Level: Year of the Dragon - Part 1 back home search
Author(s): Miguel
total rating:8.63 Gameplay &
Objects &
Sound &
Lighting &
Blue43 9 8 9 8
Christian 10 9 10 9
Diz 9 9 10 10
dmdibl 10 9 9 9
eTux 6 8 7 6
Gerty 8 9 8 8
Jack& 10 9 10 9
Jay 9 9 10 10
Jorge22 10 8 8 8
Jose 8 9 9 8
manarch2 8 9 9 8
MichaelP 7 8 8 7
Orbit Dream 9 8 8 9
Phil 9 9 9 9
rtrger 8 9 9 8
Ruben 8 8 9 8
Ryan 9 8 9 9
Shandroid 9 8 9 9
TheStig 9 8 9 8
category averages
(19 reviews)
8.68 8.53 8.89 8.42

Reviewer's comments

"This is a three-level game and it's very enjoyable too. The first level is mostly an item-searching level, with a few minor puzzles thrown in for good measure. The starting area is quite expansive and you may have to figure out the optimal order to accomplish tasks (or refer to the walkthrough). Next up is the second level and Lara's sporting a hilarious outfit. I liked the custom objects here including the motorbike, gas station and Lara's helmet. The third is where it's at: an enjoyable search for three masks around a hub room and the tasks to acquire them are varied and challenging, including traps to avoid, target shooting and enemies to combat." - Ryan (15-Apr-2017)

"A three hour level set,and very good it is too. The first of the three adventures takes place in a small Oriental Courtyard and accompanying buildings,and is very much a thought provoking non-linear level.It may take a while to get off the mark,as there is plenty to do but no clear indication of where to start;and one puzzle piece is unfairly hidden beneath a static object;but it all comes together nicely,and (bar a few end-of-the-world scenarios) is a solid puzzle-based outing. Level Two is a hell-for- leather motorbike ride,with a bit of searching thrown in. Once again,the 'unfairly vague puzzle' makes an unwelcome appearance (would YOU ever think of standing in front of a Landrover and triggering an action?);but it moves well.Level Three is the grandest of the lot,and is extremely well crafted and ingeniously laid out. Once again,the builder displays a trademark 'unfair puzzle' sequence,with a crowbar-able object which looks exactly the same as a multitude of other NON crowbar-able objects,but the Walkthrough was an invaluable guide and prevented me from reaching an impasse. Throughout the first two levels,the builder does his best to create atmosphere; but the environments never quite convince and are sometimes flatly lit.This is not the case with the third level,though;as everything comes together supremely well. Nonetheless,the concept of linking together three levels with contrasting gameplay styles was a good one;and my attention was maintained throughout." - Orbit Dream (06-Mar-2012)

"Daggers Place (6/8/8/7, 30 min, 1 secret): Not the best start for an adventure with the inital area being rather basic and empty, with a lot of end of the world views and it also does not let you in easily on the game, as the initial actions are hidden rather sneakily. There are a few unusual push objects and I liked the terracotta army room, but beyond that, I was happy to move on to the next level as quickly as I could.
To the Temple (7/9/8/7, 20 min): It is a bit of a trademark of Miguel to come up with some unusual custom object use in his levels and this transition level is a case in point. Cool bike, cool helmet for Lara, cool gas station and more. Nice flybys support a bit of a story as well. Beyond that it is a get-your-bike-from-A-to-B level, with intermittent activities to open up the path.
Temple of Apes and Tigers (8/8/8/8, 40 min): Clearly the best and most coherent level of the set. Finally I had fun, exploring a temple that was much better lit than the previous levels and provided for a series of fun and diverse tasks to collect three Chinese masks. Plenty of swimming to do here and a decent mix of enemies to keep you on your toes, including a tiger room with about 8 of them to kill.
Overall, the adventure does show its age a little - given the author built it quite some time ago, but the initial two parts generally lack substance a bit, while the third is classic raiding and thoroughly enjoyable." - MichaelP (13-Nov-2011)

