Lara Croft: Guardian of Light Review

7.0 Overall Score

Written by on August 30, 2010 in

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the last game to be released as a part of the XBLA Summer of Arcade. In this game, Lara Croft is back with a whole new adventure and look.

The first big difference that you will notice is that the game no longer follows Lara from behind, but instead from a third person top-down perspective. This is a fun departure from the normal over-the-shoulder perspective, but the game lacks camera control so it is not always easy to guide the main characters, Lara and Totec.

The first thing that caught my eye when I was playing this game was how beautiful the art style was, especially since this is an arcade game. The cutscenes are all well drawn and painted to help convey the emotions in the story and the design of the levels accurately portray the feeling of being in murky swamps, dusty caverns, and long forgotten temples. I really appreciate the time the artists took to create each level and the immense detail in each environment.

In Lara Croft: GoL you play as either Lara or Totec depending on whether you are playing single player or local co-op. In single player, you are forced to play as Lara without the aid of Totec. In reading all the previews for the game I was excited to enter into the tombs and crypts with the help of a friend or AI partner, but was greatly disappointed when I discovered that I would be playing the entire single player game on my own. Totec only appears in cutscenes when you play on your own and puzzles that were created to feature co-op are much more difficult with only one character. I feel like this game could have been easier and more enjoyable had Totec been with you whether or not you played co-op.

After finishing the single player game, I enlisted my wife to be my co-op partner since online co-op does not currently exist in the game. Co-op play in GoL is leaps and bounds more epic and rewarding than the single player mode, both in the way you defeat enemies and how you complete puzzles and objectives. I was really impressed when I discovered that the levels and puzzles change based on what campaign mode you are playing on. Puzzles I beat on my own became much more difficult with another player in the mix.

Lara and Totec are created to complement each other, each with their own unique items and strengths. Lara is light and agile and uses a grappling hook which is helpful when scaling walls and crossing gaps. Totec, unfortunately, does not have a grappling hook, however, and needs Lara to help him maneuver around vertical obstacles. Lara can hook onto Totec and reel him up cliffs, or can hook onto distant objects, allowing Totec to walk across the line like a tight rope. Totec on the other hand, who is strong and bulky, has a spear and shield. While these items may seem primitive, they come in handy. Totec can act as a shield for Lara, reflecting enemy projectiles back at the enemy targets. He can also give Lara a boost with his shield by holding it above his head and allowing her to jump on. In addition, his spears can be thrown into walls for Lara to jump onto. In the single player mode Lara is able to throw these spears herself, but in co-op it is up to Totec to aid Lara’s climbing.

Gameplay requires that you use both analog sticks to control your character. The left analog moves Lara or Totec and the right analog is for aiming your weapon. While playing you won’t see a targeting reticule so it can be difficult to get the hang of shooting. This can be especially hard mixed in with the fact that you can’t control the camera. There were several occasions where I needed to shoot an enemy, but couldn’t see them because they were off screen, causing me to fire in random directions in hopes of connecting with my target.

I came into GoL with low expectations as far as story goes. You start the story with Lara giving you a history of the “Mirror of Smoke”, a legendary artifact that once had the power to defeat an evil spirit by the name of Xolotl. Totec and his army of warriors fought Xolotl and sealed him in the Mirror of Smoke. Totec then sacrificed his life to seal Xolotl in the Mirror of Smoke which still protects the mirror’s resting place. As you probably have already guessed, Lara discovered where the mirror was located. Hired by a group of evil mercenaries, Lara enters the tomb only to witness them unleash Xolotl and his minions. Along with Xolotl comes Totec as well as he fights to return Xolotl to his resting place. According to Totec, if Xolotl exits the Temple of Light, he will unleash evil across the globe. In my opinion this is where the story ends. The rest of the game you are running from point A to point B on your way to stopping Xolotl. Along the way you will encounter puzzles and traps, but they don’t contribute to the story at all. I was really disappointed by this game’s storytelling because I felt like there could have been a lot more background story within the levels. How did Totec amass an army? How was he freed at the same time as Xolotl?

Xolotl’s supernatural minions are each unique in their powers and appearances, but I noticed about halfway through my adventure that the enemies were being recycled again and again. The enemy difficulty level did not seem to increase, and instead of fighting more worthy adversaries I found that I was just fighting larger groups of enemies.

Every Lara Croft game is guaranteed to be riddled with puzzles and obstacles. While GoL did have a lot of puzzles, I felt like I was doing the same solution every time. The most common puzzle solution was “find stone, place stone on pedestal, door opens”. In fact there were times where the same exact puzzle was used in different levels. In one particular level you have to find 6 stones to put on the pedestal, and then lo-and-behold, the exact same puzzle a few levels later! This demonstrated a lack of creativity on the developer’s part. I would have enjoyed a little bit more of variety when it came to the puzzles, although I did enjoy beating Xolotl’s fire trap in the first level. Each puzzle you complete gets you closer to defeating Xolotl, and fortunately for you, you will be rewarded for your smart thinking when it comes to puzzles. Just in case you can’t figure out a puzzle though, the game is very helpful in giving you hints on how to solve it.

In each level of the game, there are Challenge Rooms in which you must complete a puzzle to unlock a new weapon, artifact, or relic. Each artifact and relic boosts your abilities, including speed, defense, bomb strength, and attack. This really helps the player to customize Lara for their style of play. I favored artifacts that increased my speed and bomb abilities meaning I could roll into a group of enemies, lay down a bomb, and then somersault out of the way as the bomb exploded. Weapons that you can unlock include Lara’s famous dual pistols, a flamethrower, shotguns, gatling gun, and even a rocket launcher. Now before you consider going through the entire game with just a rocket launcher, you need to know that ammunition is not unlimited. You will have to collect ammunition yourself. The good news though, is that one ammo box fits all weapons, which means you won’t have to go looking for specific bullets while running through a level.

Unlocking these items isn’t all about solving puzzles though. Each level has optional objectives that you can complete in order to receive valuable pieces of equipment. Objectives range from completing a level in a certain time period, performing a level-specific task such as jumping across a river without touching the water, or getting a certain number of points in a level. On my first playthrough, I ignored the time requirement objectives and stuck with the score objectives. How hard could it be to accumulate 200,000 points? I quickly found that this was easier said than done. Every time you die you lose points and are forced to start from the last checkpoint. Certain puzzles are designed to kill you, and kill you they will. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I completed the last two levels with or close to no points. This was my first playthrough though, so my dignity is still intact.

This game overall is difficult for me to justify the $15 price tag. I strongly disliked the single player mode of the game and felt too isolated and alone, but factoring in how much fun multiplayer is with another human being I would recommend this game to those looking for a fun co-op experience. The story and mechanics of the game didn’t woo me enough to recommend this to everyone, but if you have some extra Microsoft points lying around, and strangely feel the need to battle ancient demons and monsters, then I would say that Lara Croft: Guardian of Light is a game that you should definitely check out.

Lara Croft: Guardian of Light is rated T for Teen and can be found exclusively on the Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points.

A review code for Lara Croft: Guardian of Light was provided to TMG for the purposes of evaluation and review.

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Author: Loren Nikkel View all posts by
Hardcore Xbox and occasional PC gamer. I love to play multiplayer and co-op games where strategy is key.

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