Elliot - Pie

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Review - Pie Reviews

5 posts in this topic

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, a downloadable top-down action platformer game developed by Crystal Dynamics and Nixxes and published by Square Enix under the Eidos name. It's interesting for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is that it's not a Tomb Raider game. This statement is not only a reflection on the product's title, but on the experience I had with the game as a whole. For better or worse, this is not a Tomb Raider game.

What it is, is a mixture of top down, co-operative platforming, shooting and puzzle solving from a fixed camera viewpoint, with a heavy emphasis on working together with your partner to progress. Whilst the game is playable in single player, every facet of the game indicates that this is an experience intended to be enjoyed alongside a second person. Puzzles are designed for two people and in places somewhat ham-handedly modified when only one is present, often replacing the second player, a spear-wielding ancient Aztec named Totec, with boulders (which did evoke a smile when it occurred to me on briefly stepping into the single player mode that my good friend and trusty slave co-op partner BeautifulTorment could be equaled by a large rock). Perhaps most strangely about the single player is that instead of Lara wielding her famous infinite-ammo pistols, she is instead given Totec's spears to throw, and it's quite odd to see the lass running around temples, giant golden pole in hand. I can't comment on how some of the game's most devilish and interesting puzzles were handled in single player mode, because I played through the game with my friend, as (I feel) the developers intended.

Throughout the game's 14 levels, you'll encounter some memorable visuals, set pieces, puzzles and enemy encounters. There are some genuine "wow" moments scattered throughout that'll leave you grinning when you crack that puzzle or beat that enemy. Me and BT both had moments during the game where we openly admitted that we had no idea what the other was doing until the puzzle clicked into place and we realised quite what was going on, and these were the most satisfying moments, when the game throws things at you that you have to step back for a minute or ten and think about in order to solve. The puzzles were, true to the series' form, intriguing and tricky, but never so head-scratching that you feel compelled to reach for a guide.

There's a lot to be said for the platforming as well - because of the fixed perspective, there's some assistance given to the player when making jumps so as to address the fact that it would be unbelievably difficult to judge precise angles on the analog stick when one hasn't the freedom to inspect one's surroundings and gather perspective. This leads to some hilariously bizarre jumps where Lara (or Totec) will leap a good fifty feet forwards, missing out two platforms that the game seemingly forgot was there, to land safely on the other side of some moving platforms, but when the game remembers such trifles as the laws of physics, the platforming is satisfyingly weighty and challenging, an unusual thing to see in a top down game, where one rarely even has a jump button. It's an enjoyable addition, though that being said it would be a glaringly bizarre omission from any game featuring Lara Croft were it not there.

Where the game falters is the combat, which I found to be tedious. The weapons don't feel particularly good to shoot, it doesn't feel like there's any weight or punch to them. When done right in games like Dead Nation, you really feel like you just blew the head off a zombie, whereas here it feels like you're rapidly blowing spitballs at enemies, even when you're carrying round a bloody great chaingun. The weapon unlock system is also bizarre in how quickly it escalates - you start off with a pair of pistols, and by the game they're so desperately outmoded when you have a gun that might as well shoot nukes, it takes everything down so quickly. Similarly with the game's artifact system, within so short a space of time you acquire these items that make you all powerful, and it doesn't make you feel good, it makes you feel as though you're cheating somehow. I'm glad that effort and thought was put into what you unlock for completing the game's many optional goals and challenges, but I can't help but feeling the game's habit of handing out so many goodies leads to gamers feeling like Mr. Creosote. Giving the player so many rewards diminishes the effect of each one.

