Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider reboot was many things, but "fun" was not one of them. Cathartic, intense and harrowing, yes, but I missed the days when Lara would confidently swagger into an ancient temple, blast some endangered wildlife, nick stuff and actually raid some tombs just because it was her job. The fact that she bloody loved it was just the cherry on the cake.
Thankfully Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris is less about traumatic self-discovery and more about pillaging temples with mates for fun and profit. Building on the success of Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light, you and up to three fellow tomb raiders will shoot, blast and think your way through a selection of traps, beasties and puzzles, closely collaborating and "accidentally" shafting each other for a podium finish. It's an absolute riot, and I'm delighted to report that it's also one of the most impressive co-op puzzle games since the original.
In fact, Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light beats out this year's LEGO title as the best local co-op game of Christmas 2014... even if it's a little on the short side.
Lara finds herself back in Egypt and voiced by the legendary Keeley Hawes (no offence, Camilla Luddington, but Hawes is still the original and best), hot on the trail of an ancient artefact. Naturally things are never that simple, and she's soon catapulted into a race to assemble the scattered God Osiris before the evil Set can destroy the world, allied with fellow archaeologist Carter along with Isis and Horus, who've inexplicably and conveniently assumed human form. Don't question it. Though the story is somewhat perfunctory and the tragically miscast Isis perpetrates some awful voice acting, the plot doesn't get bogged down in extraneous detail and progresses at a pacey clip.
Much like Guardian Of Light, the action is viewed from an isometric perspective and handles like a traditional twinstick shooter. Lara and co. are slippery-quick and responsive whether running, jumping or rolling, which is a good thing too since the titular Temple Of Osiris is packed with nasty critters that want you dead. From undead minions and swarming scarabs to dangerous wildlife and massive bosses, you'll face a plethora of beasties to gun down using a selection of satisfyingly powerful armaments that you'll accrue throughout the replayable campaign. The remote bombs also make a welcome return for crowd control and destroying tougher foes that require extra firepower to finish off. It's fun, slick and intensely satisfying stuff.
This would have been a decent setup for a rambunctious shoot'em up, but Lara Croft And The Pimple Of Ozymandius (let's just call it "Temple Of Osiris" from now on) is an action-adventure game that's heavy on the adventure side of things. The Temple itself is a sprawling overworld-style affair ripe for exploration, full of gems to collect, hidden skulls to unlock, guns to equip, nefarious challenge tombs to raid and gradually-unlocking main temples to delve into to advance the story. The thrill of ferreting out hidden secrets is an absolute joy, and factors into a series of replay value-enhancing challenges.
There's a robust inventory and loot system in play too, granting access to a wealth of status-enhancing rings and amulets, gained by spending gems to open chests liberally sprinkled around the maps. Every item has a positive and a negative effect, and can present some interesting new quirks to otherwise predictable encounters. Fire bullets may be useful to ignite foes and light torches from afar... but at the cost of defence? Your choice.
As you'd expect, the ancient Egyptians are certainly fond of their traps and pitfalls, creating insane gauntlets of spikes, deadly machines, moving platforms, mirrors, bombs and doors to deter would-be tomb raiders... but as Tomb Raiders with a capital TR, you'll have to rack your brains and think laterally to overcome these brainteasing obstacles.
Which is where Temple Of Osiris really shines. The puzzles are beautifully designed, a heady mix of reflex, logic, spatial awareness and execution challenges powered by an enthusiastic physics engine. Old chestnuts like pressure plates, grappling hooks and mirrors (for there are always mirrors) slot neatly next to new toys like the Staff Of Osiris, which can be used to interact with blue glowing objects in a variety of ways. Whether slowing down a time bomb's detonation, retracting spikes, projecting a shield, remotely moving platforms or blasting enemies as an ersatz laser cannon, it has a myriad uses, as does every item in the game. Torches can be used for illumination or ignition. Bombs can trigger switches, grant you extra height or blast weighty balls around (a phrase I don't often encounter in my day-to-day life). Like the best puzzlers, the thrill comes from using and combining your gadgets and abilities in new ways.
What's really impressive, though, is the fact that Temple Of Osiris scales to cater to specific number of players. The configuration of each puzzle or arena will change significantly depending on if you're playing solo or cooperatively, designed specifically to make sure that every player always has something to do and have to work together in order to progress. Rather than just sitting around, everyone has to contribute and do their part, while the toys and gadgets are split amongst the team to encourage deeper cooperation. One minute Osiris and Isis will be holding back spike traps or projecting shields so their comrades can progress, but moments later Lara and Carter will be lifting them up to a nearby ledge with their grappling hooks.
Or dropping them. Accidentally. Temple Of Osiris fosters a little friendly competition by scoring players individually and awarding the winners extra gems, encouraging a little unsportsmanlike behaviour from time to time. "Oops, my bomb somehow managed to knock you off the ledge and I've just collected those gems you were running towards. Oh no. My bad."
The Temple Of Osiris is not perfect, and I'm compelled to point out a few annoying flaws. The camera is a main offender, often pulling out too far to make sense of the arenas and occasionally obscuring precision jumps with its three-quarter view. An ancient weather control device also makes for an oddly unwelcome distraction, since in theory it allows you to change the climate conditions to create new snowy platforms or new ways to solve puzzles, but in practice you have to leave a tomb and slog back to the machine in order to use it, clumsily breaking gameplay flow in the process.
And it's too short.
In fairness, 5-7 hours is a reasonable length for a budget game, especially considering the wealth of replay-enhancing challenges, speedruns and co-op scaling, but Temple Of Osiris' breezy campaign makes the loot system feel somewhat redundant. Once you've opened some chests and secured a few decent pieces of ancient Egyptian bling, it's hard to care about collecting more gems just so you can get another item to use for all of a handful of hours. A randomised shooter-style area or procedural dungeon would have been nice, but more to the point, cutting down the loot into a single type of equippable item might have been more appropriate for a game this length.
When it comes down to brass tacks, though, my main complaint is that I'd just like some more of it. Hopefully Crystal Dynamics will develop decent post-launch content and Square Enix will ensure some reasonable prices... oh. Well, it could happen.
- Brilliantly-designed puzzles scale and reconfigure to match player numbers
- Responsive movement, enjoyable platforming and satisfying weaponry
- Addictive exploration, great competitive local co-op
- Fun, feels like Tomb Raider
- Keeley Hawes
- Short if replayable; length can make loot system feel redundant
- Some camera issues
- Isis' voice acting is horrible for such a crucial character
The Short Version: Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris is a superb cooperative puzzler, pacey shooter and a rip-roaring adventure. The replayable campaign is a bit too short to make the most of the abundance of loot, but it's a blast while it lasts especially in local co-op.
It feels good to be having fun and raiding tombs again. Just try not to "accidentally" blow up too many of your friends over the Christmas break.
8 – GREAT: Great games typically provide competent production values with a degree of innovation, personality and soul that's sometimes absent in titles that score lower. Or even just exceptional raw value on top of competent execution. There'll usually be a little something to stop games like these from reaching the very top - innovative but slightly flawed, fun but not groundbreaking - however you can buy games that score 8/10 with confidence.
Platforms: PC | PS4 | Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix