When Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was released way back when, it felt almost like a desperate attempt to try something new with the much maligned and lagging superstar 90s character. The game was still a great cooperative action arcade game though and apparently did well enough to spawn a sequel that feels anything but desperate.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris may have all the elements the series is known for, but it is, in no way, equivalent to the rest of the official Tomb Raider series. This is still a straight-up action game with design more in common with Gauntlet than traditional Lara adventures. If that sounds odd, well… it is, but it’s hard to argue with the results.
On the surface, Temple of Osiris just seems like just an expansion of Guardian of Light. The game is very much into the ideology that sequels should be bigger in every way. It supports four players and offers the same overhead isometric viewpoint and twin-stick combat controls, with some tricky jumping and navigational puzzles thrown in. Play a little while—even in the single-player mode—and it’s clear the puzzles have been amped up for the sequel.
The focus on Egyptian mythos also adds a great sense of atmosphere and really epic bad guys. Unlike Ridley Scott’s movie, Exodus, the game even understands that ancient Egyptians weren’t just a bunch of white people, which is another great touch. Egyptian deities Isis and her son, Horus, are two of the playable characters and determined to stop the evil Set before he returns to the material world.
To do so, they have to (in close correlation with the actual myths) collect all the dismembered parts of Isis’ husband and Set’s brother, Osiris. So, if you’ve ever wondered why so many video games and fantasy novels revolve around things split into parts and scattered all over the map, you can actually blame the ancient Egyptians. All those missing body parts make for a fine adventure though.
The heart of Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is puzzle-solving, even over combat or jumping about like a crazy person. A magic staff enables the player to manipulate specific areas of the environment. A grappling hook lets Lara reach new areas. Giant timed bombs can blow up walls. There’s a basic set of tools here that will feel familiar, but the game doesn’t feel overly clichéd.
Playing alone, the game forces you to play as Lara, which is a bit disappointing, and she has almost all the abilities of the other characters combined. This enables her to actually solve the puzzles by herself. Basically, this means she can switch to the magic staff at any time. The single-player game is great for exploring the levels thoroughly and fun in its own right, but add another player or three and everything takes off.
With multiple players, each player has their own abilities. There are two humans—Lara and another competing explorer—along with the two ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians have all the magic, so only they can manipulate many of the secrets in the Temple. Players must use the grapple as a tight rope, so another character can walk across. Still other times, Horus must activate his magical force field sphere essentially to make himself a platform another player can use to reach an area.
Better yet, the level design is altered in small, but noticeable ways to accommodate more players. So, a puzzle or path that was straightforward as only Lara is more complicated with multiple adventurers. This makes the game worthy of replaying both alone and with others.
All these elements make for a rather odd and different experience, but everything is well executed and clever. Just the same, if you don’t know what you’re doing, the game can leave you completely bewildered. There’s no split screen as well, forcing players to stay close to one another, which can lead to frustration during hectic combat or chase portions. Overall, there’s a great, almost classic arcade feel to the game, which we really enjoyed.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is a surprisingly fun and distinctive download-only game. The focus on classic arcade action mixed with a heavy focus on cooperative problem solving keeps each level interesting over the course of its five or so hours. Even alone, this is still a worthwhile game and highly recommended.