This week I have been spending some time playing Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light, available on the Google Play store for £2.99. Fans of this franchise will be pleased to know that the game is finally available on all Android devices, after FOUR YEARS of being a Sony-Ericsson exclusive. It also follows on from the console release. I said in my look ahead post over on my blog that I was expecting fiendishly annoying foes in loincloths and headdresses and, on this front, I wasn't disappointed. So what about the rest?
The story forms the basic framework which allows Lara to explore dungeons, kill dinosaurs, spiders and fat blokes in underwear. It also provides an excuse for her to get caught out by the myriad booby traps found in the world. You find yourself in Central America along with a group of brain-dead treasure hunters who have discovered the Mirror of Smoke. The Mirror is said to imprison the antagonist of the story: Xolotl. Of course, in their predictable folly, the treasure hunters unwittingly release Xolotl and it is your job, along with the warrior Totec, to restore order. Imaginative AND original....
The game plot develops over ten levels. The majority of them involve puzzle solving and the merciless slaughter of a bucket load of enemies. Weapons are liberally scattered around the stages and collectible relic items provide additional content. The weapons are your standard fare but one thing about this game that really annoyed me was how overpowered the spear, given to you by Totec at the beginning, is compared to a lot of the early guns. I had a shotgun and an assault rifle in my bags but the stupid spear trumped them in terms of power and maneuverability! It was moronic.
On the face of it the levels are actually designed very well. They are packed with things to shoot, puzzles and extra challenges, such as additional stages for points boosts, health upgrades and point multipliers often found within 'bonus' rooms. The puzzles, to be fair, are moderately engaging towards the end and the boss fights dotted throughout the story line provide welcome relief from the monotony of killing said enemies and solving said puzzles.
Where this game really fails to deliver is the controls. The system is very clunky and more than once I found myself cursing the screen when Lara failed to clear an apparently easy jump, or loined, armed Aztecs came out of nowhere, killing me, due to poor camera tracking. One particularly frustrating moment was a collapsing double bridge which required a straightforward series of simple jumps to reach safety. This proved much harder purely down to the terrible controls - what should have taken 20 seconds, took close to 10 minutes. There are a few graphical glitches too which made some levels take longer than expected. I often found myself running around aimlessly, trying to decide if the game had screwed me over. Again. The main offender is the grapple icon that frequently appeared offscreen and was, at times, very difficult to see.
There is a multiplayer mode where you control Lara and another player controls Totec. This can be initiated via a local connection or over the internet. I didn't get to fully test this feature as finding online connections proved very difficult, but I have read some reviews that say this mode is very satisfying and adds positively to the game overall.
Generally, this game falls short of the console versions released a few years ago. The game doesn't look as nice (this is obviously to be expected) but the real issues are found within the control system which is inexcusably poor. On the positive side, the puzzles are engaging and the boss fights are, actually, the highlight. The levels get a bit tedious as the game progresses and overall Guardian of Light is satisfactory, but not brilliant. I would say that if you are a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise, then go ahead and get this game. You probably won't be disappointed with the story and gameplay, but the controls will infuriate even the most level headed gamer.