Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Released Nov. 30th, 2009
Developed by: Crystal Dynamics
Series: Tomb Raider

Eagle-eyed gamers will notice right away that the "Tomb Raider" moniker is nowhere to be found in the title of this new Lara Croft adventure. That's no mistake, because Square Enix (now the parent company of TR's long time publisher Eidos) wants to put some separation between Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for XBLA and the rest of the continuing Tomb Raider series. Does that mean Lara Croft wont be appearing in Tomb Raider game anymore? Don't be ridiculous. But they do want to separate it from the TR timeline, and let Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light stand on its own as a unique experience.

And it is a unique experience compared to every other game you've played featuring the shapely archaeologist. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light eschews the third-person behind-the-character camera view for a fixed-camera, isometric view that evokes games like Diablo or X-men Legends. Gameplay-wise, it is not similar to those games' "rpg-lite" design; there's nothing rpg about Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. In fact, it's really more of a co-operative shooter at heart, if you can believe that.

But fear not, Tomb Raider faithful. There will still be some room and traversal puzzles in this game, though the mechanics of them are completely different than what you may have played in any previous Tomb Raider titles. The puzzles are built around the co-operative moves that Lara and her partner can pull off together. So who's big enough to share the screen with a video game celebrity of Ms. Croft's star power? Some side character from one of the previous games? A clone of Lara? How about an Aztec god, risen from the dead?


Actually, he may be Mayan or Olmec, I'm not 100% sure and I apologize for my cultural insensitivity. All I know is that the game is set in the jungles of Central America and involves a battle between good and evil forces over a magic, power-giving artifact called the Mirror of Smoke. Totec, leading the Army of Light defeated Xoxotl and his evil minions (all of whom surely have equally unpronounceable names) and took control over the Mirror. Xoxotl gets the boot from the world and Totec takes a two-thousand year nap with the Mirror, since he is now the Guardian of Light from the title. That leaves us in the present where Lara Croft discovers the Temple of Light, except, oh burn, she was followed by mercs who steal the Mirror, unleashing Xoxotl back upon the world and awakening Totec who is pissed at the first person he sees after his slumber: Lara.

So now you're stuck with an angry god as you help him recover the Mirror and return Xoxotl to whatever off-world place he's been staying lately. He may be mad, but he;s happy to help you in your adventures by offering help to Lara in traversing difficult areas. Totec has a spear and a shield, the latter which he can put on his tall head (he's really only man-sized, but still a big dude for a dude) creating a platform for helping Lara reach higher ledges. His spear can also stick in walls, creating a beam for Lara to further jump or swing upon. For her part, Lara has a grappling hook, which is strong enough to even grab Totec and pull him up on to stuff. Using these basic implements, you'll find a number of ways to combine them to get Lara and Totec across any room or traversal puzzle. That's what Lara is best at anyway, right?

She's also good at shooting, and apparently so is Totec. He handles an assault rifle surprisingly well, and he'll be doing it a lot because the most surprising thing about Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the fact that it is really a shooter at heart. One of those top-down, arcade-style shooters that's full of frenetic, constantly-firing action filled with enemy monsters that we love so much. It's a familiar style of play, but definitely nothing like you've seen Lara do. It's a very intriguing proposition that developer Crystal Dynamics has laid out for us, and a fine-if-different-looking adventure to take Laura on while waiting for her next large scale adventure.