The beautiful thing is, this being a Lara Croft game, the bombs can’t just be weapons – they also solve puzzles, and it won’t just be through blowing things up. Such is the inventiveness of the puzzles in general: they are paced well, dotted in between battles, and always present new ways to challenge your thinking. They’re never terribly difficult, but they’re almost always fun to solve. They’re also different depending on whether you play solo or co-op. See, in co-op, Lara has a grappling hook, while Totec, her ancient guardian buddy, has spears and a shield. The puzzles are still quite good in solo, with Lara able to use the spears, but they’re definitely more interesting in co-op.
Totec can hoist Lara up on his shield to reach greater heights. He can do the same with his spears - by aiming them at walls, he can create rungs that Lara can jump to and balance on. He can’t climb his own spears because his weight breaks them, but Lara handles this problem with her grappling hook, serving as an anchor to pull him up or even as a tightrope for him to walk across. Let’s just say that the inventive ways the puzzles get you to coordinate with your partner to leap up spears, swing across chasms, and pull each other up never run out. It’s just so much fun helping each other climb things, recalling childhood memories of helping friends scale fences and trees.
Above: Lara's tight-rope trick, followed by Totec throwing spears into the wall, creates a kind of leapfrog dynamic to crossing obstacles
To add to the strategic side of things, you’ll collect a vast arsenal of weapons, all of which use ammo from the same pool. This is far from realistic, but keeps things simple in game terms – all you have to pay attention to is the rate at which each weapon consumes ammo. We were surprised at how many weapons there are – it’s a regular gun-junky’s paradise, and far more varied than any Tomb Raider game. In addition to the guns, there are artifacts and relics to collect. Besides being an essential story element for Lara Croft (she’s just gotta collect treasure), they can be equipped in slots to give stat bonuses. There is a crap-ton of these to find, and mixing and matching them mid-level can make a difference - like when you need to run through a timed trap sequence, equipping speed boosters really helps.
Speaking of traps, Guardian of Light has some of the nastiest, scariest ones we’ve ever seen, and many of the ways to get around them are truly exciting when you figure them out. There are sequences where one trap after another will come at you, and this becomes especially frantic in co-op as you have to figure out what to do, and then coordinate properly to get it done before you get squashed/impaled/dropped. These sequences are still pretty great alone, but they really shine in co-op.
Above: We always enjoyed the rolling ball puzzles - the game continuously figures out new ways to get you to play with their physics
There isn’t really much we can complain about in this game. It’s possible that some players will get frustrated with the combat later in the game – it throws wave after wave of enemies in some areas. We actually loved these sequences, but we could see how some players will find them too difficult or just exhausting. It’s also possible that some action-oriented players may be bored with the puzzle elements, but we should emphasize that the puzzles are not even close to the scale of typical Tomb Raider games – they’re light, breezy, and don’t last long. We did encounter some weird bugs in co-op that we didn't in single-player, like weapons becoming temporarily unselectable or healing fountains not working, but these were pretty minor issues and didn't happen more than once.
Above: It's not Lara Croft without spikes coming out of the floor
Then, of course, there’s the current lack of online co-op. If you’re dying to play the game fresh with a friend and can’t meet up in person, you’ll want to wait for the patch. However, the game is so much fun in single-player that it’s easily worth a play-through in both solo and co-op. We’re really, really hoping the online component doesn’t have technical hiccups, because as it is, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a superb blend of twin-stick shooting, platforming, exploration, and tactical combat. Heck, we love us some traditional Tomb Raider, but we wouldn’t shed a tear if the next adventure for Lara was a sequel to Guardian of Light instead of a “proper” Tomb Raider.
Aug 17, 2010
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