The Tomb Raider is back, but Square Enix Montreal’s Lara Croft GO places the archaeologist-adventurer in a game unlike anything we’ve seen from the franchise before.
If you’re familiar with the developer’s previous hit - Hitman GO, you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect from the gameplay here, but Square Enix hasn’t just cut-and-pasted the experience to a different franchise, rather it’s created a brilliant new mobile title grounded in the Tomb Raider universe.
The ‘GO’ name defines certain consistent elements of both Hitman and Lara Croft titles – mainly their turn-based gameplay and clean art style. The simple polygonal model of Lara feels decidedly nostalgic, taking us back to the early, boxier Tomb Raiders of the late nineties. In contrast the character animations, dynamic lighting and beautiful cell shading all highlight the time, care and polish this game has received.
You swipe to move Lara to the next visible marker, with multiple paths, switches, traps and enemies in your midst. Each step in any direction serves as a move, similarly to checkers or chess, after which the environment around Lara reacts with a move of its own. Hazards such as arrows, blades, pitfalls and giant boulders are to be both avoided directly and manipulated in order to traverse each of the game’s 40+ levels.
The enemies also don’t simply head straight for Lara, but rather have patterns and characteristics of their own; snakes can only be taken out from the sides, behind or at range with the help of a spear, lizards track Lara, move for move and can only be driven back by the flame of a torch, as can the giant spiders, which move along a set path, unless disturbed by the player’s actions.
There is also one other serious threat, a creature that pursues you from the off and as you progress you’ll have to take it head on, which makes for a particularly interesting challenge when applied to the game’s turn-based structure.
The story takes place across five distinct environments, with the level select menu collating them under different coloured journals within Lara’s pack. The main campaign requires that you simply make it to the end of each level, but you can also hunt out the pots hidden away within each environment. Tapping on a pot breaks it revealing either a precious gem or a piece of a valuable relic. Find, break and collect the contents of each and every one of these pots to unlock up to six additional costumes for Lara (with three more as paid unlocks – costumes don’t augment Lara’s abilities and are purely cosmetic).
From the jungles to the caverns, the puzzles adhere to a fairly consistent curve in difficulty, introducing a few new elements and combining old ones in each subsequent chapter, right up to the final stages of the game. Just when you think elements of gameplay might begin to stagnate, a new dynamic is introduced, keeping things fresh and the player thinking. You will find yourself scratching your head on occasion, but no puzzle is impossible.
Along with the engrossing gameplay and gorgeous art style, the mesmerising minimalist soundtrack, created by Pixel Audio (the same team behind the music of Hitman GO), helps convey the tone and instil a sense of intrigue or tension, depending on the situation on-screen, to great effect.
Lara Croft GO should take you around five hours to complete, with a little additional replayability for those completionists who want to smash all the pots and unlock all the additional costumes. It’s a fitting addition as both the second instalment in Square Enix’s GO game family and as part of the Lara Croft universe and at £3.99 we’d say it’s well worth it for any fans of the Tomb Raider.