Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Review
In many ways Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light reminds me of action-RPGs like Dark Alliance and the numerous imitators it spawned on the last generation of consoles, and, more recently, games like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2. While Guardian of Light isn't an action-RPG per se, it plays a lot like one with experience points replaced with points used purely for scoring and a greater emphasis on platform elements in its puzzles. I've always been a fan of those types of games, which is probably the biggest reason I was anxious to get my hands on Guardian of Light and take it out for a spin. After spending some time with the game, I'm happy to report that I was not at all disappointed with it.
Guardian of Light opens with Lara finding an ancient Aztec artifact, the Mirror of Smoke. Unfortunately her victory is short-lived as it is stolen from her at gunpoint by a ruthless rival. The misfortune continues as the mirror was holding an evil spirit at bay, Xolotl, who has now been released by its removal. The mirror's removal also summons its ancient Aztec protector, Totec, who teams with Lara to retrieve the mirror and return Xolotl to his imprisonment.
What happens next depends on whether or not you're playing the game solo or co-op. In solo mode, Totec hands you his magical spear and sends you on your way, making appearances to offer advice or play his role in the story but nothing more than that. In co-op mode, one player controls Lara and the other Totec, and Totec is the only one flinging spears around. The thing that's really cool here is that while the solo and co-op modes take place in essentially the same levels, the game adjusts the puzzles and obstacles to the number of players. Solo mode is not some less enjoyable version of the co-op mode played with a dimwitted AI-controlled partner, and co-op mode is not like a retread of the solo mode played with twice the firepower. Play the game alone and you'll have a good time. Play the game with a friend and you'll have a good time. Play them both and you'll experience the game in a different way each time.
Either way you go the basics of the game are the same. The camera is locked at an isometric angle that furthers the feel of its connection to last gen's action-RPGs. The left stick is used for movement and the right to aim your current weapon, which is fired with a trigger pull. You'll be using those weapons a lot, as there is no shortage of enemies large and small. There's also a jump button, but jumps are more a means of solving puzzles and reaching new areas than jumping for the sake of jumping as in a platformer. In addition to each level's main goal and puzzles, there are plenty of bonus objectives and challenge areas that feature slightly trickier puzzles but house special artifacts as a reward for meeting the challenge. The levels are certainly built for exploration, and it can certainly take you more than one play-through to unlock all of a level's secrets.
If you're playing in co-op mode, as mentioned earlier, one player is Lara and the other Totec. Lara carries all manner of guns and has a grappling line she can use to hook onto rings and swing across gaps or along walls. Totec has a shield that can deflect enemy projectiles and that can also be lofted above his head to provide a boost up for Lara. His weapon of choice is the spear, and although his spears don't have the stopping power of Lara's guns they do stick into walls and provide Lara with springboards she can use to scale high vertical surfaces. When you play on your own, Lara carries the spears herself and the puzzles and traps are adjusted so that her lack of shield is not a hindrance to completing the game. Co-op mode is great fun, but as of the game's release it can only be played on a single console. Online co-op is promised in a future patch for the game. Even if you don't have a friend to share your couch with, Guardian of Light is still great fun. The frantic battles, great art style, and tons of gameplay make Guardian of Light a great downloadable title. Even though the hefty 2GB footprint makes for a long download, it's worth the wait.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 90%. It's time to fall in love with Lara all over again.