Game Reviews

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Star onStar onStar onStar halfStar off
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

In Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, the agile and resourceful lady brings her two best features: gun-toting action and archaeological exploration.

A unique approach to an old gaming trope, the twin-stick shooter format makes this tomb-raiding adventure feel fresh. Challenging platform puzzles, satisfying combat, and superbly designed co-operative multiplayer make Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light an engrossing experience.

But an array of problems, from minor graphical glitches and control quirks to dysfunctional online play on iPad, leave Lady Croft bruised in her excursion to iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Her Mexican adventure isn't ruined, though: on the contrary, the iPhone and iPod touch version is quite enjoyable.

Legend has it

It begins with a search for an artefact known as the Mirror of Smoke, which is fabled to imprison the blood-thirsty demon Xolotl. Naturally, a band of ignorant treasure hunters seizes the relic from Lara Croft and unwittingly unleashes Xolotl. Only by joining forces with Totec, the warrior who originally defeated the demon, can you set things right.

It's a compelling setup that develops over ten missions packed with mystical creatures, hazardous puzzles, and plenty of collectibles. The levels are superb, boasting variety in terms of layout and visual design, as well as in the number of activities in which you can partake.

There are glowing red skulls to collect, secret challenge room puzzles to solve, point goals to meet, and various bonus objectives that net you extra points and achievements. Primary objectives are exciting, too - dismantling enormous traps, taking on a giant room-filling spider, impaling a dinosaur on spikes.

Two minds are better than one

Without question the game's greatest feature is co-operative multiplayer. Linking up with a friend locally via wi-fi or Bluetooth or online via Game Center, you're able to play through all ten levels. Frustratingly, Game Center issues make online play a hassle - connections are practically impossible - so local is the way to go.

What makes Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light a great co-operative experience, though, is more than just the ability to share the game - it's the sharp design that emphasises working together to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. It isn't just about adding another player - it's meaningful co-op.

One player controlling Lara and the other Totec, you must come to solutions using each other's abilities. For instance. only Lara is capable of grappling. This means the player controlling her must handle grappling sections, then pull Totec up.

One simple puzzle requires Totec to hurl a spear into a wall onto which Lara can jump to the platform above, at which point she can pull Totec up to join her.

Bruised, but not broken

An assortment of minor quirks unfortunately cut into this fantastic design. To start, the movement controls are quirky. For instance, you can never completely predict the result of a jump - the ability just isn't anywhere near as tight as it should be.

In turn, this renders intricate platforming sequences - not all, just precision-based puzzles that often appear as optional objectives or in challenge rooms - touch and go affairs.

Grappling is awkward. You can latch onto special hooks to swing across pitfalls or climb high walls by tapping directly on the hook with a finger.

The mechanic works, despite the fact that the grapple icon often appearing at the edge of the screen and the camera regularly doesn't pan far enough out to let you know it's there. Furthermore, when the icon appears directly on top of the health bar, it just makes things confusing.

Minor graphical glitches abound, although these have no bearing whatsoever on gameplay. The game doesn't look anywhere close to the original console release, but it's not ugly by any means.

iPad, no thank you

The real problem is in a poorly adapted iPad version that crashes frequently and possesses a cumbersome control scheme. Cut-scenes prove to be the issue here, with the game often dumping you to the home screen shortly after the start of one. Skipping helps, though not entirely.

While the controls have been configured in much the same way as the iPhone and iPod touch version, the larger iPad screen and expanded layout make for awkward control. An option to customise the position of buttons and full alternate control schemes are needed.

As a result of the problems I experienced with the iPad version, the final score applies only to the superior and recommended iPhone and iPod touch edition. It's with this version that Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light can be enjoyed for its fun mix of twin-stick action and ancient temple trotting.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Despite a handful of issues, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is an enthralling adventure with great action and killer cooperative multiplayer - just stay away from the unstable iPad version