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The Lara Croft Collection is a proper treat on Switch

A quick chat about these beautiful games.

The Lara Croft Collection has just landed on Switch, bringing together top-down arcade treats Lara Croft & the Guardian of Light and Lara Croft & The Temple of Osiris. We decided to have a chat about these fascinating and playful parts of the Tomb Raider back catalogue.

Chris: Hello! I thought it might be a good opportunity to talk Tomb Raider with you, since it's a series we both love, and these games that have just come out are a weirdly interesting entry point to them.

I see this series as sitting between the original trilogy that Crystal Dynamics did and then reboot trilogy, which I know you love - except for the last game. Anyway, starting off simply, are you a fan of this style of Tomb Raider? And how would you describe it? It feels like an arcadey, almost twin-stick take on a series which is generally a bit more cinematic, often a bit more willing to take its time with things?

Victoria: I think you pretty much nailed it. These games really do have that arcade feel to them, and are quite different from the other, as you say, more cinematic, Tomb Raider entries.

I actually think they are all the more charming for this, especially when combined with their isometricity. Don't get me wrong, I love big sweeping adventures with Lara, where we are transported across the globe in a thrilling and mythological adventure, but these more condensed spin-offs feel perhaps more obtainable, or at the very least less intimidating, for someone new to the series.

Actually, I am casually saying all this as though it is hypothetical, but I have been playing through these games with my husband. They are his first Tomb Raider experience and he is really enjoying them, particularly the puzzles and the - in his words - "surprisingly smooth" platforming. I don't think he was expecting Lara to be able to jump and roll so fluidly between ledges and away from enemies. Even the twin-stick combat appealed to him more than he thought it would. The 360 degree stick rotation can make for some rather frenzied confrontations, but there is no need to be tidy and controlled in these Lara Croft games. You really can 'Spray and Pray', as it were.

On your marks, get Set, go! Here's a trailer for the Lara Croft Collection on Nintendo Switch.Watch on YouTube

Chris: Just to give people a sense of these games, they're top-down/isometric affairs in which you move through dungeons blasting enemies and solving simple puzzles. At the time the first one came out it felt really luxurious - a smaller arcade title, but with a sense of triple-A spend behind it. Guardians of Light particularly feels like Crystal Dynamics experimenting a little with the format, sending it in a co-op and score-chasing direction.

It reminds me. I went to Crystal Dynamics at the time they were working on the reboot, and I remember they had basically an arcade cabinet set-up for Guardians of Light in the office. It seemed the perfect way to encounter them.

What's interesting to me, I think, is how much flexibility there is in the Tomb Raider series. I feel like the action element is something the games are always struggling to balance. In the first games, they sold themselves on a protagonist with double-pistols, but those Core games were always at their best when you were alone, miles away from the rest of humanity with nobody you needed to shoot. Then the Crystal early games cranked it a little bit in terms of shooting and things you could do in combat. And I always felt that the reboot series drifted a bit far towards being third-person shooters? But what's weird about Guardian of Light and the sequel - I can never remember its name - is that they gave themselves the right to be very, very action oriented - you move, you shoot - and it really ends up feeling like Tomb Raider. Why do you think that is?

Victoria: Well, not to be too hard on the reboot trilogy, as I do have a lot of love for the first two entries in the 'Survivor' timeline, but I think it helps that in Guardian of Light and Temple of Osiris (that's the second one) you are actually in tombs and raiding them.

I agree that some of the more recent games lost sight of that a bit. As you say, they were leaning towards being a third-person shooter, with actual tomb raiding becoming more of a secondary feature. There were times where it felt like the essence of the series was taking a backseat in a bid to keep up with the Uncharted's of the world (ironic, when you think the first Uncharted was dubbed 'Dude Raider').

These Lara Croft spin-offs, however, feel like a return to the series' roots in many ways, even though they are also incredibly different in their presentation and gameplay style.

There are actual tombs for you to puzzle your way through. Here is my husband giving me (as Lara, of course) a boost to a higher ledge. Thank you, darling!

Chris: Yes! You've made me realise something. I'm not sure Tomb Raider has ever been quite what people think it is. In the early days, a lot of people were drawn in by advertising that didn't really capture that these were quiet, cerebral games a lot of the time, games about exploring complex 3D spaces while mastering a complex control scheme. Then the later games, as you said, promised Lara in Uncharted, but I don't think the tone ever worked.

But here, you get a slice of the game that feels very close to what a lot of people think Lara Croft is - fast action in crumbling ruins. And it reminds me of Lara Croft Go. Have you played that? It sort of goes completely the other way and says Tomb Raider is always about puzzles, so everything is a puzzle - including traversal and combat?

I guess what I'm wondering now is if there are any other series that manage to mint such fun and invention from sort of riffing on the public idea of what they are?

Victoria: You know, now you mention it, I am not sure there is. Other games have tried, but I don't think they have ever really had much staying power. My mind immediately goes to the mobile Uncharted spin-off that I need to quickly google to remember its name. Two seconds.

Fortune Hunter! That's the one. Anyway, that shut down last year. I also remember playing an NCIS spin-off game, but that is a conversion for another time.

So, to get back to what you actually asked before I got wildly sidetracked, I can't think of another series that has managed to, as you say, riff off the public's perception in the way Tomb Raider has. Perhaps some of the Nintendo games, but they tend to jump around to focus on different characters. The Tomb Raider games and their spin-offs are all Lara-focused. Am I making sense?

And, surprisingly, I have not actually played Lara Croft Go, but now feel I should (especially as I played that NCIS one).

I realise now, as I am writing all this, that one thing I especially enjoy about these Lara Croft spin-offs is that they can be played in co-op. This is not typical of the series, even though a few moments ago I was saying how they feel like a return to Tomb Raider's roots.

As you have said, this is part of the fun and invention that Tomb Raider seems to have birthed. I am rambling now, so I will hand it back to you. Please regain control of this conversation.

Watching my husband attempting to jump between jars in Guardian of Light. Also, he was quite pleased when he got a second weapon.

Chris: It's funny you say that about the co-op side of things. When I was playing the Core games back as a student, although they were single-player, we tended to play them co-op in an unofficial way: one person with the controller, the other person throwing out ideas and suggestions. God, those games were hard.

Which reminds me, I remember these two top-down affairs as being a bit of a delight. Are they still delightful on Switch? It feels like a natural home for them.

Victoria: Ha, I love that you played them that way. I sometimes play games like that with my children, where they act like my co-pilot. Let me tell you, they have got me into some pretty hairy scrapes (RIP, Ratchett)!

As for these Lara Croft ports, from what I have played they are a great addition to the Switch's catalog of games. Guardian of Light specifically is exactly as I remember it from its initial release, and I am sure that is not just a case of rose tinted glasses. This genuinely seems like a really slick port.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris can be played with up to four players in local co-op.

Both storylines are a load of old hokum, and I mean that in a good way. The visuals still charm and the gameplay, as you say, feels right at home on the Switch. They have been easy to pick up and settle into after a long day of work/kids/general beautiful chaos, and are probably a good, if surprising, entry point for anyone curious about the Tomb Raider series but been put off by the scope of its mainline offerings.

Perhaps it would have been nice to introduce an online co-op option, as at the moment it is limited to local co-op only. However, I can't tell you how great it has been to share this experience with my husband. He is not typically one for games, so the fact that he is also enjoying them is quite the compliment.

Also, bonus points for the fact I can hear Keeley Hawes as Lara once again. She really is the best Croft.

Chris: No disagreements there.

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