Ice baby. Lara Croft statue dubbed Snow Day out soon for pre-order. Priced at $259.99 with print-out of the Adam Hughes design. Envisioned by Hughes, sculpted by Miller, as previously featured on FYLC.

Rockin’ raider. How about a guest-starring for the next Band Hero DLC? As deviously posted by ze Nicobass.

Rockin’ raider. How about a guest-starring for the next Band Hero DLC? As deviously posted by ze Nicobass.

Pony incarnate. If Lara were a horse — a baby horse. A cute, girly, long-haired, baby horse. This she’d be. As deviously posted by MustBeJewel.

Pony incarnate. If Lara were a horse — a baby horse. A cute, girly, long-haired, baby horse. This she’d be. As deviously posted by MustBeJewel.

Photo-op mode. Lara Croft wielding a gun and the Excalibur. As deviously posted by FYLC favorite Halli-well.

Photo-op mode. Lara Croft wielding a gun and the Excalibur. As deviously posted by FYLC favorite Halli-well.

"Lara Croft" to be its own mini-series?

Crystal Dynamics’ Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light contains many firsts: It will be the first outing for the iconic adventurer that lacks the Tomb Raider moniker; it’s also the studio’s first console digital download release, and its first project since Square Enix acquired it last year.

Studio GM Darrell Gallagher explained to Gamasutra the reasoning behind the title shift, and said that Crystal Dynamics isn’t re-branding Lara with this game so much as branching the franchise — while remaining, so far, within a consistent universe for the heroine.

By Leigh Alexander, Gamasutra

Guardian of Light, as a downloadable game, is an ideal way to fill fans in on the franchise while they await the next major episode in the Tomb Raider series, following the conclusion of what the team sees as a trilogy with the acclaimed Tomb Raider: Underworld.

And Gallagher tells us that the strategy of developing smaller, lighter downloadable adventures in between major console installments is not just one that Crystal Dynamics intends to continue pursuing — implying that Guardian of Light will be not just a stand-alone, but its own mini-series — but one he expects to see many major publishers adopt.

Digital content is an excellent way for publishers to bolster their franchises and provide welcoming points for new audiences, as well as sustenance for existing ones, as opposed to the normal two to three-year minimum gap that commonly occurs between full-length installments in popular franchises, he says.

He may be right; though major console editions of Sonic the Hedgehog have struggled somewhat to find their footing in the current generation, Sega recently revealed it’s returning to the franchise’s roots with a downloadable, episodic Sonic 4 intended to more closely resemble earlier incarnations, as a 2D sidescroller with updated 3D graphics.

Similarly, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, which Gamasutra got a chance to see behind closed doors at GDC earlier this month, has a little more of a modern-retro look and feel, as a top-down game in isometric 3D with simple controls.

It focuses on co-op play, as Lara’s joined by Mayan warrior Toltec, and its emphasis is on environmental puzzle-solving more than action. Players will use the two characters’ different abilities to solve puzzles that often have more than one possible solution. Notably, it hinges on co-op play either locally or online, although it can be played by a single person as well.

Some critics and fans have expressed concern at the Tomb Raider franchise’s shift toward action elements at the expense of puzzle-solving elements, so the puzzle challenges of Guardian of Light appear aimed at addressing those fans.

The Crystal Dynamics team tells Gamasutra that despite its significantly different view angle and gameplay, Guardian of Light is built using the same engine used for Underworld, and some elements, like Lara’s physicality or the lush in-game foliage, are immediately recognizable to the eye.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light launches this summer on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC.

She who raids tombs. Manga-fied Croft, still looking pouty-sexy. As deviously posted by lastscionz.

She who raids tombs. Manga-fied Croft, still looking pouty-sexy. As deviously posted by lastscionz.

Inside the Art of Tomb Raider. A brief “walkthrough” of the art book, courtesy of strange44.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light as featured in Games Master Magazine. Click on image to zoom in. Courtesy of mkdfan of Tomb Raider Forums.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light as featured in Games Master Magazine. Click on image to zoom in. Courtesy of mkdfan of Tomb Raider Forums.

Crystal Dynamics confirms “pillar release” for the franchise

Following talks of a second project in the works at Redwood HQ, Karl Stewart, global brand director at Crystal D has confirmed that the team is working on the “pillar release” of the Tomb Raider franchise.

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Fresh out of water. Lara Croft likes raiding the underwater caverns, the open sea and any place where she can reasonably wear her body-baring swimsuits. And why shouldn’t she? As deviously posted by Webcomicfan.

Fresh out of water. Lara Croft likes raiding the underwater caverns, the open sea and any place where she can reasonably wear her body-baring swimsuits. And why shouldn’t she? As deviously posted by Webcomicfan.

There’s finesse in back-breaking. Lara Croft shows you how it’s done in Thai ruins. As deviously posted by Hali-well.

There’s finesse in back-breaking. Lara Croft shows you how it’s done in Thai ruins. As deviously posted by Hali-well.

How about a guided tour? Here’s a shot that shows the scale of the downloadable title. Multi-level traversal ought to please old-school ‘Raiders. Now if only we knew how to move about these spaces.

How about a guided tour? Here’s a shot that shows the scale of the downloadable title. Multi-level traversal ought to please old-school ‘Raiders. Now if only we knew how to move about these spaces.

Gun-totting duo. Lara Croft and Totec show them spiders how it’s done. Get a feel of the flame thrower this summer in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Screenshot released by Crystal Dynamics.

Gun-totting duo. Lara Croft and Totec show them spiders how it’s done. Get a feel of the flame thrower this summer in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Screenshot released by Crystal Dynamics.

When, where, and for how much you can get the game

Of course, by game, we mean Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Details have spilled from the GDC showing of the spin-off and we’ve got all the release must-knows for you.

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Guardian of Light to feature “hand-drawn” motion comics

Fresh details from GDC: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light won’t feature traditional cutscenes as seen in canon series. The spin-off will be opting for a more stylish exposition.

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