The GO series turned out to be a real surprise hit when Square Enix announced Hitman GO for iOS and Android way back in the far flung past of 2014. You could cut the skepticism for Hitman GO with a knife, a rather cynical look toward what was perceived as the first steps of a company taking its IP down the dark hole of low quality mobile ports.
Thankfully, we were all wrong.
Next to Hitman GO, Lara Croft GO is easily the most satisfying puzzle game in recent memory and will likely remain so at least until Deus Ex Go hits. For the purpose of the review, I played Lara Croft Go on a Surface Pro 4 purchased through the Windows Store. The game is regularly $4.99, but is currently on sale for $1.99 for the next few days (as of July 8th, 2016).
At its core, Lara Croft GO is a fairly simple turn-based puzzle game. Movement of Lara and the creatures that inhabit each level are confined to a grid, forcing the player to take advantage of hanging from walls, using pitfalls traps, moving columns, and thinking several steps ahead to fight her way to the end of each area.
Creatures in each zone will kill you if you stand in front of them, and can only be killed from behind or the side, or from afar with very limited weaponry. As you get further into the game, these creatures also become part of the puzzle itself, to be strategically herded or pushed to perfectly time your own movements.
There is a tendency in Lara Croft GO to fake the player out when it comes to repetitive puzzle solving. For instance, one level of the game has you using a specific climbing trick in order to trap and kill a lizard in order to clear your path ahead. Directly after, you come across another lizard in what appears to be an identical puzzle. Your instinct is to use the same technique, and for a moment you think the developers got lazy. Then you get to the end of the level and realize that, no, you actually had to get the lizard to tail you so he could flip the switch at the right moment.
And that’s the genius of Lara Croft GO, every time you lose and have to reset you learn a little more about the game. Every failure tends to be accompanied with the recognition of what was done wrong, what step was missed, and how to get a little further the next time around. It also stands to how well thought out each puzzle is that the game lets you think you’ve outsmarted the developers just long enough to make it all the more embarrassing when the game knocks you down a peg.
The slow paced nature of Lara Croft GO means that, no matter how difficult the puzzle, you always have plenty of time to take in the surroundings and plan your next course of action. For $5, it’s a steal that will last you a couple of afternoons, more so if you decide to hunt down all of the collectibles. Like most puzzle games, there isn’t much in the way of replayability.
Regardless, Lara Croft GO is a gem proving the potential of mobile gaming that leaves you begging for more.
Score: A+ – No regrets
Additional notes – I deliberately left out any mention of the in-app purchases since they are mostly useless. For $4.99 you can unlock the puzzle solutions, which is pointless because walkthroughs exist for free. The game also sells a $1.99 pack of 3 costumes, purely cosmetic and ultimately pointless.