"Dagger's Place (7-9-8-8): A very interesting and intense level, starting not too well as you soon see the courtyard you are in is surrounded by the end of the world, which simply is an atmosphere killer. A few too sneakily hidden passages to get started maybe, but afterwards the tasks in this level are fun to solve, as the three prayer wheels, the block puzzle with hint and some uses of the torch. Of course the few bugs weren't so nice, like the always-again reappearing lady, the invisible block (intended though) and the trapdoor that didn't open when you pull the lion elsewhere. The enemies and objects were the best part here, for example the Xian warriors and the spiders, the objects in the house and all the things to spice up the buildings and outside areas. The overall setting was quite small actually, but you can enjoy half an hour here, although in my opinion there was a bit too much of running through the gardens. I found one secret in this part, which seems to be the only one in the whole game.
To The Temple (8-8-9-8) Starts out rather breathtaking, with a bomb that destroys a bridge (and makes like much harder for Lara), and a cool new outfit for Lara and some enemies after the start. Soon we get to find the motorcycle and using that is much fun as there are a few holes to jump over, and eventually one reaches the BP station (nice idea) and finds a lot of car inventory to get to a large and well looking area, then afterwards return to the gas station to find the nitro and be able to jump over the broken bridge. I liked how some raising block rows that formerly looked like ordinary walls opened the paths to new areas much, but texturing at parts had its faults but never was destroying the beautiful atmosphere in this level. No need to explore the vast areas, as the author stated in the readme. Spent 20 minutes in this fun level that ended pretty nice with a trapdoor use before being able to enter the manor.
Temple of Apes and Monkeys (9-9-9-8) Again a lot to do for Lara in her third outfit now, as she makes her way through the temple and finds a lot of items like three chinese masks, a gemstone and the temple piece, which were pure fun to get with many traps to survive, as the TR 3 underwater blades, boulders, spike pools and enemies in difficult situation. The hammer traps were effectively placed, I don't think any player didn't get killed the first try. There is also a lot of long swimming to be done, with a maybe too sneakily hidden underwater door. The end was quite atmospheric but the finale an anticlimax, liked the draining of the cistern but I don't enjoy long monkeyswings too much, and you don't even get to see the Dagger at all. As some of the other reviewers, I think this is the best of the three levels, that lasted longest with 35 minutes playtime.
Summary: Actually, this levelset can be compared to nearly every official TR, as the first level reminded me on Barkhang's Monastery (clearly), the second on Valley of the Kings (think some of the geometry is simile) and the City levels (the gas station) from TR IV, and the last level on Lost Valley (textures and wheel objects) Tinnos (the masks, statues and blades), St. Francis Folly (the items you get easily but then have a harder return) Bartoli's Hideout (the underwater areas) and Temple of Xian (the end). It might be my own opinion, but I think the level works so well just because of that." - manarch2 (21-Oct-2011)

