ESRB: T for Teen
Players: Single Player / Two-Player Co-Op
Genre: Isometric Platformer
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: August 18th, 2010
I used to hate Tomb Raider.
There, I said it. Now that we’re all friends again, I feel that I can at least hold my hat in hand and let you now that I realize why. I hate platform games. That being said? You can’t say “Platform Game” without thinking of things like Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot and a slew of titles that come out whenever a new cartoon movie hits theaters. There’s so many platform games out there and normally, I’ve hated every single one of them. Lara never stood a chance in my eyes because everytime I dared put the disc into my Playstation? I’d end up shutting it off while she dove off a cliff like a hot-pants wearing lemming with a ponytail.
My nose scrunches whenever the mere mention of Tomb Raider happens and I felt that it’d be at least a little interesting, since I had no idea about the title, to try out Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. First off, it didn’t have anything about tombs or raiding or a mashup of both so I was at least willing to see if maybe I’d grown out of my hatred for all things platform.
The title is only available for download and as my Xbox blinked at me to let me know: It’s 2 gigs worth of dynamic lighting and rustling foliage. Don’t have room for 2 gigs of that? Don’t get this game.
However, the lush rainforest terrain is some of the best I’ve seen in this style of game. It’s well worth deleting all those old episodes of The Office because Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix know how to squish as much pretty into one package as they can. When you do actually empty all of your hard drive space free of Jersey Shore episodes and get it on there? You’ll be happy to find that it’s rife with content and from what I understand; there’s more to come. Multiplayer was limited when I was playing, but has been unlocked by publication, to have online co-op. Future DLC will reportedly be free for the first thirty days that it’s on the Marketplace and scoreboards document your points gathered and missions obtained.
Okay, so those are the specs but how does it play? Beautifully. There is not time whatsoever wasted in grinding you through some monotonous tutorial and with a series of unobtrusive pop-ups they show you how to weave your way through the isometric landscape. The look of it reminded me of Diablo II’s environments while the gameplay was like Contra and all the best parts of Metal Slug. Seriously, if you’ve played all those? Just stare off for a second and think about it — this one? It’s the best kind of mashup of some of my favorite games. Blended seamlessly into a game featuring the titular character from a series I hate. Go figure. Everyone’s got to live and let live now and then, right?
The game goes through a series of Chapters with point systems and hidden areas that unlock new challenges during your Missions. So far, my favorite was to skip this rotating three-sphere’d trap like you were jumping rope — twelve times in a row without stopping. I absolutely loved it. The puzzles and challenges are complicated enough to make you think but never enough that you spike your controller over at the television like Gabby Reese. Thank God, because I had to suck it up through God of War all these years and their “Push this Brick” puzzles — I didn’t want to do that again.
Alongside you during your trip is the huge fan of Lara’s ponytail, Totec. And he rocks that thing all through the game. Totec’s that Guardian of Light that everyone’s been hearing so much about and he’s apparently not getting along too well with Xolotl. One thing leads to another and Totec’s telling Lara how she’s has to mediate this shindig. Totec seems hell-bent on doing things his way, the Warrior way. He’s armed to the teeth with stabby spears and unlimited bombs (Same as Lara) all of which come in pretty useful compared to her gun-happy ways. Thing of it is, when you’re playing multiplayer — he’s with you the WHOLE time. Not getting in the way, but being way more helpful than he is in your single player excursion. Then, when you play single player? He only dives in during cut scenes and Lara just looks at him as if she’s completely put out that he only comes around for the cool stuff. I would’ve liked if AI controlled him sometimes because during some boss-fights, it would’ve been nice to have some backup. Understandably, isometric games have boundaries though when it comes to co-operative AI so I get why it wouldn’t be easy. Still, it doesn’t detract whatsoever from the overall experience.
Personally, I know that once I get through every Mission — I’m going to weave back in and I’ll want to gather as much as possible. I’m having a blast and as of print, I haven’t beaten it completely but I’ve got a good idea of the title. It’s the most fun I’ve had on a strictly downloadable title in a long time and I really hope that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics get together and do up a sequel in the future. I can see myself and my Xbox Live friends doing it up to out score each other for hours at a time.
Thanks, Lara. I’ve decided you’re not quite so lame anymore but maybe take your hair down once in awhile.