Lara Croft Go may be a mobile spin-off of Tomb Raider, but just as Hitman Go did for Agent 47’s stealthy undertakings, it manages to capture the spirit of Lara’s classic PSX-era adventures and repackage them into something fresh, great looking, and surprisingly classy. It’s nowhere near as challenging as I hoped a puzzle game like it would be, but it makes up for this with an action-packed approach to turn-based pacing that brings the thrill of Tomb Raider to life in a whole new way.
The early levels of Lara Croft Go have you controlling our heroine – clad in her trademark blue tank and shorts – tile-by-tile through a series of stony ruins teaching you how to move, activate levers, and maneuver around individual dangers and enemies to reach the end goal. The stakes ramp up at a comfortable pace as the stages go on, introducing deadly combinations of everything you’ve encountered.
These include bottomless pits, snakes that strike anything one tile in front of them, giant lizards that follow Lara around, huge, patrolling arachnids, boulders, traps, and more. Each element succeeds as a callback to memorable set pieces from old Tomb Raider games, but also as significant components in the treacherous obstacle courses that make up Lara Croft Go’s puzzles, which are set just as faithfully in the iconic jungles, caverns, and, of course, tombs, of Lara’s daring archaeological escapades.
Lara Croft Go excels in its fluid integration of various mechanics into cohesive puzzles. In one level, you may learn how to kill a new enemy type, but in another, killing that enemy might render the level impossible when coupled with a more complex series of obstacles. Every element, from hostile beasts to basic things like levers, buttons, and platforms creates a new, interesting dynamic when paired with another, and the potential for each combination felt fully explored during the course of Lara’s 40-level journey.
While the design of levels is clean, engaging, and smart, they’re rarely difficult. I never found myself stuck on one puzzle long enough to feel thoroughly challenged – the gist of the solution was never more than two or three trial-and-errors away. Similarly, Lara Croft Go’s many collectibles don’t require much extra effort to locate considering they’re scattered throughout levels in gold vases you need only tap on to acquire. They do make it easy to unlock new costumes without having to pay money though, which is a plus in the world of mobile games.
The low level of difficulty is only a minor disappointment, and easily dismissed in light of how satisfying it is to blast enemies, outwit traps, and speed through some of Lara Croft Go’s longer, more elaborate levels – a quality attributed entirely to how fantastic this game looks, sounds, and feels. You’re not limited in the amount of turns you can take, so the potential for a quicker pace is there. Without spoiling the specifics, Lara Croft Go even manages to feature a boss fight whose build-up and creative implementation into the turn-based structure ended up being an impressive and unexpected highlight.
The sights and sounds on display in Lara Croft Go are equally impressive. Thick soundscapes bring to life the ambience of its various stages, which resemble miniature dioramas in their carefully crafted simplicity. Scenes are sometimes presented in an almost theatrical manner, with silhouetted trees, insects, and rocky ledges acting as dramatic framing in the foreground, offering just a glimpse into the mysterious world within.