As posted on Videogame Jungle.
Time and time again Eidos tell us that they are “re-inventing” Tomb Raider. They said this about Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, and are now rebooting the franchise once again for an upcoming game simply titled Tomb Raider, releasing sometime this year.
This time, however, they have truly changed up the experience, with Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light (GOL). Although you may have noticed the words “Tomb Raider” are strangely absent from the game’s title.
In any case, GOL is a great game. Leaving the third-person camera behind, it favours the top-down isometric perspective, as seen in games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Diablo.
The real beauty of GOL comes through the game’s two-player co-op. Sure, you could play the game’s single-player with slightly differing puzzles, but this game was made for co-op. In the story of GOL there are two characters: Lara Croft & Totec, a scantily clad Mayan tribesman wearing even less clothes than Lara.
He is the so-called Guardian of Light. Humanity is under threat from an evil spirit and the only chance for mankind’s survival is for Totec to team up with the tiger-killing and artifact-stealing Lara Croft.
Ms. Croft is equipped with a grappling hook, used used by both Totec and herself to climb up walls, and to create a line for Totec to walk across large gaps.
Totec also has some neat abilities of his own: a shield that can deflect enemy attacks and propel Lara to out-of-reach places. His spear can be thrown at enemies and stuck into walls to create paths in which Lara can climb. Unfortunately, Totec must’ve been eating far too many monkeys and assorted animal crackers, as he falls through the spears if he tries to attempt the same trick Lara pulls off so effortlessly.
Both characters can place unlimited explosives (though one at a time), across the environment, which display a circle to show the full radius of the blast. Just try not to blow each other up in the process.
The combat is like a twin-stick shooter, holding the right trigger, and pointing the right analogue stick in the direction you want to fire or spear-throw. There’s an assortment of weapons both Lara and Totec (yes, even 2000-year-old warriors can wield guns) collect on their adventures together; pistols, rifles, rocket launchers and flamethrowers for example. The bad guys should really stop leaving their weapons just lying around!
In co-op, the levels are designed in such a way that Lara and Totec need to co-operate, using each other’s abilities to progress. Usually, the tasks are reaching higher places, standing on switches, or helping revive the other. I played the full game with a friend (I played as Lara), though we did swap controllers for some of the tricky stuff. Usually found in the glowing challenge rooms are optional puzzles that leave you scratching your head from their clerverness.
The story, dialogue, and short cut scenes are easily forgettable, but GOL offers up such a fun gameplay experience it’s hard to argue with where Crystal Dynamics spent their time and money.
My favourite scenes come when the world begins crumbling around you (much like in Uncharted 2), as you run along decrepit stone bridges, and avoid spiked booby-traps.
There are collectable artifacts that give you RPG-like enhancements to your health and firepower etc. but the system was presented in such a confusing way that I couldn’t really figure out the benefits of each. There are also gems scattered throughout each level that you and your co-op partner will be fighting over the entire game, which adds to the game a slight amount of competition.
Each level has leaderboards, score attack challenges, and bonus objectives that offer up new ways to play, such as destroying all vehicles in a level, performing a task without dying, or finishing it within a certain time. As a downloadable title they can’t give you an Achievement for each of these, but you do get the satisfaction of being awesome. Remember what games used to be like? Fun, fulfilling experiences based on their own merit? GOL brings us back to that classic feel.
Ultimately, GOL has left me itching for more (I’m crossing my fingers it sells well enough for a sequel). Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light is a very different kind of Tomb Raider game from what you’re used to– perhaps the reason behind dropping the "Tomb Raider" branding. Sometimes experimenting with a new things on an old formula can be very successful, and in this case, it was.