"This received some rave reviews when it was released, so I got very excited about the prospect to being properly introduced to Miguel's work with a recent Chinese inspired work of his, since it somehow had never come to me sitting down and playing a game of his from start to finish (with the exception of Back from Ninive) for no reasons in particular. While the readme does actually mention this to be built around 2006 with only the actual release being in 2010, I couldn't help but feel that a lot about this three level set felt... well... dated. It felt more like it could've indeed been a nice (but still not spectacular) release for the year of the dog (2006, for those not in on the joke) rather than its actual release on the year of the tiger (2010) or much less for the titular the year of the dragon (2012). Before anyone assumes I'm basing that judgement on just being smarty-pants about some nuance in Chinese culture that probably would be obscure in the general audience of players or that this is a rant about how the level does not use hi-res textures, let me assure you that is not the case. While it is true that at times I find it to be somewhat irksome to see people using the terms samurai, geisha, katana, yin-yang as if they would indiscriminately apply to the whole region (is it really that hard to take 2 minutes for a quick check with google/wikipedia/a source of information of your choice to see whether they really do?) - I can actually say that this is not an issue I had with this level. In fact, later in the game, puzzle pieces even use the correct characters for 'tiger' and 'monkey', just to name an example. My disappointment with not finding hi-res textures left and right is equally non-existent. Sadly my 'beef' with this game runs at a more basic level. While there occasionally is a more clever moment or two, like Lara rolling up a newspaper to use as a torch and some nice uses of traps in the final level, it ends up relying far too much on running around, relevant switches being hidden in shadows, corners, obscure crawlspaces or in gotcha! moments where you would only notice them when starting to backtrack. Maybe one could've gotten away with this type of jumpswitch-in-a-dark-corner gameplay in earlier games, but I simply don't find it to be compelling gameplay at this stage of reviewing anymore (and wasn't that huge of a fan of it to begin with). With some diligence and precision, you don't really need the revoler + lasersight in the first level to achieve its major goals, and some setups seem to work only if you do them the way author had planned you to do them (the trapdoor will open when you move the lion on one tile, but not if you moved it on the other immediately available one). A few of Lara's animations are jerky (the weapon ones, though to be fair, I only noticed this from level 2 onwards), if not completely buggy (try a backflip with a twist in the air (a move I use frequently in gameplay and in combat) and be confounded why it doesn't work like it should), most of the bugs author mentions not having been able to fix are actually not that hard to fix at all - whether by 'building around them' or making the necessary adjustments to fix them (though to be fair, they didn't hinder the gameplay at all, so I didn't mind them) - I was also not entirely convinced what the motivation was for each of the three levels to present their own outfits for Lara (I did like the one for the bike-ride level though). Lighting is almost universally bland, there are numerous texture errors (from stretched, to compressed and wrongly rotated), which is a pity, since some of the settings, like the starting area courtyard, the gem room and the bridges' room in the final level were actually pretty nice looking. I'm not saying it's an all-round disaster, but these are really some basic things that shouldn't even be that hard or time-consuming to fix for a veteran builder. On the bright side - the overall gameplay is rather nicely paced, is fun enough to play in spite of its shortcomings and should be possible to enjoy for players of all skill levels. The looks, as said had potential, and with a little more care put into them (sun-bulbs in every room, correctly segmented and applied textures), I can imagine part 2 of the game to be a hit, I just wasn't as blown away by part 1 as it is. Found 1 secret." - eTux (21-Oct-2011)

"Not a bad set of levels and as the readme says it is four years old and not finished yet. Well at least one has a run through this level set and then find various artefacts. Problems I encounter were the flare bug, nasty as then you cannot use the binoculars, and in the first level a shortcut. Nasty was also drowning a lot before I figured out that one of the underwater gates had to be opened manually. Textures could use attention, squashed and some stretched. For the rest, after a somewhat confusing start the rest is rather easy going." - Gerty (14-Apr-2011)

"This is a well-designed 3-part game with interesting and always changing game play that ranges from exploration and bike riding to a bit of puzzle solving and moderate combat. Nothing is overly hard or challenging, but this one definitely has to be played with open eyes to not miss some well-concealed levers, trapdoors, jump-switches, important pickups and a couple surprising traps like the smashing hammers. The layout is non linear and I found myself returning to areas where I had been before just looping back around from another area. There were some very nice elements and objects, like the animated roll out bridge or the three colored monkey statues. There are a wide variety of enemies in this game and they range from Xian warriors, big and small spiders, female ninjas, crocs, bats, sharks, tigers and gorillas. Other creatures included bears, which just minded their own business, and there were a lot of monkeys. Some of those were friendly and others were not so friendly, so they had to be exterminated, which caused them to explode in a small fireball - nice effect. Lara's outfit in the first two levels was quite different and I have to say that especially the pink helmet outfit was not so much to my liking and I thought it looked out of place. Some sounds were triggered in the wrong spots and a few more camera hints would have been nice, but in general there was a good atmosphere throughout and good choice of ambient sounds and sound effects. The texturing was good but not perfect and the lighting was a bit flat in several areas. Mainly in parts where there were no torches around, Lara had a really bad 2D look. The game play was interesting and capturing enough that one really won't around and look at lighting and textures in this level anyway. It was a lot of fun to play and entertaining. Definitely recommended!" - Blue43 (28-Nov-2010)

