In an alternate universe where action-packed arcade games never faded into the background behind gritty, big budget shooters, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris – a direct follow-up to 2010’s surprisingly delightful action platformer Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light – could have been the main arm of the Tomb Raider franchise. Dual pistols with infinite ammo, countless spike pits, massive boss monsters chasing you through every area – it’s everything I love about the franchise...just a little more old school.
Like Guardian before it, Temple of Osiris uses an isometric view and a dungeon crawling structure previously employed by countless Gauntlet-inspired classics. Its gameplay borrows elements from twin-stick shooters – aim with the right stick, squeeze the right trigger to shoot an endless stream of glowing projectiles – along with plenty of good ol’ platform puzzle solving, including greatest hits like “standing on floor switches” to “grappling up walls.” Also like Guardian, Osiris can technically be played solo, but truthfully, it’s designed with co-op in mind. You and up to three friends can play locally or online (or a mix of the two), and the game world will automatically scale puzzles and enemy encounters to accommodate the number of players at any given moment. It sounds very slick, though we only got a quick hands-on look at four-player action and didn’t get to see the same section with fewer players.
The new Egyptian setting brings with it a fresh cast of characters who join Lara in thwarting ancient evil: rival adventurer Carter, Egyptian goddess Isis, and her freaky-looking son Horus. Lara and Carter each pack pistols and a multi-use grappling hook, while Isis and Horus use laser-emitting staves and can summon short-lived defensive force fields. Oh, and everyone can set remote-detonated bombs or just grab a machine gun and go nuts too. Because why not!
When you’re not pumping rounds into skeletons, scarabs, and other fantastic enemies, you’ll mainly use your crew’s powers to overcome the temple’s various spike-filled obstacles. During my brief hands-on time, my crew rolled flaming metal orbs into conveniently sized receptacles, used our grappling hooks to create strategically advantageous tight ropes, shielded ourselves from flames with our godly auras in order to navigate through otherwise deadly corridors...you get the idea. The big takeaway: progression requires teamwork thanks to the characters’ deliberately asymmetrical designs.
A bird’s eye view of deadly scarabs and massive explosions. Pretty typical moment in Temple of Osiris.
On the technical side, Osiris’ next-gen-only approach already seems to be paying off. Even at a distance, characters look crisp and detailed. The lighting effects – which really have a chance to shine thanks to the temple’s torch-lit interior – are already dazzling, and perhaps most impressively, the game continued to run smoothly as massive boss monsters tore the environment to pieces during a dramatic chase sequence. I died a lot during that part, but hey, I was distracted by the pretty visuals, okay? Plus, I still earned a reward in the post-level loot room – one of a handful of small additions since Guardian, which also include a deeper upgrade system and a team-based combo counter.