"I haven't played the original Hidden
Garden levels so I have no real frame of
reference or comparison to base this
review on. But I can quite successfully
state that this is a wonderful game and
one to be savoured. I spent nearly five
and a half net gaming hours here and was
enjoying every moment. Every level manages
to be a visual spectacle in its own
rightly, the textures are wonderfully
rendered and the gameplay is extremely
involving and chock-full of puzzle
solving. To elaborate further on the
gameplay section, you'll find no
ridiculously tricky timed runs,
unnecessarily lengthy backtracks, tedious
block puzzles (although block puzzles do
make an appearance) or indeed anything
that is mindlessly padded out. The last
level is actually completely newer and
takes place around a St Francis Folly
style structure with different paths
branching off each containing different
tasks. The flybys, too, are wonderfully
made. I could go on and on, so I'll just
end this review with my highest
recommendations. A surefire classic." - Ryan (17-Jan-2018)
"This is a superb and very comprehensive makeover of the
original levels. It's not just been a case of splashing a few
high-res textures about, every aspect of the game has been
improved or fixed, and it also benefits from being a complete
package that has been comprehensively tested: it now runs
smoothly from start to finish.
As well as improved lighting, texturing and objects, the
gameplay appears to have been tweaked or even significantly
revised here and there, making these levels more fun to play.
You also get a bonus level that finally provides a fitting
Of the original levels, Serpentine Gorge is probably the most
improved, both in terms of looks and gameplay. It’s a real
stunner now." - Dick (31-Jul-2017)
"One of the most beautiful custom levels I have ever played.
Highly recommended. ♥" - Paulina Haminara (10-Jul-2016)
"Another great set of levels from Jon, it does tick every box in my book anyway. Lots of exploring and the hunt for secrets aren't that easy. Great architecture, good atmosphere more than enough pick-ups to get you through. Not that many enemies to slay but some will keep you busy enough especially if you want to use only Lara's trusted guns (although I did use the shotgun for the skeletons). This took me even longer to go through as there are floating islands. Those are not even a pet hate of mine, I just hate them LOL. Keep some saved games at strategic places because sometimes the road you have to follow is not that crystal clear. Have fun though; I for sure had a great time." - Gerty (11-Apr-2016)
"I didn`t play the old Hidden Garden and i don`t know how much are things changed from old to NG but never mind. I loved this adventure, never got me boring even if some tasks and areas was complex they was funny and enjoyable. 7 and a half hour net playing and i missed only 1 secret. An amazing set of levels which are a mustplay for everyone!!! Thank you Inchdix for this masterpiece. I couldn`t give less than 10/10/10/10" - OverRaider (29-Dec-2012)
"As the title says – this is an improved, retextured version of the old Inchdix’s levels, many of which had very good ratings and made its way to the Hall of Fame. Since I didn’t play the old levels, this was on must-play list. I started it with high expectations, which soon turned to disappointment to finally make me sit hours in front of the screen and finish it with the feeling of success and satisfaction. One for sure: the levels vary so much that everyone finds here something for them. Definitely a remarkable game, but not among my favourite ones.
I know people were amazed by this custom, but in my opinion it doesn’t fully deserve that. Honestly, at some points it was boring. Partly it was fault of the ambience tracks. Most of them were just loops without any music. Partly it was because of the type of gameplay I don’t like, i.e. exploration, ladder climbing, switch finding, tedious swimming and so on. These elements take a lot of time (extending the game up to 7 hours) and aren’t interesting at all. I know that Inchdix (or GMac – I’m confused with who remade this game) couldn’t have made major changes in the gameplay due to its ‘remake’ character, but the joy of playing could be much higher than it actually was. What also annoyed me were such dilemmas: two ways to go, choose one and end up without a necessary object (key or whatever) which of course is in the other way. Simple solution: put a door object on the entrance to the “for later” way. The bright side of the gameplay was jumping (for example in Obsidian Heights or Firewalk). That was the nicest part of the custom and filled up quite a bit of it.
Although the ambience tracks tired me the atmosphere in each one of the level was really impressive. Nice and cheerful levels like Hidden Garden, Emerald Lakes and Obsidian Heights were mixed up with dark ones like Firewalk and Lair. Speaking of the atmosphere – it could not have been so good without the perfect lighting, which was really magnificent. Another thing was with textures; the chosen ones were great, I could experience a plenty of realistic looking places, but the texturing itself was a little bit worse, because of many stretched and squished textures. I know that these appear in most of the levels on trle.net, but please – this one should be a masterpiece and it just can’t have such mistakes.
Talking about graphics you must mention the architecture. Well I can honestly say that this custom is one of the best shaped ever. The rocks, temples and so on are beautifully crafted (on the top of that you have the snake from Serpentine Gorge and the tower from Lair). Other builders should learn from Inchdix how to create natural environment. The only room that disappointed me was the one with the horseman in Emerald Lakes (it felt a bit empty).
One more thing that I disliked was the “joke” at the end of Lair – what for did the author give all those weapons? Even if I could use them – what for? Was it a request to Paolone to make them work in game? I don’t know, but it destroyed the dark atmosphere of the last level.
Nevertheless, the custom is good. One of the better ones I’d say. It surely deserves its place in Hall of Fame. I hope Inchdix won’t take my remarks personally. His upcoming “Islands” are one of the most anticipated customs for me. And I’m sure it’ll be a master piece. Who knows what else is hidden in his garden…" - jawi (03-Jun-2012)
"This was a fantastic level set from a builder that hasn't
released a level in a long time. I did start this game quite
some time ago but I started playing other games in between
but then got back to it again. Each level was fantastic in
their own way. My favourite level is probably either
Firewalk or Serpentine Lair even though the Lair had a very
hard jump. The texturing was absolutely brilliant and
flawless. There was definitely nothing wrong with the
textures. I love the atmosphere in all the levels and how
they looked like ruins. The first and hub level of the game
in called Hidden Garden. I was completely blown away at how
great everything looked. I loved walking around a beautiful
area with monkeys and amazing looking trees. I loved the
idea to flood a certain area as well. There are some points
where you get confused but I didn't mind. The second level
called Emerald Lakes and I found it really good even though
the first areas underwater can get a bit frustrating but
thankfully the builder included a decent amount of air holes
for breath. After the underwater areas things get better.
