Lara Croft GO Review: Breezy but Enjoyment Will Vary (PS4)

Lara Croft GO was created for a mobile audience willing to play intermittently. Being ported to consoles, is there enough here to satisfy a stationery audience as well? For those looking for a breezy experience, mission accomplished. For those looking for something more, it's still a decent weekend experience.

Lara croft Go review. cover.

For a lot of games publishers, exposure is critical. Ubisoft’s use of the Rayman series early 2010s was important as they were more interested in mobile gaming than consoles. And I can’t blame them. It’s a different market to exploit. When Square Enix noticed, they initially tasked Eidos Montreal to create Hitman GO, which was successful enough for them to try again with Lara Croft GO. The game was a success with critics, with the game nominated 2016 Apple Design Award, Apple’s 2015 iPhone game of the year, and best mobile/handheld game at the 2015 The Game Awards.

Lara Croft GO was released August 2015 for Android, iOS, Windows & Windows Phone Devices. The game was released for the PlayStation 4/5, PlayStation Vita and Steam in December 2016.

How does Lara Croft GO fare as a console game? Reasonably adequate considering its origins. With a clean art style, decent puzzles and brisk pace, it should keep people occupied for the weekend. However its later difficulty is frustrating. For those interested in mobile gaming, there is an in-depth article written by Dakota Gordon about how important mobile gaming is to the average gamer.

Lara Croft Go Official Trailer

Story – The Journey Is More Important Than the Destination

Lara Croft has decided to go spelunking into another long-forgotten set of ruins of an ancient civilisation looking for the Atlas of Beyond as well as uncover the myth about the Queen of Venom.

Near the beginning of her quest, we can see the object she desires, which is out of reach. To create the path to reach the artifact, Lara must confront three trials: The Maze of Snakes, The Maze of Stones, and The Maze of Spirits. This will create the walkway & allow her to collect the keys necessary to unlock the path to the end goal. Stalking her throughout is the aforementioned Queen of Venom, which makes brief appearances before you tackle her head on in the penultimate levels before the finale.

For the brief runtime which should take between 4-6hrs, it’s decent enough. There are no spoken words or dialogue to read; once you complete a level you move on and are shown within a book to be tracing across the titles of its pages. There are usually around a dozen levels for each book and your level of enjoyment is going to vary on how satisfied you are at doing puzzles.

I liken this game to the Guardian of Light and Temple of Osiris. They are similar in theme, but have different types of gameplay for a puzzle platformer. If you enjoy these games, you should enjoy this.

Lars Croft Go review. Queen of Venom

Your main antagonist, The Queen of Venom; you’ll teach her who’s boss eventually

Gameplay – A Double-Edged Sword

Part Satisfying

So Lara traverses each level in straight lines, one node at a time. You are able to flip switches, pull pillars into positions etc. The levels are in 3D within an isometric camera angle so there is depth of field, being able to go between the top and bottom when needed.

Each level is essentially a puzzle to get from the beginning to the exit. The levels themselves are a decent length, being multiple stages. The further into the game you get, more aspects are introduced into the core gameplay. Gameplay is turn based. Enemies began as static, then move in patterns & then can track you. You are able to pick up spears and use fire to your advantage. Overall, things can get frustrating due to the game’s main problem – space.

However, most of the time, it is a good experience without being exceptional. Covering a stage could be one which is full of spinning blades which have exact routes. Snakes would only attack something in front of themselves. Lizards would follow once detecting you, allowing you create paths when they touch pressure pads which lift floor tiles. Pulling pillars into position will reach higher platforms. Part of the high was correctly navigating a stage which had you deal with all of these problems at once. When the game works, it works.

Lara Croft Go review. Another day in the life of lara.

Climbing walls, avoiding spinning spikes, tarantulas and crumbling facades; a normal day for Lara.

Part Frustrating

There weren’t enough set pieces. One particular highlight was a boulder chase. Dealing with turn-based “momentum” was cool and made the game more interesting when it was included. The game did “feel” longer than it should at times. This is due to the levels mostly feeling like a means to an end. The game did have a liberal checkpoint system which was a big plus due to the character movement issues.

