Lara Croft and the old review I'm posting
The years have been unkind to Lara Croft. Every sequel to the original hit Tomb Raider never quite lived up to the first, and in some cases just were just downright awful games. So when I head a new Tomb Raider game was coming out for Xbox live arcade, and that it was taking the series in a whole new direction, I thought "well it's gotta be better the Angel of Darkness right?" Actually, this is no Tomb Raider at all! This is Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, taking the game from a third person action/adventure perspective to a duel joystick shooter with an isometric point of view.
The plot is simple; some bad guy steals "the mirror of smoke" which unleashes the big baddie Xolotl, who then runs away with the mirror. Also awakened is Totec, the ancient Mayan guardian of light who tells Lara that if they do not return the mirror before dawn, the world is doomed! So they head off to track down and defeat Xolotl together, or not if you’re playing solo. On singleplayer the end of every cutseen ends with "you go north I'll go west." Whereas in co-op they just say "let's go north!" That's one thing that struck me as odd was the voice acting, it's got a very old school Saturday morning cartoon vibe going on complete with cheesy dialog. The only person who sounds ok is Lara Croft herself, although that may just be because I can't tell the difference between a good or bad British voice actor.
Even with the change in perspective, Lara still gets her Tomb Raidin' on, as there is plenty of platforming, puzzle solving, and shooting action. Boy is there shooting action, with 28 different weapons to unlock ranging from her classic duel pistols to assault rifles, sub machineguns, flamethrowers, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, shotguns, and various different spears to throw, you always have new and fun ways to destroy your enemies. There is also a perk system that allows you to equip artifacts and relics that affect stats such as weapon damage, bomb size, defense, and speed. Each level comes with a list of challenges that reward you with new weapons, relics, and stat boosts as well, which gives you reasons to go replay earlier levels to get more bonuses. The puzzles come early and often, most of them involving the use of your unlimited mines, grappling hook, or your spear that you can throw into walls to use as a makeshift ledge. Even though the puzzles are all pretty quick and easy to solve, they still make you feel smart whenever you finish one. They do seem a bit dumbed down when on singlelpayer though.
This brings me to the main focus, Multiplayer. When I first played through by myself, I thought it strange that most of the puzzles required you to place a movable boulder on a switch or platform in order to solve it. However it wasn't until I played through on co-op that I realized something, to put it simply, this was designed to be a co-op game. In fact, almost all of the puzzles are modified to take advantage of a second player and their unique abilities. Lara Croft has her grappling hook, which when attached to a specified ring doubles as a right rope that Totec can walk across, while Totec can create paths that only Lara can jump to using his spears. The guardian of light is too large for the spears to support his weight, so Lara has to grapple onto him and pull him up. All these separate abilities make you rely on your co-op buddy in order to continue to the next area. Multiplayer is amazingly fun and fast paced, and is reminiscent of games like Lego Star Wars, where it's just you and your buddy sitting on a couch and going through an adventure together.
What was the key point you should have paid attention to in that last sentence? Sitting on a couch. Unfortunately at launch, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light does not have online multiplayer, which is a giant bummer. The developer Crystal Dynamics has said they will patch in online co-op at the smae time as the release of the PS3 and Steam versions on September 28th. While were talking about bummers I would like to say that, while for the most part this game ran smoothly, I did run into quite a few bugs. Some of these ranging from the annoying, e.g., continuously firing for a few seconds after I let off the trigger and not being able to change weapons for minutes at a time, the latter of which happened on more than one occasion. To gaming ending glitches where I could not move on to the next area and had to restart the level, one of these instances happened on the very first screen of the game. But hey, glitches happen, and as the publisher has already announced five DLC packs to be released before the end of the year hopefully one of those will fix it, just be weary that you will most likely run into some strange bugs.
Don't let that last paragraph bring you down though, the game is still fun to play and the promise of new levels and new playable characters coming in DLC (the first of which will be free for 360 owners) will give you reasons to keep coming back to the Guardian of Light over time. If you can look past a few bugs and can stand to play by yourself for a while, then I definitely recommend picking this up.