You do have to go back to the underwater areas after and the
areas are very big so there is a lot to explore. The third
level is called Firewalk and I loved this level a lot. The
main area looked great and the large underwater area was so
amazing! The lava looked very realistic also but I thought
this level was shorter than the rest. The areas you explore
are all brilliant and I love how the builder makes you go
through almost every area you can see. The third level is
called Serpentine Gorge and I didn't get much from this
level to be honest. Don't get me wrong I love the level but
I just kind of went though it and didn't really look at
much. I did think the level was great though and and the
outside area with the waterfall looked amazing. Also that
large area with the amazing looking snake statue was just
brilliant. I do also remember you have to look for 3-4 red
snake gems. The fourth level is called Obsidian Height and I
didn't enjoy it a lot. I did love how it looked and the
floating islands looked amazing but the gameplay finding
those 4 snake keys were a bit frustrating and it took me a
long time to find them all. This also wasn't a very long
level but still was very entertaining. The last level was
called Serpentine Lair and I loved it so much! This level is
pure eye candy and I loved every second of it even though
once again there are a lot of places to explore and some big
areas. Finding your way through is not too difficult though
so that it good. The object placement was brilliant in this
level and the ending was great. In conclusion this was an
extremely entertaining game from a very talented builder
that needs to be tried by every builder. Highly recommended." - afzalmiah (08-Mar-2012)
"I haven't played the original levels these are based on by Inchdix, but the quality and completeness here is fantastic. It's fair to say this is one of those land-mark releases that really sets a tone and standard to which the top end scores going forwards will be judged. It feels fantastically complete and offers a real depth of exploration and puzzle solving that always keeps you engaged and wanting to push on through the levels. Every room without exception is beautifully lit, textured and structured. It's crammed full of really memorable spaces with my favorite probably being the section with the moving stair-cases. It's certainly no walk in the park, but there's nothing here to frustrate and plenty here to keep you working away till the early hours (as I have been!). Music selections are perfect and the camera hints for lever pulls always kept me on track. Hidden GardenNG is pretty epic in scale, with me netting nearly 10 hours of gameplay. It's an absolutely fantastic release from a very talented author and should definately be on anyone's play list. Completely 1000% recommended! Stiggy :)" - TheStig (13-Jan-2012)
"This adventure is really amazing. I played the first version of this game and I really liked it but this remake is certainly better and we have finaly the last level.
The gameplay is very well and the new NG puzzles too, specially in the last level.
I have found the 18 secrets, not really hard to find.
The news objects use are very beautiful and the news enemies too.
The atmosphere is GREAT, superb garden, snake giant statue, flying castel ...
The news textures in 128*128 are wonderful, I specially love these of "firewalk" ... amazing work.
To conclude, a really gorgeous adventure to keep on his computer.
Thanks a lot Inchdix." - BigFoot (28-Nov-2011)
"A phenomenal custom adventure! Other than some bothersome
swimming in Emerald Lakes, this is pure joy to play from start
to finish. I particularly liked Obsidian Heights, with its
great atmosphere and lots of platforming and climbing. I would
highly recommend this level set to anyone who enjoys Tomb
Raider!" - okuhtfesq (01-Oct-2011)
"After 7 hours of singing (preparing for an exam), I felt I deserved playing something BIG, GOOD'N'HEAVY. So many people have been talking about this game. So many times I checked its thread. So far, all I knew about it was the author - once, a builder among those who started this whole TRLE adventure. Then he seemed to retire. Now, he came back, with his famous saga refreshed. Often, I wish I wasn't here myself when TRLE customs were born. Often, I feel it like a real loss - witnessing many ancestors fading out, and many authors of new generation emerging. So when a builder like Inchdix releases a level, it's an important event for me - I feel like freshly witnessing a classic era, like getting another chance to see the roots sprout into a plant. Maybe it's true many various spaces, times and dimensions exist... Actually, I doubt it's only a theory. Launching the game. TIP: This means it is one of my "live reviews", so if You have no time for reading it, You can simply skip everything and read the preultimate paragraph only.
Seen the title screen. The flyby started from a corridor with some stone corridor with metal grates - I felt a little bit odd, but the following open landscape immediately turned the impression to be rather good. It was clear from the first sight it is an ambitious project, looking really good with all these purple ledges and abyss, even if in one moment I felt the cam face a wall (the end of the level) and turning away of it in order not to hit it (or get beyond graphics). I spotted a nicely placed pulley and I really hoped I will have an opportunity to throw it. Background music seemed to be... different. I can't describe it. Fortunately, the author could, so these sounds are applied here.
Landed in monkeys. Initial cam sequence showing them ignoring a medi looks a little bit weird. I know they are not supposed to steal the item - anyway, when I see cobbles + grass + monkey + medi, it resembles TR3 so much that I can't help waiting for the baboon to grab the object. This is NOT a flaw at all - I like nostalgia feeling brought to next generation engine. I looked around and found the precipice, with a partially collapsed staircase. I admired height for a while and started to search for things. It appeared to be a rather complex level: it took me some time to explore. Some paths can be ways in, some can be ways out. It may be annoying for those who like linear plots and non-real life scenarios - but I think most of such people won't like any tomb raiding, so it's not that serious. More important issue is I found a shortcut allowing me to get on upper branches and retrieve Temple Key at once - and, according to the slope leading to the pedestal containing the item, without any way up this slope, I'm SURE I was NOT supposed to get the key so soon. I didn't mind and decided to look around on this elevation. Finding the intended way up there should be as satisfying as exploring it. From this perspective, it's easier to spot texturing missing here and there on the top of the surrounding walls. Too bad it happens on a vertical surface, behind a corner, what allows a player to realize "it's only a 3D model, not a real garden" and spoils the atmosphere a little bit. Also, these walls and trees are filled with cracks. Thankfully, temple entrances, railings, pools, monkeys are all surrounded by rocks, forming a central glade lowered a little bit, so filling it all with those trees causes overall impression to still be charming, and - like it was intended - hidden. The precipice I spotted in the beginning does the rest, nearly causing vertigo, even if watched from lower branches, before discovering a shortcut to the upper ones. Whoah! A lot has been written about the hub area, but I really spent a lot of time admiring, so I had to make You feel it. A player revisits the external garden several times. Meanwhile, she/he descends underground to solve some puzzles. Lots of nooks and corners are there. So many it's hard to believe how Inchdix managed not to get lost building his own level. One of those recesses appears to be a secret. Shame the author doesn't give their number per a level in the readme. But as long as I have "Stuck in a custom level" forum, it's not a big problem. In regular puzzle places, I noticed these riddles are much easier than secrets. I don't think if I am supposed to call them "riddles" at all. Timing a really easy flame emitter, escaping a boulder, jumping over an atmospheric, but also really easy lava pit (I expected a timed run there, but it wasn't such)... Avoiding spikes was annoying - it seems one can't do it without a health loss. Anyway, grabbing those two tridents takes three times less time than admiring atmosphere. So either visuals are too good, or puzzles are too bad. Or... maybe... the author wants beginners to learn TR and doesn't want them to become tired at once. If this is the reason, I'm gonna tip my hat. We'll see. Now I'm rather tired - I spent 1,5 hrs in here, it's 1:30 AM and I'm going to zzzzzz.....
