Xbox Live Arcade/PSN downloadable game Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light was one of my favourite games of last year, and something I still haven’t played enough of. I’ve already written one piece (and a quick one-sentence summary) on it, but here’s something closer resembling a traditional review:
Inside every gamer is an addict. That hoarding magpie that wants to grab every shiny trinket and tick every number as far as it’ll go. You might think you’re better than the average World of Warcraft player, Achievement whore or Farmville addict, but everyone has their price. Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light is very possibly the game to teach you that.
The set-up is classic Tomb Raider nonsense. One of Miss Croft’s globe-trotting scavenger hunts lands her in a battle between two ancient Mayan spirits, one evil, one good: Lara’s new 2,000 year-old BFF, Totec. It’s inessential, skippable stuff, but it’s only really there to provide the traditional backdrop of tombs, traps and T-Rexes.
While the plot might just be the same old, the game itself is anything but. It’s telling that they dropped the Tomb Raider moniker along with the usual up-Lara’s-arse cam. That this is a total reinvention is obvious from the moment you lay eyes on Guardian of Light’s old-school isometric perspective. Along with the addition of a RPG-esque inventory, this gives the game shades of classic PC collect-a-thon Diablo. A feeling complemented by levels of full of glistening collectibles and additional challenges. Most challenges are run-of-the-mill: speed-run times and high scores to be beaten, ten collectible skulls in every level. But better are level-specific goals: cross the river without touching the water, or use mines to get a hole-in-one with the huge stone balls that litter the levels.
Combined with sharp replay-inviting levels, inventive gadgets (grappling hooks, remote mines, magic spears that are both weapon and throwable platform) and a brilliant co-op mode (which shares the gadgets between Lara and Totec) every element of Guardian of Light is designed to make sure you come back, again and again. After all, you didn’t quite manage the high score. And all those shiny, shiny trinkets are waiting for you…