Lara Croft GO recently dipped from its former modest cost down to free to install on Android, so let’s pounce on it this week. To my delight, I found it to be awesome on so many levels!
Savor the moment – can you believe we’re playing Square Enix games on Android in 2020? As we babbled about Square Enix and its gaming legacy back here, its roots carry back to the mid-1980s. For an old fart GenX gamer like myself, Square Enix is a trusted friend who has proven themselves surprisingly hardy through recessions and platform leaps over the years.
Lara Croft GO overview
Be advised, Lara Croft GO plays nothing like the classic Tomb Raider games, but is still a worthy stop in the franchise. They stay true to the style where it really counts. For example:
The old ring menu! Just like the DOS days! Fanboy go squeeeee!
You also have Lara’s classic look and outfits. In fact, unlocking new outfits is a matter of collecting relic pieces, which we’ll cover shortly. The only in-game purchase is hints, which frankly most of us shouldn’t need for solving through the whole game. If you mess up a level, you have infinite lives and can restart from the black diamond menu.
Like the other games in Square Enix’s GO series, Lara Croft GO is a turn-based puzzle game played along a grid of nodes connected by lines. Swipe Lara along a line from one node to another, and then everything else on the grid that can move also takes a step. Even though that’s quite different from the canonical Tomb Raider experience, it’s still an adventure in a series of lost Amazon jungle temples with booby traps, cliff-scaling maneuvers, lethal creatures, and daring stunts.
In addition to the puzzle elements, there’s also a hidden object game afoot, because within the levels are pieces of relics as well as gems. These are in little terra-cotta pots. Lara does not have to be anywhere near to collect these items; you can tap them as soon as you spot them. The two game styles combine perfectly; when you’re likely to be hyper-focused on a puzzle element, that’s just the time when a pot is in sight peeking out from a distant ledge in the one spot it’s visible from your standpoint.
The game develops well, introducing new elements every couple of levels. As it grows in complexity, the puzzles get more challenging, but I find the balance just right between being an easy cruise at the beginning and those last few levels being tough to crack. The game feels fresh and interesting all the way through.
Lara Croft GO Object Guide
There are plenty of walkthroughs online if you’re really stuck (and the game does sell hints after all), so we’ll just give you enough of an item and entity guide to make sense of levels as you go.
Note that in many levels, Lara will need actions from critters and other moving elements to solve the level. It’s best not to kill indiscriminately until you’re sure that creature doesn’t have a job to do.
Levers – Pull them to move platforms or trigger other actions. If you have a chance, it’s usually best to flip the levers first to see what they do, then plan out your level strategy.
Cracked Floors – Lara can only step on these once before falling through. They can also appear horizontally on the side of walls and ledges. If Lara steps on a cracked floor tile for the second time, she falls through and dies. If she hangs on a cracked wall the second time, it caves in and she falls off, but doesn’t die if there’s a platform for her to fall onto. Sometimes this is what you want. Cracked nodes also work this way for critters and moving objects.
Snakes – Snakes never move, and like all critters in the game will only strike Lara if she moves directly in front of them. She may safely kill them approaching from the sides or back. “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?”
Sawblade – These always move back and forth on a track. Sometimes you can switch them onto a different track if it’s on a moveable platform.
Spear – Lara can pick these up and carry them with her. They can be used to kill any critter in a straight line from her at a distance of several nodes. Use them sparingly, because you only get as many as you absolutely need.
Salamander – These can be safely killed from the back or sides. They rest in place until they spot Lara. Upon spotting Lara from its line of sight from two nodes away, it will begin stalking Lara. It will follow directly in her footsteps even if there’s a quicker way to get to her. If a lizard gets thrown off Lara’s trail or blocked, it will go back to rest mode.
Spider – Spiders patrol continuously in a back and forth line. Like sawblades, they can be diverted onto another course. Like other critters, they’re safe to attack from the flank and rear.
Pressure Plate – Lara, or any other object or critter, must be standing on this plate to move a platform or other object. The difference between these and levers is that levers stay in the state you last put them in, while plates revert to their unpressed stats as soon as there’s no weight on them.
Piston – These are triggered by a plate or lever. They push out from the wall, nudging anything on a node in front of them over the edge.
Pillar – Lara can push or pull these. They work similar to the boxes in various iterations of Sokoban. Lara will often have to move one of these around to solve a level. Note the node on top.
Boulder – These remain stationary until pushed, and then roll continuously in that direction until they hit another object or wall, or fall off an edge. Indiana Jones theme optional.
Column – These rise from pits below, triggered by stepping on an already-present column. Only show up in one level if memory serves.
Brazier – Lara can visit these to grab a torch. Once so equipped, all the hostile critters will not attack Lara and will flee instead. It’s a simple matter to kill any critter once you’re brandishing a torch.
Arrow Trap – They shoot lethal arrows. Triggered by pressure plates. Note that arrows can only shoot the first thing in their path, so they won’t pierce another critter that happens to be between the arrows and Lara.
Timed-Switch – These control doors. Pulling a timed switch all the way out opens a door, but as soon as Lara lets go of it, it starts receding at the rate of one section per node. This slowly closes the door again.
Queen of Venom – A Quetzalcoatl-type snake entity which stalks Lara through the game. You don’t have to deal with this cat directly until near the end, as the boss battle.
The Adventure Continues!
There’s two expansion packs for this game. The Shard of Life and Mirror of Spirits, each introducing new temples and puzzles in the same style.
Rock Paper Shotgun calls Lara Croft GO “about as close to perfect as games can get.” At least on the Android platform, I concur that assessment as spot on the nose. The graphics are beautiful, the sounds are atmospheric, and it feels more like a core Tomb Raider game than some other games in the franchise. Tomb Raider was always about the puzzle-solving equally in pace with the action. This is a great creative entry in the series, while maintaining the core aesthetic that made Tomb Raider so popular.