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Dark Secrets beneath the Ground by Igor Gois

DJ Full 5 8 7 8
JesseG 8 8 10 9
Kubsy 6 7 7 6
Lizard Queen 8 8 8 8
Mman 6 7 8 8
nerdfury 5 6 8 8
Phil 7 8 8 8
Ryan 6 7 8 8
Saki Croft 8 8 8 8
tuxraider 8 7 7 7
 
release date: 30-Jan-2022
# of downloads: 205

average rating: 7.45
review count: 10
 
review this level

file size: 128.00 MB
file type: TR4
class: Mystery/Horror
 


author profile(s):
email(s):
igor.frizarini.gois.pessoal@gmail.com

Reviewer's comments
"Dumped into a sewer pitchfork, I took a path to an overly foggy heat challenge. I didn' t really wanna do that so I took another path and got stuck in a water flipmap. The third path led me to a block puzzle, which I managed to deal with after a break... The fourth path had a triple slot... so, while it's a solid" sewer level, I could imagine it all in my head before I even played the majority of it. Eventually, I reattempted the heat challenge which took me literal (actually no, metaphorical) ages and was one of the most annoying fire puzzles I've ever encountered. Until that point, I was to say this level is optional but then I realized nobody should go through that part. Even when I beat it and felt the biggest relief this month, I think it wasn't worth it, and cooling down again in the water part to actually solve it didn't help either. After placing the fuses I hoped for some better mid-game but got an awfully long wade through the sewer, so the concluding temple raid, although quite satisfying, couldn't make up for it again. I guess the overarching problem in this level, aside from the fire part, is the size - if every part is extended both on X and Z axis, then any included tedium gets squared. It was also a problem in the author's next level, however being a town map, it defended itself much better. Nonetheless the issue shouldn't be ignored and remains to be solved." - DJ Full (16-Sep-2022)
"Ryan has captured my sentiments quite nicely in his review, so I won't elaborate on them here. My playing time was just short of two hours, and during most of that time I found myself enjoying this level a great deal. The concept of a "cooling zone" (albeit unmarked and unadvertised) in the room with the flaming pipes was a nice touch, and I didn't really resent having to get past the flames a few more times than was really necessary. The secrets are plentiful and fruitful in the pickups they provide, and although I didn't experience the disappearing mechanical scarab bug near the end, I did encounter a more serious problem of a different nature. Once the spikes were triggered in my game, they didn't then become harmless as in other levels but kept popping out in sequence, making a safe passage through the corridor difficult (on the first trip) if not impossible (on the return trip). I've tried to steer clear of cheating in my old age, but since the builder had not disabled DOZY, and since I was playing in god mode, I was able to get through this sequence by flying close to the ceiling through the spikes along the corridor (in god mode the spikes kill only if you're standing on them). And then we come to that lava room with the dragon and its accompanying locusts. I was never able to get more than halfway along the platforms without being hit with a fireball, so I played that entire section enveloped in flames and then doused them just before completing the level by flying down into the lava. My philosophy is that if the builder doesn't treat his players fairly, then turnabout is certainly fair play. Anyway, a nice raid was spoiled by those concluding sequences, so I've deducted a point from gameplay but not from the other categories." - Phil (15-Mar-2022)
"This could have been a really enjoyable experience if a little more thought, consideration and testing had gone into it. Up until a certain point, I was enjoying the gameplay progression (minus the rather slow (literally) sections that required a lot of wading), the highlights being the ingenious reservoir area, the multi-level pushblock puzzle and the deadly basement area, even if having to backtrack past the flaming pipes continuously was something I could have done without. The construction is competent, the texture usage neat and music and atmosphere are executed well. Unfortunately I came across the infamous bug whereby if you save and have to reload, the mechanical scarab disappears and you're up the creek without a paddle. Luckily the builder left the flycheat enabled (I wasn't prepared to replay about an hour and a half's worth of gameplay), and since I had no other way out, I had to go ahead and use it. Surely there could have been some way to prevent this? The demigods were also overused and the final dragon area was a bit over the top. These things severely detracted from what was an otherwise perfectly pleasant gaming experience. Shame, really." - Ryan (01-Mar-2022)
"Nice relatively short level. It consists of two parts: the underground-like part where you collect the keys, and the cave lake part, where it's suddenly about Egypt. (Weird thematic change. I don't know what the "dark secret" was either.) The difficulty of the puzzles was almost exactly to my tastes, but maybe that's different for every player. Sometimes it was a bit frustrating. For example, there's the labyrinth with the fire-emitting pipes, where you have to get through in a limited time before you die from heat. There are some obstacles that look like you have to turn off the fire somewhere else, but you really have to get around directly by tricking the game engine. (Or maybe I used some bugs?) There's a similar part near the level's exit trigger. But in general I enjoyed the game play. The fire labyrinth is an example of creative level design in my opinion, that felt novel even after playing a lot of custom levels. The textures were nothing special, but it never looked ugly. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to ride the the bike. I'm looking forward to new levels by the author." - tuxraider (27-Feb-2022)
