by Matthew Thompson
Lara Croft Go is both a follow-up to Square Enix Montreal’s 2014 mobile game Hitman Go and a new entry in the experimental Lara Croft offshoot of the long-running Tomb Raider series. Surprisingly it also feels like a love letter to Lara’s early adventures back in the ‘90s.
Long-time fans will be struck by a wave of nostalgia when they first boot up Lara Croft Go and are greeted by a familiar spinning menu. The nods to Lara’s raids of yesteryear don’t stop there. You’ll unlock classic outfits like her Area 51 getup from Tomb Raider III as well as one that recalls a memorable moment from the original game. And you’ll see Miss Croft do her trademark handstand occasionally when pulling herself up onto ledges. Lara even has a low-poly look similar to the old days (if a bit less pointy this time around) that really fits in nicely with the game’s beautiful minimalist art style.
These are all nice touches, but more important is the way this game integrates all the things you’d expect from a Tomb Raider game into this small touch-controlled mobile title. There is platforming and there are puzzles. There are wild animals and mythical creatures to combat. There are treasures to collect and traps to avoid. There are exotic locales and tombs ripe for raiding. It even nails the quiet, isolated feeling of many of the best TR games that both the bombastic reboot and the arcade-y co-op titles have failed to recapture in recent years.
Somehow they have made it all work with the Go series’ turn-based gameplay. The game has set paths and grids that you move Lara along one space at a time. Some other things like pursuing animals, rolling boulders and buzzing saw blades move one space with each step you take. So you have to clamber your way through environments in just the right way, manipulating switches and besting baddies to get to each level’s exit in one piece.
Lara Croft Go is incredibly intuitive and because of this is able to forgo any sort of tutorial which is a refreshing change of pace compared to most over-explained games these days. You’ll use a series of swipes and taps (or similar moves with a mouse in the Windows 10 PC version I played) to move around and interact with objects. As the game progresses it continually adds new twists to the mix to keep you on your toes like a torch that can scare animals or arrow traps that, along with dodging yourself, you will have to use to your advantage against your opposition. They even manage to build towards an epic boss encounter which manages to stay true to the game’s puzzle-based core gameplay while adding an extra layer of challenge to the proceedings. There is some trial and error inherent in the way this game is set up, but frequent checkpoints make it so it will never really bother you.
It is a rather short outing and should only take you a few hours to play through. The treasures aren’t too hard to find and there isn’t much more replay value to be found in Lara Croft Go after those are collected. It isn’t the most challenging title either, but even so there are some definite “Aha!” moments as it progresses which should help deliver that satisfied feeling that all the best puzzlers do. Other than these small quibbles there isn’t much to complain about here.
Lara Croft Go marks another success for the LC brand. The way it manages to capture the essence of Tomb Raider in an unexpected package (a turn-based mobile game) is an impressive feat and the callbacks to Lara’s early video game life are a nice bonus for fans of the series. Lara Croft Go is a must-play for long time raiders, but would be a good buy for any puzzle fan that doesn’t mind a short, contained adventure. I am excited to see where the Lara Croft sub-series might head next as they have done some intriguing things with these spinoffs so far.