Woke up. I wrote what I thought about yesterday. After singing another 25 lines for exam, I decided to play further. I think it is is a reasonable balance: some studying, some playing.
I went back to game and I am sure singing those g sharps and e flats is easier than finding a way out of here. I'm completely, totally stuck and I don't wanna where to. After 25 minutes of searching, I decided to sing 25 more lines.
For third time I tried to solve Hidden Garden, and for third time I failed. Truly, I don't remember any other game except Experiment 3, when I was so definitely, terribly STUCK. What were I saying? "Puzzles are easy"... yeeeah. They are no more.
Found the INTENDED way onto the upper branches. I was seriously impressed by a massive flipmap, letting hectolitres of water into a not-so-long-ago dry pit. However, flyby showing flooded area could have a little bit more subtle FOV - the place looks very natural, and I don't need any additional roll effects, because they are too artificial. After flooding the passage to second lava part and getting there, after killing two bats, shimmying over the corner of the leftmost ladder, getting blocked behind it and dying in flames, I reloaded a savegame and encountered a weird bug: Lara was unable to grab anything, even if a she was responding to pressing Action. Quitting the game and launching it again solves the problem. BTW, I really liked lava part and sound played after grabbing the second Lake Key. Leaving the level and heading to Emerald Lakes, I had two secrets. I don't know if I found all so far, but I am glad those I found were more than pickups - each of them required a kind of mini-quest to complete in order to obtain. I also completely agree with "you-know-the-place-but-you-have-to-figure-out-how-to-get-it" way of designing secrets.
Ahh, a familiar hammerhead... Next day, I killed the shark with the secret crossbow and laser sight (without them, it would be really hard). Entered a confusing underwater maze. At first, I stumbled upon an air pocket. Then, I lost the way to it, but I found a very similar one, so I thought it's the one I lost. Due to this reason, I assumed I found everything. It took me 1h 45min to stumble upon the right hole again and find out I did not. During this time, I pressed many levers and switches. One jumpswitch triggers something and I don't have a clue what it is... but again, I found two secrets before I accidentally discovered the missed way to the first trident. Still, the question was: where the heck is the second one? Thankfully, lots of provided flares (after all this confusion, I still had over 50 of them) help make underwater lighting more constant and - as follows - easier to spot something among it. On my way through corridors above the waters, I noticed Inchdix is one of the few builders who bothers to make flame emitters fair enough for their purpose to remain intended - to test patience, not luck. They never killed me in this level. And in two following. Anyway, the overall confusion in the maze brings its fruits - I've been missing a crucial trident for long time. Finally, watching the item behind the metal bars, imagining it's laughing at me, I thought "maybe the author wants to tell me I should already have it while entering this place"? So, after another dozen of minutes, I found it - this time, next to (and better hidden than a) secret - in the first place I visited in this level, and it appears I didn't spot it for so long just because I got used to way of designing secrets which was presented in the first level. Also, what kept me distracted was lots of cracks in texturing. Apart from "waving" crevices caused by them, lighting was so messed up underwater that I couldn't clearly say if it is an underwater door or just another wall (such thing also happened once in first level). With the trident in my backpack, I watched a camera showing me an already pressed jumpswitch. This means either gameplay is unbalanced, or I am too exploring. Or both. In the end, I watched a flyby showing everything getting flooded, just like it was in the preceding level. On one hand, it feels kinda repetative. On the other one, this sequence is designed much better than the previous one. If sound acompanying it is rather aggressive, not fitting mystical scenery, the following "We are trapped" theme playing in Ahmets chamber is simply fantastic. Music mirrors and strenghtens a surprise caused by locked door. A player CAN'T miss this sight because of the ladder, placed in front of the exit - one descends and has this particular door in front of Lara. In this moment, I realized this game, even if confusing and often annoying, is a kind of masterpiece - allowing all senses to perceive it together and memories to fall into a player's head. Playing further, I noticed a sink does not allow a player to go back. Again: on one hand, it prevented me from searching for things in places I have already been stuck, on the other one, if I didn't find all secrets, I would have had no chance to retrieve them. When I got the 1st Dragon Key and I thought it's all coming to an end, I found the dry epilogue with a lot of climbing and passing metal corridors and cages, all inside a temple/fortress hewn in the rock. There was also a revolver, getting which involved a lot of backtracking. At first, I went annoyed, but as soon as I managed to think: "I wouldn't mind it at all if it was a secret of patience", I picked up the revolver and heard 005.wav.
50 lines filled with notes later, and assuming I can't sing at all, also being really worried about that upcoming exam, I took another break from singing and walked over the fire.
