Discard any dusty, out of date preconceptions you might have about raiding tombs; unlike previous entries in the series – namely those with words 'Tomb' and 'Raider' in their title – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a twin-stick shooter with a bunch of action adventure mechanics thrown in for good measure. It made its debut on downloadable platforms back in August, with VideoGamer.com's Tom Orry lavishing a big fat 9 on the game, lauding it as "a fine example of how to take a popular franchise and make it work for the budget downloadable market". The App Store, of course, is also a budget downloadable platform – so does the compliment still hold true for the iPhone version? Kind of. In its translation to a touch screen device, the finesse of the controls and general slickness of the action have sadly been lost. Many iPhone owners won't have that point of comparison, however, and Guardian of Light on iPhone is still a solid little game in its own right.
Romping about Mayan temples in Central America, we find the buxom British adventuress in search of a rare artefact known as the Mirror of Smoke. Annoyingly for Lara, some sneaky mercenary types chance upon the item before her and – ignorant of the lore and history surrounding it – release Xolotl, the keeper of darkness, from his prison. Fortuitously, Lara then happens to bump into Totec, the titular Guardian of Light who sealed away Xolotl in the first place. The leggy adventurer and the half-naked Mayan warrior decide to buddy up, giving some context to the fantastic co-op features that the game places such importance on. I'll get to that later, though. Hold tight for a few hundred words while I have an inevitable grumble about controls.
Guardian of Light plays out from an isometric viewpoint, with the camera pulled back from the action offering a wide view of the environment. Subsequently, Ms Croft handles quite differently than she does in her console outings. Two virtual analogue sticks reside in each bottom corner of the screen, one for moving, and one for shooting. Thankfully this – the meat and veg of the controls – is fine. Generally speaking you'll traipse around ancient ruins, collect shiny artefacts and empty the contents of your pistols into Xolotls's evil minions with little trouble.
Things get frustrating when indulging in the frequent platform sections of a level, however. Lining up a jump whilst nailing the timing of a (virtual) button press at the same time is tough work, often resulting in Lara plummeting to a messy death on a bed of spikes. The runny-jumpy sections of the game are poor, to say the least. The tiny little button used for laying and detonating mines can frustrate too. After spamming the button for several seconds with no luck, you'll inadvertently hit it successfully three times in a row. This will detonate your original mine (which will be safely out the way, with any luck), but then lay a new one and detonate it before you've had a chance to flee. I've killed myself several times in this manner, proceeding to shout a string of foul words at Lara's limp, lifeless corpse. Not that it's her fault, mind.
Like its console counterparts, co-op plays a big part in the game. Here, one player takes control of Lara, while the other assumes the role of Totec. Puzzles are intuitively designed with two players in mind, meaning you'll genuinely rely on your partner rather than just appreciating the extra fire power. When you're not working together to disarm traps, kill enemies and such, you're competing to see who can get the biggest score by collecting jewels, artefacts and completing mini challenges. This offers a nice twist to the co-op experience, and at times feels like the natural way to play the game. That said, the single-player holds up just as well, despite being a largely different experience.
Guardian of Light is a thoroughly refreshing take on tomb raiding, and – aside from the aforementioned control issues - has made the transition to iPhone surprisingly well. There's an impressive amount of variety to each of the ten levels, the puzzles are well thought out and an emphasis on score gives a great replay incentive. Persuade a friend to part with £3.99, and you can indulge in what is, arguably, one of the best co-op experiences the iPhone has to offer. A few control issues bring the overall quality of the product down, but that doesn't mean Guardian of Light isn't worth a look.