Let me start by saying that I have never been a fan of the Tomb Raider series. The horrible gameplay and awkward controls made the series unplayable and unenjoyable for me. Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light drops the “Tomb Raider” name from the title and introduces its gameplay in a whole new direction. Does this new title in the “Tomb Raider” franchise fall into the same traps, or will it escape the “Tomb Raider” curse that has plagued the series?
Story: The Guardian of Light follows main character Lara Croft and Mayan warrior Totec. Thousands of years ago, Totec, the Guardian of Light is in a battle with Xolotl, the Keeper of Darkness. Totec won the battle and imprisons Xolotl in the Mirror of Smoke, Totec then turns into a stone statue to watch over the mirror. Lara Croft reads of the legend and is determined to find the mirror. When Lara finds the mirror she is ambushed by a group of mercenaries. The leader of the mercenaries snatches the mirror and releases Xolotl, then all hell breaks loose, literally. The stone statue of Totec breaks loose and Totec tells Lara that Xolotl must be stopped.
Gameplay: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light does not play like the other Tomb Raider games, instead the game takes a third person approach to the new game in the franchise. The game is presented in a top down view and has many elements of an arcade shooter. Like all Tomb Raider games this game is full of challenging puzzles. At times the puzzles will have you pulling out your hair, but once you solve them you are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment. Throughout the game you can find many guns and upgrades scattered through the levels. Most of the guns however must be unlocked by completing certain challenges. There are numerous ammo refills scattered in the levels so you never really run out of special weapon ammo. An interesting fact about The Guardian of Light is that somehow Lara has an endless supply of explosives on her at all times. There are a few bosses in the game that make up a very small portion of the 14 levels. The game does an excellent job of mixing puzzle platforming with and arcade look and feel.
Graphics: The graphics in The Guardian of Light are good but there not great. This game is not going to blow you away with its visuals, but they are some of the best graphics I’ve seen for a downloadable title. The game tends to stick to the same color palette (green, yellow, grey,) for a large portion of the game. The character models and the environments lack a little polish, as you can see quite a bit of jagged edges throughout the game. Explosions and lighting are handled exceptionally well.
Sound: The sounds in The Guardian of Light are a mix between cinematic experience and generic internet sound board. The voice acting in the game is just plain cheesy, but you weren’t really expecting superb acting skills with this title were you? The music in the game and sound fx really compliment the game. Whether you’re scaling a wall above a spike pit or running from a huge monster about to eat you, the sounds in the game will keep you on your toes.
Controls: The controls in The Guardian of Light have a really good feel to them. You control Laras’ movement using the left analog stick. To shoot your enemies you use a combination of the right analog stick and the R2 button. The controls in this game really compliment the gameplay style. Having never played a game with a control scheme similar to the one used in The Guardian of Light I have to admit I was impressed at how easy and natural the controls felt. Lara has a grapple gun that can be kind of hard to use at first, but it wont take long before you are a pro at using the grapple gun.
Wishes: There are a couple of wishes I would ask for in The Guardian of Light. My first wish would be for a sequel, as the game is rather short coming in at 5 hours. Another change I would make would be to have kept the game in development a little longer to touch up the graphics a bit. The last change I would want is on-line co-op. The game has co-op, but it is only local co-op.
Final Verdict: Although this is a downloadable title, this game could pass as a full retail release. I can honestly say that forking out the $14.99 MSRP is totally justifiable. Hopefully we see more Tomb Raider games following the same formula of The Guardian of Light. 3.5 Michelas out of 5
Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light (PSN)
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Eidos Interactive