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Level: BtB2013 - The Cottage in the Valley back home search
Author(s): MpGrill
total rating:7.71 Gameplay &
Puzzles
Enemies,
Objects &
Secrets
Atmosphere,
Sound &
Cameras
Lighting &
Textures
Andzia9 8 7 8 9
Bigfoot 9 9 10 10
DJ Full 10 10 10 9
EssGee 7 8 8 8
Gerty 7 9 8 8
Jay 8 9 8 9
JesseG 6 8 7 7
Jose 5 7 8 8
Josey 8 9 8 8
Magnus 5 6 5 6
manarch2 7 6 7 7
Markus 6 7 7 8
MichaelP 6 8 9 7
Mman 7 8 6 6
Mytly 7 7 8 9
OverRaider 9 10 8 9
Phil 9 9 9 9
requiemsoul 8 9 8 8
Ryan 7 7 7 7
Soul 8 7 9 7
Treeble 6 6 6 6
category averages
(21 reviews)
7.29 7.90 7.81 7.86

Reviewer's comments

"Funny though as I replayed this right after I tested the new level by this guy and yup, confirmed, he sure loves sneaky crawlspaces, banana jumps and jumping ledges when being fired upon. Not fair, that is for sure. Had a pretty hard time to get through this one un-scaled and I have to admit I needed one or two of the savedgames Dutchy provided. For the rest I think the objects and textures were to put to good use. Nice atmosphere and not many enemies although those nasty big trolls... you can keep them. Took me over 3 hours to get to the end, my excuse was I got lost a lot LOL." - Gerty (26-Nov-2016)

"Not the best entry I have played, but fun nonetheless. It is not for inexperienced players as it gets too hard at times. If you want to try it you have been warned. Banana jumps, dragons, mean traps and more." - Ryan (01-Feb-2016)

"The early areas aren't especially impressive here with some flat lighting and strangely aligned textures, and this applies throughout the first part with the outdoor areas. It improves once you get inside the castle area of the second half though, and pulls off an atmospheric theme, if still relatively simple (and I did especially like the hub room and portal area).

The gameplay starts off on a bad note with a bunch of backtracking for a key if you miss it, but it's generally more contained later. This is another difficult level with some tricky jumps and traps. There an element of deception throughout that I'm not sure is intentional or questionable design, like having a conspicuous lighted tile (maybe it was for a secret?) when the actual solution is a switch behind a pillar, or a bunch of ledges leading up when you actually need to use a monkeyswing in the same area instead; they were the source of my stuck moments. On the other hand I thought this was the best use of the Dragon boss I've seen so far; the Locusts are still annoying but it's in a contained area and the difficult linear platform sequence feels like a logical use of that enemy. The in-between tasks were generally good too. While I only found a couple there also seems to be an interesting mini-quest with the secrets (with earlier ones providing the tools to open later ones). Decent enough but the second half is mostly better than the first." - Mman (15-Oct-2015)

"An adventure that takes no prisoners indeed. Some of the actions are tricky even when you know exactly what to do (like several banana jumps and some of them while under fire from a dragon or some of the trap sequences), but even worse - some actions are just too sneaky in their own right and will cause high frustration with the player unless you coincidentally think exactly like the builder or have the walkthrough close at hand. And sadly, this will likely be what sticks with you from this level, when it has so much to offer that is then easily overlooked or forgotten. For example, a very nice use of flybys several times, supported by suitable audio. Or a few really nice enemy fights to spice things up (I just loved how the troll killed a gnome). Secrets are a bit of a mixed bag, but the complex one for the grail was very well conceived and a challenge to get. In terms of the setting, some areas look very inspired in the way they are crafted, some really go for fun effects and others are a bit bland with not too much care going into texturing details. I did like the mixed progression though from outdoor green to caves, lake and then more Castle like setting and back. At the end you got a brief moment of drama with the finale and then exit back into the real world. A challenging adventure, best played with a walkthrough close by. (62 min, 6 secrets)." - MichaelP (27-Jul-2013)

"I really enjoying explored this level. There are a nice use of the "warm" wad and textures, and so, explored this country of Ireland was great :)! The gameplay is not really hard but some objects are sometimes very well hidden, I need to use the walkthrough a lot of time. I also use the banana jump twice and so I hope I forget nothing because I used this method ... But the rest of the level is awsome. Not really dark. The atmosphere remember me a rainy day of autumn because the colours and the textures choise are just PERFECT. A great moment with Lara in this beautiful country of Ireland and a great thanks to MpGrill for this level. Absolutely recommended! :)" - BigFoot (20-Jul-2013)

