by Chris Priestman
reviewed on PS3
Don’t Stare, It’s Rude
When listing some of the most famous video game characters, Lara Croft has become a regular high entry. The reason is obvious when you look at her character design: her tight shorts, her gymnast’s body and her die hard attitude, all of which contribute to her being the attention of many happy-to-gaze males. Oh, and she has large breasts! A staple part of the Tomb Raider series she stars in is the free-roaming third-person camera that allows gamers to view her posture from every angle, fleshing out many bedroom fantasies. This character focus in a game can lead to some titles using the characters name to simply sell what is essentially an abysmal game. Lara has been subject to this in the past, and although I haven’t forgiven them for what they did in Tomb Raider: Anniversary, Crystal Dynamics have certainly brought the Tomb Raider series up to a more familiar quality.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light however is a departure from the series and the character-based title brings up a bad memory. Adding to this, the game uses an isometric viewpoint that will not allow players to get a full view of Lara’s exquisite assets. Have Crystal Dynamics gone mad, or has Lara been successfully reinvented?
Less Foreplay, More Action!
Breasts aside, the Tomb Raider games have kept players interested due to their puzzle-based level design and dynamic gun battles. Furthermore the games allowed the inner explorer inside you to really have a good stretch. There is nothing as satisfying as to find one of the hidden secrets placed throughout the intricately designed levels. This core gameplay still holds a strong presence in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, and in fact due to the isometric view distancing Lara from the player, the gameplay becomes the sole focus of your attention.
One critique I had of the Tomb Raider games developed by Crystal Dynamics was the introduction of an arcade-style finish to the game which encompassed the graphics, the HUD and elements of the gameplay. This has been transferred into Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light but due to the slight change in camera perspective, it fits like a glove. This is because the game is not centred on creating an atmospheric environment for you to soak yourself in. Instead the pace of the game is generally quite fast but still has those slower moments of the Tomb Raider games whilst you scratch your head over a puzzle.
The game is visually quite colourful with levels ranging from sandy tombs, green swamps and fiery canyons each with their own dangers. The principle is simplicity and accessibility, evidently most of the time was focused on creating a diverse gameplay. The arcade-style adopted does not interrupt an immersive personality-based narrative then as it had previously. Instead it forefronts the game as a fun and easy-to-play top-down puzzle platformer. What this does mean is that the story attached to the gameplay is disposable and some of the elements from Lara’s character are lost, perhaps her name is being used to sell the game as forewarned after all.
Basically the game boils the usual Tomb Raider narrative to its basics. Lara finds a relic called the Mirror of Smoke in a tomb but it is claimed by a bunch of mercenaries pursuing her. Accidentally, the mirror’s captive, an evil God named Xolotl is released alongside his evil army who kill the mercenaries and wake the mirror’s guardian, a Mayan warrior named Totec. Lara teams up with Totec to hunt down Xolotl and imprison him back in the mirror. A basic plot like that reduces characterisation to good and evil. Surprisingly this is not a big issue as the gameplay more than makes up for the loss of other elements. You will soon find yourself forgetting about Lara Croft and her ever so inviting chest.
Brilliant level design with a perfect balance of action and puzzles. Great pick-up-and-go arcade style best played with a friend.
Weak narrative and character base that is quickly forgotten.