Little did y’all know, but while I was playing Tomb Raider, I was also playing Tomb Raider. Er, I mean…Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Which is not like Tomb Raider at all. Not that the newest Tomb Raider was very Tomb Raider-y either, in all meaning of the name. Wait, hold up. This is quickly getting confusing. Okay, let’s start again then.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a downloadable, top-down action game set in Central America that has Lara Croft on a quest for some lost artifact that potentially has the power to lock away an evil entity. Specifically, Xolotl, the Keeper of Darkness. Back in the day, Totec’s army was defeated when Xolotl used the mirror of smoke to unleash hordes of ghastly creatures. Totec survived and found a way to defeat Xolotl, imprisoning him in the mirror of smoke and becoming its immortal guardian in the form of a stone statue. In the present day, Lara reads of the legend and attempts to find it. After locating the mirror, a local warlord takes it from Lara and accidentally releases Xolotl. D’oh.
Rather than the series’ traditional third-person perspective, the camera is high overhead, like a bird, meaning Lara is maybe as tall as a toothpick now. Players control her by using the left thumbstick to move and the other thumbstick to point her equipped weapon in a specific direction, with right trigger to shoot. You can roll and drop bombs and jump and throw magical ropes that attach themselves to ceilings, and that’s kind of all the main moves you have at your disposal. Well, that is if you don’t have a friend to play with, as Guardian of Light is designed as a co-op experience, with a second player using Totec, the titular light-guardian voiced by Jim Cummings. Totec has a spear and shield, which play a big part in the platforming puzzles, but when you are going at it solo, Lara just has the spear itself. Despite Guardian of Light being given out for free to all Xbox Gold members, I was unable to find an online game to join and try out some co-op action.
Let’s talk about how the game actually feels when being played. Lara’s a speedy, gun-toting English archeologist. That’s one of the first things I noticed in Guardian of Light, that she’s extremely light on her feet, able to dive this way and that while still being able to shoot enemy spiders and demon-like creatures with deadly precision. Or as much as an Xbox 360 analog stick can give out. But still–she’s fast. Gone are the days of old, when running and jumping from platform to platform was like moving through water and you often spent more time lining up your jump than executing it. Jumping feels a bit clunky, and I never felt 100% confident when jumping from one platform to another. Same goes with using Lara’s rope to run up and along walls. Lastly, and this could just be my controller, but any time I had Lara running down the screen, like towards me, she would stutter and occasionally pause, which made this one puzzle involving spikes shooting up from the ground a real hassle. You gotta keep moving, Lara.
Right. Guardian of Light–I do like it. It’s certainly a different kind of game banking on the Tomb Raider namesake for interest. In truth, Lara could be replaced with anyone else, and that game would be just as good as it is now. Heck, put Indiana Jones in there, and you suddenly have a pretty good Indy game, not to be confused with a pretty good indie game.
However…I’m stuck. Sadly, it’s early on in Level 3: Spider Tomb. It’s just after that spike trap I mentioned two paragraphs up, with Lara stuck in a small room with, seemingly, nowhere to go. I tried throwing spears into the wall and jumping up, throwing her rope like a rabid cowgirl, but nothing worked. I just kept throwing her into a pit of death, lowering my score with each fall. I guess I’m going to have to grin and bear it and find a walkthrough, as there are still eleven more levels to go, and I do want to see more.