Co-op raiding in a great digital package.
Let me set this up a bit. My marriage was in trouble. Okay, maybe I shouldn't be that dramatic. I'm happily married with a great wife and one game that we literally spent hours working together in the past to finish was Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for the Playstation 2. Killing wave after wave of evil spawn while competing against each other for the gold and loot, we loved every moment of it. But that is way back in the year 2001 and sadly, we never found a game that we both enjoyed and grew apart. She played her games, I played mine. Disappointing. Thankfully, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have came together and released Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, a game that finds a great way for two players to work together to conquer the puzzles and enemies.
This is not your usual Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics has turned the third-person, action-adventure game on its head and instead created an isometric game but keeping elements that fans are familiar with. Lara Croft is still the heroine looking for a lost treasure known as the "Mirror of Smoke" in the Temple of Shadows. Things go badly and awakes the evil demon god, Xolotl along with the man that put him away years ago, Totec, the Guardian of Light. Working together, Lara and Totec they must travel through the temple and all the dangers hidden within. There isn't much for a storyline but it sets up the game nicely and all you know is that if it moves, shoot it and if it sparkles, collect it.
The game may have two characters but it is completely possible to play the game in the single player mode and it works well. Lara has all the tools available to her to traverse the terrain and solve each puzzle using her grapple hook to wall run, climb and swing across obstacles but she also has access to Totec's spear to create steps to places that would normally out of her reach. When the game needs you to be in two places at the same time, usually a large stone globe can be found to keep weigh down stepping stones. It works without feeling like you are missing out on something only available to players with friends. Grab that extra body though.
The game really shines when you start the multiplayer. Sadly, Crystal Dynamics has delayed online multiplayer for XBLA and plans to release it later with the PS3 and PC copies. Sharing the couch and the television, two players can enjoy local co-op. Lara has access to her grapple hook but now Totec carries the spear along with a shield to block incoming missles, arrows and as a stepping stone to reach those previous heights. Relying on each others tools and abilities, teamwork is necessary but the game reminds us we still want to be competitive.
When it comes to the carrot on the stick, prompts appear to remind players that there are challenges available like jumping between different steps without touching the ground or beating a boss within a certain time limit. If you are victorious, you get loot that augments the your character with special powers that the player would want to look for. To top it off, after completing each level, a summary appears with what you did find but shows what you missed. It helps with replay value to go back and try to finish the challenges that you couldn't figure out the first time or may have completely forgot about.
Throughout the game, loot is constantly tempting us to go and collect the diamonds, relics and complete the extra puzzle rooms but the action keeps it moving without feeling stale. It creates an urgency to constantly be shooting the demons for points, dashing to collect the gems for a friendly but cutthroat fight between the players. Although there were moments where my wife and I griefed each other (I swear, I always worry when I span a gap and my wife has my life in her hands), we found it to be a great arcade title. It has brought back laughter and teamwork to something that we both lost after all these years. For those who can't find a buddy, the game will still keep you entertained but if you have somebody ready to take up the second controller, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a game you have to buy.