Found one secret hidden in a nice, classic way - Uzi. It seems additional weapons are only a matter of secret here, which is what I like. What can reward a player more than a cute, climatic set of secret minilocations, filled with tools of extreme violence? Yeah, lots of things can do it! So far, nothing like this happened, but I am not so far ingame, so I hope to find some extra things later. Fair timed flame emitters continue to appear in this level, and the fall of faith through the lava is simply brilliant. For the last time, I saw such usage of water in Dick's Realm of the Damned, and I never dared to copy it. Here, this method has a new application, so it's brilliantly adapted and it does not make Richard's teleporting shaft lose its uniqueness. I like it. Also, the following flooded passage (if it is a "firewalk", why did I drown two... three... no, FOUR times here?) contains a nicely-placed crocodile. Of course, I am convinced mentioning a single enemy in so long levelset seems to be weird, but I want to point out MOST OF YOU BUILDERS PLACE CROCS IN NARROW CORRIDORS WHAT MAKES THEIR TEETH INEVITABLE, and in this particular case, the corridor is so shaped Lara can bypass the croc with several fluent moves and with no scratch. Authors, please put crocs in passages THIS way. In the next quest (disappearing floor), multiple flipon/flipoff exchange chamber is one of these new NG features applications which require creativity to be thought about. It often happens that I see some new feature, and I ask myself: "What can it be used for?" And so here comes Inchdix and he answers my question. 9th secret... In the yet other submission, while going around the timed platforms section, the take-a-look bars allow one to feel the height even in narrow corridors, just like it was in Ice Palace (TR2). Timed burning tiles preceding them are innovative and cool... I mean, hot! I think I understand the purpose of this large flooded area in the middle of the game at last - after each hot quest, Lara needs to lower her temperature and it really feels cold when she dives into the pit everytime after she grabs a key guarded by flames. I discovered the pit has another function as well - it allows to take a shortcut! You really need to do a firewalk - or, literally, a firesprint - through the burning floor (the one which is normally extinguished with stars and the crystal) to the lever switch raising blocks above the largest pit. If only You have 10 full medis, You should manage to sprint backwards, get through the crawlspace and into the watery pit to extinguish Yourself :D:D:D This way, the whole level should be possible to finish in less than 10 minutes. Good luck. I, myself, followed the intended way - I didn't want to spoil fun, because - so far - it was getting better and better. And this was the moment I got stuck in a game-stopping glitch. I don't mean a collision box of that door with revolver ammo above it, which a player can hit if she/he does not follow the intended way (You can jump on the rocks above the lower entrance to the largest lava pit hall, and reach the shelf above the door much earlier than Inchdix has planned it) - nothing except that ammo box can be done yet, so it's not a game-killing issue. What CAN doom You is a five shatter vases issue.
I had no idea about it, so I got really, really stuck and I had to get some sleep, write another page of notes (yep, we also need to write them for our inevitable exam) and sing a lot before I took another attempt to do the firewalk.
I Explored the whole watery pit, without an effect. Cracks kept efficiently drawing away my attention of what I really needed to find. There was more of them than it was in Emerald Lakes. Out of flares! I had over 50 of them finishing the last level, and now I have none! How did it happen? 12 of them is provided, but it's not enough. After many minutes of running around, I've finally accepted the thought I might have done something wrong with the five vases riddle. I checked them again and got the point: shattering a wrong one is survivable, so a player has no idea he/she is supposed to reload a previous savegame. In some cases, I mean if You progress really far before spotting the problem, it will force You to replay half a level. With the path being quite clear now, I accessed the last submission, killed some crocs in some climatic, half-flooded corridors, found the Fire Crystal and reversed the path timing more flames while monkey swinging, what made this backtrack interesting - opposite to the wet and low way in, the way out is dry and high. At last, with all necessary items, I found myself in the burning floor corridor again, now completely extinguished like it was intended. I did a lot of effort in order to do it, so I really missed some epic sound when the blocks have finally raised (at last, a camera shows them). Also, I think a thrilling theme would fit the final platforming sequence over the lava pool well... maybe together with a timed run with lava raising all around (I think of a really ambitious ending, involving death zones moving upwards with some flipeffect - all in all, it's an NG game, and so far, the only NG thing I saw was enhanced graphics).
It seems I blamed the builder for everything what does not match my own vision of gameplay. Anyway, after another break taken in order to go to a certain ear training meeting, I entered the...
The prologue gave me a feeling of Island of Silver Moon.... and why? I think it's colors of the ball switch building, together with surrounding shallow waters, TR3 textures and a high place to behold it all from made that impression. I spotted a key on the floor, right before another sequence of fair flame emitters. I thought: "Why is it just lying down on the floor? Isn't it too easy for me to simply grab it and put it in a nearby keyhole? What happens to that gameplay?" Right after that question sounded in my head, the door slammed behind me when I picked up the item. "Aha. And everything becomes clear" - I concluded, or - more precisely - Inchdix's slamming door concluded for me. Of course, I had to check if the green goo beneath me will kill me. It did. Fortunately, the flames appeared to be the last ones for a long time. Behind them, I noticed I KNOW what is a way in and what is a way out even before I checked the corridor. It seems not until now I got used to the author's gameplay design style. From this moment, when I spotted a closed door on the side of the entrance, I knew at once I am supposed to ignore it, because I will go through it while exitting a place. It's really, really good thing Inchdix applied such element constantly and consequently. It reduces number of errors a player commites when exploring a multi-passage mazes. Note: I don't say such errors are completely excluded in this game. OK, OK. Was it a description of the prologue? Seems I have too much time. Wasn't I supposed to sing something? Ehm, ehm... I admire change of ambient soundtrack when the key is inserted and the door opens - even BEFORE a player descends into the cave. I'll explain it by asking a question: Player, have You ever been in a cave? Do You remember the cold coming out of it even before You enter? That's it - ingame, opening door lets the cold in the corridor You're descending into the cave from! So the sound change resembles it. Bravo, Inchdix. Personally, I treat this certain application as Your greatest achievement of the whole levelset. Also later, underwater, music fits like it was really distorted by a medium of density higher than air has. Overall realism of the cave is stunning, just like the following gorge. Meanwhile, again, I ran out of flares...
...and took a break for some ear training. I noticed a strange thing: when I started to play the game, I was taking a break from ear training. Now, several levels later, I play the game and take breaks for learning. Is it something out of balance, or is this game epic? Whatever... After many, many lines, filled with many, many notes...
... I found flares on the bottom of the stream. They are enough for this level, together with that pack I located in the Shiva chamber. I found wraiths so annoying and the place so complex (I mean the whole level, not the chamber only - almost all places are accessible from the very beginning, so You don't know where to go first) that I needed to take a second break (25 lines) before I realized those ghosts are attracted by two of four Shiva statues only. If I got closer to a wrong one, they kept biting me nearly to death. Also, I noticed a weird bug of crawl inability (not for the first time) in right NE crawlspace of the chamber. Also, SPACEBAR got blocked. Seems to be a kind of NG glitch, but who knows... After the spiky ceiling (I'm really glad to finally see it in a custom level, as it rarely happens) I did the first pushable. Wow. One pushable per four levels! That's what I like. A nice riddle, btw. Seems I moved everything the intended way by coincidence. I also liked the following agility test, with jumping over the fire (at first, I thought I'm missing a waterskin to extinguish it, heheh). After all this effort, You get the second Iron Key. The grenade gun cage secret is a pinnacle. Too bad You need to go three times the same way if You find it. The most awesome geometry is that enormous cobra head in the temple. After You have the mentioned Iron Key, it's intended to have three Serpent Stones collected to extinguish the fire blocking the way into the cobra's mouth... isn't it? No, it is not! Actually, there is a pool behind the flame, so You don't need ANY stone to finish the level. You only need key and You can finish the rest of the level in minutes. Seems shortcuts, apart from vase issue, are things gameplay suffers the most from. Weird thing with that monkey swing leading to a hole, and a hole leading onto a bridge, and vice versa. Was this additional minicave intended to be a part of gameplay the author has decided to give up constructing? Or is it only for looks? Unknown. Later on, I found another fake entrance - apparently, unreachable. All spiced up with fighting natives and crocs, not many but still enough for You to feel the place is full of life.
