Mobile gaming used to involve lots of primary colours and fruit slicing. That’s what I thought anyway. Until Lara Croft GO. I wish that I could say that my motivation in trying this was because of Lara Croft herself – just one of the most famous female protagonists ever. But sadly no. I just wanted to game lying down.
As I reclined snugly in bed, I soon came to realize how good this thing actually was. I’m going to make one more confession. I have never played any of the Tomb Raider series. Yeah, who am I to scoff at mobile gaming in the first place, right? I only tell you this to say that I had no positive bias at all.
Right from the word “go” (yeah, that was bad), I was hooked. For one, I’m not used to such atmospheric sounds coming out of my phone. The soundtrack is amaze balls. It’s exactly the kind of music that makes you want to traverse jungles and explore caves. But even before getting to that, I was already oohing and aahing at the sound of the Square Enix logo and the menu.
Okay enough of that. How about the actual game?
Well, it’s a turn-based puzzler. You guide Lara through a series of – uh, tombs, I guess – by swiping in the direction you want her to go. In order to reach the end, you need to negotiate the obstacles. These come in many creative forms of death. Spiders, triggered arrows, rolling boulders, moving floors and circular saws litter the place. You need to learn how each one reacts to Lara’s presence and guide her along a safe path. Being able to foresee where each obstacle is going to be several moves ahead is key to solving the puzzles. Fortunately, the game does a great job of introducing the mechanics of each obstacle gradually. You’re always being challenged, but you’re never quite at the point where you’re googling for walkthroughs (or you can pay for hints if you absolutely need to). The balance of “too hard” versus “too easy” is something that can ruin a puzzler so I appreciated this immensely. There were times where I was so sure I’d tried everything. But after sleeping on it, I always came back the next time with a fresh realization and usually a win.
Lara Croft herself is wonderfully animated. Even in such a simple game, the developers gave her enough spunk to bring the character to life. There were times where I’d swipe to move and she would suddenly bust out a dive-roll or a handstand which was like an added bonus. That, along with her slight wobble when she’d have to hop from one column to another, made her pretty endearing. If you want to take endearing to the next level though, you can even pay a little extra to get different outfits for her. Not that I did that. I’m just saying you can.
Other little perks of the game involve relic-hunting. Each level has the option of randomly spawning a piece of a relic. You can spot these by the small sparkle it gives off. Tap on it and it gets added to your found relics which can be accessed in the menu. It’s a tiny bit more fun and may even make you go back after you’ve solved the puzzle.
As for cons, I wasn’t sure I liked the swipe-to-move function at first. If you play the game for awhile in one sitting, that’s more friction on your finger than you’re going to like. But honestly, I hope you can tell that I’m just splitting hairs here. I’m going to say that this may have been the best $1.49 I spent. Although I did end up paying for bus fare just so that I could play it while travelling to work instead of driving. Ugh, does that make me a mobile gamer? Well played, Square Enix. Well played.