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Cody Giunta
10 Sep, 2010

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Review

360 Review | Guard this light well, dear adventurers.
It’s safe to say that Lara Croft’s most recent outings have received a mixed reception from fans and critics alike. A great difficulty that many have noted is the desire to produce something that is both faithful to Lara’s past adventures while doing something that is a bit fresh and different. In Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, that balance finally appears to have been struck. With all the powers of Eidos, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix combined, this download-only title manages to shake Lara’s universe up to deliver a quality entry into the series that will hopefully foreshadow a steady stream of great gaming experiences.

The plot of Guardian of Light is reasonably standard fare for the enduring adventure series, but it is nonetheless worth mentioning. Lara’s latest quest sees her braving Central America, on the trail of a priceless artifact known as the “Mirror of Smoke”. Upon reaching the altar where the mirror rests, Lara is beaten to the punch by a group of mercenaries. They don’t stay on the scene for long, however. When their leader reaches for the mirror, a powerful demon known as Xolot is released and promptly wipes out the party. Xolot then declares his plans to wreak havoc on all existence by plunging the world into darkness, using the very mirror that once trapped him. Not one to sit around and wait for the apocalypse to just happen, Lara decides to pursue him. But she is not alone in her quest, as an ancient Mayan warrior by the name of Totec will accompany her on her mission.

This can't end well

This can't end well
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The core of Guardian of Light’s gameplay remains as an interesting mix of platform adventuring and puzzle-solving, and in this regard your quest to pursue Xolot is by no means made easy for you. No two levels have a similar set of puzzles to solve or ways of going from point A to point B, which prevents the gameplay from becoming stale as it might have. Some challenges are relatively simple, such as clearing a space of enemies to open a doorway. A lot of others, however, require quick thinking and actions, ranging from pulling a timed lever to open a hidden path to blowing up structures with bombs and grenade launchers. Each level also has an over-arching task that must be accomplished in order to progress through the game. There are also a handful of boss battles scattered throughout the game and while enjoyable in their own right, they do not carry the same weight or emphasis as the puzzles do. By way of compensating, there are several giant-sized enemies that you will encounter in regular play that can be incredibly tough and will require a bit more thought and tenacity to defeat, usually with the aid of a booby trap. Such fights are usually reward challenges and offer up health and weapon upgrades for your efforts.

On top of rewards obtained throughout the levels, you can also receive rewards at the completion of a level for racking up a certain number of points. Killing enemies will give you points, but you can also receive them from collecting as many gems as possible, which are abundant in each level. In addition, collecting all of the red skulls on each level will yield even more bonuses.

Ball goes in the hole.

Ball goes in the hole.
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The controls for Guardian of Light are silky smooth and very responsive to each and every action you take, whether it involves rolling a giant rock or whipping out Lara’s twin pistols in the midst of a firefight. One analogue stick is used for movement, while the other will draw your weapon, in conjunction with the trigger button. The bumper buttons are used to unleash Lara’s grappling hook and cycle through your available weapons, and the face buttons are used for standard jumping, dodging and interacting with the environment.

At the start of the rollicking adventure, Lara has but two weapons at her disposal: her standard twin pistols with infinite ammunition and her remote-activated bombs of limitless supply. Later in the game, Lara receives a giant golden spear which proves to be extremely useful. Not only can you use it to skewer Xolot’s minions, you can also throw it to activate distant switches, as well as plunge it into walls to provide a temporary platform to reach higher ground or traverse perilous gaps. More weapons become available as you progress, such as shotguns, Uzis and grenade launchers, all of which are tied to an ammunition meter. For much of your adventure, you can probably get away with just sticking to your trusty pistols and spears, but there are times during the later portions of the game when it will become necessary to bring out the heavy artillery. The grenade launcher, in particular, is very handy and is sometimes needed to solve certain puzzles.

Visually, the game is a real treat for the eyes and impresses for a downloadable title, but there is definitely one big change that players will observe – the camera perspective. Eschewing the standard third-person viewpoint, Guardian of Light opts instead for an isometric stance. It’s a big change for the series and one that helps maintain focus on the exploration aspects of the gameplay. Lara herself is dwarfed by her surroundings and allows the player to engage with her more as the adventurer she always has been, as opposed to trading off her perceived digital sex appeal. Outside this, the graphics remain sumptuous with a surprising attention to detail, with highlights including the gas effect for when you burst a poisonous pod, and the flicker of flames in several areas.

Ooh, eerie!

Ooh, eerie!
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The sound design of Guardian of Light is also highly respectable. The subtle scoring gives just the right edge of mystery and adventure to the game, but it’s the sound effects that are the real standout of the game. There is an undeniable earthy and meaty quality about all of the effects, and though they may not be natural they add immeasurably to the game. Whether it’s the metallic click of Lara drawing her pistols or the satisfying squelching noise as one of your spears impales a hapless enemy, all of the sound effects are supremely gratifying to the ears. By a similar tone, the voice acting is also very much up to the task. Even though the script may be a bit cheesy at times and there are few characters in the game, the work of Keeley Hawes and Jim Cummings is very enthusiastic – it’s clear that the two of them had a lot of fun on this project.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is wrapped in a very simple but elegant presentation. The story is told mostly through still images, punctuated by the occasional cut-scene. While they may not be as spectacular as a major console release, they are still more than serviceable and it’s clear that a lot of care was taken to make them work well. On top of this, the menus are relatively basic with a simple visual switch to go between segments, accompanied by the sound of pages being rustled and turned.

Back-to-back battling

Back-to-back battling
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While it’s possible to complete a run through the game in about eight hours, there is still ample room for replays. A second player can assume the role of Totec and join in on the action at any time for local co-op mode, while online co-op will become possible with the release of the PlayStation Network and PC versions of the title. The single and co-op modes are both unique, and players who take on both will notice various changes to the puzzles and Lara’s abilities, which significantly extends the replay value of Guardian of Light, ably supported by the multitude of collectible items and bonuses along the way.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is one of the most impressive download titles to be released this year and is a stellar game in its own right. With excellent art and sound direction, engaging puzzles and a high replay value, it’s an adventure that you’ll be very glad you went on and a welcome new direction for one of gaming’s most enduring heroines.
The Score
Lara is back in fine, downloadable form. A riveting quest from start to finish.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 Comments
3 years ago
Sounds good. Now to wait for it to be released on a platform I have =)
3 years ago
grim-one wrote
Sounds good. Now to wait for it to be released on a platform I have =)
Same here, I will be picking it up on PSN for sure icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
Still not on PSN!!!!!
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  19/08/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Crystal Dynamics
Year Made:
  2010

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