Have you ever wished you could play Tomb Raider with your buddies from an isometric perspective? Well, you still can’t. However, you can play a “Lara Croft” game with a buddy from an isometric perspective. We hope that’s good enough for you because it is for us.
Basically, the game starts with an ancient and magical mirror being stolen from its resting place. By removing the mirror, an ancient evil known as Xolotl, is released from his prison. Lara, along with Totec: the guardian of light, then has to stop Xolotl before he takes over the earth realm, yada yada yada. It’s basically the same, classic, Tomb Raider story with a twist …because now, it’s not a “Tomb Raider” game - at this point it should be obvious that the game is not exactly story-driven. However, you won’t need the story to push you through the game.
The game can be played in single-player or co-operative. The cool thing about this game is that it plays differently depending on which mode you choose. If you play single-player, the puzzles will be much easier to solve since you won’t need to communicate with a team mate and you will have all the tools available to you. To our dismay, you actually miss out on quite a bit of dialogue between Totec and Lara while playing solo. Totec runs off and only periodically pops in to offer some sentiments or give you a tool.
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If you decide to play the game co-operatively, you will need to have someone on the couch with you. At this time, the game only sports local co-op. That’s kind of a bummer but at the same time, local co-op is something that many games seem to ignore nowadays. Crystal Dynamics assures us that online co-op will be coming sometime in the future but that there were just too many issues with it for them to include it at launch. An expected date for the co-op is September 28th, 2010 to coincide with the games launch on the Playstation Network.
Once you get someone on the couch, prepare for a fun and challenging game. Each player is given specific skills that need to be used in tandem in order to solve the puzzles. For example: Totec has a spear that he can use to give Lara platforms on which to stand; Lara has the grappling hook with which to give Totec a tight rope. (She can also tether to Totec any time one of them is falling in order to offer some saving grace.) Those are just a couple examples, by the way. In all honesty, the game is made to play co-operatively. We won’t say that it’s not worth it without a partner, but the experience is significantly impacted while playing solo.
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The puzzles in this game are designed extremely well, especially in co-op. We had several head-scratchers on our hands our first time through. Aside from the awesome puzzles the game heavily rewards you for finding the collectibles, doing speedruns, etc. Basically, the game excels in giving you mini-objectives for each level. These objectives will, nine times out of ten, require multiple runs through a level.
There are plenty of things to keep you busy. Namely, unlocking all of the weapons, relics, artifacts, and costumes. As with any game such as this, once you beat a level, you can run through again in a matter of minutes. So multiple playthroughs will be abundant but the puzzles won’t have you stumped. You will merely be trying to beat an old time or get a higher score, which works for this game. If you want a bit more challenge in your runs, there are three combat difficulties which can make things very interesting. We did our first run through the game, on easy, in about nine to ten hours. Once we bumped it up to hard, it took us considerably longer to complete each level.
The game looks very nice with the isometric perspective; there are no noticeable clipping issues. One thing you will notice is that the game has a very smooth frame rate that never seems bogs down, even with a ton of enemies attacking on-screen at once. You can rest assured that when you play this game, you won’t be pulled away by crappy textures. The visuals support the goal of the game which is: fun exploration and puzzle-solving with a buddy.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the final game in the Summer of Arcade line-up and is out now on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 Microsoft Points. If you have a friend that can come play local co-op and you like Lara Croft, definitely pick this up. If you don’t have someone to play local and you are not a big Tomb Raider buff, then you may want to wait for the online co-op.
Final Score: 7 out of 10 - Above Average (How do we rate games?)
Written by Kenneth Fulton
XBL: Arte Venture