Because the game runs on lines, the narrowness of the levels become more apparent later on as stages became tougher. There was a lot of re-runs as there wasn’t much room for error. This is also due to levels having “fragile” tiles; you are allowed to touch them once, touch them again and the floor will cave. Level design was sometimes intuitive but a lot of the time, due to the area constraints, required me to need help through the Hint section. This alleviated weariness that did creep in from time to time. It did feel at times that certain puzzle routes were so exact that you were lucky to complete them, rather than feel smart. This was particularly true nearer at the end of the game, the difficulty was definitely ramped up. 

lara croft go review. puzzles are about timing.

Lara Croft Go started too easy, then got progressively harder. By the end, using the “Hint” system was a given.

Maladapted Movement

Definitely debatable at times was the character feedback. I noticed several times, specifically when trying to move pillars, that getting Lara to move things was very frustrating. Numerous restarts also happened because Lara would accidently move in the wrong direction. I believe for consoles the use of the directional pad would have been much better.

I would argue that the original pick up & play nature of the game does help long sessions. Things can get similar quick, but always moving to new areas feels like progress. However, in my opinion, the Lara Croft series of games do this better while allowing freedom of movement, so enjoyment is going to vary between each player.

Coincidental Collectibles 

While using the left stick to move Lara, the right stick is used to scour the lovely environments for pieces of artifacts. Every level had between 2-4 pieces to collect and it was initially cool to find each one to see each artifact take shape. Eventually it was a rote mechanic about getting to a new angle and then using the right stick to scour the screen.

This is possibly Lara Croft GO’s main problem: re-playability. Collecting the artifacts allows you to collect outfits for Lara to wear and it’s not worth it, even if it’s very easy to do. I’ve heard that the previous game, Hitman GO, had a challenge based system ie. complete level within 10 moves, and I’m surprised it’s not used here too. 

Lara Croft GO, when the level design was done right, allows for a good time and since it is pick up and play, allows you to stop when certain gripes arise too much.

Lara Croft Go review. collectibles.

Scouring the environment allowed you to find pieces of artifacts for your collection. As a good treasure hunter should.

Graphics – Simple & Clean

First thing to notice is the camera angles. From the beginning, they showcase the depth of field in the background, highlighting what’s around Lara. The isometric camera also shows off stunning scenery. The graphics themselves are a clean pastel style of design, with the use of bright colours and angular shapes. Character modules are angular in design which was fine. Certain levels were in the “dark”, so there was a spotlight around Lara which I thought was unnecessary.

Animations within the environment, movement of blocks, where noticeable. Lara herself moves gracefully, especially when going up ledges. However, when dealing with movement and within a turn based system, it feels jagged and with specific use of the analogue stick, at times wasn’t helpful. Again, using the directional pad would have been much better.

Lara croft Go review. background artwork

Some of the background scenery and camera angles were excellent.

Music – Nice & Pleasant

Music and audio itself was fine. The main theme and certain sections were pretty good, however it’s mostly ambient. Nice & pleasant. Something it would soothe your weary soul. From being a mobile port, the audio was fine. There’s nothing earth shattering; certain sections, like a waterfall having nice water effects was nice. All the sounds were fine; ambient animal noises, footsteps, levers. The game could have had more music, was a little too “real world” for my taste but the ambient effects were good.

Lara Croft GO was played and reviewed on PlayStation 4. 

Summary
I'm going to be lenient here: Due to its pick-up and play nature, regarding the length of the game, it's a decent experience. Graphics and atmosphere is nicely done, especially the art design. Several puzzles are rather good, with a decent amount of variety included. However, puzzle difficulty later on is a problem. Consequently, a lack of standout moments with a minimalist story & stiff control, diminish the games impact. This results in a game that is good but not great and will live or die by player engagement.
Good
  • Lovely Art Style
  • Music is Nice and Pleasant
  • Puzzles Done Well Are Rewarding
  • Decent Variety Included
Bad
  • Story Means to an End
  • Difficulty Spike
  • Puzzles Could Be Very Exact
  • Animations & Controls Could Be Jarring.
7
Good

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