"Again this is another level where you need to put the gameplay ahead of how it may look visually. Texturing is for the most part good, however low standard TR4 texturing is used. Most of the time this is effective, but I did find a few rooms dissapointing. The same can be said for the lighting. All of the main courtyard areas were well lit throughout, but the petrol station on the bike ride sequence seemed devoid of all lighting at all. Anyway, back to the important bit...Gamplay! I've awarded high marks here because not everything is on the obvious path. There's pleanty of searching you have to do in the first level, and I loved the hiding of key items in things that you wouldnt nornally consider to be a pushable object. Some of the custom objects were very nice also. The last level both from a gameplay and atmospheric stand-point is definately the strongest, showing off excelent editor skills, good enemy placement and a great consitent flowing gameplay. One final note is that I was very pleased to see a customised loading title. There's loads of great levels out there where sometimes this doesnt get done, nice touch and very well put together. All in all took me 3 hour 11 minutes to complete. I look forward to part 2. Recommended. Stiggy" - TheStig (13-Aug-2010)

"The author cautioned against this level being older, thus not as updated as some of the new fangled levels, but I say a good game is a good game whether made in 2001 or 2010. There is plenty of great aspects the author was able to include, even in this older game. I really enjoyed it from start to finish and was really disappointed when I reached the "to be continued." Looking forward to part 2!" - Shandroid (08-May-2010)

"This levelset is quite non-linear. Basically, the searching for the items keeps the player busy, but there are also many various tasks throughout the levels. Like the first level: You have to solve puzzles. In the second level, there is a bike ride and some shooting. It's very good because of the action. The third level is puzzle oriented too. Overally, the levels are a bit empty, and the texturing is a bit monotonic. The musics are great. Not the best oriental level I've played, but it's definitely worth to check out." - rtrger (06-Apr-2010)

"Another very good creation from this author. This time in an oriental environment with huge areas to explore and some challenges, although there are not too tricky tasks; very well balanced in this sense. Sometimes it's easy get stucked: the lion you don't know where to move or the blue gem very well disimulated in the wall, but the game was still entertaining with enough variety of tasks and new enemies. Sometimes I missed a camera when pulling a switch, and another times I arrived to dead ends, but in this case not more than twice. I liked the musics and textures, and the environment in general. Waiting for the next part of this adventure." - Jose (09-Mar-2010)

"This is a very appealing three-part release that gave me a great deal of gaming pleasure. Each part is separate and distinct, and this to me is what contributes most to its charm. I used Tom's notes to feel my way along as I wrote a more elaborate walkthrough, and there were no sequences here that I found particularly troublesome. I remember a number of fairly vast areas with nothing much to do, but Tom's notes kept me from wasting too much time with needless exploring. The third level is perhaps the most elaborate and satisfying. It's been too long since we were treated to a release from this talented builder, so I applaud his return. Highly recommended." - Phil (05-Mar-2010)

"This game is rather entertaining, with three totally different parts and different paces throughout. The first one, much slower, the old Oriental level as we came to know it, with a few interesting puzzles; the second on a bike, with nice touches as the BP gas station; the third in the more classical Tomb Raider deep underground style, with a huge amount of tigers in a row, plus gorillas and other friendly and not so friendly monkeys, loads of obstacles and traps (not too difficult and that's nice) and a lot to be discovered - in fact, it may well have been the most thrilling, despite its classic tendencies: you've seen it somewhere but you've seen it differently. Therefore, I agree with most of the reviews so far in the gameplay department, but maybe not so much in the technical field (there are textures that look like they could have been made nicer with some more effort and a few things that seem out of place, namely the switches that make a sound even before they've been pushed). It's a great effort, though, and I'm looking forward to playing the promised sequence. Meaning, I'm not thrilled but I'm quite satisfied." - Jorge22 (03-Mar-2010)

"I do have very mixed feelings about this game : the storyline and script are very good but,alas,rather poorly executed. I know the NGLE can be a devil and hard to handle but too many bugs and "end of the world" locations can hardly justify even an 8 in this slot. Level 3 shows loading problems that could have been avoided. Enemies come at random , too many in one place but none in others . The comlete game finds its highlights in Atmosphere,Sound and Cameras whereas the lighting is bad , especially in Part 3 when the flare bug kicks in and the game crashes when Lara uses the binoculars. Could be all this is due to Windows Vista,I don`t know but I can only rate a game by what happens on my screen. Textures are rather rough and overstretched .This issue cannot compete in any way with even one of Lawthers masterpieces , The Cowboy`s magnificient adventures or Nadines workouts. I don`t want to be a spoiler and have never been but I really wonder about its high ratings in the reviews that I definetely cannot share." - Ruben (20-Feb-2010)

