Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

The Tomb Raider series may have reached an unwinnable status with gamers. The early games are now so revered for their exploration, atmosphere and Lara Croft’s sophistication of control, that the best developer, Crystal Dynamics can ever hope to do is ape it. They cannot surpass it. They can’t change how Lara controls, the situations she can exist in or the structure and mechanics of the game, for these things are set in stone. They have become as solid and ancient and revered as the very tombs in the game and Crystal Dynamics are trapped within the series’ structure, uselessly pulling levers and running up and down spike filled corridors. The best they can hope for, no matter how hard they try, is 7/10. With Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light they have taken a rather large run up and leapt a chasm, reaching out for a new platform, but will they do a lovely little handstand when they reach the other side or fall into a big pit of lava?

Dropping the Tomb Raider moniker frees the developer a little to do something different with Lara and with this downloadable title there’s plenty of ways in which the game parts with tradition. Most importantly it’s a co-op game so Lara’s no longer alone in her adventure. She’s joined by  Totec, an ancient Mayan warrior. They each have a different set of moves and so work together to solve environmental puzzles, with Totec able to throw spears into walls for Lara to climb up on and Totec can tightrope walk on Lara’s grapple hook. If you do want to play alone you don’t get an AI partner. Instead you take on an amalgam of the two characters skills and the puzzles are tweaked slightly to make them traversable for a lone explorer.

Importantly for fans, Lara still feels very much like her lithe self. Those familiar with the Tomb Raider games will slip easily into Lara’s boots. The one issue is I have is that her jump feels a little over extended and it’s quite easy to completely hurdle a platform you’re aiming for and go arse over massive tits on the far side of it. Of course this could be a little to do with making the adjustment to the isometric viewpoint the game uses but in general the viewpoint works pretty well. The levels feel big and complex and the graphics are very rich and crisp, although a little on the dark side with too much of a brown tinge to everything for my personal taste. For some reason there’s a massive arsenal of weaponry to collect and use including rail guns, grenade launchers and unlimited remote triggered bombs. It doesn’t feel necessary or very in keeping with the still prevalent theme of exploration and puzzle solving but it fits with the new arcade element of duel stick weapon control and point collecting from kills.

Overall it’s a nice package. There’s a good mix of puzzles and action to please fans and those who prefer something more visceral. Equally, the levels are short and entertaining enough for arcade gamers who just want a quick blast and yet the environments are elaborate and the quality very high for a downloadable title so the balance of the old and new is maintained there too. Crystal Dynamics haven’t solved the puzzle of what to do with Tomb Raider’s future by timing their jumps or pulling the right lever. Instead they’ve found a crack in the walls of the tomb they’ve been trapped in and slipped out the side door. It feels like cheating in a way. The key to Miss Croft’s future is still missing, likely hidden in some spiked pit somewhere. But it’s time to let go of the analogies and with them my own fretting about the series. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is an excellent arcade game and absolutely worth the 1200 MS points. Once the game releases on PSN on 28th of September online co-op will be enabled for all versions followed by five DLC packs with new maps, puzzles and characters.







One response to “Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light”

  1. Ogami Itto avatar
    Ogami Itto

    Nice review. I just finished this and thought it was the most enjoyable co-op game i’ve played since Little Big Planet. I lost count of the times i couldn’t breath for laughter after i’d ‘accidentally’ caused Totec to plumet to his death by taking an over-curious interest in levers whilst he was jumping platforms. Great stuff and one of the most daring and triumphant reinventions of a classic franchise since Resi 4.

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