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Tomb Raider II

(eidos interactive) pc cd-rom, on release pounds 39.99

She's had her hair done, bought some new outfits and she's all set for a new series of adventures. Yes, Lara Croft, the buxom brunette who sent pulses racing in Tomb Raider, has returned for your gaming pleasure in the cleverly titled .

Thanks to some canny marketing by Eidos Interactive, the game's publishers, the original Tomb Raider achieved saturation coverage in both specialist and mainstream publications. Much of the interest focused on the character of Lara Croft; there was something about this upper-class, female version of Indiana Jones which captured the imagination.

Whatever the reasons behind it, there's no disputing that Lara has become an industry icon and is well on the road to superstardom. Her face has graced the covers of The Sunday Times Magazine, The Face and FHM among others. She's toured with U2, has numerous websites devoted to her and there's a CD and a film in the pipeline. The world is at her feet.

But for now she's got some tomb raiding to do.

This time around, Lara is in search of the mythical Dagger of Xian, which will bestow "the power of the dragon" on whoever possesses it. Having heard that the Dagger rests within The Great Wall of China, that is where she begins her quest, but a trail of clues takes her to the four corners of the earth. However, she is not alone in her pursuit of The Dagger.

TRII retains the mixture of exploration, puzzle solving and killing people that made the first game such a success. You can also wrestle with tigers, swim with sharks, explore underwater caverns, drive speedboats and ride on snow scooters . The new Lara is also more responsive, so there's no excuse for that embarrassing plunge down the ravine.

All in all, this is a much more complete game than the original. The environment is on a larger scale and the puzzles are much tougher. The computer gives you very little guidance, so the onus is on you to take the initiative.

The whole package is bound together by a series of full-motion video sequences which allow the story to unfold naturally and enhance the cinematic feel.

Visually it's is a treat, though it can be a bit sluggish if run without 3D acceleration. If you have an accelerator card, expect fluid animation, detailed backgrounds and great lighting effects.

Does it live up to the hype? Not quite. But then there's no way a game hyped as much as this one could live up to its billing unless Eidos gave away a real-life Lara Croft with every copy. It's still pretty awesome though and is sure to be a massive hit this Christmas.

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