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iPhone review of the day: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Game: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Price: $6.99 / £3.99
Size: 306 MB
Get it now on the iTunes store:US/UK

When it was first released on full-sized consoles earlier this year, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light came out of nowhere to offer up one of the best Tomb Raider experiences in recent memory. With an excellent mix of straight up action and clever puzzle solving, not to mention some great co-op play, it reinvigorated our faith in Lara. And although it’s scaled back a bit, the iPhone version of the game is just as good.

The set-up is the same as the console and PC version. Lara finds an ancient mirror that is being used to imprison an evil being known as Xolotl, but she’s not the only one looking for it. The local warlord has followed her and, of course, unleashed the power of Xolotl, who naturally wants to do all sorts of bad things like destroy the world. You play either solo, as Lara, or you can team up in co-op with one player taking the role of the titular guardian of light, Totec.

The action is split pretty evenly between combat, exploration, and puzzle solving. The controls ape those of a twin stick shooter, with the left stick controlling movement and the right controlling your weapon. But of course, being Lara, she’s got much more than a gun to work with. You can swing on a grappling hook, lay down mines, and more. You’ll pick up additional tools as you go, and most have multiple uses. For example, Toltec can throw spears at bad guys, but Lara can also climb on them after they’ve stuck into a wall to reach inaccessible areas.

As with all ancient tombs, the one you’re exploring is full of traps and puzzles. There are levers to pull, switches to press, and giant balls to push around. The levels are large and the ancient evil creatures plentiful. If you’re not trying to figure out how to work an old machine you’re shooting the face off of giant enemies. There’s something for everyone.

Naturally, the iPhone version doesn’t look as good as it’s bigger brother. The characters are flat looking and the environments less detailed. But since the screen is so small, and the camera pulled out so far, it still looks good. Strangely though, Guardian of Light is very quiet. The excellent voice acting remains intact, with Lara’s dialog being as charming as always, but the music and sound effects appear occasionally and only briefly.

But visual and audio gripes aside, this is an excellent version of an excellent game. For a game built with a controller in mind, the controls work quite well, and rarely ever get in the way of the experience. The only real downer is that currently the online co-op is a bit of a mess, as during our experience it crashed quite a bit. So if you plan on playing with friends, you may want to wait for the update that is surely already on its way.

But as a single-player experience, Guardian of Light is up there with the best on the platform with its challenging puzzles and satisfying combat. The world’s foremost tomb raider is back, and she’s spectacular.

Dec 16, 2010