Lara Croft shakes the ‘Tomb Raider’ marquee in her first breakout title for the Xbox Live Arcade. Fashioned for the quick play audience, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light closes off the ‘Summer of Arcade’ just as strong as it started.

Tomb Raider and Lara Croft have always associated as the same entity. However, it is not surprising to see her names in lights since her character has grown to be more popular then the game she starred in. In ‘The Guardian of Light’ Lara gets the chance to prove herself away from the Tomb Radier brand, and to do long-time developer Crystal Dynamics takes on a new approach for their lead hereon.

Lara is Top Down... No Not that Top, Pervert!
In this new approach, Crystal Dynamics reworks the whole Tomb Radier experience to give us a birds eye view on Lara's exploits. Gone is the 3rd person action/adventure perspective for a new top down vantage point. Yes, a top-down Lara Croft, sounds crazy, I know. Well, it’s this type of “crazy” that makes this Xbox Live excursion a winner. Amazingly, Lara is still as hot as ever as she gets back to what she does best, spelunk tombs and kill mystic beings. Even with a new perspective, 'Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light' is every bit Tomb Raider, as unbelievable as it sounds.

Grrr, The Gods Be Angry
The storyline in 'The Guardian of Light' returns to the more whacker ideology of temples, angry gods, and mystic beasts. Lara, as always, is wrapped up in trouble as she hunts down her latest treasure. In this venture expect to investigate underground ruins, fight off demon like creatures, and escape several treacherous traps laid by the ancients. The narrative is delivered by small graphic novel type cut-scenes and small clip-bits of in game action. The tale is nothing too spectacular, but it doesn’t matter, the action is key, and for most part, we’ll be pounding the button to get through all the “talking” anyway.

Totec to the Rescue
In a nice new twist, this adventure incorporates a strong LOCAL multiplayer component that has Lara working through the game with a friend, a Aztec deity titled Totec. Playing the game in a co-op fashion will change up how you approach the in-game puzzles and many of the other sections of the game. With your virtual buddy, Lara will not be given as many weapons and will have to work as a team to make it through the labyrinth like ruins.

Luckily, co-op is super fun and a great way to experience the game. Totec, who is armed with a shield and spear (default), will help Lara as she helps him with her grappling hook, and bashful light weight. –She can jump on spears to climb up walls and Totec is simple too heavy— the dynamics between the two seem to work, no matter how much they seem like the odd couple. Expect some funny incidences along with some tense action packed sections. Crystal Dynamics has done their homework, and while the game doesn’t support online co-op (what a change for once) it is set to be patched in at a later date.

Making up for the Plot
Creatively the story and characters might be a dull. However, the level design and in-game action is anything but. There are numerous close-call scenarios that will have you on the edge of your seat like the ending of the 'Spider Tomb.' Yes, Spider Tomb, have arachnophobia? Watch out for this one. Then you get your big boss battles, which are recurrently in each level along with distinguishing scuffles like the level called ‘the Summoning.’ Lastly, what would a Tomb Raider (umm, Lara Croft) game be without puzzles. Now we are not dealing with mind meltdown stuff here, but some levels are delightfully clever and will start the wheels turning. In total you will control Lara in 10+ levels of pure joy. Each level varies on size and for the most part expect to spend at least 20 minutes to a good 40 on each level. Not bad for an arcade game.

A New Challenge Awaits
To encourage you to replay Lara’s adventure there are several challenges set up during a level. Usually this includes a point and time based challenge along with little individual spot rewards, challenge temples, and hidden skulls. This game is packed full of substance and if the glory of achieving wasn’t enough, Lara also supports leaderboards to see how you stack up to your friends in single player and co-op play.

Along with these challenges there are lots of weapons to find and over 60 power-ups to collect under the guise of artifacts and relics. These boost your characters skills to balancing the fight more in your favour. Although, keep in mind most artifacts have a negative and positive attribute, like the ‘Stone Feather’ that increases your player speed and decrease your bomb speed. The relics are most defined bonuses like the ‘Scepter of Huitzilopochtli’ (say that 10 times in a row) that offers up sweet health regeneration.

Going deeper then expected, the payload is exceptional in the game. Fighting spore monsters was never so much fun, so helping Lara get the best bang from her weapon is a diverse line-up of bang-bangers. Of course her twin pistols are featured, but Lara will also be able to get a hold of assault rifles, shotguns, flamethrowers, and even a grenade launcher, and that’s just tipping the ice berg. Like I said this game is packed and if you are anything like me you will be back for more as you rank up and find all the hidden treasures within the game.

'Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light' is another breath of fresh air, not only for the line-up of arcade games on Live, but for Lara herself. This top-down action adventure game is beyond excellent providing several memorable moments that are a blast alone or better yet served up in its creative two player co-op mode. With the amount of detail, polish, and extras poured into this one is an easy buy. Given the charm “little Lara” has, I’ll be startled if Crystal Dynamics doesn’t follow this path again. It’s been awhile since Lara has had so much charm. These ones a winner and an excellent close to the “Summer of Arcade.”

Final Score: 8.9

Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 08.18.10

  • A New way to play Lara
  • Great puzzles and level design
  • Excellent co-op features, super fun
  • Graphics are excellent for an XLA title
  • Soundtrack and effects are solid
  • Leaderboards and collectibles, more then enough reasons to replay
  • Tale isn’t too imaginative
  • Might be too much of a departure for Tomb Raider die-hards
  • Totec is a ridiculous character
  • Dialogue isn't so hot

Summer of Arcade: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (7.0) | Hydro Thunder Hurricane (8.0) | Limbo (9.6)


Lara Croft
and the
Guardian of Light

Square Enix

Crystal Dynamics


US Release
August '10


Player 1-2
In-Game Dolby
HD 720p
D/L Content
1200 MS Points