Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Room Invader!

This ain't your Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft... Welcome back Lara, welcome back!
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: September 27, 2010
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Shooting everything in sight (and blowing up the fairly destructible environments) if fun and plentiful without a doubt, but the challenge system is what is going to keep you coming back and replaying the twelve levels after you run through the game once. Every level has around ten challenges, some of which are standard in each level (3 score goals, collect 10 Red Skulls) and others that are unique to each area (defeat an enemy or puzzle in a set time, cross the river without touching the water, blast a stone ball onto a pedestal). Not only do these give you special achievements to shoot for, many of them reward you with a new weapon, artifact, relic or health/ammo upgrade. Some of the more unique ones give you a great sense of satisfaction when you not only work out the solution, but also achieve the dexterity to pull off what you have to do. On top of that, there is a meta-score goal that unlocks some extra special goodies if your combined score for all levels gets high enough.


The variety of the challenges (even the skulls are usually hidden in interesting spots) keeps them fresh throughout the game, and plenty of weapons to unlock means at least there is a little variety to the shooting. I found myself going back and running through an area a half dozen times, trying to unlock different stuff each time, only to come in 2 seconds too late and have to start over. Frustrating? Maybe a tad bit, but still more fun than Duke Nukem Forever.

The dozen levels themselves are well designed, if a little drab in the palette. With loads of traps and puzzles spread around, the game avoids the same-y shooting becoming too tedious by pausing to let you think on occasion. Strewn throughout each level are the Challenge Areas that feature more fiendish traps and puzzles with the best rewards on the level.

Much like the other challenges, these areas can be safely ignored, but with the only penalty for death being the forfeiture of a small percentage of your score, there is no reason to take the cowards way out. There might not be a large roster of enemies, but each one has unique attacks and exhibits different enough Forrest Gump-level AI behavior to present a bit of a challenge, at least until you really get geared up. All your unlocks not only carry over from level to level and play through to play through, they also cross between single player and multiplayer.

Speaking of multiplayer, like it or not, just like the 360 version, for now we are stuck with local co-op only. Online will be patched in later (presumably for free), but for now you better know someone in real life, because you will want to play through it multiplayer. That isn't a knock on the single player, which you should by all means play through as well, rather it's a compliment to the design of the game. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light does a good job of making the levels just a bit different depending on which way you play, so when you are rolling with faithful companion Totec you will be executing tightrope walks and shield jumps that you can't do when you're alone and forced to solve the puzzles all by your lonesome.

Lara Croft is also casual gamer friendly, as one player can easily handle all the enemies in multiplayer, and death carries no real consequence either. My "non gamer" wife was able to breeze through the first several levels with me, and she got a kick out of helping solve the co-op based puzzles.

With a palatable $15 price tag offering a tantalizingly addictive reward system wrapped up in an engaging shooter featuring an admittedly pedestrian story, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a worthy purchase befitting a knowledgeable gamer like the one reading this review. Crystal Dynamics is promising 5 packs of DLC (some free?) that will surely add more levels, weapons, relics and probably lots and lots of costumes, as well as the holy grail on online co-op. Toss in the fact that it is a great game to play with casual gamers, and we are calling Lara Croft back from the dead!
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The Verdict
9.0

At a nice price point and providing a polished product, Lara Croft makes a triumphant return from semi-obscurity. Clever level and challenge design with the promise of more to come makes this a contender for PSN Game of the Year status.

8.0Graphics:

Pretty decent, although the palette is limited and a bit muted. Lara herself is so small onscreen that you can't even really make any judgements about her "assets". Which is a good thing!

7.5Sound:

Nothing memorable stands out about the sounds or score, and they certainly didn't detract from the game. I kind of miss Lara's sexy British accent though.

9.5Control:

The twin stick controls work really well in this game, although in rare spots it was hard to aim precisely in hectic situations. The platforming has the right amount of assist so you almost always make successful jumps but feel like it was your skills.

9.0Gameplay:

Fun, but simple action and light puzzle solving mean the game is enjoyable for a run through. Well thought out challenges that are never TOO hard and variation in co-op make running through it multiple times rewarding.