Last year, the Square Enix Montreal studio crafted one of the biggest surprises to enter the mobile gaming space. Hitman GO could have easily been a cynical cash-in filled with maddening free-to-play purchases, but instead, it wound up being one of the most innovative games to hit a mobile platform. Now Square Enix Montreal is looking to work that same magic on the Tomb Raider franchise with Lara Croft GO. While the visual aesthetic isn't quite the same, this game feels like it retains the best elements of last year's efforts, while also offering up some intriguing new twists.
There isn't much to the story of Lara Croft GO. Even the most casual of fans recognize the premise that Lara is discovering the contents of a new tomb, but the series has never looked quite like this. It should be evident by the early trailers that Square Enix Montrel has ditched the board game aesthetic of the previous GO game and turned towards a more cel-shaded look. And while that's unfortunate because of how unique the last GO looked, the cel-shaded look suits Lara Croft GO far better. It brings the tombs to life, giving each of the stages a more colorful and vibrant atmosphere.
Most importantly is that despite the visual overhaul, Lara Croft GO retains the intuitive movement of its predecessor. Players simply flick a direction to move Lara to her next tile, making sure to approach obstacles cautiously and always flank enemies. It's easy for miscues to happen and Lara to end up dying an ignoble PS1-style death. There are even some series-specific additions that help take advantage of the platform, since players can tap pots anywhere on the screen to uncover collectible treasures.
What's interesting about Lara Croft GO is that while it's mainly a puzzle game, Square Enix Montreal needed to find a way to recreate some of the most harrowing aspects of the Tomb Raider series, namely the platforming. That's not exactly something that can be duplicated with the turn-based GO formula, but the developer does manage to work around it with some new additions. Unstable ground and walls, visually marked by cracked textures, are a fantastic addition to the formula. Players won't be able to move to those areas too many times, otherwise Lara loses her grip or she'll fall through a hole. The double whammy is losing access to those spots and finding yourself right in the line of sight of an enemy, so players need to think harder about each move they make.
It should be noted that the challenge level this time around isn't quite as brutal as the previous GO. In fact, many of Lara Croft GO's stages will see obstacles remain static, which will allow players to better map out their moves. There are still some tricky sequences, particularly timing-based ones, but nothing that some trial-and-error won't fix.
Like Hitman GO before it, Lara Croft GO proves to be a brilliant reimagining of a classic franchise. It may not have the tense atmosphere of the newer Tomb Raider games, but that's part of the reason that GO succeeds. It successfully illustrates the versatility of the franchise as a whole, showing that it can work as a soothing puzzle game just as well as an action-packed, nerve-wracking platformer. It's an outside-the-box design that makes it a perfect fit on mobile devices and provides enough substantial challenge for either a dedicated night in or playing on the go.
This review is based on an iOS code provided by the publisher. Lara Croft GO is available now on the App Store and Google Play store for $4.99. The game is not rated.
lara croft go
- Simple to learn mechanics
- Creatively designed puzzles
- Reasonably challenging
- Colorful reimagining of Lara Croft's world
- Hints are often not helpful
- Long load times for a mobile game
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Lara Croft GO review - Raiding on the GO