Candied, crushed sago't gulaman
Jotec: I remember my very first experience with the Tomb Raider franchise being an incredibly frustrating one. It was Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft for the original PlayStation, and I had never before grappled with tank controls. As hot as Lara Croft was in all her curvy/blocky 3DD glory, my 11 year old self just lacked the patience to deal with how sluggish moving her around felt. The precision and perception required to solve the platforming puzzles in the beginning stage were simply absent in me as well. It would take another 10 years for me to legitimately appreciate the brilliance that the core element of the original series had when I played Tomb Raider: Anniversary on the PC. The Uncharted-inspired 2013 reboot Tomb Raider was fun for what it set out to do, but I was definitely disappointed in that it lacked what made the franchise such a powerhouse in the 90’s. Playing Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, while not totally recreating the perfection of 3D puzzle platforming, scratched that itch and then some with its action-heavy elements. Racine, my dear, have you ever played any Tomb Raider games?
[In this special edition of Sundate, Joseph and his REAL-LIFE SO Racine kick back in their loveseat and wax reminiscent.]
Rara Croft: Hello, dear! Tomb Raider was one of those games that I really wanted to get into when I was younger (because hello, how often do you get to play as a female character outside of RPGs?). I remember trying out the original Tomb Raider, or at least one of the installments that had a section where you could explore the Croft mansion. There was an obstacle course that was meant to be a tutorial or a practice area for the rest of the game. Like your younger self, this was a frustrating experience for me for the same reasons: I didn’t really have the precision nor the patience to learn how to time actions like running or jumping properly.
Needless to say, I didn’t play much Tomb Raider after that; it probably put me off from playing the whole action-adventure-puzzle genre in total. Surprisingly, I took to Guardian of Light much better, though I can’t be sure if it’s simply because I’m older and have much more patience for action and puzzles!
Jotec: I remember playing most of Tomb Raider 3 just running around the stately Croft Manor and shooting at her faithful butler, locking his creepy ass in the freezer for shits and giggles. That’s pretty much all the fun I had in that game! Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was a revelation, especially because it was still a departure from the more graceful and and timing-heavy platforming of the pre-boot games.
The introduction of multiplayer could have been incredibly gimmicky, too, but the hours we spent cooperating and shouting and laughing at each other to finish the game is proof that it was a worthy endeavor. Forget the cheesy by-the-books plot–LCOTGL was a ton of fun, whether we were figuring out how to get a locked collectible upgrade, mowing down hellspawn with machine guns and grenade launchers, or desperately running and jumping as bridges and caves crumbled beneath our feet.
Rara Croft: There we go! The simplicity and relative lightness of LCOTGL is something I really appreciate. Even then, all that time we spent trying to solve the challenge rooms, jump across falling floors, and leap over spike-filled pits is proof that the game is not as easy as it looks. And from there we touch on the multiplayer aspect, which is probably the main reason I enjoyed this game. Cooperation is definitely needed for the puzzles and level challenges, which are well thought out and… challenging. Also, having someone watch your back as you take down demons makes that aspect much less of a chore and much more fun.
Jotec: To explain to our readers, playing coop puts the players in control of the titular characters, Lara Croft and Totec, the Guardian of Light. Both characters have their unique abilities required to overcome the architectural challenges of a typical ancient Central American temple of doom with a fixed isometric camera. Lara Croft has a handy grappling gun that can hook into conveniently placed golden rings and Totec himself. This tool allows Lara to swing across chasms, Totec to tightrope-walk over lava pits, and for both characters to climb up or rappel down high walls. The Guardian of Light has his golden spears and trusty shield. The spears can act as narrow platforms for Lara to jump and balance on, and the shield can be used as a stepping stone for Lara to grab onto ledges or as straightforward protection against arrow-shooting mechanisms.
Just about every puzzle requires both characters to use these skills in tandem, and the mad dashes to safety occasionally demand the critical timing in performing these acrobatic acts. This gameplay aspect makes each player indispensable, either in unlocking hidden items or just progressing through the story. And nothing makes a couple’s relationship grow stronger than facing virtual adversity for virtual survival! (also LCOTGL is an ugly ugly acronym)
Rara Croft: Just like any good couple, each character is equipped with his or her own strengths and weaknesses… although in this case, there is literal equipment involved. You can choose from a variety of stat-increasing upgrades, focusing on stats such as power, speed, defense and bomb strength. Players can choose to focus on the same stats or to complement each other with different ones. Equipment is earned from completing puzzles and accomplishing level challenges, some of which can be pretty tricky! You can complete challenges that involve getting high scores, collecting red skulls, or achieving random tasks (like boulder rolling, which I just do not want to deal with!). In some cases, you can get new weapons from these challenges, from pistols to shotguns to even flamethrowers, whatever suits your style. All of these aspects together make for a game that is fulfilling to finish, in spite of its short length.
Jotec: I’m already planning on going through it again by myself! The single player has you just playing as Lara Croft but with Totec’s golden spear in tow to complete the puzzles that can’t be done without them. I believe the other puzzles will be streamlined to accommodate the lack of another player (if not outright removed!), so that should be a new and probably shorter experience. Which is fine with me, since there are the gear rewards for all the other challenges we didn’t finish (and there’s a lot of ’em!) to keep me going. It helps that all the other unlocks we got from playing together carry over, so I’m less worried about surviving the hectic combat sequences. Being able to jump around the already completed levels is another great point for its replayability.
In any case, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a ton of fun that captures the spirit of its forebears while adding a nice twist to it with inspired cooperative play. With Square Enix’s dumb decision to keep Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusive to the XBONE for an unknown length of time, I’ll be more than happy to get my adrenaline fix of plundering ancient artifacts, fighting off supernatural evils, making leaps of faith, and actually raiding tombs when Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris comes out December 9 this year on the current gen consoles and on the PC. I guess we’ll just have to drag, oh I don’t know, two more friends for maximum fun?