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TR Advent Calendar 2021 - Search for Shangri-La by Tcake

DJ Full 8 10 9 8
manarch2 5 8 8 7
MichaelP 5 8 9 8
nerdfury 4 9 7 6
Ryan 6 9 7 8
 
release date: 23-Dec-2021
# of downloads: 191

average rating: 7.45
review count: 5
 
review this level

file size: 111.00 MB
file type: TR4
class: Cold/Snowy
 


author profile(s):
email(s):
timlippy97@yahoo.co.jp

Reviewer's comments
"With this one I am less surprised to see that it had only 4 reviews before mine. It is a very long and quite ingenious adventure, but only if you either happen to live inside the brain of the builder or are very, very patient in trying out many, many possible routes.
The first level is set in snowy mountains and the caves below, so it looks all grey in grey mostly, but for atmosphere that works surprisingly well. It is all about exploration and several somewhat unusual jumps - indeed more unusual than really difficult - as you often need to take a leap of faith towards something you do not actually see. So despite the camera work, you are mostly in the dark as to where to go next. Many pickups to collect (if you find them), only a few tigers and eagles encountered as enemies and a few roses as secrets. Some boulders and breaktiles to keep you on your toes and the highlight is really the oddly cool looking spike cave near the end of this part. (45 mins)
Part 2 starts very similar and just adds a bit more swimming to the exploration, but further along it gets more obscure. I mean, once you know what to do and what can happen it is all very cute and fun to go shopping and chase all those coins - and the scenes and effects designed are quite adorable, but it can easily be frustrating to move along unless you keep that walkthrough super close at hand. (60 mins, with many missing coins and secrets not found).
Part 3 then adds more highlights on the atmospheric side with a cool and spooky cave with masks on the wall, sea hags to deal with and another spike cave with spiders, before bringing you into a mix of heaven and hell where you get to re-enact the storyline that the diary told you before. Very cleverly done, but yet again quite obscure to figure out all by yourself. (60 mins)
And after all that you return to where you started for a nice ending scene until you will spend some time in the snowy mountains again to find the actual finish after all. So in summary and as the other reviewers have already stated - this is quite a marvelous adventure if you can sit back, relax and watch it, but when you have to play it and find your own way it is hugely frustrating and all the good things about it are easily spoiled for the player. But if you keep the walkthrough close at hand and with the help of that make it through in less than 3 hours or so (instead of the proabably many more you will need otherwise), you can experience a very unusual and special adventure - so try it, if you dare..." - MichaelP (11-Jan-2024)
"You never know if you guessed the intended order of progress, and if you didn't, you are left with experience less than optimal. Even if you make all right choices, you may need to reload earlier savegames. All quite controversial design you aren't really aware of - but if you were, you'd often be amazed at the creativity shown here. Therefore I think the best way to play this level is with a walkthrough, and surely the second playthrough will be more enjoyable than the first one (I might pick this level for Extra Life or a TR Marathon someday). Easy hall of famer if it was less problematic." - DJ Full (10-Nov-2023)
"Yes, this is indeed a game that does not let you in easy right from the get-go. I actually have rather mixed feelings after finishing this one. There's no doubt that there's been a great deal of time and effort put into this three-level set, but it fell short in quite a few ways. The gameplay is rather chaotic throughout as there are numerous diverging and conjoined routes where it's rarely too clear where you should be exploring first, and there's potential to be ending up in a particular location without having accomplished everything in a previous area first. Not to mention that the correct paths in the various jumping sequences are not highlighted enough, and quite a few sections are on the too tricky side. I did enjoy a few of the boulder traps though, and the collapsible tile jumps were very enjoyable. The sounds were also buggy in quite a few spots and everything seemed quieter somehow, while the textures were rather grainy and crude in a few spots. On the positive side, the architecture is often unique, the custom objects are masterful (particularly those adorable little demons with their stalls) and the quests for the coin purses and secrets were certainly unique touches (even if it's not immediately obvious what you should purchase with the former first). Overall, this is a unique game that should have received a bit more care and testing pre-release, but it might be worth a look for other raiders." - Ryan (02-Mar-2022)
