Following on from the success of Hitman Go, Square Enix Montreal has now brought everyone’s favourite tomb raider to the PS Vita in the form of a turn-based puzzle game. Lara Croft Go was originally released for mobile devices and you can definitely tell, I honestly don’t mean that as a bad thing though, more as a compliment in that the game is great in short bursts with loads of fun small levels that play really well on the PS Vita.
Lara Croft Go strips down everything to get to the very essence of the Tomb Raider series; exploring ancient tombs and finding treasure. There’s no dialogue in the game, no detailed storyline or internal musings from Lara. Instead it’s all about trying to find treasure and ancient relics. The gameplay is wonderfully simple and easy to get to grips with. Levels consist of pathways of nodes that are connected to each other. Lara can step from node to node along these lines by using either the left analogue stick or by swiping the front touch screen in the direction that you want to move. After you make a move enemies and obstacles will also take a turn to move. You’re aim is to get to the end of the level, avoiding tricky obstacles and enemies like snakes and giant spiders.
The game eases you in gently and introduces new types of obstacles and enemies gradually. The game never really explicitly tells you how to defeat an enemy or avoid certain types of obstacles but it doesn’t take much experimenting to learn the patterns of movement needed to overcome things. The difficulty does increase but I never had moments where I felt completely stuck, I will admit that there were some levels that took me a bit of time to figure out though. This just added a nice feeling of satisfaction and smugness when I did manage to finally figure it out. If you do get completely stuck you can switch on the tips in the menu which will show you exactly how to complete the level you’re on.
There are not a particularly vast number of different types of enemies and obstacles and they range from the aforementioned snakes and spiders to things like saw blades and boulders. Although the number of obstacles is not very varied I think that the designs of the levels do a good enough job of being diverse enough that you don’t feel like the game is repetitive. You’ll have to constantly think of new and different ways to use obstacles and enemies against each other to your advantage.
Although the game doesn’t have a detailed storyline the levels do follow on from each other. Lara starts off in a jungle and climbs down into a fissure which leads into a series of caverns with an ancient structure within. You’ll need to complete the many levels to find the treasure hidden deep within and then have to escape before the caverns collapse. I quite enjoyed that the levels were linked in this way, it makes you feel like you’re on an adventure without Lara needing to utter a single word. In the menu each set of levels are held within a notepad and there are five of them to work through. You’ll need to complete the proceeding levels before moving on to the next notepad and you have to complete the levels in the order given to you. This means that if you are stuck on a level you can’t skip it and come back to it later.
There are also a couple of additional notepads with their own individual sets of levels that you can attempt at any time. “The Cave of Fire” and “The Mirror of Spirits” have with their own unique environments and these start off a lot trickier then the other notepads so although you can access them at any point it’s probably better to save them until after you’ve finished all the other notepads.
Although the game has a lot of levels they’re all fairly short so the game isn’t massively long. If you’re good at these types of puzzles you could probably complete all levels within a day, if some of the levels take you a bit of time to figure out and you decide not to use any tips or look up the solutions online then it will obviously take you a bit longer to complete.
There is a little bit of replayability but not as much as there was in Hitman Go. Levels in Hitman Go had various challenges such as completing a level within a set number of moves and killing all enemies whereas for some reason Lara Croft Go doesn’t have any of those kinds of challenges. What it does have are a number of hidden vases in some of the levels, touching the vase on the touchscreen will open them and uncover either a gem or a relic fragment. Finding all of the relic fragments and gems will unlock various new outfits. Some of these vases can be really tricky to find, so much so that it almost feels like a chore rather than a fun activity.
One irritating game design is that you can’t see how many vases are still left in a level without exiting out of the level and checking it out from the level select which brings me on to my biggest gripe with the game, the slow loading. Loading between levels takes forever and even just restarting after dying takes an age. It really breaks your concentration and pulls you out of the adventure.
Visually Lara Croft Go is stunning and in quite a different style to Hitman Go. In Hitman Go levels were presented as elegant looking board games with Agent 47 and other people presented as board game pieces. Lara Croft Go has moved in a different direction and instead has a much more fluid look and feel too it. Lara moves athletically and gracefully around the level which is presented in a geometric cel-shaded style, it’s a striking style, one that works really well. The music also works really well, the relaxing ambient sounds compliment the game without drawing too much attention to itself.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Lara Croft Go, it’s a gorgeous and fun little puzzle game with a fairly easy platinum trophy. If you’re a veteran of puzzle games you probably won’t find the levels particularly tough, especially in the beginning, but the levels are beautifully designed and there is a bit of a challenge to be had in the last two sets of notepads. Long load times aside the game is a really great Tomb Raider adventure which is easy to recommend to everyone.