Something must be either too wrong with me, or too good with this game - I am sure I was extremely tired of singing before I solved the preceding gorge, so why did I not even feel I spent several hours in there? When I woke up next day, I was really surprised the last savegame file has been created at 2:23 AM. Finally, after 5 days (and 763 score lines) after launching the game, I entered the last element zone and beholded the purple highness. "Wow, this will be a serious piece of work" - I thought.
33 more lines later, I was ready to explore them. I love mineral motives, so anything obsidian is good. I love heights, so anything high is good. Ergo, if something is high AND obsidian, I find good+good=2good. Title flyby differs a litle bit from the actual playable level. Also, I expected an introducing cam to appear, and it's missing - but it's also not so much necessary: apart from an introducing sound competing it a little bit, knowing the path from the title sequence made me look forward to throw that pulley I've seen there. This is what I mean when I say if a title flyby shows an atmospheric place, it's better for the author to make it playable. One thing I noticed right after I began to search through the place was a 100-metre long corridor. It's an achievement not to oversize such one, and the author has made it. We have linear progressing here - however, filled with a ramp, ladders, monkey swinging, jumping and pulling up while turning in every direction. So many recesses make You feel like struggling through a real mystic temple, carved in and hanging among obsidian crystals - even though texturing of those is simply awful, with seams visible everywhere and wrong tile rotation (what the???). And it's only the prologue! You get a key and the new floor opens in front of You - now You behold the central glade from higher perspective, just like it was in initial Hidden Garden hub, but now it's also darkness surrounding You and it all feels really uneasy, with sound occasionally highlighting it (resembling some kind of invisible radiation coming out of obsidians and making them float), telling You to be careful, but also motivating to encourage Yourself and take on the task of finding the last Dragon Key. Be careful, otherwise the abyss will get You! EDIT: Why I didn't expect the level to differ from title flyby a little bit??? I'm stuck! I think I'm too exploring once again. E.g., I spotted the blinking light, and I wondered if it is a secret, or another fake cave, like it was in the previous level. Another opening appeared to be a wasp nest. Even if You manage to drop in like me, there's nothing inside, and no way out. If You save there, convinced of finding a secret place, before realizing there's nothing except overwhelming stuckness, You may be likely to lose much progress. Such crevices and openings should be definitely inaccessible. Stepped into the temple, I had an impression it has some of Babylon is fallen atmosphere, however it's still set in a solid castle, with its dungeons and cells resembling those You can see in Fortress Stonerock. Btw, a nice operation of painting every two tiles black was performed on the walls surrounding the whole level, to make their tops look like a fortification. Also, distant alcoves covered with metal bars help to forget the walls are flat, textured surfaces. I passed the way in and out of the castle two-three times before I gave up searching for the way to the 1st floor.
After another 34 sang lines, a brilliant idea emerged in my mind: why not to jump on that tree straight from the ground instead of looking for sophisticated ways up? Of course, that was it. Just like it usually happens, I found everything except the intended way. Back on the right path, I fought some enemies. Remember the wasp nest? Tinnos wasps always used to annoy me. Here, they do not do it - blowing them up with explosive crossbolts is awesome. Oh, no, another accessible hole with no way out... Also, right after I thought there are no unnecessary NG features, I watched Lara thinking about finding the way on the 2nd floor, presented with text shown on the screen. Why to apply such thing? IMO, a camera hint is enough for a player to know the destination, and there is no need to print any line, especially if the clue is related to a thing more obvious than all riddles I already solved without getting ANY hint. And the last thing: if such text really HAS to show up in such place, why isn't a similar notification printed to warn a player about the vase issue or about fake crevices without a way out? And what about the epic "pamm, pam pam" horn sound after grabbing the Dragon Key??? I missed it sooo much! Something about additional gameplay: the level is a paradise for secret hunters. Obsidian megasecret (I think this is a proper name for it) takes You once again through the whole level, showing You its unexplored corridors and a climatic, little terrace in the cutest cave of the whole level. Also, it throws You back to the Hidden Garden through an alternative passage, totally beating all secrets found by me in this game so far. Totally, it adds 4 to Your secret count. As long as these secrets are connected, I feel obliged to explain why I lowered secret rating for connected secrets in Trix's Aegean Legends half a year ago, while I did not do it for connected secrets in Hidden Garden. There are two reasons: 1. No matter where in the level You are, You always have a chance to retrieve missing tridents, 2. Only the last secret is dependent from the previous three, what makes it a well-deserved bonus. (Just a reminder: missing one secret in Aegean Legends can prevent You from getting other ones in different levels. You can't help it if You crossed a certain line.)
50 lines later, after placing the tridents in order: 1. closer to the entrance 2. closer to the flames, I spotted the flyby lock up and I had to reset the PC. Weird glitch, so it deserves a report. Also, I had the crawl bug again. It seems to be related to crawlspaces and flares together. And I tried to get on the upmost branches. It's very disappointing I could not.
