Tomb Raider II – My Love Affair Began

Those of you who know me from other sites will know I love Lara Croft. The original strong female gaming heroine. Don’t get up in my face about Samus. I know. But Lara is truly iconic. Tomb Raider II was my first introduction to the woman whose hairstyle I stole.

Not Even Mine

Back when Tomb Raider II was launched I was a non-gaming thirteen year old. I had gamed avidly as a child but during those tween years I had drifted. My Dad played the occasional PC game, or at least he attempted to. To say he sucked was an understatement. I would periodically try to help him get past a section. Having seen my father die a horrible death umpteen times on the first level of TR2 I decided to give it a go for myself.

Tomb Raider II screenshot showing the Venice level
Venice. Why did it have to be Venice?
Baby Steps

It was hard. I was so out of the loop and the controls were pretty unforgiving. Still I quickly managed to despatch the bear that had given my Dad so much trouble and escape the level. From there the sky was the limit.

Then there was Venice. If there is water around to cause a problem in a game you can rest assured I will drown, fall in or otherwise do something I had not intended to do. All I can say is thank goodness for boats.

Tomb Raider II screenshot showing a speedboat
At last! Some transportation!
Home Sweet Home

Tomb Raider II was one of the few Lara games to allow you to run around the manor. It was pretty good and only surpassed by Tomb Raider Legend in my eyes. There was an assault course that I found more taxing than the in-game platforming, a maze that I struggled to complete in time and a girl’s most important accessory – an elderly butler that followed you everywhere. I think there was a shooting range too although I hardly used it.

Tomb Raider II screenshot showing the butler in the manor
Creepy old guy following you everywhere? Check.

There were times I literally tried to out run the old guy and hide. Somehow he always caught up with me.

Pros and Cons

I’m not really a fan of a lot of combat in Tomb Raider games. It’s necessary but in the early games it was brutal. The platforming and the puzzles are quintessentially Lara. Environmental puzzles were an early staple of the Tomb Raider games and Tomb Raider II was no exception.

Tomb Raider II screenshot showing Lara in Tibet in hotpants and a jacket.
Lara is set for Tibetan weather. A jacket and some hotpants. Cold is in the mind.
Malicious Memories

As I had mentioned I was thirteen when I played Tomb Raider II. I think it’s important that you remember that so you don’t judge me on my next memory of it. Back then we got cheat codes from magazines. Or passed along from friends of friends. Using the former I discovered two codes.

After performing a series of moves (forward, back, turn round three times) you could jump forward or back to trigger different results. Jump forward and you skipped a level. Handy for subsequent playthroughs of those pesky Venice levels! Jump back and voila – exploding Lara. Good job you could save at will. It was clearly designed to catch out people who tried to use the level skip code incorrectly. I found it hilarious. Whenever I was about to stop playing I would save and then promptly blow up my heroine. Oh to be a teenager again. I kid. I would rather be the blown-up Lara.

Point Made

For all its annoyances and difficulties I did persevere and finish Tomb Raider II. More importantly it made me long to be Lara. Sure, her proportions were ridiculous back then and she’d make orgasm noises if you ran her into a wall but she had a good message. She was strong, she was fit and independent. And she did it all with kick-ass hair. As I still have a long old skool Lara plait and can benchpress more than you I can only surmise she had a big effect on me. I only hope the new generation of Lara can do the same for a new generation of girls.