Fandel Mulkey On September 2, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Tomb Raider Guardian of Light Review ScreenshotEven though Lara Croft was the real star ever since the first Tomb Raider title back in 1996, it wasn’t until 2010 that Eidos finally made it official by getting rid of the ‘Tomb Raider’ title. That isn’t the only change that was made in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Other than the obvious (Lara Croft’s first downloadable title), the game itself also does a 180 – throwing out the tried and true 3D adventure that we all know for a Diablo-style overhead viewpoint. Overall, this change ends up working better than I ever expected.

Once again you find Lara in the middle of an ancient tomb being trailed by gun-wielding mercenaries; both of whom are looking for the ancient Mirror of Smoke. Once the mercenaries corner Lara, they take the mirror; which results in all hell breaking loose as a two-thousand-year-old enemy, Xolotl re-awakens. Thankfully a stone statue named Totec, an ancient Mayan warrior who originally deafeted Xolotl years ago also comes back to life. After giving Lara a short lecture on why Xolotl needs to be re-imprisoned back in the mirror before dawn they both either team up, or go their separate paths in defeating Xolotl (depending on if you’re playing co-op of single-player).

As said earlier the game is played via an isometric viewpoint, sort of a cross between Diablo and one of the old twin-stick arcade games of the early 90s’. You use the left trigger to select you weapon while selecting it using one of the four face buttons. When you’re ready to actually use your weapon, you hold the right trigger to ready your weapon and press X to fire. Basic weapons consist of Lara’s famous-but-almost useless twin handguns and a spear that Totec gives here at the beginning of the game. While the guns are useless, the spear is not only more powerful, it can be used to create platforms and solve certain puzzles. As you progress though the game, Lara also gains access to additional weapons such as grenade launchers, machine guns, bazookas, etc… Unlike the first two weapons however, these are limited to a gauge at the bottom of the screen. Once the gauge runs out, you’re back to your basic weapons, though there are plenty of power-ups available so you’re rarely have to resort to that option. You also have an unlimited supply of bombs, but you’ll soon realize that those are only useful for clearing columns and solving puzzles.

One minor problem with the game is the lack of variety when it comes to enemies; when it was all said and done, there were probably no more than ten or fifteen different type of enemies in total. There are your tiny creature enemies that only serve to keep your guns occupied; larger enemies that managed to hurt me more by dying than their actual attacks (they explode into energy once killed which can damage your character); mid-size enemies that fire homing energy balls at you and zombies who reanimate after you kill them unless you plant a bomb on their corpse once they fall. Of these enemies, only the later two will cause you much trouble, and even then, only when you’re surrounded. In addition, there are a couple of traditional bosses, and I do mean that in a literal term. Other than a T-Rex (there’s another flaming version near the end) and Xoltol himself. To be fair, the regular bosses are fun and challenging, and there are a couple of environmental bosses that end up being great fun; I wished there could have been a little more variety. Granted, this is a downloadable game, but at 2-gigs, I wished there could have been more, especially considering the more action-oriented overhead style of gameplay.

While the lack of different enemies was a slight disappointment; the puzzles definitely do not disappoint for the most part. While basic gist of most puzzles consist of rolling balls into the correct platforms; using your spear to trigger moving floors; navigating retractable spears, their execution results in puzzles that aren’t too challenging to frustrate, nor to boring to lose your interest. The best puzzles often incorporate all three previous mentioned puzzles while using your trusty grappling hook to go from one point of the area to another. Overall, the only single problem I had was that a latter puzzle-heavy level was essentially a shorter, easier version of a previous level, and probably should have been cut.

In terms of difficulty, the games only really challenging during the tricky jumping parts, and even then, there’s no real penalty when you die, as Lara has unlimited lives and save points are rampant. The one real penalty happens when dying is the loss of points after each death, which is actually a big deal as you need a set number of points to gain access to additional weapons, upgrades and other items. While none of these extra items are essential to completing the game, they do encourage replay-ability, especially since you can replay each level individually once you complete it. In addition to scoring, you gain other items/weapons in each level by completing other tasks, such as collecting ten red skulls and occasionally doing environmental challenges such as blowing up ten trucks in a level.

This was a very smart was for Crystal Dynamics to incentivize players to replay the game, especially when the eventual online patch comes out in a month-or-so that allows co-op play online. While there’s the option to play co-op locally, online play wasn’t ready in time for launch. While that may be a deal-breaker for some I personally wouldn’t mind beating the game in single-player, then a month later play part-or-all of the game with a friend later. Granted though, online co-op should have been ready when the game was.


The overhead viewpoint brings some fresh perspective to an aging franchise. While the controls are themselves perfect, I wished there were a more variety enemies to actually shoot. The variety of puzzles and traps make up for that minor shortcoming though.


While it looks great, you can tell that they re-used many textures. Considering the price though, it’s not a huge deal. Still, there are some moments, such as one level where you are running from a giant fish-like boss. Overall, the graphic limitations seem to be more limited by memory than anything else.


Similar to the graphics the music is slightly more limited than your typical game; but considering that past games that Lara Croft stared in weren’t musical showcases, it isn’t really noticeable. One bright spot is that they didn’t skip out on the voice-acting (which is good btw). The sound effects themselves are top-notched.


Minor problems aside though, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is easily one of the better downloadable games available right now, and at fifteen dollars, it’s a pretty good deal, which is saying a lot since many games on the Marketplace have a hard time justifying the now-standard fifteen-dollar price point. Overall, if you are looking for a game to tide you over until the fall gaming season comes around, Lara Croft is the perfect length and the perfect price to keep you busy for a couple of weeks.

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