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Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light puts an interesting spin on an old idea... A spin that was very long over due. After a series of lack luster Tomb Raider titles, Crystal Dynamics took the helm and delivered a fresh Lara Croft adventure. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a beautiful blend of exploration, puzzle-platforming and arcade style combat. All three of these characteristics work together in perfect harmony and embody why downloadable arcade style gaming is still so important.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light follows everyone's favorite busty archeologist on another ruin exploring expedition. The prologue explains that Ms. Croft sought after a legendary artifact and was then betrayed by a rival group of explorers once she found it. An ancient evil was released and it is up to Lara and the resurrected warrior Totec to save the day. The plot is without a doubt the weakest part of this game. Anyone with a working brain will cringe when the characters decide to speak or just try to advance the story. The only reason there is a story at all is to somehow justify why the two characters would be working together in the first place. Don't bother trying to follow it, it's silly.
Luckily Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is fun enough to save itself from it's own story.
The title of the game is Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light-- A title directly referencing the focus of the gameplay. This is a game best played with another person. Crystal Dynamics did a great job making the single player mode enjoyable, but you will want to grab a friend and to run through this for the ultimate experience. Unfortunately you will really have to drag a friend over to your apartment because the online co-operative wont be patched until the PC and PSN versions come out on August 28th.
Lara and Totec both have special skills beneficial to the other. For example, Totec can throw a spear which sticks to walls-- Lara can then jump on the spear and jump up to platforms previously unreachable. Use of teamwork and co-operative play is essential and surprisingly creative.
There is tons of depth to this game, all adding insane amounts of replay value. At it's core, each level consists of getting from point A to B while collecting as many points as possible. However all the levels have their own distinct rewards and secondary challenges. Some of the challenges are straight forward, like amass X amount of points in one level, but there are also ones with a ton of variety and creativity. I remember challenges that had me jumping from pillar to pillar a certain amount of times without falling. Completing all the challenges can be really fun but also very difficult.
A useful item system that makes collecting all the hidden items important means hours of gameplay. There are tons of different weapons and different objects to uncover that modify your skills. Finding all the items is going to take you a while. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light does what good games should all do, it creates a reason to go back and play levels you have already beaten.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is an easy write off for people jaded by previous Tomb Raider games, however I urge everyone to give this a try. The story is stock but the rewarding gameplay, both single-player and co-op, completely makes up for it-- Plus it's only $15. It's a totally different Lara Croft experience and it is a great throw back to the kind of arcade style that you would only find in old cabinets. Grab a buddy, a case of Red Bull and give this arcade game a playthrough.