Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Review
By - Craig H.
The last few installments of the Tomb Raider series have been less then spectacular (to say the least). The series is looking to bring back the magic that made Lara Croft the recognizable character she is today. The brand has dropped the “Tomb Raider” manicure and is simply “Lara Croft”. The team at Crystal Dynamics is looking to change the way we play Lara Croft by opting for an isometric viewpoint with a fixed camera and an arcade style gameplay mechanic.
Two thousand years ago in Central America a war was brewing between the Army of Light and a dark spirit named Xolotl. A Mayan warrior, Totec, is the leader of the Army of Light and is the one who eventually defeated Xolotl and concocted a way to entrap Xolotl’s spirit. Totec built the Temple of Light, trapped Xolotl in the “Mirror of Light”, and entomb himself to make sure that Xolotl never escapes. In the present day, Lara Croft is on the hunt for the Mirror of Light and has found its location. When she reaches the artifact she is ambushed by following mercenaries who do not know the power of the artifact. Once the mercenaries grab the Mirror of Light from its stand it releases Xolotl from his prison and awakens Totec from his tomb. Totec quickly explains who Xolotl is to Lara and the immediate need to return him to his prison. Without question Lara joins forces with Totec and your story begins.
Those who are afraid that the classic Tomb Raider puzzle solving and platforming are going to be hindered by the new arcade gameplay and fixed camera should not fret. The game holds true to the franchise but also brings more combat to the series. You will plow through hundreds of enemies throughout the 5-6 hour campaign while still solving plenty of puzzles. Lara and Totec will have loads of weapons at their disposal which get more powerful as you venture through the story. The weapons include a throwing spear, handguns, shotguns, rifles, rocket launchers, and grenade launchers. Both Lara and Totec have an unlimited supply of remote mines that are used for both killing enemies and solving puzzles. Within each level you will find “Challenge Tombs” that you can test your puzzle solving skills. These tombs are optional but will provide an artifact that can be used to boost your characters attributes. These challenges can range from easy to head scratching (but always satisfying).
Each level keeps track of the points you earn by killing enemies, avoiding damage and collecting gems. The levels also feature various side quests such as collect all 10 red skulls scattered throughout the level, blow up all the trucks, landing boulders on stands, and much more. The game provides plenty of incentive to either replay levels or take your time the first play through. After each level you will see your score as well as all the challenges achieved before proceeding to the next level (with the option to replay immediately).
The game features a local co-op play (online to be available September 28, 2010) that has one player controlling Lara and the other controlling Totec. The puzzles are the same for both the single and co-op modes but switch the way you have to complete them. The co-op is handled by the characters sharing a single camera and are provided a set zoom distance (i.e. the camera can only zoom out so far). Teamwork is key and the two heroes will not be able to save the day without each others help. Points are not shared between the two players so the gems and points are first-come first-serve and will likely require multiple playthroughs to achieve the high scores. With plenty of incentives to replay this is not an issue.
Overall, Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light is an excellent refresh to the Lara Croft franchise but also stays true to what made the series so revered today. At $15 is hard to find another downloadable title that packs this much content (the download rings in at 2.02GB). With 5 DLC packs planned before years end it looks like it will receive plenty of post release attention. After a few mediocre games the Lara Croft franchise is back and better than ever.
- Co-op play is excellent (and going to be even better with online play)
- Interesting puzzles
- Loads of collectibles and side challenges
- 5 DLC Packs already announced for 2010
- Great variety of weapons
- Some repetitive gameplay
- Camera can make it hard to judge distance at times