PSN Review – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

The Lara Croft name is one that is immediately recognized by seasoned gamers as the most popular female character in videogame history, earning the fictional vixen a Guinness World Record for such status. Spawning from the Tomb Raider series on the original PlayStation, Miss Croft has come a long way from the original concept drawn up by Core Design, to the redesign by Crystal Dynamics, and finally at a new perspective with Square Enix.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light strays from the Tomb Raider name with an all-new isometric viewpoint. Still carrying the Lara Croft character, the downloadable title remains true to its originating series with a similar plot and atmosphere. The narrative places the lovely protagonist meddling in between the drama of Totec, the “guardian of light”, and Xolotl, the “keeper of darkness” who have been in conflict since 2,000 years prior to the events of the game. Lara, being the crafty archeologist that she has been throughout the Tomb Raider series, found the cursed mirror only to be stolen by her competing excavators. From here, it is up to the player to defeat the now released Xolotl.

Right off the bat, players will notice–if they were not aware of it already–that Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light takes on an isometric, almost birds-eye-view, perspective of the in-game world. All camera angles, rotating, and panning and zooming is done automatically as the player moves Misses Croft around. This fixed camera is similar to that of the God of War series and unlike the PSN downloadable, Kick-Ass. The end results of the changes from the original third-person take on the heroine is a refreshing experience that is enjoyed by both fans of the Lara Croft character and newcomers to the game.

One of the driving forces of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the cooperative multiplayer of the game. With an additional player, Lara Croft’s companion takes on the role of Totec, a Mayan warrior who is apparently 2,000 years old. While playing with a buddy is an enjoyable experience, the cooperative multiplayer component adds nothing to the game, itself, since the levels are designed in a simplistic way where one player can solve all the puzzles by their lonesome. The game does not, however, include an online component.

Along the way, Lara will uncover items with give her certain power-ups and boosts that will increase her defense and attacks. Speaking of attacking, the game hosts a great variety of weaponry with everything from Lara Croft’s signature handguns to even a flamethrower. Weapons can be assigned to specific button layouts on the DualShock 3 for quick access to the most fitting weapons at the time. One notable weapon is the spear which is not only a projectile weapon but also doubles up as a makeshift platform when thrown against walls.

The gameplay sports everything from gun combat to traversal platforming. Using Lara’s spear, players can use them as a stair-like pathway or a boost for a jump when attempting to collect hidden objects, such as power-ups and new weapons. Also included in Lara’s arsenal is a grappling hook used to scale walls and even form pathways across large gaps, as demonstrated in the screenshot below. While some puzzle solvers are unlike that of the retail-based Tomb Raider releases, the similarities are undoubtedly there and eventually make for difficult yet mind-racking puzzles.

From a graphical standpoint, the visuals are admittedly above-average but not necessarily stunning. Given the destructibility of the environment, though, clearly the game is packed to the brim with assets. As mentioned, destructibility is one example of the virtual, yet lifelike, environments but, along the way, the players experience will undoubtedly be influenced by the experiences brought by the assets involved in the puzzles. These include, but aren’t limited to, rollable balls, the grappling hook to traverse the landscapes, mechanical traps, etc. In the end, the player will feel like Lara Croft is in real-life, albeit constrained and fundamentally unrealistic, peril.

While Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a downloadable PSN title at heart and contains all the characteristics of one, the game’s up-to-digital distributed-date visuals are matched by its over-the-top sound design. While the sounds at times may seem more fitting for games with the technical competence, for instance Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, for a downloadable title, the sound definitely appear to be canned and desynchronized.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light packs a decent punch for a downloadable title. While there is a heavy emphasis on the compatibility of cooperative multiplayer, unfortunately the game is truthfully best enjoyed alone. With obvious likenesses to the Tomb Raider series repackaged with a new aerial perspective, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a great bite-sized download for fans of the video game vixen as well as new-comers to the universe.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Refreshing take on Lara Croft’s universe.

– Cooperative multiplayer not all that it’s cracked up to be.

– Difficult and unintuitive puzzles later on.

7 out of 10