Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light in Review – Not quite the Tomb Raider we know…

Lara Croft is one of the most widely known game characters ever, in many ways revolutionizing the way females were perceived in the industry in the mid-90s. She has seen numerous appearances in games on almost every console imaginable and even has a couple of movies of her own to boot, starring the luscious Angelina Jolie. So you can imagine my surprise when without any kind of fanfare or publicity Square Enix released the first Lara Croft game for the iDevice platform late last year – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.

Unlike the classic Tomb Raider games, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is closer to a dual-stick shooter with a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving. While searching for the legendary mirror of smoke Lara witnesses Xolotl, the God of Darkness break free and escape. With the artifact in his grasp, nothing can stop him from plunging the world into darkness. Except Lara that is! With the help of Totec, the Guardian of the Mirror, she has until sunrise to recover the mirror and save the future of humanity.

Originally developed as an Xbox Live Arcade title, the Guardian of Light steps away from the classic formula of a 3rd person shooter. Instead you’ll find yourself gazing on your beautiful protagonist from above, guiding her using the popular dual-stick style controls. Chasing after Xolotl you’ll have to defeat hordes of his minions, while watching the world around you rot. The Guardian of Light features quite an expansive RPG system, with the 3 available weapon slots available to be equipped by one of about a dozen weapons of varying power and attack method, from the famous dual-handguns with unlimited ammo to shotguns, flamers, grenade launchers and even a rail-gun. In addition you can equip up to 2 artifacts and one relic, boosting various parameters.

But all the death and destruction will not take up as much time as you’ll spend solving various environment based puzzles. You’ll have to roll boulders, climb up walls, jump across chasms and find ways to trigger various clever contraptions to progress to your goal. Quite a large chunk of the puzzles require a timely use of the legendary spear, gifted to you by Totec. With infinite ammunition and the ability to stick in walls on more than one occasion, it will serve you as a foothold to get to an otherwise unreachable ledge. Add to that clever and varied use of the mines, they can both help you in your fight against the enemies and be used in such unconventional ways as to jumpstart a huge rock ball or trigger a switch. And while chasing after Xolotl, remember to check for the available challenges – they range from collecting all the red skulls or hitting a certain high score to finishing the level or a puzzle in a very limited amount of time, with tasty rewards available for each.

Visually Guardian of Light looks quite nice, though I felt the developers could have squeezed out much more from the latest gen Apple devices, especially in terms of lighting effects. The game does seem to fully support Retina quality graphics and you won’t find lacking in terms of visual goodness. The controls are very intuitive and combine the classic dual-virtual-joystick scheme with some additional buttons to allow for quick and easy access to weapons, mines and jumping. And the co-op mode works great, allowing you to team with your friends against Xolotl’s minions.

Lara Croft certainly took the App Store by storm with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Despite the lack of publicity coinciding with the release of the game, it comes around as a surprisingly solid title and one of the best dual-stick shooters on the platform. Combining the action of defending against the enemy hordes with a wide array of weapons and upgrades and a lot of environment-based puzzles that require a bit more of a thoughtful approach, the game delivers a refreshingly rewarding experience both in single and multi-player modes.

With this I declare Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Developer: SQUARE ENIX Ltd
Reviewed Ver: 1.1 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $6.99 App Size: 306.85MB
  • Excellent selection of well balanced weapons
  • Lots of challenging environment-based puzzles
  • Level challenges keep you on your toes
  • It’s Lara Croft!
  • Lighting effects could be better


A project manager in a major telecommunications supplier, an iPhone junkie and lately - a TMA editor. Love long walks on the beach and my wife, who is the most beautiful girl on the face of this planet. You can also follow me on twitter for all things iPhone and project management (and some personal stuff as well):

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