Overall Score 70%
Scattered across the world, seven parts of an ancient key have been located. In the wrong hands, this key could bring about disaster. There's only one thing to do - some brave adventurer needs to collect them all up. What we need is a professor of archaeology, an expert in ancient temples teeming with traps and unpleasant creatures, someone with a gun and a snazzy hat and a thirst for adventure. Send for Dr Smith! Wait, you were thinking of someone else?
Tomb Climber II is a snazzier, 3D follow up to a previous Tomb Climber, and your aim is simple - guide Dr Smith through the temples (possibly of doom, but that may be copyrighted) in search of the parts of this ancient key. Along the way there are lots of traps (lethal) and nasties (also lethal) out to sap his limited number of lives. Dr Smith is armed, however - some well aimed revolver rounds will see off your foes, but your bullets are limited. Don't waste them. Dr Smith also eschews the bullwhip that lesser adventurers may favour, preferring instead a handy rocket launcher - great for blasting a way through rock when you need a handy shortcut. These too, however, are limited.
As well as finding your way through a two dimensional (if three dimensionally realised) platformer, using your limited ammunition when desired and collecting treasure and other goodies on the way, there are various minigames. Each temple opens with a run to the entrance, dodging traps by jumping over them and collecting any treasures you can grab as you go. There are also rooms within each temple that feature various minigames, such as opening tombs by crossing all the floor tiles around them, or finding a way to the exit with the floor crumbling beneath you. These are optional but a good opportunity to gather treasure - and points from treasure allow you to enhance Dr Smith's abilities and ammunition capacity.
3D modelled graphics are everywhere, and give a decidedly strange look to the game. Dr Smith in particular moves like a puppet rather than a human being, though this effect seems common to all the beasties in the temple. Perhaps somewhere offscreen there's a giant with a lot of bits of string. The overall style is a little dark, which may fit the atmosphere but makes it trickier to see things. Being surprised by a bat or a trap that you didn't spot in the gloom is a touch irritating. There's also a bit of a disconnect when shifting between the two dimensional main temple and the more top-down style of the minigames, and you don't always have long to get your bearings. My biggest issue with the graphics is the image that appears when starting the program - a blank-eyed, zombie-like Dr Smith heading out of the screen towards me! Yikes!
Sound is fairly disappointing. The game sound effects are pretty good but the voice acting in the intro sequence is clearly not done by a professional. I'm pretty sure both Dr Smith and the man he is talking to are voiced by the same person, which makes it harder to identify which is speaking at any one time. Background music is above average but by default set rather quietly; however, if you lower the sound effect volume you'll miss out on most of the speech, which is fairly quiet. Speech is available in both English and German (by the same voice artist).
I've struggled with Tomb Climber II. First time out I mixed up the firing buttons and wasted my only rocket on an innocent wall. Traps are apparently impassable without losing lives. It's very easy to lose multiple lives in quick succession if you don't get out of the way, and you only have one life in any subgames. The firing buttons make you jump in the initial run to the temple - Dr Smith automatically jumps over gaps in the main temple, so don't accidentally fire all your bullets by mixing up the control methods! There are far more monsters than your ammunition can cope with, and some monsters cannot be shot (such as spiders and mice), so I've not managed to get beyond the first temple so far.
There's the occasional odd quirk to the game as well. On installation, I selected English as the language to use (because my German is sufficient to ask my way to the train station but not sufficient enough to understand the reply) and found the game itself still set itself to German. The configuration options for language (amongst other things) are not in the game itself but in a separate configuration utility installed along with it. While this isn't a bad thing in itself, surely it would make sense to default the game's language settings to the same as the installer's?
Tomb Climber II has been a curious experience, but it wasn't a successful one for me. The difficulty curve is pretty steep, the graphics are slightly too far into the uncanny valley and I got the sense that the overall product is still a little beyond the skills of the developer. I hope Magic Storm have learnt a lot from their experience creating it and will do better in their next efforts.
Keywords: tombclimber ii review, magic storm reviews, magic storm games, tombclimber ii scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.