"(4) Gameplay & Puzzles: This is a super challenging adventure that took me about 3 hours. I started it over a month ago but was not able to finish it until Youtube playthroughs were available. I want to preface this review by saying that I prefer very challenging levels, and I do not shy away from difficult tasks. The challenge here, however, is just too over-the-top frustrating. It's not even the platforming that's super challenging. Rather, the sense of progression is very messy, and the player has so many opportunities to be running around in circles, confused about their next objectives, and missing key areas. So, when you start the game, the builder warns via on-screen text to either collect lots of medipacks, or find a special item (belt). This belt, when worn, prevents Lara's health from ticking down slowly in freezing areas. I unfortunately didn't find this belt, so as I entered level 3, I thought to myself, "Okay, I do have a lot of medipacks... I should hopefully be OK." There is so much forced health loss in level 3 and it just became a really unpleasant experience after a while. I barely made it through. I can only imagine a player's frustration if they reach level 3, don't find the belt, and don't have enough medipacks. The player will have essentially wasted a few hours of their time, and I do not think this is good game design. "Obscure" accurately describes the overall gameplay flow, however this obscurity and confusion is particularly intensified in a lava lake in level 3. It's the lava lake with the spooky big masks on the cavern walls. So in this lava lake, there are a few tiles where if you jump into the lake, you do not die from the lava. However the clue regarding which tiles are safe is just really obscure, and I spent ages running around in circles here. (9) Enemies, Objects & Secrets: There are so many interesting custom objects I have never seen before, and I think the builder did an excellent job with creating a spooky and surreal world with these various objects. The friendly tiger with the christmas hat is a nice touch, and it was really neat to discover a little underground city filled with weird tiny blue people. The underwater demons are very well executed, as are a couple of creative problem-solving tasks involving throwing objects. There are some areas that are really lacking in object decor, however, and the hit boxes for the spike lake (with the spider on the rope) are janky, with Lara dying to the spikes even though she isn't even touching them. There are some awesome custom animations of Lara. (7) Atmosphere, Sound & Cameras: The atmosphere is eerie, unique and immersive. I feel mixed about music and sound. The spooky music that plays in the lava lake area in level 3 is excellent, however I think as a whole the adventure needs more music and sound cues. There is also no sound when Lara draws her pistols, and I noticed an Egyptian tomb ambience that I did not think was a good fit. I think that there needed to be more camerawork to help the player with identifying objectives. Not to hold the player's hand, but just to minimize running around in circles. I think with more camerawork, and gameplay flow alterations (so that the player cannot miss key areas), this level would be much less frustrating. (6) Lighting & Textures: It's not a bad looking level; I just think it needed more visual polish, as misshapen textures are common, as is wallpapering, and there are many situations where the lighting of static objects does not match the room's ambient lighting. There are 2 areas where visibility is an issue: the large dark cavern near the end of level 1, and the white heaven area near the end of the game. The dark cavern in level 1 needs more texture variety and better lighting, to help the player identify areas of interest to progress. I know the builder is going for a surreal aesthetic, but I believe a balance needs to be struck, where the environment is surreal, yet there are still no issues with visibility. I think that the builder leaned too far towards the former in the white heaven area. Overall, it's a creative and unique level, but I am sorry to say that it was a very frustrating and player-unfriendly experience for me. I truly hope my feedback was constructive to the builder, and I look forward to seeing their innovative ideas in the future, hopefully with more builder-to-player communication. 4/9/7/6." - nerdfury (26-Jan-2022)
"Phew, another tour de force which certainly takes no prisoners right from the start. This all could have been really enjoyable as the platforming parts and puzzles are often enjoyable, but then the overall progression is overly obscure as there are many paths to go in chaotic environments, you can finish levels without finding items you will almost certainly require in later levels. Without the aid of the builder's video walkthrough I would still sit in that cave with the torch. Really a shame as the storyline is really impreessive, there are lots of great usages of objects and the whole design screams for a HoF level. But for that, also the visual design is not good enough, as the texturing is mediocre with a good bunch of mistakes and the architecture is not very refined overall. I still enjoyed the atmosphere here with very nice flybys and very authentic highlight rooms. The nine secrets are also decently hidden. On the whole, the confusing setup is the only real downer to an otherwise creative and quirky game that deserves some more care in a later version. Finished in 1:55 hours." - manarch2 (15-Jan-2022)