Nothing is lost forever
Having never been a fan of the Tomb Raider (or subsequently the Lara Croft) series, I was more or less indifferent to the The Guardian of Light’s release. However, the positive reviews, easy $15 price point, and eventual inclusion of online cooperative play led me to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised, as Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light is not only a highly competent action/puzzle game, but it’s also one of the best cooperative gems you can get for fifteen bucks.
After stagnating for over a decade, the series has shifted gears into an almost Diablo-esque action game. The Guardian of Light harbors the same isometric view, involves a fair amount of “loot lust”, and provides a similar kind of button mashy action. That being said, this is no clone in the slightest- not only is it a move that makes sense for the franchise (raiding tombs leads to “phat lewts”), but there are plenty of subtle changes and additions to that core. The first and foremost of which is the heavy emphasis that The Guardian of Light puts on puzzles, and practically all of them are designed extremely well. They make clever use of your characters’ abilities and provide solid challenges that never feel too obvious or too obscure. They're good at slowly building in complexity, and even play off of the cooperative dynamic in interesting ways. It’s just a ton of fun trying to figure these things out with a friend, and all told my favorite gameplay moments occurred while trying to solve a particularly tricky puzzle.
Otherwise, The Guardian of Light contains plenty of action, ranging from dual joystick shooting to some intense platforming. It all controls very well, and the game’s many enemies and scenarios do a great job at showcasing your wide variety of weapons and moves. Whether you’re pumping bullets into crazy demons, torching a horde of spiders, or running away from a giant boulder along a collapsing bridge, everything feels just right. The game also knows how to pace itself surprisingly well, effectively bouncing back and forth between puzzles, combat, and platforming. In fact, if there’s anything for me to gripe about it’s a few technical and presentational issues. By far the worst is the annoying camera- it tugs you back and forth if you don’t stay close enough to your ally, which caused us a lot of unnecessary deaths during the game's more heated moments. The fickle re-spawning certainly didn’t help matters any, and the general narrative and dialog were both pretty forgettable. These are minor gripes at most, but were still unfortunate to see.
The only other thing that could be held against The Guardian of Light is that it’s probably not as exciting as a single player experience. I was fortunate enough to play the game in its entirety with a friend, and by that measure it’s a fantastic game. It wraps excellent puzzles, solid combat, and some nifty platforming together in a lengthy, well priced package, and you’d be hard pressed to find many better games to play with a friend than Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.
For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.