Balls of Gold
For a game involving such a busty woman, it’s surprising to see just how many balls are in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. As Lara’s first adventure in an isometric perspective, the game really sets itself apart from the Tomb Raider series as it focuses on having fun, and exploring the game world. The story is generic and obvious, and there are only three characters, which doesn’t exactly help the situation. However, the game is built upon solid gameplay and endless replayability rather than a strong story.
As far as treasure hunting games go, this game won’t disappoint. It features more than enough unlockable and collectible items to last a long, long time. Lara acquires both weapons and artifacts/relics (which provide stat buffs and special abilities) through exploration as well as completion of reward challenges along with attaining highscores for each level. These items all have different uses and thus each are inherently valuable despite where you are in the game. The sheer number of weapons available ensures that you’ll be able to find the load-out that suits you. Although only three weapons can be equipped along with Totec’s spear, you’ll be able to choose from weapons such as grenade and rocket launchers as well as golden shotguns and dual SMGs.
Despite the game’s sound foundation, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light can get repetitive, as sequences end up repeating with only slight variations. Balls are literally everywhere and are used to plug flaming pits, open gateways, and even to kill enemies. Although seeing Lara roll around large balls is interesting for the first few hours, the lack of variety in the puzzles is disappointing. The weapons also end up repeating as newer weapons are merely higher-power iterations of previous guns (shotgun to high-power shotgun). The game doesn’t really do much to shake up the shooting either, although the introduction of relic powers which enable power-ups like scatter shot and power shot does provide a little added depth.
Multiplayer is currently only a local affair although Crystal Dynamics has promised Xbox Live support in the near future. The multiplayer in the game is a co-op mode which follows the entire story with slight variations as Totec is controlled by the second player. This changes things a fair amount because in solo play, Totec is never actually present during gameplay. Co-op is a much more enjoyable experience than the single player mode as the game world changes in subtle ways to accommodate two human players with the addition of new mechanics such as using Totec’s shield to block projectiles and even to provide a platform for Lara to jump off. The game really shines in cooperative play when both players can act cohesively to complete objectives and to navigate the hazards of Xolotl’s world.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the final release in Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade, and it closes the promotion more than adequately. The game is separated from the main Tomb Raider series, but still manages to pull the best elements of those games into a totally new experience. With meaty gameplay and solid controls, this game is worth at least a single playthrough, if not more, to explore a world filled with hidden areas and challenges that lead to numerous unlockable items.