands on, what with the spikes, boulders, fire traps, wraiths, skellies - well you get the picture. Basically, it's a catacomb style level - well built, nicely devised, with some good puzzles/traps/timed run elements, but it can be frustrating at times trying to get away from all the wraiths. I'd definitely recommend this if you feel up to a fast paced assault course." - Jay (27-Aug-2006)

"Sometimes the sheer effrontery of that Dutchwoman never ceases to amaze me.As opposed to her frustration,I found the placement of medi-packs in this fast-moving little adventure to be its best feature;never have I been so grateful to pick up a small medi! You actually need to devise some sort of strategy in order to survive (for example,searching out the location of the Cross in each area while being chased be the ubiquitous wraith and ignoring all the important-looking pick-ups and objects;re-loading from the moment of arrival in said area;running straight to the Cross in order to minimise damage,and then subsequently wandering around undisturbed)but it is perfectly possible to get through this level without any need for adding your own medicinal extras. Otherwise,this is a straightforward trappy experience.The audio files (although rather interesting to listen to)didn't really do much to enhance the enjoyment of the level(in fact,I had some looping issues in mine),and the Gameplay (particularly enemy placement)occasionally crossed that fine line between 'challenging' and 'sadistic'. Architecturally there was nothing much to write home about,but that was not the purpose of this adventure;this level exists to take the players mind off all things except survival." - Orbit Dream (26-Aug-2006)

"If people would ask how to sum up what went on in this level I would say, traps, traps and traps. Hits made quite an elaborate story to go with it but it didn't pan out. I even played it twice as I didn't find the cross to extinguish the wraith in the water area in the beginning, that pesky little thing drove me bonkers and to an early death. In my despair I added medipack and I was glad I did as the other wraith I encountered looked at Lara as being the cross. All in all I had to use 26 medipack the first time around. Second time wasn't so bad as by now I had found the cross in the water but still I never made it with the medipack I found. I am never fond of a"trap" level even one with a backround story so this one a bit of a disappointment for me. But hey if you like reloading a lot to either revive Lara or even to better your score, don't let me stand in your way." - Gerty (24-Aug-2006)
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