Posted on August 16, 2010, Phil Hornshaw Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Review
When I fired up Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for the first time, having not even really seen screen shots of the game, I was…confused.
A top-down dungeon crawler? Really?
Oh, me of little faith – not only is the overhead X-Men Legends style the right choice for LCGoL’s versatile gameplay and layered levels, it helps integrate a co-op mode that infuses a ton more fun in an already great game.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (PS3 [Reviewed], XBox360, PC, IPhone, IPad)
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: September 28, 2010
There’s a story here, but it’s pretty uninvolved. Lara was in pursuit of an ancient Aztec artifact – the Mirror of Smoke – until a local warlord caught wind of her exploits and put a gun to her head to make her find it for him. Upon locating the mirror, an ancient evil is released by the name of Xolotl, which also summons his arch-nemesis, Totec, the Guardian of Light.
The result sends players through some sprawling temples, complete with all the Indiana Jones booby traps and mechanisms one might expect. Each level loads out with a list of challenges to be completed, and this is where LC really shines. The challenges range from hitting high scores (achieved mostly in combat and collecting diamonds scattered around the ground) to speed runs, from gathering up a set of collectibles to beating level-specific traps in a certain amount of time or with a certain method.
Each challenge – and there are quite a few of them – provides you with a new weapon, an upgrade to your health or ammo bars, or an item that boosts stats or gives a special attack. There are even more of them just hidden throughout the levels. With all these things to find and do, LC becomes a completionist’s dream, requiring multiple playthroughs with a different mindset each time to nail all the challenges and ultimately unlock all its weapons, artifacts and achievements.
But things get really fun when a second controller is turned on. LC plays just fine for a single player – all the puzzles can be completed alone. But bringing a second person, who takes on the role of Totec, means all the puzzles instantly require intuitive thinking and teamwork to complete.
There are several different ways to the two characters interact in various situations, and while the puzzles are challenging without being difficult for a single player, with a teammate the require a little more lateral thinking. All of the puzzles are just difficult enough to be satisfying, even if there aren’t any brain-busters.
Combat is similarly satisfying. Totec and Lara gather up guns from their explots, which can be assigned to different spots on the D-Pad for quick switches. Movement is handled with the Left Analog stick, targeting with the right, in the style of a two-stick shooter. The right trigger employed for firing. Enemies usually come in swarms, leaving Lara and Totec to dodge big huge enemies with sweeping attacks, jumping to safety and leaving behind bombs to slow pursuers. But unlike other games of similar setup, there’s no accidental team-killing or irritating shoving off ledges going on.
Fighting in LC is best when it’s a frantic affair that has your thinking diverted in two directions. One boss battle, for example, has numerous challenges going on – things to collect and stuff to blow up. All this while the boss, a huge dinosaur who can’t be hurt by weapons, goes charging around the arena. And as the battle progresses, more and more enemies show up. There’s a lot of dodging and diving going on, and one boss battle can take 20 minutes or more with so many things to accomplish. Then you play it again to get a challenge for finishing it in two minutes.
In fact, all those extra things to do – collections, speed runs, score challenges – mean that LC lasts a good long time for your money, especially for an Xbox Live Arcade title. One playthrough will take maybe 10 or 12 hours, but finding and doing everything will probably take a total of two or three run-throughs. You’ll play the game through to hit speed challenges and again to make sure you found everything.
For 1,200 Microsoft Points or about $15 on the Playstation Network, LC is a great value, especially because completing all those challenges is fun and rewarding the whole way through. Oh, and after you’ve found everything there is to find, Leaderboards and competitive co-op can bring you back for additional competition.
Fun, intuitive co-op
Challenges demand different methods of gameplay
Lots of replay value from so much to complete
Puzzles are never very challenging