Tomb Raider, that classic adventure platforming giant which revolves around a young British archaeologist who happens to be a gun-toting, gymnastic queen, is in a rather odd state of flux at the moment.
After countless sequels and accusations of becoming stale, Square Enix gave the series the (re)boot up the arse that it so sorely needed. Creating not only a fantastic game, that wowed both old and new fans alike, but it unwittingly became a fantastic contender against Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. Which is probably why Microsoft went ahead and obtained some sort of exclusivity deal on its sequel, Rise of The Tomb Raider. Wether it's indeed timed or lifetime exclusivity is a matter no one is certain of (trust me, there are no concrete answers) but a fairly big deal none the less.
Now, while Lara’s origin stories and beyond are seemingly somewhat exclusive on one side, the fabulous offshoot adventures, known simply as Lara Croft, are multi platform with a twinge of favouritism towards Sony’s PS4. An example of which is this years Lara Croft and The Temple of Osiris which has a rather neat little collectors edition, known as the ‘Gold Edition’ and is only available for the PS4.
These parallel titles, offer fans of Lara and her adventures two utterly different experiences. With 2013s reboot going for that gritty Batman Begins tone that a post Christopher Nolan world seems to eternally lust, while Lara Croft: Guardian of Light and this years Temple of Osiris are a welcoming mix of old school arcade aesthetics and action with some puzzles and platforming thrown in for good sport.
This time around, you’ll be thrown deep into the Temple of Osiris, I know, who'd have guessed eh? While hunting for the obvious treasures you're average crypt botherer would drool over, Lara and her nemesis, Carter Wells, make a huge boo-boo and awaken the Egyptian God of Darkness, a true embodiment of all evil and all that other good stuff.
After realising that only Osiris himself can help you quash Set, You’ll take a quick trip to his shrine for a chin wag BUT (surprise, surprise) the shrine has been decimated and his statue scattered across the land.
This leaves the pair with no choice but to collect the strewn about body parts of Osiris, in the hopes he too can arise and hopefully clean up all this blooming mess! You can take on the minions of the underworld one on one if you fancy, or opt to take the help of Carter, Isis the wife of Osiris or Horus, their son.
The plot wont win any awards for depth and it isn’t even that original nor interesting but scripting aside, I rather enjoyed the Playstation one era’ style in its delivery. Offering bite sized chunks of plot through static comic panels and hilariously over the top voice acting. Classic Lara, Keeley Hawes, (Coke Classic Lara if you will), steps back into those tiny shorts to deliver an effortless and heroic performance, taking almost every life threatening step in her stride!
Gods, Demons, Skeletons, Bugs, Guns and Magic are nothing to this Tomb Raider and in all honesty, there really is nothing quite like hearing an english rose calmly proclaim ‘one thing at a time please’ while massacring a siege of demons and putting an Egyptian deity in their place.
The important thing here however is that the action works extremely well and is as simple as a top down twin-stick shooter can be! Escort Lara around the map with the left stick, aim with the right and fire with the R2 trigger. You’ve also got a handy magic staff that can fire a deadly beam or raise special blocks to create platforms. There’s torches to be light, vents to be flooded with fire and hooks you can grapple to mount pesky high walls. All of this is pretty much unlocked from the get go and there's a really good balance between fighting the undead hordes of Set, larking around looking for treasure and cracking some rather ingenious puzzles that often combine so many different moving parts that you’ll be stuck. For a time, at least.
This well conceived balance is the same with the games general pace, learning from its predecessor that less sometimes is more and opting to mix up the crazy combat with decent down time to scratch your head in.
The Temple of Osiris also has some light RPG elements thrown in to add some more dimension to your gameplay, with Lara able to collect a whole host of weapons and, in true Diablo style, equip amulets or rings to buff her and her team mates stats. All this delightful diode encrusted power can be discovered by accident or you can spend some hard-earned gems that you’ll have collected along the way to open special golden chests which should reward you with some rare goodies.
Perhaps the biggest let down for some may be the visuals, which while quite impressive for the style are obviously not going to hold a candle to this years Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. It’s worth mentioning though, that it really shouldn't have to, as gorgeous textures does not a good game make.
While you can play with Lara alone (get your mind out of the gutter please!) you can also join up with some friends and tackle her adventures with up to four people on the same console or online.
Yes, the co-op feature does work incredibly well, with the exception of a fairly minor hiccup in the camera control, which opts to stick to a single top down angle, meaning if your friends should run off, it may get just a tad confusing as to whats going on. Especially should one of your party get stuck somewhere as the rest push on.
My biggest complaint with The Temple of Osiris is in its brief life span, offering only 5 to 8 hours of gameplay. Sure, there's plenty of reason to go back with friends or to collect all the trinkets on offer, but some more time with Lara would have been nice.
Overall, Lara Croft and The Temple of Osiris is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I can always appreciate. It’s a fun adventure that has a lot to like about it, as long as you go in expecting a slice of PSOne Lara and not Xbox One Lara, delivering fast, frenetic combat, complex-ish puzzle-solving and some great exploration.
Now. Who’s excited for Rise of the Tomb Raider?