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First look at Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light

Lara leaps genres, gains co-op in downloadable title.

Ditching the words 'Tomb' and 'Raider' should be the first clue: this Lara Croft aims to distance herself from the expectations of that series. Sure, the game takes place in tombs and, to some degree, you are involved in raiding them - but with its fixed pseudo-isometric viewpoint, it plays more like a top-down shooter than the platform adventures of Tomb Raiders past.

Lara must frequently whip out her dual pistols to fend off assaults by swarms of demonic salamanders, ogres, mercenaries and giant spiders. Weaponry upgrades are handled in the way you might expect from a shmup, even giving Lara the ability to lay timed explosives - the ponytailed priss rolling out of the way before the blast wipes out the surrounding mob.

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Which isn't to say there isn't platforming involved: environmental puzzling still punctuates battles with the swarm, and, in co-op, the level design itself alters to demand some smart two-player thinking and careful orchestration. Joining Lara on her adventure is Totec, a Mayan tribesman Lara has inadvertently resurrected. He's keen to help, since Lara, and the bumbling mercenaries in her pursuit, have also unleased an ancient evil going by the name of Xoxolt, whom Totec is sworn to destroy.

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Totec can give Lara a boost up with his shield, or throw spears which stick in walls to provide footholds. He's too heavy to use them, but Lara can scamper up and fire a grappling hook down for her Mayan buddy. If Lara shoots her grapple over an otherwise impassable chasm, Totec can totter across the tightrope, grab the other end, and pull Lara across.

The puzzles we've seen weren't tortuous brainteasers by any means, but there's plenty of potential for the devs to eke out some clever conundrums from the simple mechanics they're throwing together. Co-op has a few competitive elements too, with players scrabbling to hoover up surrounding gems, and the game tracks XP separately. What benefits XP commutes, and what the combo metre at the bot of the screen means, are as yet unannounced.

Also unknown is whether the advertised same-screen co-op will actually work on PCs which don't have gamepads plugged in - but we're chasing this up. We'll let you know when the answer comes through.

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