Mobile Tomb Raider Lara Croft GO feels lovely

Small in scale, but no less impressive

Square Enix Montréal possesses a genuine talent for artfully distilling series down to their essence.

In 2014, the developer released Hitman GO, a turn-based deconstruction of IO Interactive’s stealth franchise, which went on to garner no shortage of acclaim. The minimalist puzzle game was then followed up by Hitman: Sniper, another well-crafted project with a limited scope that sees Agent 47 carry out a slew of long-ranged challenge-based assassination missions.

Now the Québécois studio has turned its attention to another beloved name from Square Enix’s catalogue, Tomb Raider. Earlier this week at its E3 showcase, the publisher unveiled Lara Croft GO, a new title that looks to build on Hitman GO‘s success with a new protagonist and different world.

At first glance, Lara Croft GO bears a strikingly close resemblance to Square Enix Montréal’s first effort. It echoes the quiet, clean aesthetic of Hitman GO, while featuring similar turn-based puzzle design, but pushes the concepts further. Fresh elements like verticality quite literally add new dimensions to the experience, and go a long way to making this feel like a legitimate Tomb Raider.

The characters are no longer static figurines, as the designers felt it wouldn’t be natural for Lara, a character known for her athleticism, to be portrayed in such a rigid fashion. So while our heroine is still navigating an on-rails obstacle course, she’s fully animated, looking very much at home as she climbs and scrambles around ancient, subterranean ruins.

Perspective is also used to great effect, with the isometric camera allowing the developers to add little flourishes like a silhouetted beetle crawling along a tree branch in the foreground, or see a bridge appear in the distance when Lara toggles a switch.

Square Enix Montréal is also keen on avoiding unnecessary hand-holding. The title’s 40 levels (which are quite a bit larger than those found in Hitman GO) are based around trial and error. With each stage now divided into segments with checkpoints, new mechanics can be introduced and then used in rather sophisticated ways in short order without a loss of progress. 

One example of this is terrain that will fall away when walked over or climbed across twice. Shortly after being introduced to this by falling to my death, I was using it to evade an enemy. Knowing a certain surface would crumble away, I used it to lay a trap for the giant lizard nipping at my heels. 

Not all of the obstacles I saw were quite that compelling, though. While it was a rush to see an Indiana Jones-style boulder trap, the turn-based nature of the game makes this sort of scene less compelling than if were to play out in real time. Still, what I’ve witnessed thus far has me eager to see what else awaits in the full game.

Lara Croft GO is coming to iOS and Android devices sometime later this year.

Kyle MacGregor Burleson