"This is 'Part 1' and it says 'To be Continued' at the end. I hope the author isn't playing with us because I'm eagerly awaiting Part 2. This level is in three parts, each very different from the others whilst keeping a nice element of continuity. An oriental garden level starts you off gently with few enemies and some not too difficult puzzles, although the enemies do include a giant spider and jade spearmen so you've still got to be on your toes. Part two is based round a motorbike ride, which is always good fun (try running the crows over rather than shooting them - marvellous). A jazzy new outfit for Lara here. The third level is based round a rocky cavern. Lots of swimming and jumping and a rather nasty underwater blade sequence. Tigers, sharks, tigers, apes, more tigers and swinging hammers will definitely keep you awake. How can I not remember that hammers guard a doorway - so many times! It must be my age. All great fun. A thoroughly enjoyable level." - Diz (17-Feb-2010)

""To be continued" is promised in the last sequence of this masterpiece composed of three levels. I hope the author will keep his promise. Fluent gameplay, intelligent puzzles, well-thought-out story line. There are no hard jumps or runs to do, mainly there are puzzles to solve. These puzzles are elaborate but not too hard to do. The atmosphere in this far east-ambience is stunning. Brilliant work!" - Christian (03-Feb-2010)

"I haven't played an oriental level for quite some time so I was looking forward to this one and it certainly didn't disappoint. The initial area is extremely lovely, with its beautiful buildings and koi ponds, making it a pleasure to explore. Good to see the old spear carrying chaps again too, even if they do behave somewhat erratically (see the readme). The re-textured torches are a wonderful touch, although I'm not sure just how long a newspaper would stay alight in such pouring rain. Lara gets to wear a different outfit in each of the three segments of the game and her snazzy motorbike gear (that matches the bike) is really something to behold. The second part is indeed mainly about bike riding, although there are stops on the way to perform a few tasks and it was nice to use the car jack again - I haven't seen that one for quite some time either. The final section in the temple of apes and tigers is quite exciting (the tigers in particular really gang up on you). This is a very well built, fun game, with nicely varied gameplay, appropriate enemies and well chosen music. I can't wait for the continuation." - Jay (03-Feb-2010)

"i have the big pleasure to review first a excelent game .... wich start at a magnific area with a lake and some jappanese buildings ... u need to find crowbar / revolver / sight for it and a newspaper used like torch ( very ingenious) wich is hidden well ...... further u need to fin 2 temple keys to gain acces at next area wich is even more georgeous involving bike ride but first u need to find the oxide feeder for it to gain max speed to can jump over a big gapp ..... finaly u get at 3rd location where alot off swimming involved underwater filled with slicers and trapps enemyes not manny some crocks and some birds + some baddyes + ninja babes ...and here u need to find 2 tiger masks combine it to gain acces at the last part this game is one off the best game wich i played this year highly recomanded" - Jack& (01-Feb-2010)

"This improves as it goes along. The beginning Chinese level seems slow, with lots of searching for the next discovery. Or maybe that was because Lara got stuck at one pushable lion statue. It is clear from observation that there is a trapdoor underneath this lion, but only if Lara pushes the lion statue to the side (rather than along the length of the depression) does it trigger the trapdoor to fall open. The author says these levels were made in 2006, and sometimes the start does look rough: There is a nice rooftop secret, but then Lara gets into end-of-world views. Lara rolls up a newspaper sheet for a torch, something I've never seen. The game picks up in the second level with a fast bike ride, and searching for a jack handle. Daredevil Lara actually decides to use a helmet for the motorcycle jumps. The finish with the third level is superior, with good design, so I am rating this more on the satisfactory conclusion. I really enjoyed the play and puzzles, and all the little touches such as ghost monkeys that attack. This is the "Temple of Apes and Tigers," so I took that to mean that Lara could jump into the water without worrying about hammerhead sharks, but this assumption was incorrect. At one point Lara is running out of air underwater in a chamber with numerous transparent windows, and one of the windows is an underwater door that is indistinguishable from the rest, a most effective camouflage. The end says "to be continued" and I hope there is indeed a Part II. Very enjoyable." - dmdibl (01-Feb-2010)
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