Game Reviews PlayStation 3 Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Chris Stone Hot

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Written by Chris Stone     October 04, 2010    
 
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Publisher
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Release Date
September 28, 2010
MSRP $
$14.99
ESRB
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Lara Croft and the Guardian Light is not a lesson in raiding tombs, but an all-out assault on everything that lies within.

In her latest adventure, the player’s perspective is relegated from the behind Lara’s polygonal short-shorts to the often-ignored isometric angle. Of course, any sensible gamer will be privy to the fact that a switch an isometric view is not a relegation at all. In all truth, Crystal Dynamics’ near flawless execution of the isometric cooperative adventure experience should not be overlooked.

 


A symphony of bullet-y things

Combat, on its own, is ever-present and consistently pleasing. Through a dual analog stick approach, Lara (or Totec) has an easy, accessible way of aiming and shooting. “Shooting” is an understatement; most of the weaponry in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light unleashes a Contra-level of hot fury, only limited by a slowly depleting ammo gauge. Lara (or Totec) also totes some sort of infinitely-regenerating golden spear that can be used to attack or serve as a stepping perch when thrown into a wall.

There are plenty unlockable weapons in this supposed pint-size adventure, which all act as slightly varied delivery system for spraying bullets to and fro. Given that you’ll be facing wave after wave of similarly fashioned weird demons and lizard-types, one may be quick to label Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light as a Smash TV makeover with a little crypt-diving spliced in between. And while that may be partially true, each step is thrilling in ways that you wouldn’t expect.

Combat sequences, especially later in the game, are wildly entertaining and tend to invoke an almost trance-like state where the symphony of spray-bullets will satisfy most demon-slaying urges with the utmost level of efficiency. The invocation of such a childlike gaming trance through the refinement of an age-old shooting mechanic is a rare and certainly difficult feat in modern game design.

Both the combat and platforming experiences are fluid and intuitive, with each leap, swing, or roll transitioning seamlessly into the next action. Aside from the larger-than-life arsenal, Lara is equipped with a functional grappling hook that usually works like you’d like it should. The rolling mechanic, however, is drastically overpowered and covers more ground than it should, allowing the player to snake around obstacles in a very un-humanlike manner.

 

Yeah, we actually are raiding tombs here

Each environment that Lara visits in her latest adventure seems to hark back to the Tomb Raider aesthetic. Complete with Indiana Jones-style crypts, lost civilizations, and creature-laden forgotten swamps, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light captures of the feel of Lara’s previous adventures with a focus on well-crafted, atmospheric level design. Even when pulled back to the isometric view, the environs have a distinct look and feel to them that become just as integral to the experience as the gameplay itself.

Though progression doesn’t require an incredibly high level of patience or thoughtful problem solving, the puzzles in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light rarely degrade themselves to standard fare button-pressing and box-pushing. Implementing an interesting and fresh puzzle solving aspect into a game is often difficult, especially without conceding to the usage of a forced mini-game or iterative block-pushing teasers. Crystal Dynamics doesn’t completely avoid this – you’ll still be rolling boulders and lifting gates – but their strong attempt at masking any potential derivative feeling mostly succeeds. From time to time, a head-scratching puzzle sequence occurs that takes an interesting and fresh approach to solve.

By the nature of the crisp and streamlined game flow, the game seems to guide the player through sensible level design that efficiently balances combat, puzzle solving, and platforming. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light doesn’t need an out-of-place mini-map or obtrusive player-guiding arrow. The fluid level design regulates the pace and passively guides the player so effectively that Lara rarely finds herself wandering aimlessly or unnecessarily backtracking. Further, the level design is ripe for co-op play; the exclusion of online multiplayer is a glaring scar on an otherwise gleaming gem of a game.

 

Arcade in mind

On top of its sensible level design mechanics, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light oozes with a unique arcade feel. The usage of point bonuses and achievement-style challenges grants the player access to extra health upgrades and upgraded weaponry. The inclusion of point bonuses and numbers popping up around the field of play had the potential to create an unsettling dissonance. However, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light pulls it off nicely, with the Reward Challenges adding a significant amount of replayability and value to the experience. The challenges are forthright and clear: do them, get cooler stuff. The key is, it never takes itself too seriously, and Crystal Dynamics doesn’t seem to mind to take a departure from immersion-based gameplay featured in previous titles starring Lara Croft in favor of a gameplay-centric experience.

Even with the arcade feel in mind, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light still finds it necessary to force a narrative, and puts forth a goofy premise, complete with a manically laughing, awkwardly antagonizing, prototypical plague-god of yesteryear who’s got some destructive artifact that Lara and the naked Indian from Wayne’s World 2 (Totec) are trying to snag. This fiction does little to enhance the overall experience, and a more minimalist approach to a story and premise would have been more effective.

Editor reviews

Presented in a gloriously isometric manner, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light doesn’t need Lara Croft – it creates a big time, engaging action action-adventure experience that stands on its own merits. Whether or not the game needed an iconic character to succeed is irrelevant; it’s absolutely loaded with well-crafted dual stick gunplay and an adventure worthy of a full retail game. Looking past the awkward character designs and cheesy story, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light’s interesting usage of tried and true gameplay mechanics is easy to recommend to anyone looking for cheap thrills.
Overall rating 
 
8.4
Gameplay 
 
8.0
Presentation 
 
8.0
Value  
 
9.0
Fun Factor 
 
9.0
Tilt 
 
8.0
Chris Stone Reviewed by Chris Stone October 04, 2010
Top 50 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (24)

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Presented in a gloriously isometric manner, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light doesn’t need Lara Croft – it creates a big time, engaging action action-adventure experience that stands on its own merits. Whether or not the game needed an iconic character to succeed is irrelevant; it’s absolutely loaded with well-crafted dual stick gunplay and an adventure worthy of a full retail game. Looking past the awkward character designs and cheesy story, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light’s interesting usage of tried and true gameplay mechanics is easy to recommend to anyone looking for cheap thrills.

Videogames

Gameplay
Even with lots of weapons, lots of enemies, and lots of bullets flying around, the game features a faithful and responsive control scheme. Exploration and puzzle solving pace well enough against the battles to keep the adventure fresh and engaging. Combat doesn’t innovate, but it evokes the appeal of overhead shooters of yore, and even emulates an intense, shoot-em-up feeling from time to time.
Presentation
With an old way of looking at an old character, Lara Croft is suddenly a new, fresh action hero. While the design and art direction of the character designs suffer a bit, the environments are nothing but spectacular when presented isometricly.
Value
For such a small price, this game is easy to pick up and play between more ambitious gaming sessions; it could be called the perfect filler game or an excellent idea for a cooperative gaming session. Unfortunately, online multiplayer was absent upon the launch of the title.
Fun Factor
It’s fun in a cheap, yet refined manner.
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