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Review

Lara Croft GO Review

Turn raider.

Following the big success of Hitman GO, Square Enix Montreal has taken another beloved franchise under its wing. Moving on from Agent 47 and his contract killer escapades, Square’s mobile division has now enlisted gaming’s leading heroine for its latest, most ambitious experiment – Lara Croft GO.

Straight off the bat, it’s easy to see why they retained the “GO” suffix leading into their next project. You see, much like the studio’s Hitman adaptation, Lara Croft GO follows the same overriding design philosophy: to take a well-established franchise and distill its core into something suited for mobile play.

In the case of Hitman, Montreal took the series’ stealth element, adapting it into a minimalist puzzle game that went on to wow critics. Each level, presented as a self-contained diorama, had players move Agent 47 towards his mark while keeping an eye out for guard patrols. Surprisingly, this was all done using a turn-based system yet one that felt utterly appropriate. What’s more, this intuitive style of play worked perfectly on touchscreen devices.

Naturally, Lara Croft GO follows a similar principle. This time around, however, the turn-based style of play has been majorly improved upon, giving players much more breathing room than they had with Hitman GO. Although fun at first, that game grew too challenging at times, forcing players to monitor several enemies at once while also trying to get across the board. It soon became laborious and time-consuming, to the point that I could no longer dip in for a casual five-minute burst.

With Lara Croft GO, on the other hand, the difficulty spikes are far more manageable and the game focuses on traditional logic-based puzzles rather than simply flooding the screen with moving obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, some of the levels are genuinely challenging, but with no guides or resources whatsoever, I managed to complete the entire thing and felt immensely gratified as a result.

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Split across five chapters, there are at least forty levels to get through, each one with the same objective: getting Lara to the exit. A whole range of obstacles will stand in your way, including giant spiders, spike traps, floor-saws, and a gigantic serpent that stalks players throughout the game. It’s your job, therefore, to find a way through each gauntlet by using whatever’s at your disposal, whether that be levers, pressure pads, or Lara’s ability to flank enemies or kill them from behind.

The most satisfying thing about Lara Croft GO is how a lot of the solutions to these puzzles emulate those seen in traditional Tomb Raider games. At times you’ll need to avoid traps, build makeshift bridges, and even lure enemies onto pressure pads. The only difference here is that it’s all turn-based.

Every time the player directs Lara to an adjacent spot, certain elements in each level will move or change stance. Most remain stationary however, thereby giving you the freedom to explore and devise solutions at your own pace. That said, some puzzles will be time-sensitive, forcing players to carry out a specific series of moves or actions in order to progress. They are still fairly laid back however and helped by the game’s generous checkpoint system.

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The further you get into Lara Croft the more complex it gets, ramping up little by little. Objects such as javelins are eventually phased in, as are torches (used to scare off enemies) and various set pieces. Thankfully, it never gets to the point where there is simply too much on-screen to process in your head. The only time I ever came a cropper was when overthinking a puzzle that could be solved using the simplest of methods.

Another high point is just how great the game looks on touchscreen devices. Where some studios have made it their missions to compete with consoles in terms of visual fidelity, Square Enix Montreal has opted for a much more stylish approach. As a result Lara Croft GO sports an almost cartoon aesthetic, brought to life by low-poly graphics and a thematic range of colours. A side effect of this minimalist look is just how well the games runs, rarely dropping a frame even at its most intense.

What’s Good:

  • Clever distilling of mechanics.
  • Greats visual design.
  • Genuinely rewarding.
  • Actually feels like a Tomb Raider game.

What’s Bad:

  • Hint system.

Lara Croft GO is more than just an experiment, going way beyond its developer’s vision to distill yet another iconic license into something smaller. Instead, it stands on its own as one of the year’s best games for mobile and tablet, thanks to simple yet intuitive gameplay that strikes a perfect balance between being fun and challenging. Tomb Raider fan or not, Lara Croft GO is a must-have and will hopefully continue to expand in the months to come.

Score: 9/10

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5 Comments
  1. MOVE
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    This should be on the Vita too.

    Comment posted on 27/08/2015 at 16:05.
  2. leeroye
    Member
    Since: May 2012

    Nice review, ill be grabbing this. I quite enjoyed hitman go but as the reviewer says the difficulty spike is just too much and i too gave up on it.

    Comment posted on 27/08/2015 at 16:30.
  3. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Stunning stuff, Jim. Will definitely be playing this. Thanks. :D

    Comment posted on 27/08/2015 at 17:22.
  4. colmshan1990
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    Nice to see Tomb Raider’s puzzles haven’t been completely forgotten.

    One could be mistaken after the reboot didn’t feature any real puzzle more complex than shoot this lock or place that weight. And even those were optional.

    Comment posted on 29/08/2015 at 00:36.
  5. zb100
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    Thoroughly enjoying this & definitely more Tomb Raider than Lara Croft.

    Comment posted on 12/11/2015 at 11:43.