Lara Croft has had a long and storied past in video games. From her early days of large polygon breasts and the drama they caused to the latest iteration of the series which took a darker and more serious look at the character, Lara is a veteran of the videogame world and an instantly recognizable character. So it's somewhat surprising that only now will she be getting her first downloadable title, and further more, her first game that's not a 3rd person action adventure title. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a dual analog controlled isometric action adventure game - but what exactly is that? The moment I started playing I was immediately reminded of the Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance titles on the console with an added splash of the classic Diablo - though Guardian of Light is somewhat void of many RPG elements.
I chose to play as Lara while my partner was Totec, a mysterious South American warrior over that is over 2000 years old. Each character has a base ability to assist in puzzle solving - Lara has a grappling hook while Totec has spears he can throw. These are use to traverse the landscape - for instance - there might be a chasm that's too big to cross so Totec can create poles in the wall for Lara to jump across, and then Lara can grapple back to her partner and he can jump and swing over. You definitely don't want to have trust issues with your partner as you'll be taking plenty of "leaps of faith." Totec also has a shield which Lara can use to get up to higher places making co-op play a necessity in the game. In fact there were numerous puzzles that required one player to hold a door or lever, or have both players time an action together in order to facilitate co-op play. If you don't have a co-op partner around to play though, the single player portion of the game is slightly different removing the co-op nature of the puzzles and having Lara venture out in a more traditional manner for her - all alone.
"Hey, what happens if I let go of the right bumper?"
Gameplay wise you move with the left stick and aim with the right while pressing the trigger to fire your weapon. While you start with a base weapon both characters earn others through various unlockables which you can choose at the start of a level. Your extra weapons use up a blue bar of power located under your health, and once out, you'll need to switch back to your main weapon. You can find various objects to recharge this meter throughout the levels. Your final piece of the arsenal are an unlimited amount of remote bombs, press Y to place one, and then Y again to detonate. At first this sounded to me like it would make the game almost too easy, but upon playing, I quickly learned these bombs are a necessity to stop your team from being overrun.
The level we played required us to find three gold discs to open up the path into a temple. Along the way were various creatures in our path - giant spiders, demon like creatures, and huge trolls all stood in our path. There was a nice mix of intense action broken up by some minor platforming and puzzle elements. Graphically the game seems to be shaping up quite well with big expansive environments - everything you see in them is to scale - so that giant temple over there? You'll eventually get up close and personal with it.
The infamous "spike maze"
You'll also find glowing doors that are challenge rooms in co-op to complete with a friend as fast as possible to unlock different objects in the game. Again, I really dug the pacing of the levels, everything seemed to be split up evenly between action and puzzles, and the puzzles themselves were actually pretty fun. One highlight for me was a puzzle that involved running over a maze of spikes to open up a door, after failing a few times trying it by myself we attempted the pattern in co-op - needless say hilarity ensued...along with plenty of deaths.
While Lara might be out of her norm with Guardian of Light, the game itself is sitting very comfortably on its own. There's a few unannounced features and elements that are going to add replayability to the game, I wish I could say more, but we were assured more info would be announced soon. As a co-op game we really like the direction things are going, there's a nice old school arcade feel here mixed with some next-gen graphics and RPG-lite elements. All of that is packaged in a downloadable title with online and offline co-op, if the developer can pull off, be a worthy addition to the Croft franchise when it launches later this Summer.