"I came upon this level as a new release and even though I usually don’t play new releases right away, I played this builder’s previous level so thought I’d give this one a try. What I liked about this level: 1) It plays beautifully on my lesser CPU PC, so thank you to the builder for that. 2) Classic TR music always a welcome treat. 3) Just a simple thing, but the “wood skid” textures on blocks were fantastic. Never seen that texture before and it fit perfectly... exactly how it would appear in a warehouse or construction site. 4) The lighting in the warehouse is really well done. The builder also has a good command of the “shadow” lighting. 5) Appreciated the safe spot to kill the guard without health loss in the pools area. 6) The small vine to mark a climbable wall… very nice. 7) Bravo for including cutscenes for switches, etc. What I thought could be improved: 1) Although I really appreciated the cooling station in the flaming pipes area, it could have been marked with slightly cooler lighting, slightly different textures or maybe drawing Lara’s attention there. Many possibilities to plant a subtle clue for poor players who are frantically losing their minds trying to navigate the area before bursting into flames. Conclusion: I thoroughly enjoyed playing this level. And even though there’s the potential for a few game stopping bugs, I did not specifically encounter them so was able to experience all gameplay intended by the builder. There were no impossible timed runs and only a few tricky platforming jumps, so would say the level is appropriate for average players comfortable with classic TR moves." - Lizard Queen (23-Feb-2022)
"Lara explores sewers to retrieve a diamond. I would also mention the electrical plugs, but confusingly those seem to be entirely optional. It's clear that there are three to collect, but I only got two of them and finished the level without using them. Maybe they're for some elaborate secret, but that means the main gameplay is very thin, and also easy to miss because it requires Lara jumping into dangerous-looking green water. If players are supposed to explore water, it should not look hazardous. There are two other things I took issue with, one being the plethora of demigods to gun down. If there were just two or three I would've enjoyed it, but having to combat eight of them is just tiring, and that's not counting the ones that appear during the boss fight. The other issue is the clockwork beetle, which gets confused in a certain corner between two spike strips, and has a 50/50 chance of backtracking across the first set of spikes instead of going across the second set. There were quite a few things I enjoyed though: the timed run through flame traps, the pushable block puzzle with raising blocks, and the challenging boss fight which requires performing tricky jumps while dodging the monster's flame attacks. I also really liked the visuals, which presented the variety of areas with distinct lighting and nice texture work. I'm glad I played this adventure, but it would have helped to have a clearer sense of what tasks were optional and what were not. 48 minutes." - JesseG (18-Feb-2022)
"The setting here is a sort of mix of a sewer and base that leads into some ancient ruins. It being mostly in sewers does make some of the main areas cramped tunnels, but there's a nice sense of creepy atmosphere to the gloomy underground, and some nice sights in the moments where it does open up to bigger set-piece designs (especially the last area). Objects are used well and the different themes transition smoothly (although the ruins felt like they could have slightly more to them) with the one weakness being the standard Demigod enemies not fitting very well. Lighting and texturing support this well and there's some strong coloured lighting that generally works and gives it a bit of a Tomb Raider 3 vibe. There's nothing super-impressive but it's all fine.
Gameplay is mainly based around a hunt for some fuse objects with offshoots from the hub area that lead onto other areas and challenges. The gameplay moments are generally decent, with varying pacing and some more experimental ideas too (like a timed escape from an overheating area). There's also a bit of a shift towards more action later, although Demigods feel a bit overused in that regard, and the final boss area was a bit frustrating with the bombardment of locusts and fireballs without much room to move. One big issue however is that I accidentally skipped about a third of the level the first time (and could have potentially done it earlier and missed more), as the objects you are supposed to disable to access the end parts were somehow off part way through and I went to the later part without even realising until the very end. Since I couldn't replicate it from the save I did it from I was going to write this off as a one-off bug, but from other reviews it seems this has happened to others so it's seemingly quite easy to come across, and therefore it affected the score. That unfortunately means I ended up doing back and doing a chunk of the level out of order. The semi-major progression bug aside this is a good map; it doesn't have much especially standout, but it's pretty breezy outside of one or two difficulty spikes, and has a nice moody atmosphere with a sense of progress as you go deeper into the underground areas it's set in." - Mman (17-Feb-2022)
"I really love everything about this level, I like this mistery/dark vibes like TRAOD style. I even like the skin/outfit from Lara, it's a mix between TRAOD and TR3 face model which is my favoruite! As a veteran of the saga for me, was not so hard and really enjoyable. The only annoying things was in the fire room and the last part where Lara was highly infiammable, but it's still okay, nothing impossible to handle. Sounds where the perfect fit and it gave me a lot of feels, especially the one from TR3! Keep up the work and I've also done the complete video walkthrough with all items and secrets collected on my YT channel! :)" - Saki Croft (12-Feb-2022)
