Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Hands-On Preview and Video

As far as sexy iPhone gaming mascots go, the Angry Birds aren’t really cutting it. Back in our day (the mid-90s), nothing sold next-generation graphics cards and game consoles like Lara Croft. Lara’s been having a bit of a console resurgence, with her downloadable Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network game Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light being called the best Tomb Raider game in years. Now, a scaled-down port is coming to the iPhone tonight.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light on the iPhone retains a lot of its downloadable console counterpart. It’s got a top-down view, combines platforming and twin-stick shooting, and even has online co-op multiplayer through Game Center. One player will control Lara with her grappling hook, while the other controls an Aztec warrior named Toltek, who has a supply of golden spears.

While the game is fully playable in single-player mode, having a second player will allow for some interesting co-op moves. Toltek can throw spears to create steps for Lara, and he can also use his shield to give Lara a vertical boost.

In the Spider Tombs level we played, the action was split between shooting swarms of giant spiders and grappling and jumping between rocky chasms. A few surprising moves that helped the combat were landmines, which Lara could place and then detonate remotely, and a giant boulder that could squish the spiders with ease. While the combat was great, we were less impressed by the platforming, because the top-down view sometimes made it hard to judge distances.

We’re told there are three basic kinds of levels among the 10 that will be in the game. There are open “exploration spaces” where you’ll have to solve puzzles by moving through a few different environments, more linear tombs like the spiders’ lair, and high-pressure chase sequences where you’ll be forced to keep moving.

We think Lara’s first iPhone game looks very encouraging. The downloadable title it’s based on seems like great source material, as the original Tomb Raider games are probably a little too complex to fit on an iPhone. With co-op play, this could be yet another worthwhile purchase in a month of great games. Look for it on the App Store later tonight.