The game also suffers from "

" syndrome, where it feels the need to hand-hold you through an awful lot of things, stopping the flow of the game to show you things that you didn't need to see. Fortunately it stops short of spoiling its own puzzles, but it's still fairly obnoxious and lead to me and BT yelling "we know!" at the TV simultaneously. The most serious of the game's flaws, however, is its netcode, which I am informed was only patched in after the game launched, which baffles me. How could a title so heavily focused on co-op play not include online play? Great, there's couch co-op which is always welcome, but netplay is such an obvious feature that I'm simply astounded it was ever missing. Even now it is present, it's awful. There's really no beating about the bush, the netcode is bad. Very bad. Most of the laughs we had throughout our time with this game came from the netcode and how painfully, cringeworthily bad it was. An unwitting onlooker might have thought that we were trying to play when we both only had 56K dial-up modems. The number of bizarre synchronisation issues, players pinging across the screen, glitching into places we shouldn't be, and other crazy shenanigans that went on were unbelievable, and it was in equal parts frustrating and hilarious. I have little time for Bethesda apologists claiming that bug hunting in Skyrim is a fucking metagame, but I will concede that for a game that otherwise takes itself entirely seriously, it's just side-splitting to see this stuff in there.

Visually, it's not a bad game. The art direction occasionally strays from being entirely predictable to be interesting - I'm still torn as to whether the latter stages of the game are meant to be volcanic or Hellish. In terms of fidelity, it's as nice as you could reasonably expect a PSN title to be, though with a fixed camera perspective there's no real excuses for a lack of visual polish when you know exactly what's going to be on screen at all times. The music and sounds are the most Tomb Raider-ish thing about the whole experience - the sound effects are ripped straight from Legend and Anniversary, but how can I complain when they're so satisfying to my ear? The little chimes are good, and invoking memories of Legend and Anniversary can never hurt a game's chances.

The story seems slightly more farfetched than most other Tomb Raider plotlines, but that may well be due to my nostalgia goggles which are quite firmly strapped to my face when it comes to Tomb Raider games. It involves an ancient evil coming to life, and such things, so I can't really condemn it for being any less realistic than Legend's tale of green glowy things, but I did find myself much less invested in it than the others. I found it hard to care about the plot, as the game underlying it was more interesting. The Tomb Raider games seemed to do a better job of weaving together narrative and gameplay, but I can understand that the emphasis was placed differently for a co-op game. If you're looking for more tales of Lara Croft, you might have more time for it than me, but you may also find yourself disappointed.

So, given what I've said about how the game isn't really meant for single player, yet (online) co-op is broken, then where does that leave this game? Well, in a bit of a sticky spot, really. I made the point that it's not a Tomb Raider game, and it's not, it's too different from that which came before it, and if I were to judge it as a Tomb Raider game, then I would probably be more mean to it than it deserves because of how it differs and the issues I have. Judging it apart from other games that happen to feature our lovely heroine, however, it's good. Not quite great, but unrepentantly good. To borrow a phrase from TotalBiscuit, it's a game that's great sale fodder. For the initial asking price of a pence under £10, I think that's a tad too much for an experience which is as much fun and as long-lasting as the game is. For the price I paid for it, which was £0, it being free with PS+, then I can say without any reservation that I was more than happy to spend my time on it, it brought many a smile to mine and BT's faces, and if you've got this on your download list from Plus and haven't played it, find yourself a buddy and boot it up. The online mode's problems are worth fighting against for what is, otherwise, one of the most enjoyable co-op PSN titles I've played.

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice review. One of my favorite PSN games. Although the only co-op I played was talking my wife into playing one level with me to unlock the handful of trophies that required two people. As far as solving the puzzles with one person I had little to no trouble solving them. It would be nice to see how the game differed with two people. With the removal of BoulderTorment and all.

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

nice review might have to go check it out for myself

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/27/2012 at 10:23 AM, Elliot - Pie said:

I made the point that it's not a Tomb Raider game, and it's not

 

I have been describing this game as a 'Laura Croft Adventure' to my friends. I would love to co-op on it sometime, but there's never anyone on... well, ONE time since I got it I saw someone on, got in the game, and an emergency came up and I had to leave =(

 

On 8/27/2012 at 11:57 AM, silver_pigy said:

nice review might have to go check it out for myself

 

most DEFINITELY worth checking out, I am NOT a tomb raider fan, but this was very enjoyable, even in single player...personally, I enjoyed the single player mode, then again, this game is in my favorite style... (top down angled view)

 

 

---

Edit:

Hmm... I need a profile pic...

Edited by cadiped
*shrug*
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.