"(5) Gameplay & Puzzles: This is a medium-to-challenging level that took me about 2 hr 30 min. It has 3 distinct visual themes; Sewers, Base, and Catacombs. For the most part, it has simple platforming, except for the Catacombs section, which is quite challenging in terms of agility-based tasks. When you start the level, you approach a green pool, which acts as a central hub area. Initially, swimming in this pool will kill you, due to currents created by spinning fans. The player will find out that they need to find 3 electrical plugs. From this central pool hub area, there are 4 separate gameplay areas: A) flame pipes maze, B) two reservoirs area, C) multi-level pushblock puzzle area, and D) Catacombs area. Firstly, I want to say what I liked about this level: the exploration in these areas is interesting, as is the problem-solving. I especially enjoyed the two reservoirs area, and the flooding/draining required of these two reservoirs in order to progress. It is also player-friendly of the builder to include a safe zone in the flame pipes maze (where your "temperature" meter does not dwindle), however I will write more about this in the Lightning & Textures section. So, while the problem-solving is interesting, there are unfortunately huge issues with progression. What I believe is supposed to happen: the player finds 3 electrical plugs in areas A), B) and C), inserts them into machinery, and then the green pool fans will stop spinning, thus allowing the player to dive in and access to the final section, D) Catacombs. But the thing is, the player can safely jump into the center pool even without finding 3 electric plugs, or inserting any of the plugs (I found 2 and then jumped into the sewer pool, and the currents were no longer active, so I went straight to the Catacombs). This means that the player can accidentally skip huge chunks of gameplay, which should not be allowed. Something buggy in the whole gameplay flow deactivates the currents in the green pool. I'm not sure what. I encourage the builder to check adrielvicio's 1/31 blind youtube playthrough, in which he finishes the game at 1 hr 12 min without ever accessing the two reservoirs area. I finished the game with 2 electrical plugs in my inventory, feeling very confused. (6) Enemies, Objects & Secrets: Earlier in the game, the goon encounters are well-executed. Later on, in the Catacombs area, there are 9 (!) Egyptian demigods. Not only does their existence underneath modern sewers seem ill-fitting, that is way too many of an already annoying enemy. The giant snake is an awesome endgame encounter. Unfortunately I encountered a couple of softlocks related to enemies and objects. In the Catacombs area, I ran around in circles for ages because I couldn't find the mechanical scarab key. What happened was that the demigod who drops the key died near a militia static object, and the key was hidden underneath the militia. As the militia is an object with collision, I could not grab the key. The other softlock is pertaining to using the mechanical scarab. Here, the scarab needs to travel across two paths, and there is a bug where if you save/load, the scarab can disappear. I think it's important to include a README warning the player of this, as the player will instinctively want to save here, due to Lara needing to dodge some timed spikes in order to follow the scarab. The static object decor is attractive; no issues there. (8) Atmosphere, Sound & Cameras: The atmosphere and architecture is interesting and professionally done, with no area looking boxy. I think the strongest aspect of the game is the builder's use of music and sound cues. There are quite a lot of subtle sounds that enhance immersion, such as the fountain noises in the Catacombs area. There is the wrong sound when Lara is shot, however. Flybys are also attractive and professional, although I think some static camera hints needed more clarification. What happens sometimes is that you activate a sewer a door, and a static camera points to it, but it's not very clear which sewer door it is, as there are many. (8) Lighting & Textures: It's a darker level, but the builder is very generous with flares, so I had no issues with visibility. The lighting is for the most part attractive, however the builder uses very intense red and pink colored lighting sometimes in the sewers. I do not think it is a good fit. It seems to me that the builder is going for a realistic, grimy sewer environment... in this case I think its possible to go overboard with intense colored lighting, making the aesthetic look cartoonish. The texture application is polished, with very few misshapen textures. However there are a couple of texture issues that detracted from immersion: some water plant textures have a thin magenta line on the edge, and water surface textures are entirely missing, which looks especially weird in larger water surface areas such as the two reservoirs. Earlier in this review I mentioned a safe zone in the flame pipes maze. But there is no visual indicator that it is a safe zone -- the player will stumble upon it by trial-and-error. Why not include some bluish lighting or textures, to indicate dampness/wetness and that the heat won't harm Lara in this area? Overall: I'm disappointed, I'm sorry to say. This needed more testing. The exploration starts off interesting, with neat problem-solving tasks that really make you think, but unfortunately the progression becomes buggy and messy, with the player being able to accidentally skip huge chunks of gameplay. 5/6/8/8." - nerdfury (01-Feb-2022)
"This 2nd level by Igor is definitely better than his Debut level (which was really dark from start to finish). His 2nd offering is decent, unfortunately there are some annoying problems that I found:

