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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (322)

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The Yawhg 3.5/5
Dungeon Defenders II 4/5
Spelunky 0.5/5
Hard Reset Redux 2.5/5
Girls and Dungeons 4/5
Time Tenshi 2 3.5/5
Time Tenshi 2.5/5
We Are the Dwarves 1/5
Shadow Warrior 3.5/5
Torment: Tides of Numen... 4.5/5
Hammerwatch 1.5/5
Metro Redux 4/5
Dragon Quest Monsters: ... 3/5
Diluvion 3/5
Seiken Densetsu 3 ( Sec... 2.5/5
Titanfall 2 2.5/5
Treasure Hunter G 3.5/5
The Legend of Zelda: Br... 4/5
Shadow Warrior 2 4.5/5
Treasure of the Rudras ... 2/5
Oceanhorn: Monster of U... 2.5/5
The Bard's Tale ( 2004 ) 3/5
Middle-earth: Shadow of... 4/5
Spore 3/5
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdo... 4.5/5

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Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light   PC (Steam) 

'Lara Croft' is Better than 'Tomb Raider'    4.5/5 stars

“Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light” (“LCGL”) was released in 2010, seemingly as a test to gauge the remaining interest in the ‘Tomb Raider’ franchise among the gaming public before putting bigger and better efforts into the series’ 2013 Cinematic reboot. Having never particularly loved the original three ‘Tomb Raider’ games when I played them on my original PlayStation, I was dubious about anything related to the franchise, being main-line or spin-off. The MeltedJoystick crew were, however, in desperate need of some couch-coop, and “LCGL” promised to deliver it… only it turned out to be in a smaller dose than we required. Regardless, this de-mastered take on the ‘Tomb Raider’ IP impressed me far more than any of the 3D Platformer/Third-Person Shooter entries in the series ever did.

“LCGL” is a Unity Engine game, which are never renowned for their impressive visuals. With its isometric camera and small character models, it looks like a typical cRPG, though it is anything but. The visuals are good enough, though, and I never once found myself thinking that the game would have benefitted from an extra coat of shiny.

The audio is about on par with the visuals, with decently evocative Mayan tunes and a solid vocal cast, including the incomparable Jim Cummings (a.k.a., Minsc, from ‘Baldur’s Gate’) as both one of the playable characters and the main villain. Cummings is one of the few voiceactors out there whom I’m glad to hear pop-up in any videogame content.

Technically, “LCGL” is a clean and polished experience. It includes native Xinput support on PC and never once gave me any grief with crashes, glitches, or other related nonsense.

Neither “LCGL” nor its sequel, “Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris,” are the type of big-budget “AAA” Cinematic epics that fans of ‘Uncharted’ or the rebooted 2013 “Tomb Raider” have come to expect. These two games tell simple stories that would not appear out-of-place as episodes (or seasons) of the B-rate Tia Carrere television vehicle from the ‘90s, “Relic Hunter.”

Lara Croft, the titular heroine whose once-bodacious-but-now-modest bust once saw her digital likeness grace the pages of British style magazine, “The Face,” finds herself on yet another adventure, in search of some artifact or other in an ancient Mayan tomb. Upon finding and disturbing this artifact, the Mirror of Smoke, Lara inadvertently awakens the ancient (and very stinky, judging from the stench cloud that constantly surrounds him) deity, Xolotl (whom I typically referred to as ‘Zoloft’), who decides to unleash an army of demons upon the world.

As Xolotl runs away, chuckling as ridiculously as any cartoon/vaudeville villain, Lara discovers that one of the statues in the mirror’s chamber has transformed into a flesh-and-blood Mayan. This individual, Totec, once defeated Xolotl and served as the titular ‘Guardian of Light,’ whose sole purpose is to protect the world should Xolotl ever escape his imprisonment. The two immediately team-up and set off through the Mayan ruins on a quest to re-imprison Xolotl and stop his destructive plans.

I don’t know much about Mayan and/or Aztec mythology, but “LCGL” doesn’t seem like the type of game that strives for accuracy in its story or lore. It’s a simple ‘Indiana Jones’-inspired romp through some ruined environments filled with deadly traps and supernatural enemies. Lara and Totec occasionally share some entertaining banter that helps to solidify them as a team in the player’s mind, while the seemingly endless series of schemes and traps Xolotl pits against our heroes is borderline comical in its ridiculousness. Anyone who gets a kick out of B-rate ‘cowboy archaeology’ movies or pulp novels should enjoy “LCGL” quite a bit.

“LCGL” differs greatly from the old-school ‘Tomb Raider’ games that graced the original PlayStation and Windows back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. Instead of playing like a clunky 3D Platformer with forced, unpolished Third-Person Shooting elements, “LCGL” is an isometric, top-down puzzle-based experience that plays a bit like an incredibly mellow version of “Diablo 3” with a huge portion of the loot removed. In the single-player mode, the player can swap between controlling Lara or Totec, while in the game’s coop mode, which I exclusively played, one player controls Lara and the other controls Totec. Unfortunately, “LCGL” only supports two players, which didn’t bother Chris all that much, as he got to sit-out a game with too many puzzles for his liking.

In coop mode, the players share the whole screen and must remain fairly close to each other. The game’s many puzzles revolve around navigating through dangerous areas, circumventing traps, or activating highly inaccurate ancient mechanism to open a path forward. In the process, the player(s) can earn power-ups either by performing specific achievement-like actions in a given mission or by picking-up semi-hidden power-up icons scattered throughout the mission environments. Optional ‘Challenge Tombs’ dot the main missions and always grant a decent power-up or weapon upon completion.

Lara and Totec have access to different skill-sets, allowing each of them to excel at specific tasks required to navigate puzzles. Lara has a grappling hook and proximity mines (which she kindly shares with Totec…), while Totec has a spear and a shield. Lara can grapple onto specific ring-shaped bits of the environment (or directly onto Totec…), while Totec’s spears can stick in walls, providing the waifishly thin and now-flat-chested Lara with a temporary platform. Totec’s shield can also serve as a platform for Lara if he raises it above his head, or it can be used to reflect/deflect projectiles fired by traps or enemies.

I found the puzzle-centric gameplay to be quite engaging, and the angle of having two characters active simultaneously reminded me fondly of “The Lost Vikings.” The puzzles, combat encounters, and bosses in “LCGL” are all clever and well-designed, while the optional milestones provide completionists with ample reasons to replay completed missions.

“Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light” is easily my favorite ‘Tomb Raider’ game… largely by virtue of not being like the old ‘Tomb Raider’ games at all. The excellent puzzle design, cooperative isometric camera, and the capability of bringing a friend along for the ride make this game a must-buy.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 3/5
Gameplay: 4.5/5
Overall (not an average): 4.5/5



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