This past week I have been playing Square Enix’s new mobile game Lara Croft GO on my iPhone. Being on a Tomb Raider kick lately, I wanted to try it even though I don’t usually play games on my phone. A few hours in, I can say the game is a delight.
It’s a puzzle game in which Lara Croft — clad in her traditional attire of boots, shorts, and blue shirt — moves one space at a time, figuring out how to navigate the landscape safely.
Puzzles often require you to make multiple attempts at a level, because you realize too late that moving a certain direction gets Lara killed. You might make it halfway, only to find that pulling a lever or crossing a crumbling stone too soon results in death.
Dying forces you to restart the level, but fortunately levels are short enough to feel forgiving (and for you to remember how to traverse the early part if you die toward the end).
Dispatching enemies can be tricky. As a turn-based game, enemies move (if they’re going to) after Lara does. Learning their patterns is key, as well as making the most of the environment. Lara can sometimes pick up weapons, such as long-range spears, to take out enemies from a distance. Other times, she needs to lure them to follow her to their deaths.
Using the landscape to your advantage can be critical here, as long as you remember that the environment can be as dangerous to Lara as it is to her enemies if not mastered. You don’t know what a lever does until you pull it, and obstacles (like razor blades) are everywhere.
I enjoy the way the puzzles gradually become more challenging without ever being frustrating. The simplicity is refreshing. When I play a puzzle game, I usually just want to play for a short spell, to relax. Lara Croft GO is perfect for unwinding, because it wants you to feel rewarded as you figure things out. It’s a very enjoyable experience.
One of the first things I noticed is how beautiful the world is. The layout and art style reminds me a little of Monument Valley. Lara can pick up collectibles along the way — a simple tap on them is all it takes — and I love the subtle sparkle of these important items. Lara’s movements are quick and realistic as she climbs rock faces, leans forward but doesn’t move when there’s no path, and rapidly fires at enemies with various weapons. The environments feel lush with color and atmosphere, while still remaining clean and uncongested.
I still have a ways to go before I finish. I’ve heard rumors that the game is short, but also that is has something like 40 levels, which means I’m not halfway through yet. In any case, the gradual progression of challenge is addicting, and it’s a great little game for my commute or just taking a break after work. It may not be traditional Tomb Raider gameplay, but it honors classic Tomb Raider in a fresh way.