Gameplay & Puzzles: Gameplay consists of exploring the sewer (honestly I wouldn't call it sewers more like a base or something) and getting 3 electric plugs to reach a catacomb area and get the gem. the challenges in this level are okay however the flame room was really punishing because there's no way to replenish the temperature and the flames are turn off and turn on really fast, not to forget the fact that the sewer and the flame room is big, long and maze-like constructed which is really annoying. There's a flame where it prevents Lara from going up the ladder but I never found a switch to turn it off, so I had to go far left to omit the collision. the water flip room was ok aswell though it was annoying to go around the pit to reach the other pit 3 times for a plug which annoyed me a lot.

Enemies, Objects & Secrets: Enemies are okay, there are very few of them and you are provided with a huge load of ammo, I never used my shotgun which had 48x rounds as I used my m16 with 500 rounds. Objects are not lit properly as they appear too bright in some places and secrets were good, found 5/9

Atmosphere, Sound & Cameras: Atmosphere is good however, the maze-like structure and long corridors made me really annoyed and stuck at most times. Ambience and variety of audio is really good however there were some sfx missing though.

Lighting & Textures: Lighting is decent, contrast is shown with coloured lights. Though I though there was too much colour in one room with no source, creating rainbow in the room and their intensity was too high. The distance fog was really unnecessary especially in the catacomb area.

Summary: In summary I think this level is better than the Author's debut level, clearly shows an improvement. However there is still much to improve but I am hoping that the author will create something spectacular." - Kubsy (30-Jan-2022)