This level suffers from some missing sounds (lever switch, spikes), but it's not enough to affect the overall memories. If I didn't write about it right after spotting the issue, I would have been very likely to already forget about it. Seeing the Name=Lair, and the initial descending corridor, I was expecting just a final showdown involving some kind of an epic boss, surrounded with few atmospheric rooms, just like it happens in Mirai's Lair of the Dark Ones. Instead of getting it, I played the longest and the most stunning level of all. This one is more vertical than horizontal, resembling St. Francis Folly with a certain tower standing in the center (trigger for introducing sound can be bypassed), grassy, steamy pit lying at its gloomy bottom (what is very satisfying, as there was no such pit in original TR1), lightbeams over its bright top, all maintaining a descending light/shade gradient, making a very realistic depth illusion. From here, subquests spread in every direction, with deep, collapsed corridors full of epiphites growing on their wet walls, gathering water from the air... Third level in my life where I literally felt humidity. For those who don't know (but I think everybody already do), the other ones are Beyond the Scion and Protected by the Dead. New gameplay features: dragon heads breeding moving timed flames (of course, I found a way into that pit filled with poisonous water below them, which is inaccessible in theory - and I was highly surprised there's no secret; the place is shockingly similar to that corridor beneath that invisible bridge in Sanctuary of Fire, and this is the direct reason why I thought I have to find a way down into there - even a hiding block sequence accompanied with swords shooting out didn't convince me "No! Get back to the hub tower!", so I lost another obligatory couple of minutes for keeping my overexploration syndrome alive), mist effects surrounding torches and radiated innesa fishes, moving torch and exploding vases filled with oil finally make this game a hidde-NG-arden. Apparently, Inchdix was having a lot of fun discovering TRNG, and the exploding (and much more resistant) Ahmet shows that. Flying stairs! Have we arrived in Hogwarts? Putting the staircase together makes a player feel like the builder himself. And I finally accepted text printed on the screen. Resembling a telepathic message (like in Mytly's Chosen), it does not disturb at all. From new applications, not actually NG ones, I'm glad to find Piega's fountain useful at last. I have to tell You something. I tried to use this fountain in EVERY SINGLE CUSTOM LEVEL I SAW IT IN. Thankfully, I finally succeeded. It's not good using the coin in the wrong place is survivable, because You may get irreversibly stuck. For the next time, I recommend the author to kill Lara immediately (e.g. explode her) instead of slowly burning her, giving a player enough time to jump into the water. Anyway, making a wish is still great. Other places: I missed flares for some time again, but they were provided soon. A jumpswitch I was not supposed to see at once was well hidden this time, and I found the camera pointing it very helpful. Clap, clap. Also, when I spotted the corridor surrounding the cage surrounding the inner cage surrounding the pink crystal, I thought "Wow, the guy is awesome!" It feels like one of those temples of classicmost raiding, even though it's all 128x128. Repetative, but well used pillars, not overdone at all, make the feeling get stronger. Another remarkable moment was turning a meadow into an island. What a lovely, shiny intermezzo among all these gloomy, stone corridors! I dived for another crystal, fought unfrozen Shivas to get the third one, and platformed for the third. On my ways to these places, I timed swinging fires, found machine cogs to run a mechanism, solved another torch puzzle and hanged on ledges so narrow that it appeared the uneasement feeling experienced in Obsidian Heights was only an introduction. Marvellous, marvellous, marvellous... On the way to the final locks. I placed the crystals, watched platforms rise above the tower and prepared for the final fight. Climbing all the way up to the top of the tower, and above it, I wondered: how it will be? What epic thing awaits me in the end? I found all secrets, visited various environments filled with precious, mystic artifacts... What will I find in the end? What is it guarded by? What tactics will I have to use? I pulled myself up, picked up the bazooka... "I'm ready" - I thought. "Come here, You bastards!" Full of courage, I left the corridor, entered the finale....
And it all has abruptly ended without a particular reason. I read another text printed on the screen, saying "You have reached the conclusion". "WHAT conclusion?" - I asked, half myself, half the author. "There is nothing! Is it really an ending, or did I miss something leading to the right one? What is actually hidden in this garden?? What is this game about?" I felt terribly, terribly sad. Not disappointed, just sad - because something obligatory is missing and I felt a great loss of it.
Definitely the best game of the 1st half of 2011. And definitely the worst ending. I did a lot of things here. Sometimes confused and distracted by glitches and shortcuts, sometimes annoyed by backtracking - all in all, I was immersed in a microclimate made of fusion of various master levelbuilding styles (how many levels I compared it to, huh?), and filled with innovative and unforgettable moments, what makes this adventure really, really epic. I played the whole levelset as carefully as I could - I witnessed a masterpiece of imagination, I felt a part of it, I heard one of the best sound applications ever... and in the end, I couldn't believe it really is the end, nor knew what the game is about. I am convinced there should be something more. I don't want much from an ending - I don't demand Lara to find a knife to cut the tree down to make a raft and sail down the river - but I wish at least to have an ability to get a leaf from that tree (if the game is about that tree - maybe the Tree of Life?) or to grab a waterskin allowing Lara to get some water from the stream (if the game is about that water - maybe the Holy Water?), or.... Or anything other - she can get a branch to make a toothpick in order to get rid of rest of last dinner remaining between her teeth. Anything. ANYTHING. Because I found everything, EVERYTHING in this game - including the last two Golden Idols - and I feel all this effort I did throughout the game was more valuable than the final reward, which is.... none.
A must play. Except the ending.