"This is one hell of a cottage. It is a pretty level although I couldn't help but notice a bit of poorly rotated textures. Let's get right to the gameplay, which is no walk in the park. You get one pretty neat puzzle, a huge amount of traps and a good number of enemies (I only had the pistols but I think there's a revolver somewhere that I missed). I like the challenge, but the gameplay was infested with one too many gimmicks for me. One is requiring the infamous "banana" jumps, which is time-consuming to get and always awkward, because each time you are about to use it you are never fully confident that the author expected you to be able to do that in that particular place. Rest assured in this level, it is always appropriate, so at least that is consistent. Other gimmicks: fake platforms: trapdoors that immediately drop below you, and indiscreet instant-death tiles: one instance of such is a lava fall that appears out of nowhere when you walk under an arch. Of course, it only happens for that one arch and not the other two in the same area. These kind of things are poor design because there is no way for the player to guess when there is instant death and when there isn't - there is lack of consistency. Sure, because of the save system you can "trial and error" your way through the whole level, which is probably what almost any player in this level will do, but being forced to save + load is just not immersing gameplay, because the player isn't being asked to think about the environment, only to travel blindly and potentially be punished for going somewhere that it looked like the player could go to. In my opinion, a fair level is one that would allow the player to possibly complete the entire level with their skill, without ever having to use a save, because the player was given a chance to use their judgement, to look before they leap. I strongly encourage this author to think about how they can communicate better with the player to give them that chance. Now let's get some of my other critiques out of the way. The camera cues could use some work, some of them throw your view right in a door and it does not give you any idea where it is. The level also felt somehow short for its layout - there are so many large and decent looking areas created but there just isn't much to do in most of them. This is a level that fell short of its potential in several ways, although if you aren't as picky about things, I am sure you will enjoy it a bit more than I did. Exactly 1 hour." - SSJ6Wolf (16-Jul-2013)

"Finally, finally, a player-friendly BtB level with ample lighting where I could actually see everything around me pretty much from start to finish. And this from a builder who chooses as titles for his other levels such qualifiers as horror, hell, cursed and doomed. Well, in this case he got it right, and I wish that the other builders had followed his example. The gameplay is quite good as well. Others have dubbed it as being on the difficult side, what with all the banana jumps and so forth, but I found it to be well balanced. A few jumps required several tries, but Dutchy's typically reliable walkthrough got me through the rough spots with a minimum of frustration. This one wasn't as lengthy as the previous two, clocking in at just under an hour and a half, but I felt I had a good and rewarding gaming experience when it was all done. Not to forget that welcome lighting. Recommended." - Phil (03-Jul-2013)

"Starts off in a calm looking valley, but soon the pace steps up with a challenging set of tasks. The quality of the texturing in this level is at times average. After some interesting tasks emanating from a hub hall, Lara is confronted by a mutant with some serious attitude. There's quite some work for Lara to do to outwit and outrun this nasty beastie. Another battle with a Medusa witch in an alternate reality and Lara is out of there. But no relic to show for her trouble..." - EssGee (10-Jun-2013)

"Something marvellous. Actually all kinds of entertainment are involved and balanced with almost the whole newly provided stuff used, but also based on old tricks not requiring any object except Lara for their execution. Flawless graduation of adventure, slowly unfolding from a tiny cottage (how unremarkably appearing it seemed in the beginning!) to the very depths of epic lost realm where monsters dwell, traps threaten and magic lives, of whatever kind wouldn't it be. Perfect usage of sound, with the final pickup theme thrilling more than any fight or task preceding it. All sorts of locations, with no single chamber done without care, hold atmosphere comparable to that experienced in serious projects of advanced levelbuilders. You wouldn't say this has been made within a single Winter only. SUMMARY: Some fewer lines this time, because I'm purely amused while unable to complain about anything (except - as usually - a bit of lighting). A definite must-play for everyone and so far my competing favourite. It made my night, now I'll see what makes my day, as no-one knows what else may sit in this package..." - DJ Full (31-May-2013)

"This game has some good ideas, with some special effects and interesting tasks, but also with too hard challenges, so I can't give a high rate for the gameplay. A lot of banana jumps are not always funny for many players, evenmore if you must do several ones in a room with the giant serpent spitting fire and locusts; this will force you to reload hundreds of times. Another aspects are quite good, but even so I missed some extra weapons and ammo to fight with the enemies. Good work, but recommended only for expert (and patients) players." - Jose (31-May-2013)

