Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (Available on Xbox 360, PC and PS3)
ESRB Rating: T
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date (Xbox & PC): August 18th, 2010
Release Date (PS3): September 28th, 2010
Parent Talk: The ESRB gave this bad boy a T for teen rating based on language and minimal blood, crude humor, etc. Nothing unreasonable, and I’m sure even younger players wouldn’t be offended here. Everything depends on your parenting skills. If you think a shooter isn’t for your kids, then obviously don’t allow them to download Guardian of Light. Simple as that.
Lara Croft burst onto the scene with Tomb Raider in 1996. Think Indiana Jones fighting a T-Rex if Indy was a top-heavy female. Naturally it was an overnight success story. History would credit Lara for being the first super popular female lead in a videogame, ignoring Samus Aran’s already decade-long existence…but I digress. Unfortunately, time hasn’t been kind to Ms. Croft’s adventures. A huge mistake to make as a publisher is pumping out sequel after sequel, while only slightly enhancing each new game. That stagnates a franchise, and eventually the core fans leave. This has happened with so many others over the years like Tony Hawk, Syphon Filter, everything music-based, and yes, it surely happened to Tomb Raider. Think of Guardian of Light (GoL) as something of a reboot. The idea was to set Lara in a completely different experience. Instead of a true third person shooter wrapped around exploration, we have something resembling Contra/Gauntlet/etc. The emphasis is on co-op, and it’s a blast, but the lack of online support sucks. Crystal Dynamics says it’s coming with the PS3 version’s launch (September 28th), but the 360 version’s earlier release makes this disappointing. Let’s jump in to what works and what didn’t with Lara’s latest outing.
Co-op. Lara is finally not alone. Her partner assists in battle and puzzle-solving. You might be confused though since I explicitly pointed out the absence of online support. What I’m talking about is local co-op; hey, it’s better than nothing right? It completely changes the dynamic of a Lara Croft game. Puzzles are straightforward when playing alone, with the occasional stumper, but most are easily conquered in a few minutes. The very opposite rings true for co-op because I became stuck countless times trying to help both characters reach a certain switch, or flip multiple switches simultaneously. Once this mode heads online, I think the game will be more enjoyable. For now, you need a physical person sitting nearby, which we know not everyone has.
+ Puzzle design. One of the best aspects of this new adventure is the great puzzle designs. The levels are alright, but extremely linear. The game is divided into a series of stages, with different areas in each. To traverse them, you can only head in one direction. The puzzles break up that confined feeling, because you always have to consider how to step on a switch, reach the level above you, etc. I acknowledge that the puzzles’ rationale tends to be very basic, but the concepts are impressive and make you think.
+ Great platforming and fighting . Though you play using an overhead camera, I found the platforming extremely enjoyable. I loved running around, shooting enemies, jumping and climbing. It all works surprisingly well. I confidently claim that it works better with GoL than it has in the last several Tomb Raider games.
+ The whole package. GoL is well worth the $15 with its robust single player mode, a deep and slightly modified co-op multiplayer, and tons of challenges that are near impossible to complete. Everything amounts to a very enticing game. Online support is the only sore spot, but since co-op works I’m not going to dock points.
The story. I won’t bother trying to explain it; I don’t know what was happening. Some ancient mirror is required to stop some evil dude…or something like that. At least the game’s other elements helped me forget this disaster. Play it, and you may understand my grief.
What did I just hear? Wow, just wow. The voice acting is…horrendous. It’s of the worst I’ve heard in a videogame in a long time. Lara is the only character I could put up with. Her friend sounds like someone from early 90’s cartoons and really can’t stand life anymore. There’s no emotion, and the writing is so cheesy that I laughed through most of the cutscenes. It makes “Jill, here’s a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you.” Oscar-worthy.
GoL is an easy recommend. Anyone that enjoys action or adventure games should download the game. The story is garbage, and the voice acting would sound better if your dog did the voice-over, but the gameplay is AAA caliber, the co-op is a blast, and the puzzles are awesome. The fighting is great. Once online support hits, this will be a must-download. Since that day isn’t far off, I’m stamping GoL with a Must Download right now. Get to it!