OK, that was the last line. I saved the game 920 times, and I sang approximately the same amount of lines filled with notes. Yeah, I can't sing, I know it... but someone has to pass this exam, and no-one can do it for me (locks himself in his bathroom for many hours, putting two active Shiva statues in front of the door in order to get rid of any trespassers who could infiltrate his flat with dual uzis). Wait! One more thing (unlocks himself for a while): You people make those games too good. They keep drawing my attention away of my BTB project as well. After I finished HGNG, I swear I won't play anything more until my BTB level is complete (unless someone wants me to betatest something ;). If I break my promise, PLEASE mugs, eTux, Tinka, QRS, Raymond, EssGee, Phil or Marksdad, BAN ME from any chat forum except "BTB lounge" and "Level editing". I really need to finish something that hasn't even been started yet. In the worst case, I will ban myself. See You soon (locks himself again, puts two Shivas in front of the door, and does not even notice they both turn back into stone figures as soon as they hear him practising for the exam)." - DJ Full (01-Jun-2011)
"This level was simply amazing! They put a lot of thought and
creativity to every section of it and I thoroughly enjoyed
playing it! Can't wait for more to come :)" - TonyG (20-Apr-2011)
"What can I say that hasn't been said ??? It's truly a wonderful game - a whole game, easily worth a lot to the world market, but free for trle fans. Thanks Inchdix, and of course George Maciver, whose signature was all over this marvelous adventure. Also, thanks to Aza, Dutchy, Gerty and Raymond - I didn't find a single glitch !!! Everyone should play this !!!" - Juno Jim (02-Mar-2011)
"I so much enjoyed the original that I was a little wary of playing this in case I'd built it up in my memory as being something better than it was. I needn't have worried. It was even better than I'd remembered and the new textures and tweaks adding the icing to the cake. As if that wasn't enough to be grinning about, now there's a sixth part, brand new and just as good as the rest. Don't let all this enthusiasm of mine lull you into a false sense of security, it's by no means a walk in the park, the gameplay is sometimes taxing and occasionally frustrating but it's all made worth it by the sheer quality of the level and the sense of achievement when it's completed. This is a 'must play' level for everyone." - Diz (02-Mar-2011)
"Luckily I did not play the original levels, so I don't have anything to compare and therefore this NG-remake was an all-new experience for me. This massive multi-level game consists of a beautiful area, which is the actual Hidden Garden, and from there we have to access several other levels and return in between. Without going into too much detail, I have to say that the game-play was amazing with a huge variety of things to do. It contained everything one would expect and more. It was not overly hard, but it did have it's challenges in form of some precise jumping, long dives, timed burners and of course there were several clever puzzles. Nothing got frustrating here and with the right technique it seemed almost easier in the end than what it initially appeared. It is not always very fluent here as the levels are mostly non-linear, so there is quite some exploration required and more than once did I end up in an area where I realized that it was something for later in the game. The times when I got stuck I found help in the excellent walkthrough and in general I would say that when playing this level, it might be a good idea to have the walkthrough at hand. The part I had the most problems with was the diving area in Emerald Lakes. The area was quite confusing at first and even with the camera hints I got stuck there multiple times. Overall, this game was full of beautiful objects, some that I had not seen before in other custom levels. There were a good variety of enemies like ahmets, horsemen, sharks, natives, shivas and lots of bats throughout the level. The background music created a stunning atmosphere and some excellent camera work and beautiful flybys made this an even more memorable experience. There is not much to say about texturing, lighting and architecture other than that everything looks perfect and beautifully designed with lots of love for detail and decoration. The overall impression here is the look and feel of a professionally built game. This is an absolute"must play" and definitely one of the best made custom levels out there. (6 hours, 35 min, 17/18 secrets found)" - Blue43 (21-Feb-2011)
"Six levels, each one a world of its own. Five of them are remakes of an elder adventure; as I haven't played this before, it was completely new for me. The levels are arranged around a 'hidden garden', which the player consistently returns to. The influence of George Maciver can be seen everywhere (and there is no harm done anyway). Some sequences have to be repeated too often, some are a bit too long and in several parts of the game there is too much running to and fro in my opinion. I like complex levels with some searching, but the ways through the adventure are sometimes quite unclear. Jumps and puzzles are not hard to do. Atmosphere, first of all in the last new levels, is absolutely stunning, the sound-sequences make it movie-like. Lighting and textures fit perfectly together. Absolutely recommended!" - Christian (03-Feb-2011)
"This is a very old but very good re-mastered game. I played it 6 or even more years ago, so I really did not remember almost anything. So practically it was like a new game for me. This game is very long and contains 6 levels if I remember well. Each level has its own magic, each level will be more or less suited at a particular player, each level contains entertaining puzzles and many routes, so it is not linear at all - maybee except the last level which was less dificult, shorter and less enjoyable versus the previous 5. Personally I found the most difficult to be 'Emerald Lakes' because it is almost entirely underwater, so you need to swim a lot, need to be quick to not run out of air and most of all you need to have good memory because there are a lot of UW levers to pull and it is a big maze of corridors under water. In this level I admit I needed to read a bit the walkthrough. At other levels there is not so much stress because you can breathe and explore a lot without fear that you will run out of air. The only small backthrow I found was in the complexity of the game. If you don't know which route to take and how to know? You need to backtrack a lot. Ok the good part of the game was the music. At level 5 was a very nice piano song which fit perfectly. Also the camera hints are good. All in all a top game, among the Top 10 I think." - Jack& (30-Jan-2011)
"In this case the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. Although this was my third time having played these levels, the enhanced graphics, the improved gameplay and the overall freshness of the production make it a 4-10 no-brainer. The added sixth level is no throwaway effort, either, as it is arguably the most complex of the bunch. I spent a little over seven and a half hours here and never once had that let's-get-it-over-with feeling. If GMac is the driving force behind this project (and his fingerprints are all over it), then he deserves a huge round of applause for bringing this new and improved classic back to the raiding community. Having written a walkthrough for the earlier version, I soon discovered that it was virtually worthless in getting through the NG revision. It may just be my faulty memory, but it seemed to me that a substantial chunk of gameplay has been removed from the opening hub level, and there were enough changes in the other levels as well that I decided to go with Dutchy's walkthrough. (I hear that Inchdix has another megaset now under way, and that's welcome news indeed.) Folks, this is why we play Tomb Raider. Highest recommendations." - Phil (29-Jan-2011)
"Oh how I've been looking forward to playing the beefed up version of this old favourite and I most certainly wasn't surprised to find it every bit as good as I remembered, despite its age. I managed to recall the look of the various areas remarkably well, all things considered, although the details of gameplay had long since faded away. The only part I remembered (and anticipated) with great fondness was the high dive from the temple after flooding the hidden garden valley - an iconic moment. This is a game constructed in the 'areas off a central hub' mode that is probably my favourite. The hidden garden is a lovely place, full of temples, peaceful monkeys and the occasional far from peaceful ahmet. From there, you access a variety of very different terrains in search of dragon masks. Gameplay is varied and interesting, but never unduly taxing, and there's a good mix of enemies to contend with too. As a bonus, there's a completely new section at the end of the game, which has some quite bewitching objects and animations to enjoy (particularly the moving stairs). If you've played the original version, I'm sure you will be eager to try out the updated one and those who are fresh to the game are in for a real treat." - Jay (25-Jan-2011)
"Over the years the original levels have been regarded as a classic, and now the new texturing makes these even more gorgeous in appearance. It is hard to fault anything. The lighting is excellent, with narrow entryways in deep gloom, but rooms well enough lit for exploration. Each of the levels has impressive areas, be it underground lake, or lava cavern, or floating islands. The atmospheric touches are always professional. These six levels (a concluding level has been added) constitute an amazing adventure to simply be enjoyed. Currently I am playing the levels through a second time to fully appreciate everything. Perhaps the only thing that might deter players is the complexity of the game play, as at first it is not at all obvious how Lara is proceed. Plus there is the hub of Hidden Gardens, with Lara traveling from here to each of the other levels. And I still find the cavern swimming in Emerald Lakes to be intimidating. But fortunately there is an excellent walkthrough, which points out those sneaky jump switches that Lara missed when playing this many years ago. Of the original level remakes, I still think I enjoy Serpentine Gorge or Obsidian Heights the most, in part for their scenic wonders. However, there is now a sixth level, Serpentine Lair, which shows off a few Next Generation features. As this is a new level, I played it without consulting the walkthrough at all. So it was a surprise to see a wall sconce slide downward to a point where Lara could light her torch on it. And Lara was stuck at the point where it was clear she should be making a wish--there was a pool of water and Lara kept trying to throw a coin into it. But the delay was worth it, to finally see the blocks and stairways assemble themselves into a way upward. This is a superb level and a fitting conclusion to the series. Congratulations to the author, and much thanks for making the immense effort to bring us all such a grand adventure." - dmdibl (25-Jan-2011)
"I've been wanting to replay Hidden Garden for a while, and
this update presented the perfect opportunity to do so. The
theme throughout is interesting; the textures combine in a
way that feels familar and coherent yet is hard to pinpoint
as a specific culture; it's truly as if you have found
something long-forgotten. As well as this all the other
visual elements work too. It's also frequently very
beautiful, and the new textures help that even more
(especially as they retain colour and life in their higher-
res form, unlike the overload of grey that arguably plagues
"next-gen" textures at times). One visual problem is that
The Hidden Garden and Serpentine Gorge have a night-time sky
when the lighting is obviously set-up for a day-time level
(a day-time sky would have fit those levels better). Also,
some of the ambient music is too quiet which means you
either have to leave it near inaudible, or turn the sound up
and have the "event" music too loud.
