Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (XBLA) Review
Title: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Rated: T for Teen
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light marks the first time the series has had a title on the Xbox Live Arcade service. After having almost a dozen games that were full titles, can the series really translate well into a smaller bundle?
The short answer is that it can and does, but comes at a large investment to gamers. The last title in the 2010 Summer of Arcade series clocks in at 2.02GB, the largest Xbox Live Arcade title that I’ve ever seen. I’ve had some friends with smaller hard drives having problems finding space for the game, but it’s something that can easily be solved with a flash drive.
The game has you controlling Lara Croft by herself in the single player, while friends will control both Lara and Totec in the multiplayer. The story centers on them as they try to stop Xolotl after he has awakened and stolen the Mirror of Smoke. To stop him, you’ll progress through 14 levels to find him, including some boss fights and numerous puzzles.
Except for the boss stages, which just focus on fighting the boss, each level is fairly length, consisting of quite a few puzzles that a player must solve to progress. The puzzles range from trying to get a stone ball off a base onto a pressure plate to trying to dodge columns of fire by hitting switches and more.
The balls often play a big part with the puzzles in the game, with a few levels centering on how to get a large number of balls from around the level onto numerous pressure plates.
Besides solving puzzles, the gameplay is quite different from other Tomb Raider games. The game is a top-down shooter with guns (or spears) being aimed with the RS and used with the RT. You have to hold the RS when firing, or else you won’t fire. Both the spear and pistol have unlimited ammo, while any other secondary weapons drain the ammo bar.
The secondary guns you find are quite numerous, and you can earn more through beating score challenges on each level. However, I rarely used these weapons except if I needed to for a puzzle or to beat a boss. The pistol and spear are all you ever need to take out almost any enemy in the game.
Besides killing enemies, the spear can also be used to make some ledges reachable. By throwing a spear against a wall, players can jump on the spear then jump up. Up to three spears can be stuck in a wall at the same time.
There are two other gameplay mechanics to touch on: bombs and the grapple hook. Bombs can be used to blow up some walls and hit switches that are far away from a player, but can also be used as a trap to take enemies out chasing you. The grapple hooks can only be used on golden rings, but allow Lara to run across walls to other sides of gaps, or scale down a wall to get a health or ammo power-up.
While going through the game’s levels, each one has score challenges that can unlock a new gun, along with various stage challenges that can give a power-up, artifact or relic. Each stage has the option of collecting 10 red skulls, and then other challenges, such as healing a stone ball or jumping on all platforms with an animal on them.
Also found in most levels are challenge tombs that consists of a puzzle that needs to be completed to get an artifact or relic that’s hidden away in the room. These puzzles aren’t impossible, but give a good challenge with a good reward.
Artifacts can increase one of four skills. Earlier on, they also decrease a skill, but later they can increase two or three skills at once. Two can be equipped at the same time.
Relics can only be used when the bar below your health has been fully charged by beating enemies and collecting gems. These items can allow for power shots, bigger bombs, health and ammo regen and more. Only one can be equipped at a time.
I didn’t get a lot of time with the co-op, but it was fun going around the game with a friend. Having both Lara and Totec opens up a few extra strategies, such as jumping off Totec’s shield or helping each other cross gaps. Mainly, the biggest help is getting another person to take out enemies with.
The co-op has one of the bigger problems in the game currently. Online co-op won’t be available until Sept. 28, when the game releases on PC and PlayStation 3. While this doesn’t hamper the great single player experience, it does present a problem for people that mainly play online games and may not have a lot of gamer friends nearby.
Another smaller problem I ran into is that jumps sometimes seemed a bit flighty. The jump normally will take you to the nearest platform or ledge, but sometimes would launch me over a platform to death. Thankfully, this never happened often enough to be a hindrance to the game.
I want to end talking a bit about the graphics and sound. For an Arcade title, Lara Croft looks great. This may be a lot of the reason for the large download. It uses the same engine as Tomb Raider: Underworld, which means levels are large and detailed, often having multiple layers and areas to go to.
The music in the game is great, but the voices could have used some more work. Most of the voice acting sounds cheesy, especially when it comes to Xolotl. Voices aren’t heard very often, though. Just in the few cutscenes that are used during the game.
Besides Monday Night Combat, this is probably the top title to come out of Summer of Arcade. The gameplay is solid, there are quite a few things to find in levels and the game doesn’t get much better then when you’re playing with a friend. If you don’t have any local friends, you may want to wait until the online patch hits on Sept. 28 to pick this one up. Otherwise, you’re missing out on a great DLC title that offers quite a few puzzles to solve and items to find.