Guest Author - James Shea
A "Tomb Raider" game that's more of a beat-em-up than a platformer, "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light" nonetheless includes some innovative gameplay.
Tomb Raider is best known as a third-person platform adventure game, where the heroine evades traps and foes to pillage and plunder from ancient tombs. It may surprise people who know the franchise to discover that "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light" is a cooperative shooter with a top-down camera angle. However, the classic elements like grappling hooks, puzzles, and traps have been kept intact, and the game is a pretty good example of how to do co-op in a unique and interesting way.
There are two characters in "Guardian of Light": Lara herself, who can use a grappling hook, and Totec, an ancient Mayan warrior armed with a spear and shield. Interestingly, the difference between these two characters is based on their role in solving puzzles, not in combat. Lara can use her grappling hook to cross ravines by swinging across in classic Tomb Raider fashion. However, she can also use it to let Totec swing across himself (by holding onto the other end), or vice versa. If she latches onto a grappling point and holds onto the rope, Totec can jump on the line and walk across it like a tightrope. Similarly, Totec's spears can be used as poles for Lara to climb up on, and Lara can climb up on his shield if he holds it above his head.
The co-op dynamic is, naturally, different from the single player version. It really feels like they went out of their way to make use of those mechanics, and the puzzles use them well. Other than their respective tools, each player also has remote-detonated bombs that can either be used in combat or to solve puzzles. There's also environmental puzzles like rolling balls, pressure plates, and so on. It's pretty classic Tomb Raider stuff despite the shift in gameplay.
The combat is pretty fun, but not quite as interesting. Both characters have a default weapon (pistols for Lara, spears for Totec), but they can also pick up a variety of other weapons, from rifles to shotguns to flamethrowers to grenade launchers. Unlocking these weapons is usually connected to an achievement or puzzle within a level. The gunplay is kind of simplistic, and it's generally more interesting to dive around dropping bombs than to actually try to shoot the enemies.
Overall, "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light" is pretty fun as a cooperative game. The single player is kind of mediocre, but the co-op is definitely worth the price of admission. It's rare to see a game that has multiplayer puzzles, and this game works pretty well because of it.
Purchased through Steam.