Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light iOS Review
Last summer, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light dropped on Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network, and turned out to be a great top-down dungeon crawling experience, packed with intuitive two-stick combat and a phenomenal cooperative mode.
Six months later, Square Enix has ported Guardian of Light to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, with a crazy degree of faithfulness to the original release. The iOS version is, in fact, almost exactly the same game, and although it has scaled-back graphics and virtual touchscreen controls, it plays just as well as it did on an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3.
Lara Croft and the Guardian (IPhone [Reviewed], XBox360, PS3, IPad, PC)
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: September 28, 2010
A quick rundown for anyone who missed the review last time around: Lara Croft, you know, the tomb-raider, stars in this installment that’s in many ways a simplified version of her other exploits. It involves an artifact that contains an ancient evil, which evil guys have released, leaving it up to Lara and the titular Guardian of Light to recapture said evil.
The game features a full single-player mode, in which you’ll use virtual controls on the touchscreen to run around temples and jungles, climbing, jumping and shooting away at various evil monster-type enemies. Meanwhile, you’ll be collecting new guns and weapons, as well as a host of other objects. Guardian of Light includes some arcade elements, like a points scoring system, and is packed full of collectibles to find that increase your abilities and outfit you with new weapons.
Each level of the game includes several different challenges that take you beyond just solving the story-driven puzzles in each stage. You’ll be asked to hit a high score, or find a certain number of objects, or destroy certain enemies, or solve puzzles in certain ways.
All of those things add a whole lot of replay value and depth to an already engaging game. Whenever you’re not in combat — and sometimes when you are — you’ll be solving some creative and challenging puzzles, although they never get all that difficult.
The iPhone and iPad ports of the game are pretty solid, despite the fact that you don’t use a controller to play them. I’m usually not a big fan of virtual controls, but Guardian of Light works well at managing the two-stick system, as well as various other buttons for changing weapons, rolling and the like. It definitely takes some getting used to in order to get around and not get massacred in fights, but once you’re familiar, the iPhone and iPad setup works just fine. Playing the game on iPad is best, because the iPhone’s limited real estate means your thumbs cover more of the action, but both versions are generally problem-free.
Guardian of Light’s single-player campaign is great, but where the original downloadable title shone brightest was with its co-op mode. While you can solve all the game’s puzzles in single-player modes with various tools, when you add in a second player, all those same puzzles require teamwork and creative thinking to solve.
The iOS versions of Guardian of Light support co-op, too, but it’s all based online. Unfortunately, it still seems a bit hinky — connecting takes a long time, and match-ups struggle with lag and crashing. All of these seem to be issues that could be fixed with a title update, and given how well the rest of game works, the co-op issues seem forgivable for the time being, provided they get fixed.
When it comes to porting games from consoles to iOS devices, Guardian of Light sets a new standard, bringing a pretty much perfect version to another platform, and adapting it to work just as well. Just as long as Square Enix irons out the kinks with co-op, Guardian of Light will represent one of the stronger and more complete gaming experiences on the iPhone and iPad.
- Pretty much an exact port of the XBLA and PSN title
- Quality, responsive virtual control scheme
- All the achievements, collectibles, challenges and exploration of the original
- Lots of intuitive and challenging, though not too difficult, puzzles to solve
- Great single-player campaign; better co-op version
- iPhone’s small screen occasionally puts action under your thumbs on virtual controls
- Lag and crash issues with co-op that need fixing
- Virtual controls take some getting used to