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Though not heralded as a Tomb Raider title, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is an isometric top-down downloadable platformer from Crystal Dynamics. The overall role of this title is a bit unclear, but perhaps the intent of this spin-off series is to fill the void between the release of proper Tomb Raider titles. So, what exactly is this game all about? Is it even worth the time of Tomb Raider fans? Let’s dive in.

It goes without saying that the biggest and — for the most part — only change from the Tomb Raider formula is the camera angle. Once you come to terms with that, you’ll find that this is as much a Tomb Raider title as any before it. It may even draw some appeal for gamers that aren’t fans of the Tomb Raider series because it can feel a bit like an RPG hack-n-slash dungeon-crawler at times. Not only because of the fast-paced gameplay and hoards of quickly dispatched enemies, but also due to the sheer amount of challenges and other opportunities to unlock upgrades, weapons, and bonuses throughout each level, adding a layer of addiction for achievement junkies and plenty of customization for RPG fans, or anyone that likes to dress up Lara Croft for that matter.

While the enemy AI does leave a bit to be desired at times, this game is more about puzzles, traps, and boss fights. During the game’s 4-hour campaign, combat and gameplay can become a bit repetitive, but the intense traps and tricky puzzles coupled with the ability to play this game in short bursts keeps it feeling fresh. Even for those that don’t really follow the Tomb Raider games with a passion, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light offers fantastic value, especially when you consider the game’s current local co-op functionality and Crystal Dynamics’ plans for online co-op play in the future.

Scores

- Graphics: 7
The game’s graphics aren’t cutting-edge, but they are what you’d expect from far zoomed-out isometric games like this. However, to its credit, the environments are packed with details and depth while still feeling natural.

- Storyline: 6
Unfortunately, here’s where you’ll find the game’s weakest point. The story consists of a group of mercenaries obtaining a sacred artifact and inadvertently releasing the evil being that was trapped inside. Of course, the rest of the game sees Lara chasing down and defeating this powerful being. The story serves its purpose, but has a distinct cookie-cutter feeling to it.

- Gameplay: 9
It goes without saying that the gameplay in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is sure to please past Tomb Raider fans, but it may also have what it takes to interest fans of RPG dungeon-crawlers. The game can become a bit dry at times, but you’re never too far from the next puzzle or suspenseful death trap.

- Controls: 7
Unfortunately, when it comes to mouse-and-keyboard controls, I found the mouse response to be annoyingly muddy and not very precise. It is suggested that you employ the use of your trusty Xbox 360 Controller for Windows for this game. As any fan of Tomb Raider games will know, the games are best played with a controller anyway.

- Lasting Appeal: 9
The game is packed with outfits, weapons, upgrades, bonuses, challenges and achievements that you’ll spend countless hours unlocking. And, if that’s not enough, the co-op play should breathe new life into the game once it’s out in the future.

Score: 8 Olives

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