"There's a difference between searching and exploring. If any level builders are going to take anything away from my Back to Basics reviews, I hope it's that. Exploring a new neighborhood is fun. Searching for a certain building in a neighborhood you're not familiar with isn't. Exploration is relaxing and exciting. Searching for something is stressful and frustrating. So it's a shame that so many level builders are so fond of making players search (there's that word again) for a hidden switch or crawlspace or key or whatever. And while this level isn't the worst offender in this year's competition, I found myself stuck too often to be able to enjoy myself. It's not that I mind being stuck (well, okay - I do), but it has to feel like it's my fault. When I got stuck for a few minutes on the one puzzle in this level because I didn't realize that you could jump up on a ledge and spot the solution, it felt like my fault and that's fine. But when I get stuck for ten minutes because the author hid a ladder in a hole in a corner of a room, I was less thrilled. Then it feels like the author is working against me, rather than trying to provide an enjoyable experience. Once you do find that one thing that the author has worked so hard to hide from you, the gameplay does tend to flow well for a while. It's nothing too special, but I'd rather make a hundred banana jumps than run around lost. The opening area is promising, but the second half of the level isn't as attractive as the first half. The texturing is decent if a bit sloppy, with a lot of stretched and warped textures. My net gaming time was forty minutes, but that doesn't include all the time I was stuck. If you're fine with somewhat annoying gameplay - and considering Back to Basics 2010, lots of people are - you may enjoy this level, but don't come crying to me when you get stuck." - Magnus (31-May-2013)

"I'll start this review by apologizing to the author for anything I might say. I don't want to harm anyone's feelings but I really don't think this works well and it's definitely not up to par with any of the other submissions in this year's BtB. When I got to the first door without a key, went back to the beginning and ended up making my way to the door again and still had no clues of said key whereabouts, I really felt a strong urge to dump the level then and there, but thanks to the mighty efforts of Gerty&Dutchy I found the help I needed to get through. All along. I mean, seriously, most of the traps I ran into without any previous notice they'd exist. I might have been one to complain about EssGee's signature "sneaky high crawlspaces" but here you have quite a few 7-click high ladders which were quite annoying IMO. Texture work is also sketchy for the most part, so there really isn't anything going on for this level. But, like I said, I really don't mean to discourage the author (this could be a debut level for all I know), just throwing my worthless 2 out there. 75 minutes, 5 secrets. 05/13" - Treeble (25-May-2013)

"This level starts off fairly realistically, with Lara encountering the eponymous cottage, and then exploring the valley itself. But things get more surreal later in the level in the underground area. Right at the very beginning, you're likely to miss a key and find yourself facing a dead end. This is a repeated theme throughout the level: the builder seems to be under the impression that good gameplay involves fooling players rather than challenging them. For example, the unmarked trap that fries Lara when she tries walking through a perfectly innocent-looking archway, or the spiked ceiling descending on her out of nowhere, or 'flowing water' that actually turns out to be a dry - and deadly - room. That's not to say that all the gameplay is bad. For example, there's a very nice pushable puzzle with an interesting way of getting clues. There are some challenging traps in the 'fake water' room. I also liked the complex set of tasks involved in getting the axe at the beginning.
This level has an overall very amateurish feel: doors are not placed properly, and therefore leave invisible blocks; textures are applied sloppily and often distorted or incorrectly rotated; a number of switches have no discernible function; you can fall through the roof of the cottage at the beginning. Some of the secrets are just lying out in the open, so that you can hardly help stumbling across them. Enemies are poorly used - huge trolls ambush Lara in tiny rooms, so there is almost no way for her to fight effectively. A boss 'fight' against the snake monster involves trying to do banana jumps while trying not to get set on fire or eaten by locusts.
The lighting in this level is gorgeous and colourful. Despite the sloppily applied textures, the builder manages to create really lovely locations. Though the level is filled with mainly squarish rooms and long corridors, the architecture still manages to look impressive. I like the use of plant objects even in indoor areas, which gives the places a dilapidated air. The outdoor areas are very pretty.
Overall: A level with very uneven quality. Recommended for the looks, but not much else." - Mytly (08-May-2013)

"Starting in a beautiful village and ending in something like catacombs. Not many enemies, but lot's of traps, sometimes very hard." - Andzia9 (30-Apr-2013)

"After the great beginning, with lovely music, my Lara entered the cottage, got out, almost got stuck in a crawlspace, went on, found out that she needed a key, tried to go back through the crawlspace... and couldn't. Then I thought that I couldn't expect much from this game. Believe me: I WAS WRONG. It's true that I needed the walkthrough for almost every item, for all of them were very well hidden, and my self-esteem suffered a lot; nevertheless, it's a GREAT level, full of different and interesting instances. I'll give an example: things like the laser sight, the musket, the sword, are SECRETS - and needed for the gameplay. Another example: there are very smart traps, that I had never seen before. See for yourself... The texture of the rooms is not a perfect thing, the initial terrain is very irregular, with lots of ramps and tight places, the author is TOO fond of banana jumps (two of them must be managed under dragon fire, can you imagine this?), but how lovely the music, how romantic the looks of the cottage, how better and better the game becomes as we progress. This level is also a MUST, and I loved to know it. Thanks !" - Josey (29-Apr-2013)

