• Review: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

    Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

    Developer: Crystal Dynamics
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Platform: XBOX 360, PS3, and PC.
    Genre: Isometric platform, Adventure
    Rating: Teen
    Release Date: August 18, 2010

    "Lara Croft returns for a new adventure, but this time, she won’t be going it alone.”

    Although Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light supports cooperative play, this review will cover the single player gameplay experience. The noticeable difference between single player and cooperative player is the puzzles and level progression in the game. For people playing cooperatively, the level layout and puzzle challenges will be significantly different because they incorporate the idea of “team work”, and the puzzles each player experiences is designed to be more difficult that the single player experience.

    Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light uses a simple interface. Everything you need, such as items and weapons can be seen right on the screen along with your health bar. Pushing in one of four directions on the D-pad will allow you to cycle through which weapon you want to use in your inventory.

    Lara isn't going on her latest adventure alone.

    Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is played from an isometric perspective, or something like a bird’s eye view at an angle. This is completely new for the series, as previous titles have played in the traditional third-person perspective. So those of you who want to appreciate Lara’s… features (shame on you), won’t be able to do so too much given the fixed camera angle. The environments that Lara explores are beautifully detailed. While the lush jungle environments do look good, the detail can really be seen in the temple structures throughout the game. You can really sense the age of how old these structures are. Crumbled stone, cobwebs, and each cracked stone tile indicates the environments wear and tear. The lighting seemed just right for the temple levels, but the night-themed forest levels seemed a little dark to me. Another pleasant graphical feature is the sense of verticality the game displays. Y But possibly could be because of my brightness settings. There’s no doubt that this downloadable content is very colorful, the art team did a good job here.

    The music composed for this entry in the series does a fairly good job of keeping the action exploring. When moments in the game come up when the player must defend themselves for a horde of enemies, the music does help the player capture the intensity of it all. The weapons that Lara wields, such as her pistols, sound as good as ever. Each weapon has their own unique sound, even the flame thrower sounds spot on. It’s always nice to hear the spiders “squish” when you pump them full of bullets. Again, the sound department delivers, but nothing too special can be found here. The combination of sound and music add to the good experience of the gameplay though. Lara sounds as spirited as she has in the previous Tomb Raider games. The same voice talent for Lara Croft returns for this game as well. Xolotl sounds menacing, and it suits the character well. The same could not be said for the character Totec, who sounds similar to a caveman and whose speech seems robotic in some ways. The dialogue during the in-game cinematics seem stressed, rigid, and sometimes humorous when you think it shouldn’t be.

    If you haven’t noticed yet, Lara Croft’s latest game drop the “Tomb Raider” franchise name. This was a good move from Crystal Dynamics, because in terms of gameplay, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is like no other entry in the franchise. In fact, it’s a refreshing new perspective for the series. The game truly feels like an arcade game with the isometric camera angle. While the third-person perspective is not related to this game in anyway, it still retains the same platforming elements that fans of the series have come to work with in the past. Although it may not look like a traditional Tomb Raider game, it still plays like one. Fans of the series may have agreed that the Tomb Raider formula has been growing old and out of date over the years. Guardian of Light hopes to add a fresh new to the series and it does so nicely.

    Lara still dual wields her pistols, along with other weapons, can sprint, jump across obstacles, and use her grappling hook to get to otherwise unreachable places. Along with fighting enemies, Lara can explore the vast environments in the game for treasures, glowing orbs, and relics. Defeating enemies and picking up treasures is added to the player’s score tally. By earning more points, a player can receive new weapons or upgrades to their weapons cache. Any relics collected within a game can be equipped by Lara to add certain perks, such as additional ammo or increase the damage of your weapons.

    Kill it with fire!

    Both Lara and Totec can be armed with four weapons at a time. The player can choose from Lara’s standard double pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, flamethrower, and magical spears. Lara also has the ability to lay down remote detonation explosives. These explosives can destroy obstacles that could be blocking the player’s progression, but can also be used to blow up a horde of approaching enemies, making combat easier. Use the explosives to your advantage. A player can learn to attack and defend themselves with enemies very quickly. Holding down the primary attack button continuously will fire your weapon until you have to reload. If an enemy gets too close or returns a projectile attack, the player can easily roll out of the way of fire. Try working with the combination of attacking and dodging because there will be times when the player may be heavily outnumbered and will need as much room as they can get. And do be prepared to be rushed by numerous enemies. You’ll come across Xolotl’s minions that like to come in close for an attack, and some that like to hang back and fire projectiles at you. There are also brute enemies that do a lot of damage. But when they all come at you is enough to frustrate you. Fortunately, you can build up a killstreak and that earns you a reward. If the player can kill enough enemies without being hurt in return, Lara’s weapons can be enhanced, like killing an enemy with one shot, and killing the brutes with 5 shots instead of 15. The killstreak lasts until the player is hit again, and when that happens they’ll have to build up that streak again.

    As with any previous Tomb Raider game, puzzles have been a mainstay for the series. There will be times where the player will be forced to think about how to progress to another area of the level. It’s best to pay attention to your surroundings. Sometimes these puzzles will rely on your equipment. For example, a closed off area may require you to flip a switch, but by the time you flip the switch, you only have a few seconds to make it to the next area before the sealed off area closes again. Instead, the player can lay down an explosive, stand by the sealed area, detonate the explosive to flip the switch, and run through to the next area with time to spare. You’ll have to think carefully how to move on to another area. The game does an exceptional job challenging you with its puzzles. In fact, there will be times when you wished you had someone else helping you figure out the puzzles when they get tricky, and the game does not incorporate a hint system to help you figure out the puzzle. You’ll be stuck until you figure out the right thing to do. If that weren’t enough, the “right thing to do” may require you to respond in a timely manner. There will be a few times where timing is crucial, and you may find yourself getting frustrated when you can’t figure out what to do in time and get killed because of it.

    Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light has hours of replay value within it. The environments that you explore contain many treasures and relics. Collecting them adds beneficial bonuses for the player. Each level has secret, hidden, areas and finding them is up to the player’s keen eye. For players who like item collecting and treasure hunts, this will keep you interested for hours.

    Each level is also given challenges that award additional points upon completion of the respective level. For example, if a player can clear the level within a certain time limit, they are awarded additional points. Other challenges include: killing a certain number of enemies, collecting hidden treasures in the level. Even challenges such as crossing a creek without getting wet or blowing up all vehicles will keep players hooked to get those extra points, which could lead to achievements or trophies. These challenges will keep players, interested in obtaining them, busy to acquire them.

    Fighting a colossal T-Rex makes for a pulse pounding good time.

    In addition to challenges, each level also has what are called “Challenge Tombs.” Challenge tombs are within each level are easy to find as their entrances glow a red light when Lara encounters them. The goal of challenge tombs is to figure out a noticeably more difficult puzzle in order to acquire a treasure or relic that gives you more points to your tally, and also provides upgrades to your weapons and equipment. The challenge tombs get progressively difficult, which adds to the satisfaction when you acquire the treasure. The treasure will sometimes been within sight when you’re in the challenge tombs. If you thought normal puzzles were getting you frustrated, the challenge tombs can really make you wonder what you must do to conquer them. There’s nothing more saddening that trying everything you can think of, only to walk out of that tomb empty handed. But difficult challenges are what makes a game good, right?

    A downer for the game's lasting appeal is the lack of a cooperative online multiplayer. Couch co-op is fun and all, but this game is strongly suited for playing with others online, and it's a shame it was left out at the time of its initial release.

    Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light will have you taking control of either Lara Croft, or the Guardian of Light, Totec. You both have a mutual enemy, Xolotl (pronounced Zo-Lot), the Keeper of Darkness, and who serves as the game’s antagonist. Xolotl was released from his prison by a group of mercenaries who followed Lara in Central America. Totec had imprisoned Xolotl two thousand years prior who desires nothing but power and is full of malice. Totec senses a good nature in Lara and asks her for her help. It’s now up to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light to thwart Xolotl’s plans before he unleashes his evil on the entire world. Players will have a great time with the traditional puzzles and challenges from classic Tomb Raider fashion, and the new isometric perspective compliments these challenges nicely. It really feels like an arcade game. If you’re a challenge seeker, this game is perfect for you. Also, if you have someone you want to enjoy the gameplay with, either offline or online, then consider adding this game to your library. You’ll definitely have a great time.


  • Review Scale

    Score 10- Flawless Victory: A score not handed out to every game. Games earning this rare score sit at the very pinnacle of excellence. These games act as the examples for which all others should be measured with. They are instant classics from the beginning. These games not only deliver what was expected of it, but also exceed the player’s expectations. The game’s features are innovative and original. No game is without its absolute flaws, but the finished product you bring home surpasses the anticipation the game has formed. A day one buy is a must. The game you hold in your hands with this score is a video game jackpot.

    Score 9 - 9.5- Outstanding: Games earning scores such as these absolutely must be played. Games that achieve this high ranking do so because they define the genres that they are in. Flaws are few and barely noticeable. Features seen in the game have been renovated to provide something new and fresh. The story, gameplay, graphics, and lasting appeal are all fantastic and is reason enough to bring the game home and to enjoy with family and friends. Every penny you spend on the game is so worth it.

    Score 8 - 8.5- Great: Any flaw the game may possess is overshadowed by its fun factor. These games would be great for gamers to play. These great games appeal to gamers more and more outside its normal player base because of what it brings to the table.

    Score 7 - 7.5- Good: Flaws do exist in these games, but the positive features of the game can counterbalance the flaws. Additionally, players who are predisposed to liking a game of a particular series or genre with this score should enjoy the game. These are in no way bad games, and much fun can be had with them. An overall good game is worth taking a look at, whether you are willing to buy the game or rent it first. That or you can also wait for the game to reach a good price.

    Score 6 - 6.5- Decent: Games falling into this category may suffer from numerous flaws (for example, graphics or gameplay), but are still worth playing. Granted, the player should be aware that a game with these scores may not guarantee them full satisfaction.

    Score 5 - 5.5- Average: An average game is one in which a game’s features are neither good nor completely terrible. Instead, the finished product is manageable. Little has been done to hold the player’s interest. If anything, rent this game before you consider buying it so that you can at least get a feel for the game’s overall experience.

    Score 4 - 4.5- Poor: Games falling into this category may only keep gamers entertained for a short while. While the game may seem enjoyable for moments at a time, it can quickly grow old and may never be revisited again. The game’s overall function is lacking in quality and may not hold the player’s attention for long. The game leaves little or nothing else to return back to.

    Score 3 - 3.5- Bad: If any positive qualities about a game in this category exist, it is not enough to redeem the game for its shortcomings. Sure you may find yourself playing it, but for how long? You will wind up not giving the game a second glance.

    Score 2 - 2.5- Horrible: Games such as these may not be totally unplayable, they nearly are. Additionally, they may lack, or greatly suffer in, the fundamental functionality of the software as a whole. The game simply does not come close to meeting industry standards at the time of its release.

    Score 1 - 1.5- Appalling: Gamers should avoid this game at all costs. The game was clearly not ready to make its way to store shelves in its status. Save your money and find something else. See it in the bargain bin? No! Stay away! Keep moving and look for something else.