Based on the information on changes for this version, the
gameplay has been tweaked to be more intuitive at times. As
I haven't played the original for ages I can't say how
different it is, but while it was frequently challenging I
never got stuck and even managed to stumble across every
secret along the way (of varying quality, with some
involving very interesting diversions and others being very
easy to get by accident, but mostly good, especially the
ending one at Obsidian Heights), which was pretty much the
perfect balance for me. The last couple of levels suddenly
start adding text messages and asides from Lara; while it
doesn't really affect anything the sudden appeareance of
them feels strange with the earlier parts having no kind of
story text at all. here's some level-by-level comments as
this is one of the first reviews:
The Hidden Garden: This level functions as the hub of
the pack (although you go through the levels in a linear
order), but your first visit makes for quite a substantial
level in itself, with quite a bit of non-linearity and
various tasks that generally focus more on exploration over
other styles of gameplay. As the name suggests it's all set
around some sort of heavily overgrown temple ruins. One
consistent theme element introduced here that I really like
and that shows up in almost every level is the heavy use of
fences/cages looking out of/in to various areas; just about
every part of the level has some tantalising glimpse of
another part. Another thing that plays quite a big part is
water, which is a major design element used a lot throughout
the pack as well.
Emerald Lakes: You start off in a sort of underwater
maze, but it's quite managable. After going through caves
and temples that seem relatively similar to those in the
first level, the level starts to live up to its name as you
explore various emerald-coloured structures and ruins, and
the latter half takes place a large emerald temple. The
heavy use of greenish textures and lighting leads to quite a
striking theme without going overboard, and the Tin-men and
Sharks fit quite well. Outside of a trap gauntlet and a
Horseman boss the gameplay is relatively sedate and heavily
based on keeping an eye out for hidden entryways (which
isn't too tough if you're through), which works as a good
transition to the more intensive gameplay of the upcoming
Firewalk: Set in various caves and some sort of
mostly-underground Temple. As the name hints fire is a big
thematic element of this level, and the predominant colours
are brown and red, which makes a great contrast to the
greens of the previous level. The more intense colour scheme
also leads to more intense gameplay, and this is where the
challenge starts to pick up, with quite a bit of hopping
over lava and obstacle courses (one of which seems to be an
extended homage to the fire gauntlet in TR1's Palace Midas),
along with a nice puzzle involving shootables.
Serpentine Gorge: This is possibly the most beautiful
level in The Hidden Garden, with a sort-of circular flow
through a cave and finally into the titular gorge itself,
along with visits to a large temple providing sizeable
branches off this main layout. Exploration seems to be the
focus here, with various switches and sneaky openings to
uncover; which can potentially lead to getting stuck awhile
if something is missed (although I managed to avoid that).
There are also quite a few traps in the temple areas, which
keep the challenge level up. Your overall goal is finding
gems to access a very well realised snake statue, which
provides the main set-piece of the Temple areas. This level
seems to lack a little in the strong colour theming the
other three hub-offshoots (not counting the finale) have,
but the beauty makes up for it.
Obsidian Heights: The last of the original levels and
the biggest departure; dark bricks and purple obsidian
provide the colour scheme for the strange floating castle
this level takes place in. Gameplay varies between
platforming challenges on the floating ledges above the
void, and exploration in the sections of the castle that you
access. It's actually more sedate than the previous levels
overall, and is more about working out how to cross the
abyss than any particular agilty challenges, and the castle
sections aren't too intensive either, there are some pretty
big jumps to make though. If you exit straight away at the
end, there's one large area devoted entirely to the use of a
couple of secret items which can be completely missed,
luckily they aren't too tough to find.
The Lair: This level is entirely new and added for
this next-gen edition. It mostly centres around a large
vertical chamber where you explore various side-areas for
items you need to finish. There's quite a bit of variety in
the gameplay and despite being new it does a good job
keeping the overall asthetic of the earlier levels, with
some great looking caves and temples. It provides a mix of
just about every element from the earlier levels, and adds
in some next-gen editor effects and puzzles (which generally
stay subtle enough to not disrupt when compared to the old-
school style of the previous levels) to keep things fresh.
At one point you can get completely stuck if you push a
block off the wrong edge, but it's not hard to tell if
you've messed up. Also, while a big improvement on the
original, the ending still seems a bit abrupt; just as it
prepares you for some sort of final battle the credits come
up. Overall this level is a very worthy addition.
The Hidden Garden was one of the best packs around before,
and this update just makes it even better." - Mman (25-Jan-2011)