"The invisible burning wall at the exit of the village. The flyby begins before entering in the temple. A lot of enemies, but the secrets are the crowbar, the laser sight or the grail. Several bugs with the doors and some unavoidable traps. The fixed camera during a banana jump... Sorry, there are too many errors or incoherent things in this level (secrets 5/6)." - Markus (23-Apr-2013)

"I must say I thought there were some really well thought out traps in this level, not to mention some well hidden crawlspaces etc. Initially, I thought this was going to be one of the quaint and pretty village style concepts, but it rapidly turned into something a bit more austere and grand. Good atmosphere and rather lovely lighting gave this entry a definite boost." - Jay (15-Apr-2013)

"I'm writing this review in a rather sad mood, since I have the feeling that I simply couldn't enjoy this level as the other reviewers (who by the way are already critical) and maybe am just underrating it. To begin with - yes, this level starts with a nice cutscene and I liked how the cottage is embed into the environment, but from then on the quality goes downhill quite a long time; and that in several aspects. The construction of the first areas is often weird with strange architecture, rather badly applied texturing in the outdoor areas and object placement which is both unrealistic (some are floating and some constructions don't make any sense) and also hindering the gameplay progression, since often objects block your way and/or sight. Gameplay feels rather unexiting and put together quickly, sometimes even unfair (like a passage turning deadly when Lara walks in without any hint). As soon as Lara enters the temple, everything feels more tidied up, and here is where I started to enjoy this adventure. The central room is very nicely designed and the tasks, even if still relying on sneakily hidden things, is more fun, with a nice pushable puzzle and decent exploration. Texturing got reasonably better (most likely because it's more easy to texture inside areas) and I liked some of the efforts put into lighting. What I still did not like so much was the usage of rather heavy enemies (several large creatures, a demigod, ahmets) and all that without any added weapons (except a revolver with very limited ammo which is a secret). Also, there were still some odd situations like the rather unfair and unrealistic placement of traps and some streched textures used for the "lava" rooms which looked rather childish as a result; in one area there is a layer of textures that pretend to be the surface of lava but there's actually nothing but thin air. All in all this was a 50 minute raid I left with rather mixed feelings, but I think the builder has a lot of potential which could've show better in a more organized and not so hastily put together game than this one." - manarch2 (10-Apr-2013)

"Very remarkable and enjoyable level. Fun tasks and exploration, intense action. It has some visual bug. Recommended" - requiemsoul (07-Apr-2013)

"Hm, this level is quite challenging in which first part of level is exploring, and the second part the challenge like traps, enemies, some "difficult" jumps, bosses etc. I was impressed by how outside areas are builded and textured, very beautiful atmosphere, inside areas are good but not so good as outside. Well there aren`t many puzzles in this level but the few ones were clever. Progression mostly consist of things like well hidden "key" objects, well hidden lever, well hidden pushblocks, exploration, noticing etc, but I must admit that I wasn`t bored and all of these mentioned things are creating really enjoyable level. I was stuck here a few times, but a deeper exploration solved it. There are also some weak points like same background music playing all the time, (even when I entered inside same background was playing as in outside), ... Never mind this level is definitely superb and I can purely recommend it. Took me 1 hour and 12 minutes of net play, found only 2/6 secrets. Very Enjoyable with a kind of difficulty. 9/10/8/9" - OverRaider (03-Apr-2013)

"I'd love to be able to praise this game as much as DJ Full did in his review, but it just wasn't my cup of tea and maybe "wrong assumptions" are part of the reason why: When I started the level and the very nicely done, calm flyby kicked in, I was expecting to be in for a treat. The warm lighting and also the name of the level (:P) suggested a nice, enjoyable raid and I was looking forward to explore every inch of the "valley". The rather raw design (some badly applied textures, architecture reminded me of the infamous "random floor up"-function in the LE, floating objects) and also the dead end at the very beginning (Lara standing in front of a keyhole without the needed key) put me off slightly but having in mind that this COULD be the work of a new builder I wanted to see what else it has to offer. After some more progress however, I started to realise that this level is a lot less calm than expected and actually shows us the sadistic side of this builder many times throughout the journey...and sometimes in a rather odd way. I know I should be the last person complaining about challenges but I just don't see where's the fun about moments of random death (Lara being impaled, burnt to death on "normal" squares), or deviously timed traps that can't be bypassed without health loss. Towards the end the game DID get a lot better with some very nice, fast-paced challenges (minus the one involving spike-ceilings appearing out of nowhere) and also a pushable block puzzle but all in all it was a mixed bag for me. IF this level turns out to be one of the debuts, I can only say "kudos" to the author, who created a well-paced and incredibly atmospheric journey. Definitely recommended!" - Soul (02-Apr-2013)
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