Should you have asked us six months ago what
could propel the nation's gaming sweetheart back
into our affections, chances are that a £10, download-only arcade shooter wouldn't be our first guess.
However, Lara lust strikes again - this has convincingly won us over. With all the fanfare, mega marketing budgets and doe-eyed rent-a-Lara promo models normally associated with a 'proper' Tomb Raider launch, we don't know if Square Enix will be pleased or miffed that Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light has charmed us so much. After all, it's an unashamedly old-fashioned and comparatively small-scale title.
Guardian of Light, as seems to be the trend with a lot of PSN/XBL titles of late, focuses on elements of classic gaming; almost to the point where we consider it retro.
There's an isometric view-point, twin stick shooting (move with the left stick, aim with the right) and gameplay that comes alive when you play co-operatively with a pal.
Lara and co-hort Totec get involved in competitive loot hoarding, end-of-level score besting, tag team problem solving and jovial friendly fire - and there's a pretty substantial arsenal to collect, including a rocket launcher, dual machine pistols, flamethrower and others.
Sure, you can play Guardian of Light solo (Lara comes equipped with Totec's spear and some of the puzzles are altered to compensate for the fact that your Mayan buddy isn't there), but playing with a pal should be compulsory, as you work out what combination of spear, grapple hook, shield and explosives you'll need to overcome the next Mouse Trap. The Cube-inspired brainteaser adds that extra dimension of enjoyment.
Discovering a crafty way to solve a puzzle with a pal makes you feel like a genius. It's almost as much fun as some of the 'do I trust them?' moments when using Lara's grapple hook as a tight rope for Totec.
After a relatively shallow learning curve, Lara's latest hits its stride in the last quarter of the game; the volume and intensity of the enemies increase, the physics-based puzzles get more devious and the oh-so-tempting collectables become more treacherous to reach.
The pick-up-and-play style encourages you to repeat levels, strive for scoreboard glory and speed run for success. While there's plenty of ball juggling and lever pulling, there's satisfying combat too. Make sure you pick a higher difficulty level to make the gunplay particularly frantic and fierce.
Lara Croft isn't the first download title to tap into old-skool gaming ethics, though - games such as Zombie Apocalypse, Shadow Complex and Pixel Junk Shooter have similar appeal. You might even feel a bit disappointed that Crystal Dynamics haven't been working on another Tomb Raider: Underworld instead.
However, if Guardian of Light hits the right note with gamers - and it really should - then fingers crossed, it paves the way quite nicely for a full-blown Tomb Raider sequel.
A retro-inspired shooter that's small in scale but big in entertainment.
- Working with a buddy
- Blowing up your buddy
- Frickin lava dinosaurs
- Totec is crap - a genero-tribesman
- The wait for a full-blown Lara