Tomb of the Evil Queen
"Considered on its own, this unassuming little debut is what is sometimes described as a ‘lunch break level’; but it works just fine as a harbinger of greater things to come, as it tells a little story that I’d like to see the builder expand upon in a future release, should she decide to follow that path. In the 1930s, Laura Croft (a distant relative of Lara’s) joins an archaeologist allegedly named ‘Reginald P. Earnest’ on an expedition to explore the tomb of the eponymous queen, identifiable as evil by her laugh (she is a remeshed and retextured demigod Sophia Leigh); her heinous act of withdrawing large amounts of currency from circulation is a sacrilege that obviously cannot stand.
Since I can’t recall having seen Indiana Jones in a blouse, knickerbockers and low-heeled pumps, I must disagree with the previous reviewer’s comment claiming that Laura is dressed à la Indiana Jones here, and assume that it was prompted by the shared general theme of ‘1930s archaeology’, which is, however, apparent only in this outfit and has no further bearing on either gameplay or design (object modification is limited to the level’s cast of three characters, but these are well done); not to mention the fact that Indiana Jones is nothing without the hat and the whip: these are his defining attributes, and that is why that skeleton among the spikes in TR4 “Angkor Wat” was immediately identified as that of Indiana Jones (who obviously failed where Young Lara would succeed). That skeleton doesn’t appear in this level, though well it could have: not only does fit nicely in the historical period in which this level is set; the level is also strongly reminiscent of “Angkor Wat” in its general setup as well as its gameplay, presenting as it does a linear sequence of only very mild challenges (and Reginald P. Earnest looks uncannily similar to Werner von Croy, although he’s in the Guide slot). It’s not a Young Lara level though, as Laura Croft is carrying a sixshooter (present in the inventory from the start). I agree with the previous review that the final confrontation is anticlimactic, but this is entirely in line with the low-key approach in evidence throughout the level. I’ve encountered no bugs or other issues such as missing or messed-up sounds, and the level is commendable for that reason alone (also kudos for making the finicky Guide setup work in your debut), but it’s also reasonably entertaining (if not at all taxing) for the short while that it lasts.
As for design, room geometry is mostly functional (bar one flourish in the form of a giant cat statue); the textures are an eclectic mix taken from several TR4 sets and other sources, well applied for the most part but failing to gel into an aesthetic whole (one room stands out by virtue of being covered entirely in textures from TR5 Rome, an odd choice that doesn’t exactly contribute to visual coherence); lighting is reasonably well done (there is a fine scene in which Reginald illuminates a dark corridor with his torch); and as mentioned above, the historical period makes itself felt only in the costume in which the main character is dressed, which is a bit of a shame, as digging a bit deeper here would surely have made the level stand out more than it does. However, I entertain the hope that the builder’s future releases expand on this story, as an adventure in a 1930s setting would make for an interesting change; but whether or not she goes down this particular road, I think this level is a promising start of the builder’s career. Unless it’s another one-off, that is." -
"There's a quiet charm to this little 20 minute adventure;especially if you assume that it was the recollections of her great aunt's little quest from decades earlier that inspired Lara to become interested in the possibilities of discovering treasure in hidden tombs herself. The remodelled playable character has a pleasantly bygone look;and the adventure itself is built around one (and only one) quest sequence,and a quickly dispatched opponent. The guide/professor works well enough for it's purpose;and the same can be said for all the other technical categories (booby trapped levers excepted). It's a safe and easy debut;but absolutely fine for all that." -
"A decent debut (despite only clocking in at around 15 minutes long for me), with Lara dressed up in a similar fashion to Indiana Jones here, only missing the bullwhip and hat to complete this deliberate homage. And while the lighting & texturing are executed in an above-average fashion (alongside not too shabby use of enemies, objects, a couple dynamic camerashots and music cues to create a convincing enough atmosphere), gameplay on the other hand feels noticeably lacking as you find yourself railroaded half the time by having to wait on your guide to get the hint to move forward and the other half accomplishing relatively simple tasks, as you quickly make your way to said 'Evil Queen' and defeat her fairly anticlimactically with a few well-aimed shots, before proceeding to her treasure vault and concluding the adventure as soon as it began. Overall, an easily approachable and adequately executed raid for newcomers wishing to properly familiarize themselves with the controls. But for experts, there won't be a whole lot on offer here to sink your teeth into." -